Tuesday, July 22
the most recent trip away was to new york (briefly, for damon albarn's honest jons revue at lincoln center and, as it turned out, a guacamole party at sam'n'gerrit's with many swattie faces), newark for rae's wedding (i dj'd a bit- rae-appropriate dinner music from an itunes playlist, and then a few minutes of dance stuff at the end - but still had plenty of time to have fun and chat and dance to the fabulous klezmer band. it all felt short, but i guess that's a good thing) and then to wanakena for monday-friday with the extended nuclear family. including evie on her 1st birthday, 4-y.o. marcus the good-mood hiker and bugfearer (spiderwebs!), and martha before she split for some interviews in new york. and nava. also an evening in knollwood, where they have fun newish boathouse toys. good summer time, good family time, though.
Thursday, June 26
letters from the middle east
so... here i am in jerusalem, in the hotel where we'll be staying through shabbes. i'm in the lobby on a friend's laptop. we've been playing some music - loren, one of our madrichim (counselors) is a pretty serious violinist, and there is a group guitar which has a busted A-string tuning peg but otherwise is pretty nice. there's a white upright piano here but they wouldn't let us play because it's too late. there are a number of musicians - one guy brought a ukelele, and there are some drums and flutes and harmonicas. we haven't had a full-out jam yet, but there has been music playing of some sort every night so far. some on the bus as well.
the trip has been entirely enjoyable so far - i'm really liking the group, which is large (40) but laidback and "mature" (21-26, but besides that most people are just pretty thoughtful and sensitive.) at this stage we're all mostly commingling pretty indiscriminately, though specific friendships are probably starting to form. the first morning in israel (after a short first day when we took a brief walk through the old city) i joined some folks for 5:15am yoga in the grass - rie led some hatha and then alex led some kundalini. next time around i will probably throw some iyengar in the mix. we hiked up masada (short but intense heat and fairly steep) and hung out in the cistern for a while; i participated in a preposterous masada rap performance (best rhyme: josephius/facetious.) from there to the dead sea, where we had too little time (an hour) and stretched it out by going to cover ourselves in mud at the last moment. my birkenstocks, already extensively destroyed, are now just plain unreasonable.
we stayed last night at a nature reserve, ein geddi, and woke up at 3:45 this morning to start a hike right at first light - a climb up mount jesse (yishai), where we had a celebratory dance circle at the summit, fairly frequent stops for discussions of quietude and lack, an Ethiopian walking round, a stop by a 5500 year old caananite building, unbelievably well preserved (only the foundations, but still.) then ended up at an oasis, an amazing series of waterfall pools where we swam and a couple of us did some impromptu rock climbing-cum-spelunking over moss-covered rocks and cave formations alongside the waterfall. that was all before lunch...
the rest of the day has been fairly chill; we've done some preparations for shabbat, which in my case meant preparing a skit in which i will star as a naked delusional turkey/prince. more eventually... it's all been good, and i'm looking forward to further jewish discussions, which will definitely be happening more soon. (we've had a couple.)
hope you all are well!
i'm sitting on a front porch in a small town near netanya, eating homemade sushi, drinking beer and erek, listening to cicadas and crickets and reggae on the itunes, chilling with my friend andrew and some buddies of his from san francisco. in less than an hour i'm getting on an overnight bus to eilat, the southernmost tip of israel, where i will hopefully navigate the egyptian consulate visa situation and border crossing so as to get on a bus to cairo by tomorrow night, and from there to travel around egypt with martha. last night was the conclusion of an entirely wonderful two weeks, involving a 3+ hour candlelit concluding thoughts circle, which got kind of surreal and disorienting (i was physically very uncomfortable - cold and tired on the hard floor, and then they played a random john denver song), but gave way to an all night party of group singing, dancing to impromptu musicmaking, improvisatory songwriting out in the starry dark night of the tzfat hillside. most people left on the bus at 5:30 this morning, and andrew and i slept from 6 to noon. no time now to talk about the trip really - i've gotta leave and want to be social with these folks for a minute - but it was really something special. definitely exceeding my unclear expectations. as i said in the final circle, maybe less for me about discovering new things than about remembering and reaffirming things i already have and know - but pretty revelatory nonetheless. more eventually, i hope. postcards, maybe.
hi guys. slight overlap in info from the last update, but this is what i wrote to my livnot friends about what's been going on for the last fw days:
shabbat shalom. i am writing to you from my sister's amusingly posh apartment here in cairo, where we are kicking back after a day of livnot-worthy intensity, hunting pyramids from giza to saqqara to darshur (by taxi and donkeyback), downing multiple 1.5-liters of water, looking at even more stony things in the egyptian antiquities museum downtown, and then taking a rather silly bellydancing/dinner cruise on the nile with her roomate and her friends.
so, let's see... after bidding farewell to most of you at 5:30 am four mornings ago (was it only?), andrew (nimmer) and i slept in until noon. (a whole six hours!) his friends from san fran showed up a little while later, and we tooled around tzfat for another minute - one last yemenite delicacy (i still haven't had felafel in the middle east yet) - before saying goodbye to the rest of you. they took us to a brilliant "vanished" lake not far from tiberias, an aquifer that was discovered while digging a quarry, which had stunning green-blue water and excellent cliffs for climbing and jumping off - 40 feet up, maybe? then to a house, somewhere outside netanya, where we showered, played some cards, drank some beer and delicious erek/grapefruit/mint cocktails, and rolled and devoured some scrumptious sushi. it felt unbelievably nice, almost luxurious, to be in a friendly house and just relax, even for only a few hours.
which is all the time i had, because soon enough i was off on my own, on a red-eye (midnight-4:30) bus to eilat. i hadn't realized it would get in quite so early - i barely slept en route, and there wasn't anything going on when i arrived (although one of the beach bars was still blasting eminem and kylie minogue across the red sea), so i just wandered around a bit, found somewhere to sit on the beach and watch the sky colors change and the mountains slowly emerge from the darkness. i tried to follow the signs to the 'birdwatching park' but i'm not really sure whether i found it or not. i didn't end up fulfilling andrew's vision of jumping in a cab and demanding "take me to the egyptian consulate", because i was able to follow the map in my guidebook and find it myself, in an unassuming residential area. i slept a bit on the sidewalk waiting for it to open.
after securing my visa i started walking down mitzrayim road (sounds sort of foreboding, no?), thinking i might stop at a beach along the way - i did, and the water was lovely, but after that i couldn't take much more walking in the heat, so i just took a cab to the border. a few more adventures, going in on a taxi-van to cairo with some other folks, some of whom turned out to have the wrong visas, which held us up for a while, then some rigamarole about where they were actually going to drop us off. i was able to stretch out and sleep (and read!) in the back seat, and watch a lot of utterly empty desert go by - the land here is hopelessly bleak even compared to the judean desert; as impressive in a way, but definitely not as spectacular.
it's been a whirlwind in this crazy, dirty, noisy, hectic, colorful, nonsensical city of 22 million people (!!); on wednesday we started out in the coptic quarter taking in a synagogue and a greek orthodox church before coming to our senses and visiting some mosques. (if you thought israeli history was complicated - well, i didn't, really, especially since we ignored about 1800 years of it - it's nothing compared to this country, which has had so many cultures and religions and conquering nations and cross-pollinations, going back continuously for 5000 years, at least...pretty unbelievable.) i've really been enjoying cairo though, from admiring the panoramic view of the whole city (well, at least as far as the truly spectacular smog levels allow, which isn't that far) from the extensive hilltop al-azhar park to just walking around in the hectic streets and trying to battle my overdeveloped car-fearing self-preservation instincts.
but i'm also looking forward to heading on to slightly calmer, cleaner destinations. today we go to alex[andria]; tomorrow we are going to try to attend shabbat services at the synagogue there, which according to the rough guide "once served a jewish community of 70,000, tracing its ancestry back to the city's foundation. nowadays only a dozen or so, mostly elderly, jews remain." pretty sad...should be interesting though.
