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What India, Burning Man and TC Boyle Have in Common

You may have noticed it’s been a few months since my last post. Likely you didn’t, but I still feel I owe you an explanation. What follows are not excuses, merely facts. I never promised to post often, my only commitment is to making what I do share original and worth reading. But in case you are curious, here’s what’s been going on.

In August, I went to Burning Man

Only one post on the blog, but I did create a huge album and playlist as a gift to my burner friends. If you look closely, the link to it is hidden on this site. So I was writing a ton, but not so much blogging. It’s cliche to say so, but Burning Man was nothing short of awesome—in the traditional sense of the word: fearsome and awe-inspiring. Here’s a few photos from my trip.

In October I Went to India

I have three locations on my bucket list: India, Burning Man, and Barcelona. In 2014 I ticked two of these off the list and this summer I go to Spain. Don’t worry, this isn’t a made-for-TV-movie about a terminal patient looking to seize the day. The opportunities just presented themselves all at the same time, and I was in the lucky position in life to take them. Still, I know with this kind of luck I have to be on the lookout for falling anvils and black cats.

I did actually write a long post about India, but I’m still sitting on it. It’s controversial and I want to be sure I have my thoughts in order.

Here’s a tiny selection of the photos I took in India (really tiny, all of these are just from one day). If a web log is a journal, I know I should have written a post for each day of my journey. But I already put a lot of time into sharing all those photos with my Facebook friends, and really, do strangers on the Internet want to see my photos of India? I’m not sure if you do. Here’s that sample anyway.

In January I Got an Awesome Gig

After going home to visit my family (and surviving with zero drama! Amazeballs!) I was offered a writing gig for a kickass site. I’ve been doing copywriting for years here and there, but this was the first time I needed to write several posts a week. And I’m not just writing about lame stuff, but my favorite things ever: books and music.

At the end of the day, I often feel my writing urge satiated by my nifty job. Not only do I enjoy the content, I’m proud of my work there.

To get a taste of what I’ve been up to writing for my new client, here’s a recent interview I did for the site with PEN/Faulkner award-winner TC Boyle.

What’s Next?

As you can see, everything is just grand over here. No complaints and no apologies. But there are some other issues that have made me hesitate to type at’cha. I put a lot of work into setting up separate Tumblr blogs based on the themes I write about, but my love affair with Tumblr has gone sour. The culture of the site has become, at its worst, vindictive and mean. At its best, it is often shallow. But the real gripe I have with Tumblr is that when I share photos with my tablet or phone, they always come out pixelated, and my emails to support on this issue have never received replies.

Meanwhile, the music site I adore, wherein I have more than 42,000 followers, also stopped offering support. Most likely because of conflict with the recording industry, they killed all their uploads and now they only play YouTube videos. It’s not what it once was, and I’ve yet to find a suitable replacement.

You may think, what does Tumblr and some music site have to do with this non-Tumblr,  non Blip.fm blog? Well Tumblr was motivating me to share my adventures in San Francisco. Blip.fm was motivating me to share great music. Both of these things would froth over the short form and, to continue the metaphor into cliche, the cream would rise to the top as blog posts.

Now I’m not sure how to proceed. Should I give up my Tumblr blogs, and just post everything here? If I do, there will be a lot more short content, like single songs and videos without so much explanation. But I’m not sure if I want that. I like that any post you click on here will have plenty of original content, and hopefully some new ideas too.

I’m still pondering these ideas. Maybe I need a rebranding. Maybe I just need a little encouragement. Maybe I will post here less often as people are kind enough to pay me to post elsewhere. But like I said, no apologies. This blog may be sparse lately, but not my life. My life is amazing.

Evelyn Waugh Is So Zen


“[life is] a great disc of polished wood that revolves quickly. At first you sit down and watch the Decline and Fallothers. They are all trying to sit in the wheel, and they keep getting flung off, and that makes them laugh, and you laugh too. It’s great fun . . . Of course at the very centre there’s a point completely at rest, if one could only find it. . . . Lots of people just enjoy scrambling on and being whisked off and scrambling on again. . . . But the whole point about the wheel is that you needn’t get on it at all. . . . People get hold of ideas about life, and that makes them think they’ve got to join in the game, even if they don’t enjoy it. It doesn’t suit everyone”[11]

Found this great quote from a book I’ve never read while researching Dioynsus on Wikipedia. It reminds of Alan Watts, whom of been listening to way too much lately.

