27 February 2007

Getting busy, one step at a time

It's not just a literary crush or something along those lines. It's one of the reasons I like the music I like: It's accessible to me. I get it, I know it, I carry those rhythms in my bones every day. That's how I feel after reading a little of the writing of Orhan Pamuk, who as the Nobel Literature Prize winner, "in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures," according to people who would know. He also seems quite down-to-earth in his writing. He is someone like me, in other words, someone I could see chatting with at a party.

So after reading that, I wrote myself a little note on a Post-it: "If you're ever going to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, you'd better get busy." I know I may not ever be recognized for my prowess in literature specifically but perhaps will accomplish something else entirely, but it's still true.

For example, one profound idea I am turning over in my mind lately is that there is some kind of revolution in thought in store for us. I saw a film about space that made me ask myself what is the next frontier that has the capacity to unite all of humankind. I believe it will be something internal, interior, something that takes us deeper into a collective consciousness than we have ever understood we could go, just as mapping the world and going to the moon have done for our vision of our selves in the world.

In the meantime, there are so many stories to tell in this big wide world. Yesterday I was coming out of a store and heard a man crying for help. I ran for the sound, toward what looked like an older guy in the process of being run over by his own car. I pushed the car as hard as I could and rolled it back up the slope and off of him -- it had missed crushing his foot and leg by millimeters, as far as I could tell. Long story short, he was okay, more or less, but I stuck around for a while and talked with him, in part because he was older, in part because he was trying to minimize how close he just came to losing his leg or worse. I thought he could go into shock.

So as I listened, he told me about himself. About his job in the Merchant Marines as a radio operator from 1943-1948. About being a professor of English literature. About living up on the mountain with an incapacitated wife and doing their errands -- and not wanting to be sent to a nursing home. About not caring for a wound on his leg and having to visit a doctor twice a week. He was on his way to a doctor's appointment, "At 2:45," he assured me with a little moue and a direct gaze like a child's, perhaps checking my eyes to see if I really believed him). It was ten before two and I did have more to do, so we went on our respective ways. But I did leave a slip of paper with my name and address on it. And I took his license plate number, just in case.

I'm going to try to get him a little help, because I see someone who might be falling through the cracks and would like to see what I can do. The man is terrified of losing his autonomy, and in retrospect it all adds up: his reluctance to call anyone to come to his aid, or to call 911. My guess is he thinks his days of living independently are all but over and he's doing whatever he can to postpone that inevitability. That must be frightening.

I looked him up on Google, however, figuring a retired Merchant Marine and English professor would be easy to identify, with a few specific dates and places. But no: his personal data is clearly pre-Google information. (Will we one day sort eras into B.G. (Before Google) and A.G.?) So I have a call placed to someone in the English Department to help me come up with a name for the guy (or find out whether he was feeding me something else). And when I called, the woman on the phone at the English department said, "So you think he needs what, a welfare check?" She just called back with his name and phone number, so I can perhaps alert Social Services to send someone to look in on him. As my doctor friend told me, there are much better drugs and therapies available now to help him keep his mind sharp and live autonomously longer, if his doctor is given the opportunity to discover that he needs them.

My friend the doctor then suggested that I try to come to a doctor's appointment to advocate that they do a thorough mental and physical workup, rather than just caring for his leg injury. I have mixed feelings about trying to involve myself further because of some of the things he said about himself, so I am sitting with that idea for a while.

Time to go for now. If anything new develops in this thread, I'll keep you posted.

18 February 2007

Princess of the Air

What a thrilling evening right here in my town.

I feel so lucky to live here, now; people come to me and offer me experiences that absolutely make my day, my month, my life! I am high on the peak of my friends' film festival, and tonight I really became a part of it, made myself known. It was amazing.

Zzzzwwwp! Rewind.

Today I was at the film festival listening to a group of filmmakers discuss their work. I am volunteering to work as an assistant for the discussions and workshops this year, which basically means showing up, doing a little work, and getting to sit in on the films or discussions. This really is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world; it is so exciting to get all these movies and people who make them in one place. They seem like my people, all of a sudden, in a way they didn't before, perhaps because I'm immersed in my own creative endeavor this time around.

The people visiting town and here volunteering for the festival have reminded me of the ultimate importance of doing the work, getting to the creation; that's what makes all this other stuff tick. Without that, we'd have so much less to talk about. These folks have given us the gift of a launching point: something to consider together. So no wonder I love these events. They bring together so many collaborators in creative endeavors, which inspires me to collaborate -- even if I'm still awkward at it, usually more comfortable sitting at my desk writing alone, as I am now. Shouting into the void.

But tonight I got onstage!

Not as me, perhaps, but with soul.

But rewind a little again.

Tonight's premiere screening of The Astronaut Farmer, the perfect marriage of mainstream film and indie filmmakers, was followed by the Rocky Mountain premiere of Air Guitar Nation, a popular documentary on the festival circuit about some performers with no instrument except themselves. An air guitar contest was scheduled to take place after the film.

