Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mission in a Rose Garden

So far, this trip has been a pleasant, productive combination of busy intellectual stimulation and relaxing reflection - and even though it looks a lot like I'm on vacation, there's still an element of that Mission from God just like Jake and Elwood.  At the moment, I'm staying with one of my very best friends in the world, Miss Kelly, and while she went to work yesterday, I sat in the back yard and made a list of what I still need for Burning Man.


To the side of the chaise lounge:


And behind the chaise are some chickens:


I thought chickens would be more noisy, but really, the only thing that seems to make them cluck and cluck is laying eggs.  Overall, they're very quiet.  I appreciate the quiet right now because the initial pace of the trip bordered on frenetic.  I left my cute, cozy home in Historic Harlem at 4:30 on Tuesday morning and landed in Beautiful Downtown Burbank eleven hours later.  I was on Southwest, which is a lot like taking a flying bus.  Then I got on a metrolink train to Palmdale, which is where my dear friend Max the Psychic Life Coach and Hairdresser is currently living.  We went out to dinner and then did a few laps around the mall since that's what one does in the suburbs for exercise.  I had a lovely night's sleep at the Palmdale Hotel, then Max cut and colored my hair Wednesday afternoon.  He's a genius and my hair looks marvelous.  For the record, although I still think of him as an intuitive life coach and hair stylist - but he's a successful speaker and teacher these days and rarely does hair (Attract Positive Results).

Wednesday evening, I met Stella, aka Beverly, a friend from Roudtree7.com at Union Station in LA:


We had dinner on Alameda Street since it was only a few steps away and from what I understand, Alameda Street is where Los Angeles was born.  Then we went back to the train station to wait in line for the 11:30pm Megabus to Oakland.  Stella likes to get to the Megabus early so she can sit in the very front row on the upper level.   The view on this particular bus was substandard, however, because the shade was busted and flapped unpleasantly over half the window.  Fortunately, the attendant on the bus was just as concerned about the busted shade as we were and found a bungee cord to hold it in place.

Watching the white lines on the high way rolling by sends Stella into a creative zone, so she stayed awake all night pondering this and that.  I took melatonin and went to sleep for a few hours, but we still had plenty of time for a nice visit since we were on the bus for seven hours.  Although her husband came along for the ride, we didn't get a chance to talk to him because a big lady in hot pink and red sprawled across the aisle seat on his side of the bus and snored loudly all night long.  He read Rolling Stone.

We arrived in Oakland with the dawn and were met by Al Osorio - which to me was like being met by a celebrity since I have long admired his writing.  He's a contributor on Roundtree7, too.

Here he is on the BART platform:


And here's the tree of us in the station:


Tomorrow, Miss Kelly and I are heading up to Tahoe to see my cousin, and with luck, we'll stop for cake and coffee along the way with another blogging buddy, Cali.  Miss Kelly will stay overnight, then I'll have a little time to regroup at my cousin's house before heading out to the desert to meet Pinko at Burning Man.

Meeting all these people - some I've known for years before the internet was invented and others I've only known on the internet - is The Mission of this trip.  Relationships are important all the time, but as we're collectively heading into all this social, political, economic and environmental uncertainty (at best - most of us think it's a collapse into global nightmare), it's particularly important to build and strengthen   the bonds between us.  To recognize friends and kindred spirits, clasp hands and face whatever comes together.  For me, clasping the physical hand solidifies the bond.

I know that we're all energetic beings in an energetic universe, each like a little amoeba in a great big body that some of us call Unity Consciousness.  But it's still lovely and meaningful to look into your friends' eyes as they are speaking.  I talk with Max and Miss Kelly on the phone all the time, and even though I haven't talked to my cousin in forever and haven't seen her in seven years, when she and I are together, it's like we've never been apart.  Sitting together in a shady spot, or staring up at the stars together - those kind of experiences give meaning and depth to our time on this planet.

With people I've only known virtually, mostly by their writing, being together physically is more than simply putting a face to the words.  Again, from a spiritual perspective, contact with bodies shouldn't really matter - but whatever with the spirituality.  When eyes meet in understanding, the friendship becomes tangible and concrete.  Like they say in How Are You Peeling:

When how you feel is understood,
you have a friend and that feels good



Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dating Resumes

One of the first classes I took in college, long ago at North Texas State University in Denton, had something to do with Aesthetics. A philosophical look at Art. I can’t quite remember what the class was about. At the time, was known as a music school that focused on jazz, and was one of Playboy’s top ten party schools. Denton had produced more Miss Texases than any town in the state – but I always thought that being the setting of Rocky Horror Picture Show was infinitely more important that anything connected with Miss Texas. The blend of prissy sorority girls and music majors on acid made for a lively, entertaining environment, but I can hardly remember anything I learned as an undergrad, except I learned about Conceptual Art in that philosophy class. I remember it because I really liked to whole concept of conceptual art.