My Brakes Aren’t Awesome in Puddles, Capt. Douchebag

Hey, man, I can understand you wanting to pull out in front of a bicyclist. They do it to you all the time. Seems only fair.

But pulling out in front of a cyclist when it is fifty-five degrees, raining, and the sky is fraught with enough wind to knock a Geo Metro off the freeway? Come on, really? Didn’t your mama teach you any manners?

File this under #peoplewhodisgracethehumanrace

For everyone _else_, here’s a song (from a band that probably got cut-off in traffic once or twice). Pain – Island of Fear

Life is Beautiful; I do nothing to Stop the Blaze

We go into the city to celebrate my fantastic new job, bar hopping in the Mission with Jeremy and Jenifer.

Jeremy and Jenifer are a bit older than my sweetie and I and they have the kind of financial stability we are striving for and the suburbanism we are trying to avoid.

The bars close at two and we go up to their hotel. It occurs to me that my visits to hotels have mostly been connected to conferences and road trip stopovers. The very idea that my friends are paying to spend the night in the city is exemplary of the kind of luxury that makes me bashful.

At the room, we spend a lot of time bitching about the motion sensor refrigerators. They have fridges in every room but they are already fully stocked with drinks. If you take one, the sensor records it on your bill. This is a good way to take advantage of wasted partiers and it also means that every room has a refrigerator that can’t be used. If one wants to use it, they charge a twenty dollar fee to have its contents removed. This resonates with me as a symbol of what’s fundamentally wrong with this society: the hotel pays for every room to have an unusable fridge while so many people in the world still don’t have refrigeration. It is the same as the empty houses in a city with so many homeless, the same as the wasted, unpurchased food that rots in the trash while so many people starve.
The only word to justify such logic is profit.

I have been reading Derrick Jensen and he is caught up in the idea that the dominant culture is insane. The only way to choose sushi and freeways over birds and tuna and the preservation of the climate, he argues, is to be crazy. It is crazy to destroy one’s landbase for any reason, much less so we can all pay for minibars in our hotel rooms. But I don’t think the dominant culture is crazy. It does not have, as Jensen puts it, a death wish. I believe we are merely short-sighted.

Leaving the hotel room I couldn’t help but see how easy it is to fall into this luxury, how very second-nature it is to me.

Standing in the big glass elevator, I hear its mechanical WOOSH and we are swept past eight floors, each one arranged precisely to be sterile and beautiful and non-offensive. Everywhere I look I am surrounded by artifice. There was no elevator muzak, but in such a moment there should have been. Sean was saying something about how all these hotels are designed the same way, like a formula. Briefly I feel science fiction, like this can’t be real, these smooth and perfect elevators in this smooth and perfect structure. Some day people will look back in awe, trying to imagine living in a world so pristine, in the same way impoverished Cubans wonder at the splendor of Batista’s muraled and gilded palace. Some day this same building will be dark and dirty and people will try to imagine how beautiful it must have been to ride in those glass elevators (It’s the same hotel featured in the 1977 Mel Brooks movie, High Anxiety).

Yet this kind of luxury has been omnipresent my entire life. Even as someone that has tried to take a step back and evaluate where my culture has come from, where it is going, the electric glow of the hotel lobby is expected, commonplace. Nature is what’s alien.

Humans are not good at connecting the dots. Even if I can see the connection between eating sushi and the “clear-cutting” of the oceans, it doesn’t touch my life. I have my own dreams, things I’ve been aspiring to as long as I can remember. Everyone does. Rarely does the trajectory of our lives come unhinged by the things we read about in the news. I know the polar bears are dying but there are so many things I want to do with my life that have nothing to do with polar bears. These few who say, “this is more important than my life, more important than anything I have ever wanted for myself,” are far out-numbered by those who are following their dreams in the system that perpetuates the destruction. Not sinister desires: musicians and writers, lawyers and firemen, chefs and film makers all rely on the continuation of the current system. And how could they not? Their dreams are born in it, they have never known anything else.