I had come prepared for this last event. This afternoon, when I left the house, I collected black high-heeled boots, velvet pants, velvet duster, and a high-necked, long-sleeved, white blouse to wear underneath. Before it started I told two people I would do it, both so I could back down and so I couldn't. At five this evening I was debating driving to a thrift store to see if I could find a ruffled blouse, and maybe a curly black wig, but I decided that didn't matter. When I was putting on makeup after donning my costume, I had the brilliant idea just before the contest began of using paper towels for the ruffle down the front of Prince's shirt in Purple Rain, which is the song I chose to sing at the "Aireoke afterparty." I stuffed paper into the neck of my blouse, got a friend to help make sure it looked right, and went up to the stage and wrote my song request on a chit of paper along with my "stage name," "The Artist Formerly Known as Princess," and I waited to see what happened next.

There was a blur of decent air-licking by women and men in about equal proportions to 80s metal and pop: AC/DC, Metallica, The Cars, The Who, and some Smashing Pumpkins, the Sex Pistols; World Air Guitar Champion (I believe that deserves capitalization) Zac Munro came on and played a 90s metal song I didn't even know but was perfectly good fun. I cheered on the other contestants until a couple of women got onstage and started doing a striptease but got booed off the stage (I was one of the boo-ers) because they weren't playing air guitar (to "Cherry Pie" -- when the DJ couldn't find the song, "By Warrant, you idiots," bitched MC Bjorn Turoque (geddit?), subject of Air Guitar Nation. After they left the stage there was another blur of 80s cock-rockers and some Queens of the Stone Age.

It was almost the end of the night; our MC warned us that we only had another fifteen minutes to make noise at the theater. I started to brace myself for disappointment that I wouldn't be called onstage after all. Just when I had started to think it was over, Bjorn announced my stage name. I firmly donned my persona and strode quickly up the stairs and onto the stage (I'd been getting in character strutting around in the audience near the front of the stage, as well as just dancing and doing my best groupie impression -- and I've had some practice, honey! just ask my closest friends!).

As soon as I heard the sweet, soft, reverberating strums that open the song, I knew just what to do. And I did it! I put some soul into it, and pointed at someone in the audience when I pretended to sing the line "and that means you, too." I wish I had been given a little more of the solo, but it was a long song, and I got to do a lot of it before it got cut off, so I was happy when I left the stage.

Next Bjorn invited the women back up to rock out together, inviting not just the women who had already performed but all the women who wanted to come up, and so I hopped back onstage and rocked out some more, giving a big hug at the end to "Betty Chronic," the performer who got the contest off to a great start. Then everyone got up onstage and it was fun to vamp around and play with people.

After it there was a blur of compliments and praise for the "bib" as everyone kept calling my paper-towel ruffle (which I got Bjorn Turoque to sign) and then a drink at the bar with people, and I met up with "my" filmmaker, the one I picked up at the airport after his ten-hour flight from London. People said this was the most fun they'd ever had at a film festival. It was great fun to participate, and to be recognized for something -- I saw why those guys go all the way to Oulu, Finland to compete in the World Air Guitar Championships.

And I can't resist drawing a conclusion or two from the way I feel now. I feel I've been on this sort of personal "ropes course." Did you ever do those? I worked at a company at which we took a day out and went to this place where we were challenged to do trust exercises. I found some of them easy (I climbed up a fairly tall pole and then jumped off it onto a net, but I was harnessed and roped the whole time so felt quite secure) and some of them were quite difficult (learning to fall back on someone and really let them catch you). But even after the ropes course, our boss remained a dickhead (oh, let me count the ways). But I digress. I've been challenging myself, really working on my confidence lately. Tonight was an example; writing my novel has been huge in every way. Going to England and interviewing my favorite band, Gomez, was one of my first big self-dares.

I've been doing wacky stuff for a while, though. At a radio show taping years ago I deliberately made sounds to participate -- once at a Del McCoury show when I did a perfectly high-lonesome aa-haaa sound at a key moment (and even made Del laugh), and another time during an Ozomatli segment, when I danced and did this percussive shriek along with their song that I thought sounded great, like it was supposed to be there. (I couldn't hear it on the taped version, though....) Then there was the time I was Mick Jagger for Halloween (but at age ten I was a little too shy to do justice to "Satisfaction" -- and I knew it).

Just a few days ago, a little circuit that had never closed in my life finally did when I saw someone I had briefly worked with over the summer. She gave me a DVD and on it was this wonderful video of a man speaking about the Tao, what it is and what it means. It's the kind of thing I've been thinking I'd like to copy and have to look at (being such a verbal-visual person and all). One of the things he said was about "answering the call." Tonight felt like that. Like I assumed a greatness I don't usually let myself have.

It wasn't until I sat down to write this that I realized what a gift I got in getting to do my number when I did: Bjorn Turoque let me help close the show. There were lighters and people swaying and everything when I was up there. It was fabulous. And the way he ordered the songs was artful in retrospect -- he knew just when to let someone shine on an obscure song and when to bring back an old fave like AC/DC's "Back in Black." So thanks, man. "Airing" Prince in front of a crowd absolutely rocked my world!

p.s. I really do rock. I not only gave the cute little reporter from the campus paper a quote after it was all over -- but I also gave her the promo card for the book Dan Crane (aka Bjorn Turoque) wrote, to make sure she got its title right: To Air Is Human. It's a good book (silly me: I told him I though so, adding I'd "read the whole thing").