then on to sinai (dahab) and hopefully squeezing in luxor and/or aswan before i return to israel - my current hope is to try to make it to jerusalem for shabbat with nachshon next weekend.
more greetings again from egypt, "the land of civilization," as one tourist-poster slogan had it. another one: "been here for thousands of years."
i feel like i've been here a pretty long time myself... in the way that time starts to lose meaning; the tide ebbs and flows, the waves swell and cease, the moon waxes (half-way now), it gets hotter or windier or darker or brighter, but nothing much else seems to change.
i'm writing from a spot i've barely left in coming up on four days now: a restaurant in dahab, sinai, overlooking the aqaba gulf of the red sea towards saudi arabia (we see their lights at night - i guess it's as close as i'll get at least until my passport expires in five years), a flat thatched roof and no walls sheltering a dozen or so low-lying tables, each ringed with rows of cushions, rather sparsely populated at any given hour of the day with pockets of suntanned internationals, sitting, reclining, lying, sleeping. we have a room in the attached hostel, but it's been little more than a storage space for our stuff, since we've been sleeping in the restaurant too. (martha established a friendship with the preposterously laid-back twenty-something owner of the joint on her previous two visits, but then anyone could probably do the same in a minute or so.)
the guidebooks talk about travelers habitually being lured into extending their stay here in dahab, and it seems to be almost comically true of everyone i've met here - a group of women (two swedes and an italian) whom we've been palling with were originally here for a single night and have somehow stuck around for over a week now. in our case, we had clear plans to leave two nights ago - the evening of our second day - and travel on to luxor and aswan in the upper nile, but evidently things have turned out differently: i came down with some (mysterious but predictable) stomach/g-i bugginess on our second morning, which led me to spend the next 30 or so hours almost literally not moving from my spot in the restaurant pillows... thankfully after the first couple of hours it was relatively low-grade, but for a long time i was unable to move or eat without provoking some more discomfort. so basically i have been forced to relax, to temper my adventuresome ways and succumb to the languorous, lotophagous pace of life here...
it's hard to complain, really - it would be hard to conceive of a nicer place to convalesce, in all respects - the sea is so so blue, the wind keeps us cool, the food is decent and plentiful, and they never even ask you to pay (until they do, eventually, at which point you're expected to remember everything you've eaten in the last few days), but they certainly don't ask you to leave or move, they let me play my ipod over the speakers, there's a constant, fluid social thrum - new and old friends, martha's fellow teacher and my fellow sibling-companion, a friend of hers from high school, the girl we met in the synagogue in alexandria the other day... you know. it's pretty unimaginably sweet here. and all that.
sorta getting anxy to move on though. i'm a patient man but too much lull dulls my skull and dahab is confirming my suspicions that it would be a dangerous place. moof and i had a really great time just before this in alexandria - el-iskandriya, as they call it (made me think of aleks & rie too.) we took the train from cairo - an impressively green, pastoral trip - and spent an action-packed day and a half alternating sights [from ancient roman amphitheater, baths and catacombs to the extra-modern, extra-awesome new biblioteca alexandrina, hands down the coolest library i've ever seen (apologies to seattle/koolhaas)], shopping [i got some shirts and shoes and helped martha convince herself to buy three excellent dresses], and just wandering [around the city, which kind of feels like one gigantic shopping plaza, and a good deal more laid-back than cairo, but most memorably in the montazah pleasure gardens, a massive expanse of whimsical and manicured park complete with legoland-esque entrance tower, where we were invited to join a raucous bunch of women (mostly) of all ages having an all-out singing and dancing birthday celebration.] oh yeah, i also finally got my felafel fix - three times from the same place, but it was fantastic - and also had possibly some of the best fish i've eaten in my life.
so, from there we took the overnight bus (10 hours? maybe more?) to sharm el sheik, at the tip of sinai, and continued on to here. it has been good here - the first day we packed in snorkeling at the truly spectacular blue hole reef (slightly less so without glasses that don't fit under the goggles, but still) and a "bedouin" dinner in a somewhat remote desert area that wasn't too impressively bedouinny (chicken, veggies and rice) but anyway it was nice to hang out under the stars and climb up some rocks in the dark to sing down to the candlelit camp. then i got sick.
and last night, despite still not feeling 100%, i joined the gang hiking up mt. sinai (two days after shavuot - not bad right?); starting the climb at around 2:00 am and getting to the summit just shortly after the beginning of a truly lovely sunset. i was fine with the hiking - enjoyed it a lot - but i did have to move a lot more slowly than i ordinarily would, so most of my group went on ahead, though martha stuck with me. it was a nice hike going up under stars, though the trail was pretty crowded and there were frequent camel traffic jams,
[heya... whoops! i was in the middle of writing this e-mail while a very cute little egyptian kid came over and wanted to play with the laptop.
i took some photobooth pictures of us for a while, but then i went back to writing and he was poking at keys - i guess he hit something that sent the e-mail before it was finished. so now i will conclude...]
there were frequent camel traffic jams, but the descent - when we could actually see where we were going - was just breathtaking. i was however seriously feeling the absence of michael's insights, or something that could help give me some perspective on the significance of the place. it's pretty amazing just in terms of topography, but there's obviously a lot more going on. that's how i felt too about our little visit to st. catherine's monastery, at the foot of the mountain - a place with a lot of history, and lots of interesting things to look at, but we had no real access to understanding anything about it. egyptian tourist sites, to put it mildly, are not set up with that kind of thing in mind.
so. it turns out that i really did lose track of time, because i thought there was one more day here than there actually is. the current plan, taking that into account, is to do another desert hike tomorrow morning - canyon, oasis, bedouin village - the usual - and then head on to eilat, where i will meet up with loren; jerusalem, where i will meet up with liz (anybody else?); tel aviv; home. and don't worry, i'll get my photos up then. and so on. i'll probably do one final summing-up piece and then stop bugging y'all.
Tuesday, February 26
and some days it's a good day to blog
you know, when i put up that 'hibernatin'' picture-post i wasn't actually intending it as the announcement of a blog hiatus, truly i wasn't. i'd just wanted to share an outtake from the macbook photo shoot i'd just done for the cover of a mixtape which i still haven't made, actually (but it's, if slowly, definitely still forthcoming - ben has even signed on as official collaborator/commentator/chaperone...now i've just got to get him the tracks as they stand, once i figure out what they are. but i did make another mix, wow ten days ago now, and here's some more from that photo shoot:
anyhow, i only realized after the fact how convenient and perfect that post was as the starting point for a blog-break, plus it turned out to be pretty easy to not blog for an(other) extended period. anyway, you guys haven't exactly been clamoring for my return. whatever.
these days, i've gotta say, are finally, possibly, probably my most fulfilling and filled-fullest days since my college days (when, o course, i blogged incessantly), that and there's so much internet writing i do as it is: it's my job now (!?), plus i've done a decent job of maintaining mincetapes. filled-fullest may not be exactly right; it's not exactly like i'm running all over the place doing a million things. indeed, most days i'm in my house for nearly the entire day if not all of it (i generally make a point to get outside and do something at least once a day, but it's usually only once, at least during the week.)
my life is extremely messy, as i told nava recently: my professional life is all messed up with my personal creative/artistic project life which is mixed up with my entertainment/gratification cultural consumption life, which all in turn blur into my social life and my domestic/quotidian homelife and my romantic life. there are rarely clear delineations of space, time and mental energy separating these various facets of my current existence, which i could see being somewhat dangerous and deleterious, but for now, at least, is proving to work out quite well. it doesn't necessarily feel sustainable, but it doesn't feel static either; it feels progressive and exciting and, well, alive. and fun.