I am consumed by these thought as we drive home over the bay bridge. Sean is talking about how much he enjoys the ride. It is all downhill and easy turns. The cars speed at 80. The bridge has two levels and we are on the lower. In the distance there is a column of smoke. It goes higher than the concrete ceiling that limits our view. The smoke is so black it stands out against the navy of the night sky. It is four a.m.

As we leave the covered part of the bridge, the traffic slows to gaze at the biggest fire I have ever seen. Flames are easily shooting seventy feet into the air (later figures are 250 feet). The onramp we are passing is on fire. People are pulled over to look and take pictures. A firetruck is arriving at the scene and even the fireman is using his camera phone to take pictures. The fire is on the “maze,” a cluster of ramps that go onto the bridge. It has entirely consumed whatever started it. The lower ramp is broken in two and, as we drive by, the people gawking gasp: there is a crack as the flames consume the higher overpass like so much kindling in a giant campfire.

This awakens me from my daze. Through the glass and steel encasing of the car, the fire beckons, a bright bold reminder of nature, powerful and awesome. It is enormous. The firetrucks are powerless to stop it, at most they can only hope to contain it.

Tomorrow, I will hear radio recordings of of penguins making distress calls because their ice is melting. I will learn that the bluebell flowers are dying and thus so are the orange tipped butterflies and the birds that eat those butterflies (and so on). Just as every day I hear of the disappearance of some frog or the bleaching of the coral reefs. And I will go on singing and blogging and drawing.

But on this night my animal instincts are touched, the blaze attacking my artificial world like a giant pillaging the village. Still, I am civilized. I know there are firemen whose job it is to confront this giant. My job is to stay in my car. This is my place, our place, to sit by and watch as the whole world burns.

A Beautiful Day To Be A Homeless Man Who Thinks the Girls All Resemble Starlets

We can hear Omar coming from a block away, shouting to someone in the street or to the owner of other shops. I wonder what he says to them. To us, he always says the same thing. That is, if he gets inside. Some days we close the door. He stands outside shouting and we shake our heads and say, “Omar, go away,” or “Omar, go home.”

This is silly because Omar is home. I wonder what part of Telegraph Ave. he sleeps on, if he has blankets. The owners of the hat shop are his neighbors and his daily routine is to walk down Telegraph, sharing the natural exuberance and extraversion that would have served him well in the working world.

Omar is not too drunk today. He walks into the hat shop, gap-toothed and smiling with a Miller High Life. It is a shamelessly beautiful afternoon and Ed, the owner, is eager to be combative. So Omar is allowed to stay, if only for a minute.

Omar says: “Jess’ca!” not talking to me, but talking to Jessica, “you know who you look like?” He turns to me, “She looks like Fae Dunaway!”

Jessica rolls her eyes. “I know, I know, me with my beautiful blonde hair. Good-bye Omar.” Jessica has simple, brown hair.

He insists that I look like someone too. I tell him to come back when he thinks of it.

He does leave but comes back minutes later to tell me that I look like “A YOUNG ELIZABETH TAYLOR! THAT’S JUST WHO YOU LOOK LIKE! ELIZABETH TAYLOR WAS BEAUTIFUL. But not as pretty as Fae Dunaway.”

It is not too hard to get Omar to leave unless Ed is around. I thought today would be the day that there was a break in our ritual conversation, we might discuss how much hat shop girls look like old movie stars. But then Ed sees Omar and smiles, eager to have someone to josh on. It doesn’t matter what Ed says, no matter how hateful, cruel or dismissive, Omar’s response is always the same.

He doesn’t speak to Ed, he speaks to everyone in sight, all the people in the shop and on the street. He says, “THIS MAN SAVED MY LIFE! I MEAN IT! I love this man, I mean, HE REALLY SAVED MY LIFE!”