I liked the concept of Match dot com, too, but that was years later. By the time I first ventured onto Match dot com, I had run off to New York to marry a Yankee, learned from a neighbor that the child we produced was Jewish enough for Hitler, been medicated into a coma to survive suicidal depression and gone through a messy divorce during which my ex-husband, whom I fondly call Buzz Kill, claimed that I was an unfit mother due to my frivolous spending and serial infidelities. I can state confidently for the record that those infidelities and indiscretions occurred after I filed for divorce and Buzz Kill wouldn’t move out, so I don’t consider myself an adulteress. It took two years to convince Buzz Kill that I was serious about a divorce – it might have taken longer but after he went through the trash and found a copy of the story about the time I went to a by the hour hotel with a black man whose dick was the size of a Maglite, he finally went home to his mother. That’s all water under the bridge, though, and only relevant to this discussion because I had reached “a certain age,” and level of experience by the time I decided I liked the concept of Match dot com.

I got much of that experience on Ashley Madison, a dating site for married people. I was intrigued by the concept of ordering up an affair on the internet as easily as I could order Tee Shirts from Talbots. After the divorce was final, I left Ashley Madison behind and went in search of a more substantive relationship on Match dot com. Results were less than encouraging, but I liked the concept of internet dating so much that over the next couple of years, I signed up for the cheapest membership on four separate occasions. Each time I wound up getting an attitude about the check lists that members complete to define their criteria for prospective Dates. It was bad enough that guys with big beer guts called their own body type Average and invariably said their Match would be Slim or Athletic. Half the time, those same men posted photos of themselves sitting in convertibles as if they were driving the Viagramobile. It got worse once I turned 50 and discovered that men who were older than me thought I was too old to date. Within a few days, I wound up deleting over 1,200 men within 5 miles of my zip code who were pushing 60 and nixed dating women who were 49.

I finally lightened up about the age thing because I had to admit that I had some trivial preferences of my own. Besides, all of us were clicking little boxes on a checklist. Match dot com was like a quiz with multiple choice answers for religion, politics, kids, body type and income level. Ashley Madison asked about practices like anal sex, bondage and threesomes, foursomes or moresomes. A checklist is a checklist, however, and all the dating sites have them. It’s arbitrary and artificial in my mind because when you meet someone attractive at a party, you never take out a clipboard and run through the checklist before striking up a conversation. You don’t hand anyone a paragraph describing yourself in 2500 characters or less, either, as if you’re a travel brochure, real estate listing or trade school. As much as I enjoyed the creative challenge of developing a profile that was both accurate and attractive, it’s problematic when your opening line reads: In some parts of Texas, I’m known as The Cunt from Hell.
You’re not allowed to say Cunt on Match dot com.

The last time I ventured out into the wide world of internet dating, I was determined to keep an open mind and went out for coffee with the first guy who asked. I might have overlooked him being nearly 10 years older than he said in his profile, but his conversation suggested that he had not been himself since the Tet Offensive. It would have been nice to blame the aggravating nature of my mystery dates on the local dating pool, but I was ready to admit that all the unavailable, damaged men I met pointed straight to my own ambivalence about relationships. I wanted a man in my life, but I wasn’t so sure about letting a man in my house.

Plenty of people have found satisfying relationships from internet dating, but I suspect they looked at the people they met as human beings. I tended to view them as contestants on The Price is Right, and wound up dating resumes – people who looked great on paper, but rarely made it through the preliminary round of interviews. Like Abilene Steve, who also came from Texas and was one of the first camera men on MTV, or the Bartender from Boston who said he was the model for Woody Harrelson’s character on Cheers. Then there was a 60 year old with the Emmy Awards who was surprised that I wouldn’t have unprotected sex without a 90 day exclusive. I decided to forget internet dating once and for all and create a great life for myself as I prepared to enter The Grandma Zone.