today was a typical weekday of these days, so let me just tell you about that. having stayed up late watching the oscars, talking to my men in austin stango and gravity with some consternation over this sxsw wristband hoo-hah, putting yet another round of finalizing tweaks on my review of the lovely album tiger, my friend by psapp, and making minimal progress through the final chapter of david mitchell's awesome number9dream, i woke up towards the later end of acceptable: 10:40, though when i looked at my phone for some reason i first thought it was 01:40. hard to wake up too late since i never draw the blinds and the morning sun is keen here in my eastfacing thirdfloor bedrum, not to mention there's my daily alerting alarm that goes off at 7:48 every morning, after which my phone gives me the option to snooze or dismiss. it's awesome.
i worked cheerfully and efficiently at my writing-desk most of the day, posting the psapp piece and writing both a bio and an album review for the australian post-jazz group triosk, along the way developing/rediscovering/honing an active-listening review process (taking notes on individual songs as i listen once through the album, or enough of it to amass sufficient relevant material; a pretty obvious concept of course, but oddly not what i necessarily tend to do.) (all the while also constantly importing cds onto my computer via itunes and thence to drobo - it's a mammoth process i've commenced; hard to say but i may be a quarter done or even a little more. 49 days, 8 hours of music, so far.
i can only really judge my efficiency by feel and mood, since i can almost never generate as much written output as i'd think would be reasonable. but i'm learning to be okay with that. and trying to decide what to make of the recently-acquired information that i am, apparently, already one of the highest-paid freelancers at the esteemed web publication for which i write [because of 1) "the high quality of my writing" (thanks -ed!) and 2) the weak dollar (?)], and therefore i probably won't be able to get a raise anytime soon, if ever.
took a brunch break - pequa valley black cherry yogurt plus my homemade (gently burnt) granola for an appeteaser, then some home fries, kale+tomato+onion, and scrambled egg whites (plus one yolk - works much better that way) left over from when i made ice cream last week (fresh mint plus chocolate chunks - something unconventional about its mintiness, but not bad.) otherwise was pretty diligent, gchatting only briefly with martha (who'd just arrived in cairo), rebecca (in israel) and liza. still, i didn't find the time to write the handful of e-mails i'd listed as tasks for myself, save for one quickie about possibly djing for LaB tomorrow (unlikely), before showering (necessary), grabbing a muffin (carrot-apple-ginger-etc.; vegan - i made em for a potluck last week) and quickly dashing off (slightly frantically, though i wasn't actually late) to bike to my first book arts class at fleisher.
as of now, i have somewhere between two and five classes to attend each week, depending - two art classes (the aforementioned and letterpress printing at uarts), lindyblues (aka LaB aka swing, though i rarely go to the class part anymore, i just show up for the two hours of dancing, but it has, i'm somewhat sorry to say, eclipsed my loyal tuesday night loft yoga class as an underswerving weekly constant), and yoga as i see fit (ideally, loft tuesdays and saturdays - though last week i went thursday for the first time, it was all about scooping the contents of the ilia; there's also wake up west, which is sort of a nice contrast to strict iyengar, plus it's seductively much closer.) it's quite helpful - possibly crucial - to have structured evenings balancing my unstructured/self-structured daytimes. especially if i've gotten enough work done to feel satisfied, jumping on my bike and heading off (often just as my housemates arrive home) to wherever it is feels nearly as triumphantly liberating as going home from a 9-5. i guess.
anyway, first meeting of book arts was a lot of fun. we made paste papers, i.e. decorative papers with wheatpaste, to be used as covers or maybe watermarks later on in the course - our instructor described it as "basically like fingerpainting - hopefully a little more sophisticated." lots of fun toys to play around with making designs. i managed to rescue my papers from total ugliness most of the time, and theoretically cutting them down for actual binding use will complete the transition to actual beauty. something. anyway, i'm psyched for the class, seems like it'll be action-packed, somewhat unlike (strangely) my letterprinting class - i'm liking the vibe of the students more, in any event. we got out early so i looked at some of the nifty stuffin the memorial gallery, then i walked on phone as i talked home for a bit before biking back up the hills (coming home uphill means that you can at least get there fast on the way down, which is a preferable situation if you ask me.)
there was sort of a flurry of good news throughout the evening which has made me especially buoyant: first, i heard back from bubblehouse (a boba/asian-fusion joint-cum-bar/nightspot in ucity, where i'd eaten lunch and dropped off a demo disc the other day) saying that they want me to dj there. then the biggest breaking story, which is kind of too complex to fully explain, but the upshot being that matthew and i (thanks to matthew) and bobby and nava (thanks to bobby) came out on top in the random drawing and so now we all have wristbands for sxsw, which is just a really nice relief, not to have to worry any more about whether/where we'll be able to get them. now we've got a fantastic foursome, and we are set to tear austin up. finally i just got the glimmer that it might just be possible to change my plane ticket slightly to accomodate more stuff in my life better.
we'll see tomorrow maybe. and i'll write those e-mails and make those phone calls, and go to some yoga class or other, and maybe the next day i'll see there will be blood, since my dad (primarily) has finally convinced me that i should. and then i'll go to the airport to visit my brother and rebecca. and meanwhile i'll submit the review of adrian klumpes (triosk's pianist) that i've been sporadically drafting all day (i wrote and submitted a bio for him this evening), and the rest of the leaf discs i've been sitting on for a little minute, as well as the new jim white (out next week! guess i'll be in the new releases section for the first time.)
but for now (4:15 am. hmph. but that's bloggin' forya.) i'll sleep. yip!
Friday, December 7
Wednesday, November 28
december's infernal (and everybody's)
well, among other words - another one is "i was gasping for contact," which comes from this postcard of a piece of art that's on the wall of alyssa's bedroom, right above my head as i type. i like to play with it: grasping for contacts? another is "...and now we call it gravy," which is from the italian market cookbook, but my subconscious thinks is like some universally recognized saying that i can reference and people will understand. good one for thanksgiving.
actually it's the opposite: a warm welcoming chill. i've been enjoying the cold viscerally, surprising me even, the actual tangible enjoyment, not just lack of displeasure. vitality, i guess. the joys of bundling too (downside: too many pockets.) and biking in philly (so warm), running in rochester (warming up to a full dash around the reservoir - i got some nu shooz and they are sooo ugly! but better on the road), walking in new york city (which has actually been markedly warmer so for - warm enough not to notice.)
what makes a man start fires? i made one in our living room on thxgiving (though we barely enjoyed it - we were too busy in the dining room, mesmerized by the citrus slices in the water pitcher and wondering, why do limes sink and lemons float? get this: it has to do with density! probably.) there was also this one (can you see that?) the fire's in my eyes and the flames need fanning. no...i mean, it's in our hearts. something about stars? (in our living room, after the it isn't war?) gah. make it stop.
and why am i talking about the weather again? and the time of year? i think i was just trying to paraphrase what i said to liz this morning, realizing that it's practically december and december will be like december is: fast and busy and cold and cozy and, by turns communal and alienating, for those so inclined. i'm in new york now (did i mention that?) and it's _christmas in new york_. which is all right. playing with people and subways and food, and mostly playing with words. mine or yours. (or my dad's, or l. mcmurtry's - i'm almost done with lonesome dove, i swear. finished the guralnick, finely. bought this last night after hearing half of its contributors talk about/read from their essays. "momentary." woot! maybe i'll talk about that at the other blog. it was EMP in two hours or less.)
ok, so life recap: last week (i mean, the one before thanksgiving - two weeks ago) i very literally left the house no more than a couple of times all week. once for vegan luncheonette with dave g, once for movie (no country for delicate-sensibilitied rosses) and dinner and kitten-klaw-klipping with/without dave m. otherwise i was in my house, in my jams, WRITING abt MUSIC. (spec. teen pop, mostly, not again, but for once, and it's getting interesting, and i'm having fun editorializing contextually while keeping objective contentfully...ok, i'll save it for the other place too.)
then the weekend came and i was working at the cafe, and pretending that i would get to bed early so to wake up early for it, but instead i saw romance and cigarettes (bad title, awesome movie! RFG! albeit preposterous) and saw mr. marmalade (awesome! but _dark_. i thought anyway) and 'played 1950s board games,' or something? i don't remember, and still only stayed up til like 2 or something. sunday i finally crashed, a little, except it was more like holing up in tired-boo. it's nice to be tired, somebody said.
and monday i managed to get practically all of my laundry and packing and moving (all my belongings from the third floor the first, so it could be refinished), and lunch with rebecca, and have a drink with kate before this concert (bowerbird site can has permalinkage? anyway, xprmntl improv is fine, but semi-composed ethnmsclgy take-off string hoo-hah is finer) and still be at the train station in reasonable amount of time for getting to new york unreasonably late.
and then it was thanksgiving. home. family. nephewniecelings. picture books. sweaters. bread pudding in the pumpkin shell. kim sisters. boyfriends. euchre. contradance. etc!