“What ‘ya got there, Omar?” Ed asks, pointing at the Champaign of beers, “Got one for me?”
“You don’t want none of this!” Omar protests.
“Come on! Saved your life can’t even give a guy a beer?”
“Carol will kill me for sure if she ever found out!” Carol is the other owner and Ed’s wife.
“Come on, can’t even give me a beer?”
But no one looks because who would believe for the shop owner is going to rob a drunk and they’re all smiles anyway.

It makes me happy to see Omar smile. I think how sad it must be to wake up every day and get drunk and set out to find the shop owner so that he can really understand that he saved your life. I wonder how he became this man, what trials changed him from an innocent boy, someone with hope. And how young, and was it a million small injustices or does he strive to blot out a particular memory that haunts him?

But today Amoeba Records has a band playing and the street vendors are happy just sitting in the sun and the punks are selling jokes for change and in short, it is a stunning Spring day. Even a man without a literal or proverbial pot to piss in grinning from ear to ear and relishing the sunshine.

Like A Drunk Phone Call in the Middle of the Night…

… only you can mock it at your daytime convenience.

I’m drunk. but having one of those moments where I appreciate the miracle of life.

Take a moment to let it sink in. This is life. Beautiful, precious, (melo)dramatic, insignificant. How does your heart beat, over and over like that, without stopping? How do you breath, over and over, every minute? If you’re brain is only neurons firing, how do you have this history of memories that result in a person. You. Not just a being but a storyline, an actualization, a culmination of thousands of years of evolution? (and still so much further to go, in that regard.) I look at my pasty skin, my multi-colored eyes, my yellow teeth. Any number of miracles are happening there.

If you accept that living is miraculous (how can you not accept that?) than it must be pointed out how insignificant we are compared to the cosmos. And yet, miraculous we are nonetheless. So. Also miraculous must be our cells dividing. Every flake of skin we shed is a tragedy to the epidermal next-of-kin. There is a war going on between my blood-cells and the alcohol. A holy war, for the holy land that is the temple of my body.

Not that I am sacred. No more than you.

This thing called life is so brief. In less than a century it will all be over. This collection of memories and ideologies that is unique in the entire universe to you will be gone. There is no replicating it. Then:

Take a moment to treasure yourself.

Because no one will ever be exactly like you, and all that you have learned, and have yet to learn, cannot be matched by the history of time.

And no one will ever be exactly like you again, and someday,

you will be gone.

What impact can you make, in so brief a time? And yet, what other choice do you have? Each moment compels you to rub your back on the musty pages of history. It doesn’t matter how small the mark.

It matters that it is really happening. Life is more amazing than anything I could have dreamed up. Kudos to God (be that evolution). Stunning debut. Even from pain and misery, life gets a standing ovation.

Now I look forward to the second act. 😉

Half-ass Attacked, Generous Queen

It’s not much of a coincidince that I was thinking about the possibility of being attacked because that is something I contemplate every time I am walking alone in the middle of the night. I was talking to my mother on my cell phone and she said that she wanted to keep me on the line, just to be safe. I told her that talking on the phone only makes me look like more of a mark but that I wanted to chat because walking at night is boring. The clunky heels didn’t help either. So yeah, I was considering the idea. But every girl does.

But that’s the end of the evening and (having read Through the Looking Glass like a proper child) stories should start at beginnings.

I was doing promotional work at Charlie Brown’s Cabaret (that’s a drag show, to you out-of-town folks), just handing out free CDs and taking pictures. It was a great show, one of their best that I’ve seen. They had some Kings that go by the name Boys to Men. They had great showmanship but the gender-bending was unconvincing. Genre did a glitter-goth androgynous act that was just my cup of tea. Most of the other queens did the typical shimmy-shake of silicone that brings a cascade of dollar bills. Alexandria, the queen that was helping me promote CDs, did her act on roller skates. Charlie Brown demanded that the two audience members willing to admit they are republicans should give her five dollars gas money to get home.

