You’ve got to fight for your right to party

11 09 2014

Smartphones everywhere and no video?

Please let there be video:

There’s some sort of unofficial birthday/Iron Dog-type/snowmachine party in Anchorage. A nice, mellow party, until the Palin’s show up. There’s beer, of course, and maybe other things. Which is all fine, but just about the time when some people might have had one too many, a Track Palin stumbles out of a stretch Hummer, and immediately spots an ex-boyfriend of Willow’s. Track isn’t happy with this guy, the story goes. There’s words, and more. The owner of the house gets involved, and he probably wished he hadn’t. At this point, he’s up against nearly the whole Palin tribe: Palin women screaming. Palin men thumping their chests. Word is that Bristol has a particularly strong right hook, which she employed repeatedly, and it’s something to hear when Sarah screams, “Don’t you know who I am!” And it was particularly wonderful when someone in the crowd screamed back, “This isn’t some damned Hillbilly reality show!” No, it’s what happens when the former First Family of Alaska comes knocking. As people were leaving in a cab, Track was seen on the street, shirtless, flipping people off, with Sarah right behind him, and Todd somewhere in the foreground, tending to his bloody nose.

I generally avoid the half-guv, but c’mon, this is a can of Pringles to me.

I should also note that I am rather-too fond of the notion of bar brawls, treating them, affectionately, as a kind of good-time-gone-wrong.

I’ve never actually been in a bar fight (that I can remember, at least), but I’d like to think that, at some point before I die, I’d be involved in a tavern-related mêlée.

If not, well, after my next eye surgery, I’ll explain the facial bruises the same way I explained the bruises of my last surgery: bar fight.





Party all night long

1 09 2014

I don’t begrudge my neighbors the Caribbean carnival. Truly.

It happens once a year, over Labor Day weekend, and it’s a big damned deal to everyone who participates in and watches the West Indian Day Parade down Eastern Parkway. The costumes are faaabulous, the mood exuberant, and everyone is happy.

Almost everyone.

I’ve bitched about this before and noted that I am a bad, bad neighbor—because while I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade (heh) on Monday, I wish the hell out of rain for the midnight parade the night before.

And, actually, “midnight” is a bit of a misnomer: I went to bed around one, and the festivities didn’t really pick up until about 2:00 am. It lasted until about 12:30 this afternoon.

The big noises (bands, club-sound-systems-on-flatbeds) have mostly ceased, but some folks feel the need to drive around, slowly, with the steel-drums sounds breaking out of their cars and trucks, for the rest of the day.

Don’t forget the vuvuzelas, of course. If I had any energy at all—which I don’t, onnacountanot getting any sleep last night—I’d stomp down the stairs, out to the street, and shove that demonic tube down every person-who-even-thinks-of-raising-that-shit-horn-to-their-lips’s throat.

Except that would mean they would henceforth be bleating every time they breathed. Perhaps I could just break the damned things over my knees.

Oh, if you’re over the age of 12, the fuck you doing with a vuvuzela anyway? Shouldn’t you know better?

It’s supposed to rain later today, so hopefully that will dampen the need to party all day, and I might be able to get in a nap.

(Fuuuuuuuuck. I gotta get a honey before next year—-one who doesn’t live in my neighborhood, so I could stay at his or her joint for a decent night’s sleep.)

Crab crab crab.

Okay, so maybe I begrudge them a little.





All things weird and wonderful, 44

24 08 2014

Oh, those wacky Bulgarians:

Oleg Popov/AP Photo

It seems Bulgarians have been treating Soviet war memorials in their country as a kind of palimpsest, albeit one in which the previous image is incorporated into the new one rather than erased.

The Russians are unamused.

I have some sympathy for the Russian position, not least because I am almost always moved by war memorials. A plaque, some names, dates: I stop, and read, and sigh. Some times I tear up.

And, of course, the Soviet sacrifice, both military and civilian, during World War II was immense, and Allied victory would not have been possible had the Soviets broken.