The next thing you know, I had plane tickets to the west coast and a date at Burning Man. Right around my 54th birthday, the opportunity to go to Burning Man fell into my lap. I had been at loose ends for months because I had pretty much accomplished everything I set out to do back when I decided to get a divorce. I loved my job, and had settled in a cute little income-restricted coop with prewar details within walking distance of work. My kid had finally figured out how to go to college, and spent as much time at his father’s house as mine – so I had plenty of time and the resources to pursue my own interests. I had had my Mary Tyler Moore moment, and when tossed my hat into the air, it came back to my hands asking, “Now What?”

Going to Burning Man seemed like a sensible thing to do. I’d been fascinated by the event ever since I first heard about it back in the 90s, but never once considered going – not only because I was married and had to tend to my kid, but more to the point – there is no Black Rock Hilton or Room Service. I hadn’t thought about Burning Man in years. Then a fellow I’d known on Facebook ever since Occupy issued a blanket invitation to join his theme camp on the main drag, complete with private porta-potties and showers. There was a spot in his Air Conditioned RV. I figured it was as close to the Black Rock Hilton as a person could get, and as it happened, he was straight, single, about my age and unencumbered by little kids or ex-wives.

His resume could have been better. After a stint in Rehab for cocaine, he worked a series of meaningless jobs before a layoff became extended unemployment. He currently lived with his parents, driving a cab for beer money - but I was done dating resumes. Besides, he had been a DJ in Dallas back when Molly was legal and was pretty cute in a bear-ish sort of way. I liked idea of flying across the country to Burning Man to sleep in a tin can in the middle of the desert with some guy I hadn’t met in real life. The scenario was beautifully consistent with an event that may very well be the biggest conceptual art project in history.

Ever the good graduate student, I read the Burning Man Survival Guide, the First Timers’ Guide and began monitoring some Facebook groups to see what I was getting into before I started sending money on PayPal.  One of the first things I discovered on the Burning Man website was a document outlining the Ten Principles. The founders and the organization, which everybody calls The Borg, developed the principles in 2004 to define and defend Burning Man culture. They feature concepts like Radical Self-Expression, Radical Inclusion, Leave No Trace, and Immediacy. However, Decommodification got my attention because there seemed to be an inherent disconnect between the cost of attending the event and the statement:
. . . our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation (burningman.com).
It seemed to me that the ticket price, as well as the associated expenses for travel, supplies and protective gear automatically turned Burning Man itself into a commodity. Everyone makes choices about how to spend discretionary income – assuming there is any discretionary income in the first. The process of making those decisions involves identifying how certain variables will meet specific individual needs. Not so different from dating criteria on Match dot com. In both cases, a person looks at the variables to determine if the commodity satisfies personal criteria before buying into a concept – whether it’s a membership to a website or allocating resource for a vacation. Burning Man’s identity is well established, and while people have different perspectives on the experience, the literature is designed to inform rather than entice. Match profiles are definitely supposed to be attractive and inviting. So are resumes for that matter. Information is being presented to a reader who will determine whether to take the plunge or not.  Through the act of making that presentation, the person commodifies his or her own self.

Stretching commodities out into the larger culture, we find that soldiers are commodities to the military, workers are disposable commodities to corporations and our elected officials are bought and sold by the United States Chamber of Commerce. Advertisements and Public Relations masquerading as TV news encourage us to consume at such an alarming rate that islands made from our plastic debris are swirling on the top of the oceans. The cost of doing business and has led to endless war and ecocide. We search for soul mates using checklists on Match dot com, but when jerks in viagramobiles want to date slender young women, it doesn’t mean I’m too old and too fat to date. It means we’re not a Match.

I’m not sure if me and this guy with the air conditioned RV are a match either, but I am sure that any time we use somebody else’s criteria to determine if we are successful or lovable or what it means to be old – it’s like eating genetically modified shit on a sandwich.

Looking around the world today, we see the old order passing as we step into a new paradigm. Instead of selling our hearts and thoughts like commodities, we have the power to turn to each other and work together as a community. For me, that means taking something Gloria Steinem said and adapting it to myself. This is what Old looks like. It’s exhilarating, liberating and a bit unpredictable – like an existential performance piece in the greatest conceptual art installation of our time.

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Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane (http://blissdance.us) 
Photo by John Curley


*Note*  I read this essay at KGB Bar on August 15 - thanks to my dear, supportive friend Kathleen Warnock.  It is also posted on Roundtree7 and Worldwide Hippies

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dancing in the Dust; Singing in the Rain: Things of Beauty #069, 070 and 071-101

Pinko has left for the desert.  He's helping build the infrastructure of Black Rock City as a volunteer with Department of Public Works.   He sent a message to say that he and the crew he had picked up at the Reno airport were just about 100 yards away from the DPW party in Gerlach when the RV broke down.  That's just how he rolls.