15 February 2007

The church of what is happening now

I feel this little cloud of sunshine has come over me -- isn't that a funny way to think of it? But there it is. I've been reading this nice book a friend recommended, and now I feel all happy. I watched Michel Gondry's out-loud dream, The Science of Sleep, the other night and I felt such love and sorrow for that character, Stephane, little piece of putty that he was, despising himself and taking it all out on the people around him. And of course I saw how I've done that and how much time I have spent railing against what is.

Supposed to, my foot! It turns out nothing is what I had thought, and I'm only just now really noticing that. No one ever said life was supposed to be ____ [fill in the blank with your issue du jour]. Life just is. People are who they are. I can't just go around making and imposing rules and conditions and expect that to take care of things. I have to be who I am, and they absolutely have to be who they are, whether they are my closest friends and relatives or driving around on the roads with me.

Here's an example of the kind of dialogue that is helping me rethink -- and refeel -- things:

Something that troubles me is when people don't look out for each other. I feel disappointed and sad and frightened when people around me aren't paying attention to who is around them. So an underlying belief of mine is that people should take care of each other all the time. Do they really do this? Is this true? No. People take care of each other sometimes and don't at others. Who would I be without this belief? I would be more trusting and freer around people, more relaxed. Can I see a reason to drop this belief (and I'm not asking myself to drop it, just whether I can see why I might)? Yes. I would be more relaxed, more present, more attentive to what is really going on around me than fearful of what might happen if I don't watch out for everyone [because no one else is paying attention is the story, and in that story I think I have to do that for everyone else]. Can I see a stress-free reason to keep that belief? No. It's all about fear. Now, turn it around. I am afraid I'm not taking care of everyone all the time. I am angry at myself for not taking care of everyone. I'm afraid I'm not taking care of myself all the time. Can I absolutely know that is true? No. And so it goes on, this dialogue within.

Funny, because I always point at some bugaboo in others first, which now I see points right back to me -- but suddenly I am not feeling the need to point at myself or anyone else anymore. I realized that in my work for some folks last year I was trying to do a job blamelessly, which was such a strange way to look at it. I have been so hard on others and therefore myself in so many ways I can't even count them. And I wonder, How can I make amends for that? And another beam of sunshine pours through that little hole and down onto my world. I can't help how simple it is; it just is, and I am left with nothing but love for myself and everyone I've ever wronged. I have to make some amends, today, too; I'm getting all teary just thinking about it. It will take work and humility to repair this, but I know the loving is healing my soul.

And as I experience all my midlife questions and seek answers from everyone around me without looking to myself, I see how I learned somewhere not to trust myself or others and that was the story I carried around with me for a long time. But that story is just a story from then; now it looks and feels to me like a heavy bag I can set down and leave behind for good if I look at it a little more closely. Ah, this is what they mean by the examined life.

So thanks for sharing your midlife transformation, Katie. It's a wonderful thing, like a blooming flower in my life. I feel like a blossoming flower again. It's been a long time since I could say that.

In other news, I have discovered that I did indeed get the E ticket to the Boulder International Film Fest for my loving labors as a volunteer; this is all one of my ideas of heaven. Having the big ticket means I get to go to all the films and the parties, so I'm gonna see some interesting stuff and do it up, girlfriend!

And I am secretly preparing to "play" a Prince song at the air guitar competition at the film fest this weekend, so I gotta get busy. Stay tuned....

05 February 2007

Archiving as a service to others

I am enjoying the way this new business idea is making me feel, and like my novel I want to give time to it. Both are very positive and forward-looking. I like it because it is stoking my interest in people in this elemental way. The pictures above are from a holiday card, some free stickers that came in the mail of butterflies, number/letter stickers from the dollar bins at Target, pictures of kids at a summer camp, and scraps of my grandmother's tattered silk scarf. Just putting pretty papers under glass pebbles and gluing magnets to the back wouldn't be worth it; helping keep the things we like to preserve present in our lives is. For an example, I just copied London street maps from a set of cards I have depicting city walks and punched out circles for pebbles of the places my mother and I visited on our trips. In gathering the locations, I realized how much ground we covered in our two visits there.

On the desk in front of me happens to be an invitation from someone my husband works with to his graduation party. He moonlights in a card shop and is about to jump ship from corporate life to go pursue becoming an English professor. His graduation announcement is gorgeous, with beautiful graphic blocks and the ink color matched nicely. All I can think when I see it is that I want to make him some magnets out of little circles from the various designs and words. And I know he would love to have that small but visible keepsake, as much as he'll treasure his diploma in a simple but elegant frame up on a wall in an office some day.

I went to a friend's lingerie shower and took photos that I'll make a few marbles out of and glue magnets to the backs. Last night we were talking with friends about being a magnanimous magnet magnate. It just seems like the thing to do!