A friendly gay man struck up a conversation with me. He works for the Village Voice. I asked him how he got that [sweet] gig and he said he went to Harvard and wrote for the Harvard Review. Well then. I’d have better luck hitching a ride with Doctor Who than getting into Harvard. He said the way to get a job is to write every single day. So here I am, writing. Then he asked me about the privacy of the bathrooms which I’m just going to assume is a drug thing and not a weird, fear of peeing thing.

By the time the queen gave out the last of the CDs and I had taken all the pictures I could it was 1:50. Unfortunately, the last train leaves at 1:20. I knew that I could call the boyfriend to pick me up but I remember how mad Liz was last year when I did that to her. Besides, I’ve had to ask my honey for rides so often that he almost expects it. I thought about asking some friends who lived in the area if they would pick me up and I could crash at their place.

I’m torn between not wanting to be dependent upon my friends and thinking that’s what friends are for.

Around this time, Queen Alexandria asks me if I got any good pictures. Yes, I tell her. I’ve been all smiles all night. Why do I look so cross now, she wants to know. When I tell her I missed the last train, she offers me the milk of her own teet! That is, she pulls a ten dollar bill out of her tits so I can call a cab. What a lady!

I hail a cab, which makes me feel like a big-city girl. But I only have eleven dollars so I tell the cabbie to pull over when meter hits nine so I can give him a shitty tip. He says he’d rather me get home safely then worry about a tip but I insist. After all, I’d have to walk twice the distance from the train station.

I was about four blocks from home when I decided to call my mother. There was no one in sight, which is just the way I like it when I’m walking through the city in the middle of the night.

When I get to the block my apartment is on, a guy is walking behind me. No big deal. We’re both crossing the street. He’s walking faster than me. That’s okay, everyone has their own pace. So I change my course a little to put some distance between us. But he’s still getting closer. Now I’m thinking, what’s this about? He looks pretty clean cut, I don’t think he’s crazy/homeless. Anyway, he’s behind me so I don’t think he’s going to ask me for anything. People usually address you before they approach you right? But this guy, he’s touching me, he actually has his hand on my side, where my coat pocket is. So I turn around and say:

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING ME? DON’T YOU SEE IT’S THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT; THERE’S NO ONE AROUND ANYWHERE. YOU’RE SCARING ME. GO AWAY.” I was not screaming but projecting firmly and politely. Its insane that I feel the need to be polite to this person that I feel is possibly threatening my life just in case I’m some how mistaken and it is perfectly okay to walk up to a stranger and grab them at three in the morning. The guy is saying something in response but I don’t really hear what it is. So sorry, can’t hear you while you are scaring the piss out of me.

Of course, my mom is freaking out. What does he look like? She wants to know in case she needs to call the police. He has a white, numbered jersey. His face is round. He is short and squat. He’s wearing a black messenger bag, the kind with a cell phone pocket in the front. I am backing away from him. He starts to walk away which is great except that he is walking in the direction of my apartment so I have no choice but to go the other way.

The first car I flag down doesn’t stop. Then a car pulls up to the red light and I ask them for a ride. So I hitch a ride with this guy to go half a block because I’m shaking and too scared to walk to my apartment unescorted. Then when I get in my apartment the bulb is burnt out and my Id says that somehow HE did this and he is there hiding.

I know this is ridiculous but I check under the bed, just to be sure there’s no bogeyman.

Who needs high school reunions?

“You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”

 — Howard Zinn

I’ve been websurfing through profiles of people I went to high school with. Though I have changed a lot, people that I thought were cool in high school are still the type of people I want to be friends with. People that were “enh” are still “enh.” Most of the latter now have nice-paying careers working for the man. Or doing something incredibly boring that one would only do to have money. While I’m reaching a place in my life where that sort of thing is more important to me (gee, would be nice to fill some of these cavities before I start to resemble the woman who sleeps at the busstop across from the Amtrak) I still find it unimpressive. I wouldn’t trade places to have that kind of job.

I also noticed that people who have TV, babies or God are only interested in TV, babies and God.

Along the same lines, very few people have any interest in the turmoil that is going on in the world. I’m sure that many are aware and just don’t post about it. This makes me want to be more conscious about posting politics.