The good news is that Burning Man is filled with people who are handy with tools and gadgets and things, so they'll all surely be fine in no time.  The other good news is that I'm not depending on him for transportation.  If I need a ride in Black Rock City, I'll be on the Train of Thought.


The Train of Thought (note: Engine Number 42) began life as a golf cart.  I think the Currus Autem Solis did too.


These little mutant vehicles are licensed by the Black Rock City Department of Mutant Vehicles.  Nella Gadget and Simmer created the Train of Thought, and Doktur Morbius, aka Killbuck, and Nila Northsun came up with the Chariot.  Naturally, they both light up at night.  So does the Corndog Calliope, also brought to all of us by Doktur Morbius:



A fellow named Oscillator is intimately involved with the creation of this equipment, which is all integral to a theme camp known as Sideshow.  Unfortunately for Pinko, not a single one of those individuals is in sight in Gerlach at the moment, but I believe Burners say, "In dust we trust," at times like these and everything works out all right.

Meanwhile, I got some boots for the occasion because as a New Yorker, I go straight to shoes - not because of fashion, necessarily, but because the ability to walk comfortably for miles and miles is essential.  Dr. Martens was ready for me:


I wear mine laced almost to the top and tied in a big bow.  I'll be wearing them to Fairway, the neighborhood grocery store, later today - but I walked across town and all over Fort Tryon Park in them as if they were made specially for me.  Two lovely Twenty-Somethings complimented them as I was walking up the stairs from Abby's Lawn to New Leaf Cafe for a blackberry cocktail.

Preliminary research suggests that Burning Man is very likely the largest conceptual art project in history, when you factor in not only the size and scope of Black Rock City today but also the beginnings of Burning Man.  It all started in 1986 when two guys, and maybe some friends, burned an eight foot wooden man on Baker Beach near San Francisco in an act of "radical self-expression," according to Larry - who burned the man.

Mythology has built up around the event on the beach and the event in the desert, but what interests me most is the temporary nature of the whole thing.  Even though it's an institution with year-round employees now, the man still burns and leaves no trace.  Black Rock City is there, and then it's gone - rather like Brigadoon.

 

I use Brigadoon intentionally because the amount of performance embedded in Burning Man is more involved than Hollywood and Broadway productions combined - complete with kilts and goofy pants.

As an Existential Absurdist, of the Cat's Cradle and Hitchhiker's Guide school of Existential Absurdity, an extraordinarily outlandish, monumental creation that goes from Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust in the blink of a metaphorical eye - just like humans, and all of humanity for that matter - makes my heart sing.

Here's another number from Gene Kelly.  It's gratuitous, but what the hell. Classic production numbers can be Thing of Beauty #069-101; Burning Man itself can be #070-101, and me going gets to be #071-101. I'm betting that by the time school starts in September, I'm going to be on to a whole new list for the Exploring Beauty Challenge (h/t Jennifer at realia)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Klingon Birds of Prey, We're All Going to Die and Burning Man

The other day, I was trying to use the camera on my new phone and discovered that there were a ton of pictures in my phone that came from the blog.  Hundreds of them, and I didn't want them on my phone at all whatsoever.  So I deleted them, and somehow, through the mysteries of wireless internet, all the pictures disappeared from my blog.
At first, I was annoyed because the blog was fucked up, but once I started replacing a few photos, I quickly saw that it was a big, fat drag to go through five years of entries on back onto the internet to search for replacement photos like this one:


Or this one:


I do need to get the photo of me and Granny the Ho back up there in the sidebar, but there's an issue with my scanner connection, so it's just going to have to wait until I sort that out.

Meanwhile, it occurs to me that the fucking NSA probably has all the blog photos in my permanent record.  You would think that as long as they're collecting data on everyone and storing it in big buildings out in the flyovers, they might as well arrange to sell us back our data when photos and personal documents disappear into internet black holes.

