Archive for March, 2009

Confession Mondays, 3

March 30, 2009

When I was in second grade I got sent home for drawing boobs on my white shirt with a black marker, and for lifting up my skirt and showing a blonde-haired kid named Ryan my crotch. I did all this, mind you, for a twinkie.

Is India the answer?

March 30, 2009

Vishnu

This is quite a stretch, but since the heaviness of global warming birthed its own little counterculture I’m finding an inundation of all things Indian—as in India. As in back to the hippiesque Hindu spiritualism of art, music, writing and living. I’m not talking about that corny new age spiritual crap that we used to make fun of back in the 80’s every time the mere mention of “Swami” popped up on a self-help book. I’m talking about a deeper, more homegrown desperation for something so old and enlightening that we hope it saves us if only we could grasp its essence.

For starters, I strolled into Barnes & Nobel yesterday to buy, among other things, a book. Any old fiction book would have done. It was one of those days. But I came upon a display table with a corporate manufactured sign above it that said: “Treasures from India.” Among a rather large collection of items were Pulitzer Prize winning and New York Times bestselling novels like The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri, and The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy. There were books on Hinduism and Buddhism, Ghandi’s autobiography and other spiritual goodies like Indian mediation cards. I bought the Lahiri book, caving into the new craze, wondering why there was this slew of material coming out of New Delhi.

A couple days before that, I noticed Devendra Banhart’s Little Yellow Spider and Carmencita. If anyone knows anything about the lovely Devendra, you’d know that he’s heavily influenced by Hinduism. In fact, his parents named him after a spiritual leader they were following at the time of his birth. That he was able to slip his Hindu leanings into his music and get a record contract confirms my point.

Even in myself, I’ve noticed a subconscious gravitation towards Indian culture. I rented Ghandi last week. I listen to Lata Mangeshkar’s Vaishnav Jan to repeatedly. I predicted Slumdog Millionaire would win the grammy for best picture. I have this strangely pressing desire to go to India and ride the Darjeeling Limited and sip sweet lime.

I won’t even mention Bollywood or Indian fashion making its mark here. From bindis and tikkas to saris and antique Indian jewels, we are appropriating Indian style like the Russians appropriated blue jeans.

And heck, ask yourself why places like Whole Foods are marketing Hindu gods like Shiva and Shakti, prayer candles of the Buddha and yogi incense.

I know these are rather superficial examples. But still, I insist. I feel something deeper.

Expanding culture in a superficial way is one thing, taking bits and piece from one country and adding it to another creates an amalgamation of unique global style. Like the time we all went nuts for anime, or when everyone started wearing the Arabian Yashmagh’s and didn’t even know why. But this new Indian invasion isn’t as one-dimensional as the Macarena. It’s not just about adding flair. It’s not just a book on a shelf or a movie with a picturesque landscape of the Taj Mahal. There’s an underlying message attached to our passion for India and it’s an ancient and spiritual one that seems to offer an answer to our modern day moment of truth.

The fact is, we feel like we’re at a make it or break it moment in time. Like this is our last chance. The fall of Rome, so to speak. We’ve lost our faith in religion, in government, in business. We’ve lost our hope that the planet will be here forever (or at least that humans will be here forever- the planet probably isn’t going any where). Most importantly, we’ve lost the privilege to be ignorant and naïve and wasteful. And I think that’s where India comes in. It gives us the possibility that, if we do fuck up, we can come back again.

In a recent study on faith in America, Hinduism was up compared to Christianity, which remained the same. This may very well be due to an influx in Indian immigration, or more likely, people are converting. Hinduism, after all, accepts and addresses issues which Christianity does not, namely Evolution and the interconnectedness of all things. More importantly, it gives us the opportunity to reincarnate. And that is what we’d all like, isn’t it? The chance to come back and do it all again? I keep thinking of Bill Maher’s comment in his film Religulous that Christianity’s belief in human superiority to animals and other living things has only been detrimental to the environment.

The religions of India seem to address our global concerns in other ways as well. Think karma. Think vegetarianism. I know this is a stretch. But how many people now are pushing for less animal consumption based on environmental issues. It wasn’t long ago that PETA implored congress to impose a “sin tax” on the sale of meat because, as they state, “meat is the number one cause of global warming, a looming environmental disaster that threatens the United States.”

Before I start chanting om and change my name to Vidyadevi, I’m kinda wondering how India itself is reaping rewards from its own ancient wisdom. I mean, let’s get real. The country is in shambles, facing pressing problems such as “significant overpopulation, environmental degradation, extensive poverty, and widespread corruption.”