[lars and the real girl 7.6/10. superbad 9.4/10. she's the man. 6.2/10. missed american graffiti at the dryden, which would have made a nice h.s. triptych.]
and now i'm here, that's about it. ok now? more stuff:
"iMacs" homophonous w/ "IMAX." both rhyme with "no climax" - which one is will robinson sheff saying? works both ways?
encountered in the process of trying to research for a review of rachel stevens' album:
[parents strongly cautioned: some sexual material. (as per the opening warning screen on she's the man.) but em it's for a good cause!]
two lyrics, take your pick:
i took a plane, i took a train
(ah! who cares, you always end up in the city
stranded at bleecker and broadway
looking for something to
. . .
i've got friends with the sweetest wives
they've got beautiful kids
they lead meaningful lives
in the suburbs just out of town
love is all around
Tuesday, November 13
ninety-nine and a half (will do)
am i 99.5% recovered? or more, or less? how are you supposed to measure these things, anyway? i'll never be 100% back to normal (is anyone ever?) - it's not unreasonable to think i'll progress somewhat closer to that abstract ideal, in a matter of years - but for all intents here i am, good as i'll get and not too shabbily. a kind of key moment came a week and a half ago, when i had an evening of the most athletic, passionate, inventive social dancing i've done in ages - and i didn't once think about my ankle or feel limited by my ability to bend it. there were definitely points when i've doubted whether that would ever happen again.
i still feel it - not pain, per se, but a dull ache and a discomforting tightness that i think i'll be able to knead out and never can - i seem to notice it especially when the weather changes, or maybe it's just at certain humidity levels; anyhow more often than usual this time of year. the swing dancing i've been doing seems to exacerbate it a tad - though that may just be the opening blues lessons, always starting by shifting weight to the left foot, but usually they have a few more words to say first and you're already in the stance, so you end up holding your right calf in tension for an inordinate amount of time.
but this is quibbling. i'm better. this is of course the month to be writing my liner-note acknowledgments to the world, and so like any good rapper i better start out by thanking G-O-D!, the entity upstairs, my dawg, good lookin' out, i am so grateful you helped me get thru this thing naw but f'real, i'm feeling you, healing this annamayakosha knowhati'msayin', reeling in the prana flowin' so tight, sealing in the practice and permeating my vital air sheath, the information radiating out from my cells, sailing the sea of qi; the connectivity among all things. the internet is love.
that's all i really wanted to say
Sunday, November 11
still feels octy enough though - maybe that's what the eternal part's about. been listening to the mix, resuscitating it actually, with a handful of iffy burns and a disturbingly finicky disc drive...i want to make copies (hopefully with new/actual art design!) for the west philly'ns that have joined/become my gang recently; i feel like it fits out here pretty perfect; we b all bout c+c. i haven't attempted anything like this since; two years now. these days the time feels right, but not just quite. i believe this is my most perfect mix tape.
why am i writing about music here? i've been writing about music here, for fun and profit, i.e. actually for real for profit, and writing about writing about music here to go alongside that; but still not saying much about how it's in my life now, which is a lot. i really oughta archive those "stuck in my head" sidebars. anyway i'll stop writing about writing, but it is what i've been doing - tho way more slowly and distractedly than i'd hope, by a lot. maybe i'll get discipline this week? have also been dancing - writing and dancing; as i said to somebody, making commentary on music with words and with movements.
pretty constant - from the tuesday swing sessions, to navigating through the silkcity halloween crowd, to probably the most phenomenal dance-club dancing in ages last saturday (@700), mostly due to a large posse of friends and strangely friendly friendy strangers. (not to mention non-lofty yoga and navel/naval radiation a.k.a. body-mind centering a.k.a. looney liza time.) even sunday night taraoke found me doing the charleston with some random barfly. so, meeting people... is easy. (what comes next, i'm not so sure.) one of my LaB partners turned out, in a kind of amazing bit of cross-town crossed-paths, to be my new co-worker (fellow new hire) at the cafe; another one turned up at a boardgame birthday yesterday (didn't say hi?)
been watching a lot of dance, too, atypically. not even counting last friday's gamelan dancers at lang (or dragonfly-winged ninja's stage antics at the go! team halloween concert), seen three kindsa modern in the past week: herebegin's "current", mostly to see the roguish return of enfantes terribles becky & alison, who did not disappoint (memorably: hexagon critique and the naked part); nicole bindler's pia mater, which was a profusion of xprmntl dance+music, featuring black & white semi-formal dress and set, a micro-absurdist talent show, a contest of bicycle feats (the fixie wins), a discordant sort of birthday party, lots of pretending to be babies and mothers and occasionally birds, live painting of bodies, and the playing of broken strings and electronics, bowed cymbals, bike wheels and balloons. those were both at mascher, which seems to swinging back into gear for the underinsulated months - the lighting is getting more serious, tho it's cute that they're still using my old receiver as the sound system.
then yesterday reb and i treated ourselves to the martha graham company at the annenberg... it was as much a history lesson as it was a dance concert - impressive and fascinating on both counts - and also a revealing illustration of how much the aesthetics of dance - and i'd guess the arts more broadly - have continued to change past this kind of high modernism, groundbreaking though it was. as obvious and dramatic as the difference was between the samples of art-dance that pre-dated graham's innovations (orientalist, "ornamental" solos from 1906 and '16) and the selections in her signature style of the '30s (best represented by the still-startling socialist fantasia "panorama," easily the most exciting thing in the concert), even her later work (like 1981's admittedly classicist, hellenistic "acts of light," choreographed when she was '86) came off in our eyes as hopelessly stylized and dated, awkward rooted in a foreign-seeming conception of essentialized beauty: basically, still bizarrely close to the conventions of classical ballet. which doesn't mean it was any less impressive as performance, or as dance (1956's "embattled garden" was particularly dynamic and virtuosic); just that the stylistic trappings - the excessive makeup, gold unitards (!), and general sense of romantic bombast - were utterly distracting and essentially negated the sense of authenticity emotion it seemed to be trying to convey, and which we're used to seeing in modern dance. well, interesting.