Last night I got a phone call from a woman I used to know when I was a teen and she was a child. We’re five years apart. She says that she looks up to me because I went to college and I was involved in politics. She doesn’t know a lot about politics (IE, she didn’t know what fascism is) but she knows enough to be peeved. She said she was confused and I could tell that she was frustrated. I feel like there are many people that would make an impact if only they knew how/what/where to break into it.

This inspires in me a lot of mixed feelings. People are really angered about the paths this administration is taking, even people that live in the suburbs and don’t expose themselves to any kind of news media, let alone non-corporate media. There was a woman on the Diane Rheam Weekend Round-up who was near tears because the president lied about the CIA leak. She said it was getting harder and harder to call this country a democracy. The pundits replied that at least there is transparancy and the people will make change at the ballot box. But I’m with H. D. Thoreau on this one:

“Must we resign our conscious to the legislator? Why has every man a conscious then? We should be men first, and subjects second.”

And that gets right to the heart of it. We know how to vote, but once that’s failed we know not where else to turn. I would go so far as to say that our culture discourages further action.

Ask yourself, what have you done for your country today? And by that I mean, what have you done for the world today? And by that I mean, what have you done for your city today? How are the actions that you take on a daily basis affecting the world at large? Would you even begin to know how to affect the world? Yet you are affecting the world. By choosing not to act, that is impacting history. There are no sidelines, everyone is in the game. I may drop the ball from time to time, but at least I’m out there running.

Call Your Mom

I always say that you never hear more lies than at a funeral. “It was just her time,” or “she was ready,” or “I wish I knew her better.” It seems like the truth lives in the jags of silence. There was that kind of silence when he pushed her body into the crematorium oven and all I could think was, “He’ll never see her face again.”

I don’t do well with silence.

It takes everything for me to keep my lips sealed, to the point that when I am quiet people usually ask me what’s wrong. So funerals can be annoying for me.

Rewind to Valentine’s Day. My boyfriend and I were supposed to go ice skating. He gets a phone call saying that his mother has been transferred to the ICU. She had pneumonnia and blood clots in her leg. Turns out that’s two big red flags for cancer. The big C is one of those slow killers where everyone gets to mourn before you’re dead and you can say your goodbyes, get your affiars in order. But two days later she was dead.

On top of mourning, he’s getting calls from everyone. His ex that left him for his roommate–they both called. People that he hasn’t told yet. People he hasn’t spoken to in years. Its like a high school reunion. He also has to go through all her stuff, decide what to toss and what to keep.

I can’t imagine.

We’re all going to go through it. Unless you are an orphan or you die young — neither of which is a preferable fate — you will be there to see your mother die. Whether you’re standing there giving the doctor’s the OK not to continue resuscitation (like he did) or whether you haven’t spoken in years. One of the more morbid milestones of life.

So. The funeral. It was a Hindu funeral. The “temple” was in a place of worship at an Indian shopping mall. We all sat on the floor with our shoes off. The priest was wearing all white. He sang in Sanskrit and translated. He compared reincarnation to buying new clothes, which was a strange but fitting metaphor. Sean and I made a garland that was strung around a picture of his mother. At the end of the service all the guests went before her picture and said a prayer and placed a flower next to it.

So last night I found out that my mom was Baker-acted again. My grandmother called the police because she felt threatened by my mother. She just wanted them to talk to her, get her to be reasonable. I don’t think that law enforcement officers are really trained for mediation. My grandmother called them because she didn’t know where else to turn. The police beat my mom in the intake room. They injured her elbow, eye and shoulder (which she is soon to have surgery on). But when I called her she was only upset because she felt like she had let me down.

But she’s the only mom I’ll ever have and I love her. She has problems living in the world but she is a good mother. She always made me feel like I could do anything if I worked hard at it. She made me feel treasured. She raised me to be confident and never take crap from anyone. How many daughters can say that? Not enough, anyway.

Sean’s brother thinks that Christa was ready to die because her role as a wife and mother was done. Imagine that being what your whole life is about. Yet my mom is the same way.

So thanks mom. And thanks to Christa. I never got to tell you. Thanks for raising a boy to be the kind of man that changes my idea of what a man can be.