Still, I have to applaud the Bulgarians, here. They know the memorial matters—why else choose it for periodic makeovers?—and in so re-imagining it, re-mind us (or, at least, me) of the, ahem, absurdity of this human life.





Here I am again

18 08 2014

This is my first tattoo, from a couple of years ago:

003

It’s Sumerian cuneiform, the oldest known written language. It’s a way to mark what I’ve chosen.

It’s zi.

It’s life.





Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose

14 08 2014

There was another death, of course, one I didn’t so much skip over as decide to mull.

Robin Williams’s suicide, I mean.

I was a fan, I guess. His flights away from ordinary conversation at first made laugh, later made me uneasy, and thought some of his acting schticky, but when he was focused his characters could be, as with Parry in The Fisher King, almost unbearably human.

But as my fandom was mild, I didn’t have much to say.

And then I heard this:

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Those struggles now ended. He is, as his Genie character in “Aladdin” would have it, finally free.

BLOCK: Well, that idea – that suicide is freeing – has prompted a lot of concern in the mental health community. We heard from a number of our listeners about that. Among them Elizabeth Minne, she’s a licensed psychologist in Austin, Texas, and she joins me now. Thanks so much for being with us.

ELIZABETH MINNE: Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: And you wrote in to express your concern. You said, comments like this make my job difficult. Explain what you mean by that. How is it more difficult?

MINNE: I have found that comments like this can be interpreted by families and by individuals as a sign that they too can attain something positive by committing suicide.

BLOCK: Something positive meaning some sort of liberation from the pain that they’re in?

MINNE: Right. Some sense of freedom or view it as a positive way to find – or an appropriate way to find some sense of relief.

Minnie goes on to note that she tells her patients that “suicide is never an option for working through distress – that there is always a way for us to get to a better place.”

Most of the commenters were, shall we say, unimpressed, calling out Minnie’s credentials, expertise, and even motivation—one accused her of wanting to keep her patients alive just to make a buck off of them—and generally decrying her inability to see how awful depression could be.

Her words pricked my ears, certainly, and had I heard something similar when I was in the midst of my own self-destructiveness, I would have lit my own torch against her: Of course I have the right to kill myself! Of course I can free myself of all of this terribleness!

But I’ll give Minnie half a break: she is a psychotherapist who works with greatly distressed people, so if she’s going to be of any help to them she has to carry the hope that they lost. She has to believe they can get through until they can believe it themselves.

I’ve spoken enough about this before to say simply that that mattered to me, even if I wasn’t at the time wholly conscious that and how it mattered.

But it also helps to acknowledge that suicide is, in fact, an option, and that suffering in life can be so great that wanting to shed that suffering by shedding life makes sense.

It’s about recognition: just as telling someone that they can get through is a way to see that person when she, perhaps, can’t see herself, noting that suicide is on the table is a way to see, to allow one to see, her suffering.

You don’t have to agree with it or like it or encourage it, but if you know you can’t save someone else—and therapists damned well better know they can’t save someone—then maybe you have to accept that he can’t save himself. If his life is in his hands, then his life is in his hands.

Depression morphs one’s mind—I look back to old journal entries and think Who was the person?—but it’s not as if one is a less authentic self when depressed when not, that somehow all one has to do is to scrape off the weight of despair and one’s real life will pop back up.

I don’t know, maybe some patients want to hear that, want to hear of the elasticity of the self, and who knows, maybe for some it’s true.

But for some it’s not, for some the suffering has seeped in so deep that the only way to get rid of the suffering is to get rid of the self.

I don’t know how a therapist deals with a situation like that. I mean, I know that the two who worked hard with me kept working, but I don’t doubt that they knew the limits of that work. Do they see mental illness like other potentially fatal illness? that sometimes the surgery and the chemo and the therapy don’t take? Or is that fact that there’s no hospice care for depression mean that the limits themselves aren’t understood?

In any case, my life was in my hands, and only when I finally, finally, figured that out for myself—only when I knew that death and life were both options—was I able to sigh, Okay.

It could have gone the other way, of course, and that sighed Okay could have been my last word. But I don’t know that I could have closed my fist over life had I not also held death in my hands. I had to hold them both before I could let one of them go.