[oh, speaking of... we also went to see martha graham cracker at her cabaret on thursday. and speaking of the piggies, we also went to see their sliver of 365 days/plays (steps 352-358 to be exact.) fabulous, fabulous. so much performances! makes me want to get up there do something myself...i do miss performing; it's harder to do out here in the real world. hey maybe i'll do something here, on bilwa's (general-purpose, for-public-use) set, like he wants.]
well, so much for sitting still in the audience. apart from biking back and forth across the river, bundled against the mounting chill, i've been doing my fair share of sitting still in other situations too. at home, even though i sometimes feels like i'm never home for more than a moment before rushing out again. rather, i feel like it's like that whenever my housemates are around. this weekend has been better though - we've all been here together more often than in the past few weeks, even if we're usually in separate rooms. also, concrete things are happening with the house, which is exciting, though i haven't been as involved with this round of improvements. best part for me so far is that we now have a kitchen table. pretty nice one too. so i can sit there and read my dad's manuscript as i eat my whatever.
nice that the tv's set up too - there was an inaugural movie night last night, with nightwatch substituted for 28 days/weeks later (kind of good since it meant i didn't care as much about watching the whole thing), and a typically extravagant mali hostess-mode spread of cheeses, fruits, popcorns, and oh yeah, an actual dinner of ribs and self-described accoutrements. (and hopefully they ate some of my peanut-butter fudge brownies, which are rich enough that even a quarter of the size i originally cut them will do you just fine. i had just come from a board-game birthday party which featured, i'm pretty sure, at least six different kinds of brownies and brownie-like things. so i was on the verge of a brown-out.)
i skipped out on most of the feasting, though, because it was time to head off for the centerpiece event of the weekend, a plan which had gradually taken its vague shape over the preceding couple of weeks: the pajama party.
i don't want to say too much about it - there was some of that sort of nebulous specialness that you want to keep a little unexamined, to keep it sacred but also on the suspicion that it might just end up sounding silly and inane if you pay it too much attention. we weren't really sure what we were doing, i think - we were just trying to satisfy the criteria for the quintessential pajama party, as best as we could figure. things started out particularly well, with the novelty of the enterprise, starting into a pot of mulled cider and a fifth of maker's mark, the excitement of exploring the apartment, donning hats and costumes, commencing an impromptu photo shoot - there are clearer, better, posed group costume shots that i don't have (yet, but i'll try to put them up here - in the mean time i finally added a halloween picture to the bottom of the last entry, so scroll down and look at that.)
after photos, and a round of desserts ordered up from the restaurant (ah yes, the restaurant) we changed into our pjs - i'd just thrifted a set of red plaid jammies that morning, which was actually one of my favorite parts of the whole affair. i also really enjoyed playing default dj, digging into my extensive supply of twinkly, somnambient lullaby tunes - what quickly got dubbed "fairy music" - including colleen's et les boîtes à musique, yokota's unfailing sakura, the lovely auburn lull, and lullatone's oh-so-appropriate plays pajama pop pour vous (oh those frenchy japaneseys.) also erlend øye's dj-kicks, marit and tracks 3-10 of in rainbows, all of which feature their own variety of twinklings. (i didn't say i was gonna stop talking about music, did i?)
it all seemed to fit with the sweet, dreamily childlike game we were playing. as far as actual activities go, well we played apples to apples - a game that's a lot less interesting than it used to seem (but still decently enjoyable, and was right-on with the adjective cards this time: i am indeed sappy, sexy, sharp, witty and weird) - and ha ha ha (i guess it's called) or 'human plaid' - we took a just-pre-closing jaunt down to the bar, partially in pjs, to catch last call - we lay on a bedspread on the livingroom floor, gazing up at the 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-pointed starry ceiling (that's a clue) and trying to think of jokes or questions - somehow there was clamor for a dance party at around 4am, so i decided to play ¡OhSiX!, which went over well, even if the dancing dissolved after a half-hour or so.
dawn came and we hadn't slept (well, save for one who'd drifted off before the dancing); we took the dogs out for a walk and to greet the day - frost in the field - though the sun had already cleared the horizon by the time we made it out. we slept some - in the pile on the floor, and eventually, after something like an unintentional approximation of a game of sardines, in a couple of the beds upstairs - but only some. four hours at best, not enough to shake that lessening that comes when you don't quite make the all-nighter. it's really better not to sleep at all than to stay up til the morning and sleep just a short while - that little bit somehow casts the disproportionate sleeplessness in a garish harrowed glare it's easier to squint out when you're just going on the wisps and fumes of the liminal hurdle, the second-wind of sunrise, the wan and achy weakened deepened wakefulness of coasting on through.
so - despite the generous, delicious orts in lieu of brunch, the concluding come-together clean-up, and especially despite the gloriously sunny morning we walked out into - there was this nagging anxiety, a tiny disquiet lingering about the whole business, that it was hard to quite apprehend until the light hit it. there was the physical futsiness of the suspended sleeplessness and torpor (i guess the whiskey didn't help, though it passed generally unnoticed the night before; the brownies neither perhaps.) this diverting but indeterminate agelessness we'd been engaging in - an imprecise précis not to act our age (our ages), but to be...school-children? high-schoolers? (like little scandinavian children on christmas morning, i said at one point - shades of fanny and alexander, natch - from the apartment too - our gay apparel courtesy of, perhaps, hannah andersson. i also felt like a 1950s norman rockwell suburban junior, with the plaid pjs and my thick specs) - and a timelessness too of just being out of ourselves, out of our lives, out of time - somebody was wishing it could go on for a whole week, but even the briefest span seemed enough to capsule it off fully, so more time would've just belabored the point, diluted the essence - these things aren't bad, per se, they were just the nature of the unreality, the oneiric otherness of it - (not, also, to haze it up in hindsight - but i haven't slept since, either, really, but at least in this state that's my lingering perception. the night, and the surroundings, and the mind, can do strange things.)
but i do regret a little that it didn't become more of a personal, communal self-sharing sort of experience - there's the opportunity with these things for surprising connections, those late-night deep talks that might end up seeming preposterous in the morning light (or they might not), but can establish and consolidate some real and lasting bonds, regardless. i can't say i really feel substantively closer to the participants now...of course, it was only one night, so that's not too surprising or upsetting. but instead, there was - maybe, the other direction from actual intimacy - this little, stupid sort of sexual tension - maybe it comes with the territory, though i'm not sure it has to - maybe a little sweet, silly, but just a little too unconscious to acknowledge or deflate. the sort of fun at the time, but, ugh, ultimately just limiting, since it's just inhibiting. even as it is itself inhibited by the pervasive, put-on, but no less inexorable, innocent wholesomeness - so that just puts things further at odds.
meh - don't want to say much, or feel like i should dwell on it. it bothered me (not specifically; generally) for much of the day, in an imprecise way. it was a shapeless day, sort of shot from the start for anything of much substance to happen - and a sunday anyway. i mostly channeled my restless, fragile energy into playing guitar and singing - songs from edith frost's it's a game and the mountain goats' get lonely - two of the finest collections of mopey, post-break-up folk formalism in recent memory; not sure why but those were what was coming to me. played keyboard too (after being asked not to use the intriguing player piano in the parlor at the party) - mostly just big churchy organ chords and gospel IV-Is. i wanted to go for a ride or maybe a hike/walk in the woods, but i couldn't find a partner for it or get up to going alone, so i just walked around the neighborhood a bit. the strains of curtis mayfield drew me towards a party in malcolm x park, with a circle of youngish breakers dancing to an afro'd laptop dj who turned out to be a penn student (freshman?), so i chatted with him for a while, and then hung out with a four-ish year old who wanted some help getting onto the jungle gym, until his mom came back. nice.
also - it was just nice to come home from the party and see my housemates at the dining/living(?)room table, doing the sunday morning. here they are:
we need to use it right
. . .
time's unpredictable - just when you think
that you've learned how to save it,
you spend all day on hold
i need somebody to show me the difference between using it wisely
and just growing old
. . .
why did you grow a beard?
why did you grow a beard?
i can't leave you along for five minutes
what the christ
what the devil
Wednesday, October 31
the lonely crowdful west
it was lovely. i'd written in the e-mail: if it can somehow easily and harmoniously coalesce into a full but relaxed day of enjoyable activities and friendfulness, well that would make me a happy twenty-fiver. pretty much it did and it did. birthdays, i find, are if nothing else guaranteed to make you pay a little attention to how you're spending them, which way they resonate; a way to check in with your life.