Honestly, the world is so fully fucked up right now that no matter where you look, there's more evidence that we're fucking fucked.  The weather's been lovely this past week in New York City, so at the moment climate change is working for me, but I still think it won't be long before rising sea levels start fucking up my commute.  We passed the Carbon Dioxide point of no return two months ago, as reported by the New York Times (NYT, 5.10.2013).  By the time something is in the New York Times, it's old news to anyone who was paying attention.  Lately, though, some people have been flipping out about NTE (Near Term Extinction).  NTE may have a lot of numbers and science and all that supporting the notion that all life on this planet will be dead in a few decades - it's just that everybody knew the world was heading toward this fate when all those international environmental summits turned out to be  giant circle jerks.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki gave this speech in 1992 at the UN's Earth Summit in Rio:

 

Certainly things have gotten worse in terms of endless war and ecocide since 1992, so as much as I appreciate the math to show we're all going to die in a decade or two, I don't see how NTE is news.  Richard Duncan was talking about how all this industrialization cannot be sustained back in 1989 when he introduced the Olduvai model.  He was off by some decades about the permanent blackouts, which haven't occurred at all yet, but he laid out the trajectory clearly.

In any case, many people are of the opinion that it's time to start planning seriously for NTE, and I suppose that's reasonable if you want to spend your last days on earth planning for your last days on earth.  My personal objection to that course of action is that some of those same people get bitchy when you tell them you'd prefer to spend your last days on earth living your life instead of planning for the apocalypse.

Facebook friends were lost - not as many as during an election year, but friends unfriended, nevertheless.  If we're all going to die in a decade, the last thing I need is somebody telling me I have no imagination about the impending apocalypse as if the impending apocalypse is new information.  I settled on top of this hill in Harlem because I figured that with all the displaced people looking for shelter - whether they were displaced due to the economic or the environmental situation - I didn't want to live in an area where overpasses could become contemporary Hoovervilles.

My understanding of NTE may be limited, but the way the Facebook threads were going, you'd think that instead of a few very unpleasant decades where so many dead bodies are laying around that there aren't enough people to bury or burn them, humanity was going to be extinct in one swoop.  It would be like the earth got hit with something as major as the genesis device from The Wrath of Khan - but instead of a lifeless planet springing to life, the life would all dehydrate into dust or something.



Again, Guy McPherson himself may not think NTE will play out in a couple weeks like folks on Facebook who cite his work seem to believe - so I don't want to attribute an attitude to him that is exclusive to his disciples. However, I will continue to avoid people who troll around the internet saying that somebody like Lee Camp is full of shit simply because he doesn't focus on how we're all going to die on account of the environment.


Lee's more focused on how we're all getting fucked by the government and the corporations that own it due to endless war and ecocide - as well as a cultural dedication to consumerism.  Somehow that's full of shit to the NTE tribe.

Near Term Extinction zealots have harshed my mellow.  It's very ugly when someone you've respected for his/her good sense suddenly starts calling people climate deniers just because they think there's a chance humans and the planet could survive for a couple of hundred years no matter what some environmental mathematician has determined with a few new equations.  Further, as any committed existentialist will point out, we're all going to die anyway.  The important thing is to decide how you're going to live your life - and that goes double for those of us who believe we're all energetic beings and only bodies die.  We all have one shot at this life, so make the most of it.

Pinko said that the whole thing reminded him of the song Save the Hammer for the Man. 



In other news, Pinko and I have been dating via Skype. It's similar to back when I was telephone dating with that Preacher from the Mountains - only Pinko is smarter, more witty and doesn't believe he speaks with God-given authority.  Actually, I'm pretty sure that if I had had more of a visual of that preacher when we first started talking, I probably wouldn't have ever said he could stay in my apartment if he ever came to New York.  Now - that was an example of a Nice Girl being nice to a simple, well-intentioned fellow who seemed to need a friend. Pinko is no longer under the impression that my attention fell into that category. Now that we've been skyping, he has become more aware of my Klingon tendencies regarding romance. Velvet made that connection a few years ago (Stonerdate 11.29.10) and Woody improved on it with the observation that I'm often like a Klingon Bird of Prey when it comes evaluating a man as a dating prospect.

In one of the marathon conversations via Skype, Pinko decided it was time for me to clarify my agenda.  It's common knowledge that I always have an agenda even it it's inscrutable.  I explained Woody's Klingon Bird of Prey analysis, and since everyone on the internet knows I haven't found a man within 200 miles that I'll talk to - much less consider for potential physical contact - it makes perfect sense that this Klingon Bird of Prey would be swooping in on Burning Man to take a closer look at Pinko.

Between taking this last birthday harder than usual on account of being so old now, and the reality of being fucking fucked no matter where you look in the world - going to Burning Man to meet Pinko seemed like the only sensible thing to do.  Seize the day, and all that.  Besides, I'd rather dance around the fire than boil with the frogs any day.

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