I am sorry for Robin Williams’s family that he let go of life, and I’m sorry for him for the suffering that led to that letting go.

Okay.





All things weird and wonderful, 43

8 08 2014

We humans are a strange lot, given all too often to the unwonderful.

Scott Eric Kaufman, who writes for both Lawyers, Guns & Money and Raw Story (as well as his own blog, Acephalous), happens to attract the kind of folks who engage him in all kinds of weird and some kinds of wonderful conversations (see, for example, here, here, here, here. here, here, and here—and there are more, including the one where he asks for it.)

The following (setup: he’s buying a bunch of tuna for his elderly finicky cat) is one which he says “may be the greatest conversation I’ve ever had“:

POLITE DRUNK MAN: You don’t eat all them cans, now?

SEK: Wasn’t planning on it.

POLITE DRUNK MAN: TV say they full of Menicillin.

SEK: Mercury?

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Menicillin, bad for the children, real bad.

SEK: I promise not to share it with any kids.

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Menicillin’s terrible, make ‘em have miscarriages.

SEK: The kids?

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Ain’t even get a chance to be kids, they born miscarried, or with arms.

SEK: I’ll keep that in mind.

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Dead babies with arms, that’s what Menicillin do. Best watch out.

SEK: I will, promise.

This. . . well, this is weird wonder gold.





While my guitar gently weeps

3 08 2014

I need to play my guitar every day.

I do not play my guitar every day.

To be clear: “need” is not about need or desire in an of itself, but in terms of getting better; if I want to get better, I need to play every day.

Which I don’t. Play, I mean. The desire is there; the follow-thru, not so much.

I do play every other day, and if I miss my every or other day, I do get a bit anxious and feel that I’m missing something (i.e., experience a “need” more akin to the first definition); it would help if that anxiety kicked in a bit earlier.

Anyway, if I want to get better, why don’t I play more?

For starters, I suck. I don’t hold down the strings hard enough, my chords fuzz out, and too damn often I nick the A or G string when I’m aiming for D. And because I don’t look at either my right or left hand while playing—that discipline at least has held from those yay-old lessons—I too often reach for the wrong fret.

It’s a mess.

Now, when I do practice, and especially when I practice every day, all of those problems are lessened (tho’, alas, not eliminated)—which brings me back to the question: why don’t I play more?

And here’s the thing: I think too much when I play.

I hate HATE when anyone tells me I think too much: NO SUCH THING! But there is something about letting one’s mind drift which may work better than focusing. When I read, I focus, and when I learn something new, I focus, but I don’t focus when I write, my best runs happen when my mind wanders, and I only got over the hump in pot-throwing when I stopped trying so hard.

I think I have to stop trying so hard with the guitar.

The pot-throwing is instructive: I took a class at Minnesota, and went in periodically during the course to work on my pots (small, uneven, terrible), and I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much. I was continually frustrated—the more I wedged the clay the more air bubbles appeared, the more careful I was in centering the chunk on the wheel the more off-center it became, and raising the sides? Pfft, forget it. I don’t think I’m misremembering when I state that one lesson-night resulted in tears.

And then I got it. I was never great or even truly good, but I got enough that I thought, Hey, I can do this, and so I was more willing to put more time in at the studio. I was also, crucially, more willing to roll with the vagaries of clay and pot-throwing: some days every pot I threw turned out, some days none did, and I was okay with that.

I’m not zen, but I got pretty zen about throwing pots.

I can’t figure out what exactly led to that switch. Something allowed me to hang back from my own throwing, and thus to go more deeply into it; detachment allowed for enjoyment, which led me back into the studio.

I’m not sufficiently detached from the guitar-playing, it seems. I have noticed that when I’m thinking of something other than the notes, I tend to play them much better, that when I bore into the bars I clench up trying to avoid mistakes with these notes and worrying about the notes to come. And I don’t enjoy that.

So: I need to find some reliable way to zone out and let my fingers do their walking. Were that to happen, I might find myself wanting more to hear what they play.








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