this one started with saturday morning yoga class - or, rather, with the sunny bike ride to it - then brunch at cafe lift with sara, dave, russ, and some fellow students (dave and i shared 'jen's crespelle' and spinach salad.) angela joined s d and i for a hayride around the block at rtm harvest festival (surprisingly sublime) and to give me the only present i received on my birthday (tied with the blue ribbon i wore in my hair.) here we are:
we were back down to three for a round of mini-golf at franklin square, and then i had some time to myself for playing digital pianos at 8th street music, picking bottles of sangiovese and lillet at w+s, and - on something resembling a whim - taking an eye exam and ordering contact lenses for the first time in seven or eight years. that's about when everybody called - i talked with my mom while i walked to long in the tooth to pick up the new sharon and bettye albums. then i came home - being out of plans - and chatted with mali while we peeled apples for a pie [#3] and i froze some raw milk ginger was it? these (and the wines) we brought to dinner at joanna's with ian (in town for the weekend - we got to see each other three nights running) and sarah, a lengthy leisurely meal and discussion.
this was significant: i had characteristically hoped that the day could find its way to a dancing conclusion, but despite some rounds of txt inquiries this was seeming doubtful around mid-evening. then i learned that tara and roberta, david, john, and erin, had, mostly independently (coincidentally), wound up at an opening in south philly, which had, unexpectedly, developed into a dance party. they all wanted me to come - truly, i could not have made it there in under a half hour (if that), by which point they figured the dancing would be nearly over. but if that was frustrating just then (and also that nobody was up to the ordeal of meeting to dance elsewhere - "i hate philly dance culture," i said, and still say), still it was meaningful to know that, somewhere way across town, there were was a spontaneous outburst of dancing among a randomly assembled group of my friends, and that they were thinking about me, and dancing for me, on my birthday.
as the day ended, i found myself, pretty randomly, at a party (an early halloween/birthday party) full of people whom i mostly didn't know - acquaintances at best - and i stayed for several hours, most of the time in low-key one-on-one conversations. that was almost the nicest part of the day - or rather, it seemed like such an nice, refreshingly relaxing note to end on. it was such a full day, filled with experiences and activities and interactions - with friends, strangers, and various shades between - none of which was especially monumental or noteworthy on its on, but collectively emphasizing an sense of flexibility, a network of possibilities, here in this city, my city. started off my 25th year feeling, almost suddenly, more personable and open and able to be gregarious than i've been in a while. and it was a sunny funny sunny day too.
since then there was also the party - autumn comes to delicious berry - which deserves some words of its own. well first there was practically a full week of planning/prepping, including a couple evenings in the penn print shop (to create the "Complimentary Notes" that nobody seemed to think were as perversely amusing as mali and me) and a field trip with to linvilla orchards with three of my fave philly fillies - tarasarareb'n'roo, together again for the first time? - to load up on pumpkins, gourds, and cider donuts. the most memorable thing about the actual party (which consumed the bulk of mali's and my attention before - well, along with felix the plucky orphan kitty and his friend gordon the gourd - and a good deal of it during) was the food. in my case, mostly hand-crafted junk food: ginger[fivespice]snaps! four different ice creams [licorice, coconut ginger, cranberry sherbet, apple sorbet]! pie [#4]! homemade terra chips [oven-baked slices of sweet potato, beet, yuca, redcoco, cuscus]! homemade candy corn! oh yeah, i made some garlic chard too. mali and delia handled most of the "real food" (including real pumpkin pie), and most of the kitty business as well. oh right - then there was the memorable moment when this weirdball showed up:
who are these bozos? what's with the haircuts? and the eyes? um. and i say, what the devil color is that behind them!? (why that's delicious berry - rather washed out though.)
and since then...i've barely left west philly. to be precise, since the subsequent sunday - when i went to libswalk for a job interview (don't ask), liblands for cake and wine with the t-ster, c-town for dim sum and boba (with above-pictured mystery traveller), and locust bar for taraoke (fun with sublime, kinks, and "road to nowhere," but i pledge next time i'm gonna try "help the aged") - i've gone across the river exactly twice. (as of tomorrow that's ten days - but i'll probably break it.)
once i almost forgot about - i took the bus (it was pouring, but still i should have taken the subway) and met liza in olde city to see into the wild, but we both missed it so we killed the intervening hours before the late showing at old standby mediocrities mexican post and cosi. the second time was this saturday, when i had my first morning of cooking brunch at the cafe (it was great!) and then rode all over town poring thrift and vintage stores hoping to augment my costume (to nearly no avail - did get a sweet star-buckled belt - though i did inevitably, almost inadvertently, augment my record collection.)
otherwise i've stayed in westy. some days i've barely left the house, it's true. (though i'm less contrite about that than you might think - a good chunk of that time i was working, or something like, and besides, our house is nice.) but i've been active too. apart from arthouse movies and, well, my job-thing, west philly seems to be staggeringly capable of fulfilling all my needs. (there's even mediocre mexican and costumarily unsatisfactory clothes stores here too - on friday i did what felt like the african-american version of that center city trawl, taking in forman mills, the endlessly fascinating 52nd street mall, and the second mile, where i at least got some swifty-neat cordy overalls.) (no critical mass[querade] over here though, which is mostly why i missed it.)
banking, post-office, yoga, dance, music, theater, brunch, art, houses, friends, serendipity, parties, people:
• pfcu [50th & bmore] - deposited checks for dj gigging and yoga-teacher-glasses-breaking-compensation. remembering to remove my atm card after the transaction.
• usps [50th & sansom] - rec'd: presents from dede (wallet) and my folks (huh? ok.) but more excitingly my dad's new manuscript, which i am presently 100pp. into and loving (it's like reading my own novel - 'cause my dad is like me - but better.)
• wake-up [49th & bmore] - liking the smoother thursday class more than wednesdays with glasses-crusher, though she's okay too. by no means have i abandoned the loft though - i've just been playing hooky these past two weeks (after two years plus i'm surely entitled?) so as to check out...
• take the lead [47th & pine] - my first swing at it since high school, practically. jitterbug's out in the aughts, now lindy's the thing and 'blues' is queen. so i'm new to the latter, but it's not hard to take to (slower, closer, looser: sexual.) last week reb came and we faked it; this week there were costumes, live tunes, getting the hang back. something endlessly fascinating about this kind of social dancing situation. also: (as my pop's narrator would say) coeds.
• mill creek tavern [42nd & chester] - soft people (incl. michael, mr. marvelous himself), opening for stinking lizaveta (buddies of dave's; local legend metal-jammers; must have read a different translation of bros. k than me), in extempore collaboration with (backing up?) damo suzuki (ex-can; int'l legend krautshouter; crazy old japanese dude ranting guttural gibberish.) um. i was there for st. liz - or for dave, really, so the rest was an odd surprise - less so the handful of familiars in the crowd, but like that. not so much my scene, but...hmm.
• curio theatre [28th & bmore] - death and the maiden. set (not "set") in s. africa. great production - riveting. arena staging. ending less interesting than i'd've hoped. unresolved questions, fine, but under-resolved dramatic arc unfortunate. still, right on. look forward to orton's butler.
• white dog cafe [34th & sansom] - rafa's 30th birthday! with m+r, gabe, mark, joanna. excellent company and decor (the room with 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-pointed stars on the ceiling), slightly underwhelming meal (even though the waitress emphatically assured me my unplanned order was "the best brunch option") but - sensational desserts: pumpkin ice cream sandwich (ginger cookies) and local goat-cheesecake (lime-"spiked" crust.)
• POST - more on that in a sec - but also, incidentally dg's mural [47th & bmore] - first side's done - i'm in it!
let's see here - i'll do it a bit roundabout. yes, after the brunch on sunday, j and i (with m+r, briefly) took a look at some studios (and artist homes) around westy. it was blustery and brisk, even with secret sunday-pants and super-soft sweater, but good in the sun. fall, finally? we talked about the aspirations and frustrations of meeting new people - still a project, to branch out solidly from collegiate networks, looking for something sustaining, something more, perhaps, pertinent to the present, (post?)-post-adolescent, urban, situation. she puts it straight up: wanting to meet people she might date. which is not how i tend to think about it. on the whole. but, maybe, should be? thing's tricky. we discussed. shades of those ancient freshman year analytic principles of r'ships.
we saw zarouhie's abstracted nola birdseyes at the cathedral. we saw zoe's cellular microscopy fantasias at metro. we went to jj's house - also home to kara rennert and her marvelous ceramic heads and figures - and that's where we ran into kate, who said "i figured i'd see you here." funny thing is i'd kind of figured that too. hm. she joined us and pointed us towards amy orr's house, which even more than jj's is an enviable, exquisite home-space, a charming building filled with beautiful objects, only a fraction of which were the official display pieces - although those, her found-object quilts (twist-ties, credit cards, action figures, crack vials), and falsie pillows (emblazoned with latex breasts) were utterly arresting. (amy took being called a hero in stride; she said she always needed cards and i handed her expired fmfcu visa.)
after that we swapped j for d before the culminating stop, the studioful-house where zoe was sharing her more recent and less metro-friendly drawings (e.g. the ones made with blood); james p. and jill m. also had work on display, but it was slightly overshadowed by, respectively, the former's congenial humor and hospitality and the latter's unanticipated performance on the aerial tissu (which, to my inexperienced eye at least, was absolutely spectacular. kate: "your muscle tone must be unsurpassed.") there was even a bonus demo show/tell from electronic music guy joe, of some of his favorite gadgets; then some bonhomie in the kitchen with ken and zoe and the rest. by then it had gotten chilly out again. ah! good good day of walking around looking at art and houses, meeting west philly artists, talking to folks in my neighborhood.
my neighborhood. these are things that happen. even after two years in northern liberties, i didn't do things in the hood this way. (unless you wanna call all of center city a 'hood, which isn't entirely implausible - it's not even all that much bigger.) there's a very simple explanation for the difference: i know people who live here. i even live with some of them (i.e. more than one.) but more imptly than that - there houses where i can, more or less, just go, without especial pretext or much advance planning (only two like that, 4834 walton and 1013 47th, but that's for now) - houses of my neighbors, houses of my friends. and i have other friends around here, in 1-brs, in collegiate housing, on scaffolding, that i can visit, even if i haven't taken so much advantage of that yet. and: my best friend lives here - i'd forgotten what it's like to for us to be that much more accessible to each other, even if the difference in the amount of time we share isn't that dramatic.
this weekend i went to three costume parties - all of them in west philly, which is telling even if that's just how it happened to happen. kate was at all three. who's kate? friend of dave's. otherwise very little overlap (dave and reb at two each; that's it.) the party friday night was at kate's house. i'd only met her once, briefly - three weeks back. but we played invitation tag and i was it, so i walked the four blocks down and half-a-block over, braving the downpour so i could bring them a pie [#5 - hands-down the best one i've made yet this season] in a milk crate, shielded with foil. i didn't know anybody else there ('til dave came), so i met some. though i probably won't remember them later sans santa/pirate/fifer/banana getup. didn't stay forever (b/c work) but had a good time.
the second one was at the walton house. i djed. plenty of folks i know, though i barely got to talk to any of them, of course. lots of fun all the same - read about it there. kate came and stood near the dj, but for a long time i didn't realize it was her - she was masked, and i was looking for her as a cowgirl (we'd matched the night before.) the third party was at ang's. two months in and they've already established a great party rep, as far as i'm concerned. i really like her roommates, and the people that show up (the majority of them tla video staffers) are good people, good party people. best costumes at this one i think - brontosaurus, madeline, pee-wee herman, coupla romans, obscure horror characters. ang was a giant squid. dave revived birdman; k8, masked again, brought crafty airplane-safety-illustration fridge magnets as a hostess gift. enjoyed talking with natasha about philadelphia, brazil, and michael jackson.
point being, perhaps, that there's three different, basically non-overlapping communities, right there, to which i am, however tangentially, connected. throw in the swingers and the brunch crowd (my housies and their circle) and the post artist contingent, and you've got three more sets. six, just within the past week; all of them to a greater or lesser extent centered around west philly; all of them groups that i am to a greater or lesser extent likely to be in contact with, more or less often, as long as i'm around here. not that i'll end up making new, true friends with many or even necessarily any of these people...or that i'll end up feeling like fully part of any of these communities. but at least they're there. it's good to know they're there. and maybe i will. maybe i'll make one of my very own.
did i tell you what i've been wearing? my thought was that i should go as a texan. or even specifically an austinite, or possibly stephen austin. couldn't find anything specifically texan (no state-shaped belt-buckles, lone-star flags, or "don't mess with" t-shirts) so "texan" got conflated with "cowboy." then "cowboy" got confused with various other western archetypes (farmer, bandit, sheriff.) native ang lent me her plastic bandolier and picked me up a holster/sheriff-star set and mustache (which i never got to wear, lacking spirit gum and spirit.) i got those overalls and a farmerish red-and-white shirt, and stuck with the decently appropriate straw hat i already owned. looked all over town for some cowboy boots before realizing that mali already had some that fit me fine; she also lent me a purple bandana. oh, and i got that big star-buckle belt. lastly i wore the southwestern motif bola that my piano teacher gave me at high school graduation. the ensemble ended up pretty vague and general, but people seemed to like it anyhow.
so... am i moving to austin? when am i moving to austin? people keep asking, and i keep equivocating...yes, i'm still planning to... pretty definitely not until after the new year. a better answer, which i'm starting to revert to (the balance may have only just shifted again), is that i don't know. i really don't know what i'm gonna do.
i know that i'm not trying to make a decision at this point: i am staying in philly at least until january; to make a go of this job, to be east for the holidays, to continue enjoying the things i'm enjoying. you might have noticed that i'm pretty positive on west philly these days. (though, absolutely, it's not without its problems.)
in the meantime, i am sort of self-consciously surrounding myself with "texas culture" of various sorts: i'm reading lonesome dove. (yes, still.) i'm watching friday night lights. i'm listening to austin indie rock: okkervil river, the excellent knife in the water, er, spoon. and listening to chart country too, especially when getting into character. [one of amy orr's found-object quilts had a sticker advertising a magazine as "the how-to guide for living in the west" - perhaps that's what i need, he chuckled.]
i've gotta say i'm...not particularly feeling it at this point, even though i do still think it's a good idea. and i do still honestly think that i should give it a shot - not that i owe it to austin, or myself, but that a lot of good could come from it. but my reasons have gotten so confused at this point. goofball 'goni's surprise visit here, strangely enough, left me more conflicted about it, rather than less - which isn't a great sign, but there are some mitigating factors...
you know? we'll see. i do feel like i'm not in limbo anymore - at least, in a lot of ways i'm much less in limbo than i was. it's too easy for this life to feel like limbo, anyway. i'm trying to stay out of that.
it's 7:25 am. good night.
okay, here's a halloween pic for you, from friday night's party. courtesy of facebook. taken by the cowgirl, who'd sashayed her way out of sharing a frame. that's me in the mid, more or less my full get-up minus the kick-ass belt i bought the next day, plus a gourd. birdman/phœnix on the left. lightswitch on the right - but you'll notice it's not wearing a costume. should've had it take the picture instead.]
did the ironing in a cowboy hat
felt as fresh as the paint in this new flat
. . .
texas only kept me awake
another interest I won't fake
. . .
it's so exciting to be sleeping here in this new room
you're my reason to get out of bed before noon
Saturday, October 13
the last of the big batch of used cds i binge-bought from half and amazon last week (after realizing that i'd bought nearly no - well, relatively few - albums in all of september!) arrived, and it was the one i'd been wanting for the longest, and paid the most for - it was ricardo villalobos' alcachofa, and for some reason the seller giftwrapped it, in lovely treefrog wrapping paper!
life's got that tangy tangible zing.
Thursday, October 11
she went on to 'braindump' about not knowing what to do with her life, feeling "crossroadsy and unsure." and she's the one who just got married and has a blossoming artistic undertaking and - if not a career per se, at least an agreeable day job in a sympathetic industry, which sounds more like a career to me than anything i've managed to stumble into yet. ("how much are you supposed to like your job?" she wondered - an excellent question.)
which is certainly not to suggest that she has any less right to bemoan or be apprehensive about her life situation than i do. from her perspective, sitting on the other side of the fence, i'm not so much unemployed as focusing on passions outside of the 9-to-5 grind. well fair enough - maybe so, even if i wouldn't tend to see it that way. how much are you supposed to like your passions?
another friend of mine just got broken up with in a particularly unfair and frustrating way. another one called yesterday, nearly in tears, having realized she needed to switch schools and coasts to escape from the despondency, borne of friendlessness and lack of community, that has been plaguing her now for weeks and months, maybe years. "ross, we're having quarter-life crises!" she burst out.
i'm not complaining...least not right now i'm not. you can call these things crises - some of them may be - but it seems to me life is just tough, there's a lot to sort out, and it doesn't quite dawn on us until after college when we're out in the thick of it. i've been living with low-to-mid-grade existential doubts and worries about what i'm doing with my life for long enough now that they've long since lost their urgency, which is to say much of their potency, which is not to pretend that they don't still knock me flat on my worse days. but, you know, here's my life - twenty-five years of it just about finished and accounted for - and i'm doing with it whatever i'm doing; trying to look to the future and suss out some sense, but trying just as hard to look to the present and recognize its relevance, to demand that my day-to-day existence assume a meaning and a fullness, prosaic or poetic as it might be, not to feel like there's something i'm still waiting for, to begin.
something like that - that's about what i told my friend. it goes okay. does make it a bit hard when the days don't live up to the visions i have for them as the days of a reasonable, responsible, real person - but it means i have to accept that those days are my life too, maybe a little too often these days (but only a little), and that alone has to make them a little worthwhile. right? not trying to justify the unjust, just trying not to disgust the disjust.
there's a lot i don't know - i do know exactly where i stand in terms of romantic/partnering relationships at the moment, which is nowhere. which is ok. i'm still trying to figure out where i'm going to live and when...things have flip-flopped at least once or twice since last post...but in the mean time i'm happy where i am, and getting happier. i'm starting to get a clearer sense of some things that are going on in the professional sphere - jobwise; perhaps careerwise in the sense that i can really only conceive of a career right now in similar terms to those described above. (i'll tell you about that later, once i know a little more.) i tend to think that i know what's going on on the friend scene, but sometimes i have thoughts about that too.
how does it really work out that i have all these friends spread out all over the place, most of them not especially involved in my quotidian life (my real life.) my friends in philadelphia are not well consolidated; most of them don't know each other, and they all have different schedules, which i try to keep in my head so as to develop plans around them, but it takes a long time and diligence to work it out, and for the most part i don't feel like i have much support or cooperation (like, more people who realize that i'm, presently, generally available, and more importantly game, more or less whenever - at least, more likely than not - and accordingly just call me up when they have ideas or availability.) is it that they don't remember me at those times, or do they just not have ideas or availability. i know, they don't have money or time or energy. life's tough. i do see friends and do things and fill up my social schedule, but i wish it could happen somehow less haphazardly and more fluidly, more deliberately, more in a context of community and coeval life-states, the outgrowth of a shared sense of inhabiting the same life in similar ways. crazy, i know. (again... there are a couple of folks who are not the people i'm talking about.)
what i'm really doing with my life, proper, when those things do work out, are the kinds of thing of little, self-contained, but still significant life-filling things i would be writing about here if it didn't tend to take me so long in between posts that i feel like i owe you guys (owe me?) a life status update each time, not that i have anything that especially new to report.
like this weekend there was a camping trip - a funny thing, the output of several weeks planning - close to a hundred e-mails worth of it (that i was involved with anyway), as well as chats and even some phone conversations - hard to say why it took so much exactly, though i'm sure i occasioned a chunk of it personally - through habit or necessity, not really intention, i suppose i ended up doing a lot of shepherding, which was sometimes stressful and also delectable. anyway it all came together in a pleasantly, deceptively haphazard fashion - and no question, it was all a lot of fun, unhurried and easy-going - it seemed to me curiously self-containing, that there was no more or less to it than exactly what it consisted of; each phase of the trip not so much experienced as enacted - travel, in multiple stages, each with its attendant joys and concerns; making camp; bailing on dinner - due to a thunderstorm that was well-timed but not quite well enough - and going out instead (to a china buffet); campfire; breakfast; hike; camping again [in a reduced configuration] with dinner in-camp this time; another fire; another little walk, and then the return travel.
not that these things weren't enjoyable - they absolutely were - but other than this broad, inevitable framework (much of which wasn't even discussed in advance, even with the amount of discussing that happened, it was just left to be determined, passively, by default), there's not much to say about what happened on the trip. sure, there are anecdotes that can be told (honey-mustard-pretzel taste-test on the drive up; a cappella tromboning; flummoxing the china buffet waitstaff by ordering not only á la carte but also veggie; gerrit and derrick's surprise delayed after-dark arrival and late-night grilling of hamburgs, sausages and shrimp; enthusiastic "manly" log-splitting which led to the arbitrary throwing of pieces of wood; impromptu variety show in a lean-to near "stony ledge") - and there was also some perfectly lovely scenery - but the substance of the trip was all in the group dynamics; the running jokes and banter and camaraderie and general silliness that was going on throughout.
and even that, in a way, was impersonal, if that makes any sense - so much of what was happening didn't bear much specific connection to the relationships i have with these various people - even though some of them are my very best friends - i'm definitely glad everyone in this group was there, but i feel like i could have had almost the same experience with a largely or wholly different (but similarly composed) group. i would find it strange to say that we "bonded" over the course of the weekend. thinking back, i'm not sure i really had more than one or two meaningful discussions with anybody the whole time, all on the last day when we shifted down to a five-person group (rather than ten), which of course brought an attendant change in dynamic.
i hope it doesn't sound like i'm complaining... really i'm not; the trip was absolutely a success for what it was, which was everything i would have wanted it to be. i'm trying to express something that i don't quite understand myself, and i'm not entirely sure whether other people experienced it this way at all. i'd be curious to know what you understand from what i've written. anyway.
[there was at least one absolutely memorable and special moment for me, which stands out as my favorite memory from the weekend - the singing that we did around the campfire on saturday night, which flowed from one song to the next without any discussion or even any pauses; just starting up, overlapping, sometimes several songs at once, harmonizing, adding air trombone obligato, switching before the previous one had necessarily finished, and creating collectively generated free-associative thematic and stylistic threads; i sang from "when the saints" and "swing low" to "black water" to "dixie" to "the night they drove old dixie down" to "zip a dee doo dah" to "hakuna matata" to "the bare necessities" to "the other day i met a bear" and onward - also memorable were "son of a preacher man" and "wipeout" and "smells like nirvana" and "one of us" and "99 problems"...we skipped simon & garfunkel and magnetic fields and indigo girls and gershwin and even the beatles until the following night, a more conventional folksing with mostly me and reb...even though it was late and past quiet hours; which i know created some unease too even though we were grooving too high to want to relent...anyway i'll remember that.]
better let it be now - i'm really gearing up to return to mincetapes. hopefully i'll be back here before saturday, but if not, wish me a happy quarter century?
how come i end up where i belong?