According to the CIA World Fact Book, the following environmental issues alone are contributing to the problems India faces: deforestation; soil erosion; overgrazing; desertification; air pollution from industrial effluents and vehicle emissions; water pollution from raw sewage and runoff of agricultural pesticides; tap water is not potable throughout the country; huge and growing population is overstraining natural resources…

Look, I undertstand how we need hope. I get that we are trying as hard as we can to change and do good for our survival. Most of us, anyway. But I just think that glamorizing and devoting ourselves to the ephemeral spirituality of a culture that is running itself into the ground really isn’t the answer. Sure, we can appreciate India’s art, we can pray to all gazillion of their gods. We can read their literature and eat their food. But we cannot get so wrapped up in thinking that India or Hinduism or possibly even reincarnation is the answer, so much so that we neglect our reality.

Global warming and all the other insanity of this country incites us to find our strengths and our ability to recreate ourselves—not become something else entirely or fall prey to some cyclical trend. Sure India has a lot to offer in the way of answers. But it’s not “the” answer. I personally don’t know what the answer is, or if, indeed, there is one. Like the snake eating its own tail, we seek the eternal return. But is it possible?

Confession Mondays, 2

March 25, 2009

I’m not too keen on Lauren Grodstein’s second short story in The Best of Animals, but Lonely Planet was amazing.

Night alone-sorta

March 21, 2009

Two Days in Paris

Last night was my first night alone in awhile and I was kinda looking forward to it. So, as soon as the boys took off for R’s I put on the TV and scanned around for something decent to watch while folding laundry (believe me when I say that is my idea of a fun night alone!). The sun was still streaming in through the back window, the whole room was bright. I was happy. I found Two Days in Paris; a story of an American guy and his French girlfriend whose true personalities are revealed during a trip to France. About half way into it, the doorbell rings. It’s G, returning a piece of hardware from the drum pack that I lent him a while back. 

I invited him in, despite really wanted to entertain guests (Umm, hello? This is supposed to be my mediation time). But we chatted a bit, some small talk and then I asked if he wanted to catch the rest of this movie with me. I knew he’d be happy to just see a pixelated box, really. He doesn’t have a TV (by choice) and yet, he’s always so thrilled to watch anything. Eventually, after the film and after more small talk he came out with the questions.

“So, how’s the new guy? Are you serious?” he asked. 

“Yeah,” I said. “Pretty serious. You want to see his picture?”

“Sure.” I think he’s always found a weird pleasure in knowing that I am with someone else. It’s one of the things that always annoyed me about him when we’d get back together. It was like he liked me better when he was at risk of losing me. It never made any sense and it still doesn’t. 

So, I showed him the first picture we ever took together over D’s house one night, and he sat there and examined it like he was examining a piece of fruit for a bruise. 

“He’s the one,” he said with certainty.

“Yeah?” I laughed, but hoped that he had some ex-boyfriend special powers and saw things I was unable to see. “Why do you say that?”

“Because you two have the same nose,” he said. So, we sat there on the sofa, with my laptop, and examined mine and D’s noses with great scrutiny. 

“I didn’t know that if two people have the same nose they’re meant for each other.” I said, and laughed at the silliness of his theory. He kinda laughed back and said, “Well, it’s the whole parallel feature thing. You’re most compatible with people who look like you.”

That’s when G’s argument kind of fell a part. D and I look nothing a like. We’re a classic case of opposites attract. Anyway, it was fun talking about D’s nose. I told him too that he’s a drummer. He was happy to hear that. He asked a bunch of typical questions that he had asked last year about S: How many times do you guys do it? Is it big? What’s the sex like? Does he have kids? Is he good to you? Do you love him? and so on…”Just be careful,” he said at last. “He knows a lot about the law and, well…”

And that’s G. Paranoid. Conspiratorial. Always looking for the hidden in things, as if he has the power to uncover them before others. 

“Good point, G. I’ll watch out for that.  He knows a lot about the law and that’s a dangerous thing,” I said. We laughed, and then at around 7:30 I kicked him out, still intent on having my night to myself, which I did. I ended up watching Traffic, read a little more of the Carl Sagan book and went to bed dreaming of D, out at sea with the setting sun at his back.

Bits and pieces: the wedding day

March 20, 2009

bride

I don’t have a diamond. No bridal veil. My father doesn’t walk me down the aisle. There is no aisle. He’s not even invited. I am married on the side of the White Horse Pike by a judge I found in the Yellow Pages three days ago. My mother is crying. She says to R, “you don’t have to do this you know. You can wait.”  No one is giving us gifts. I have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner at Tony’s Restaurant, after. I rent a room at a motel, which has a sauna. Our room is called the Bridal Suite, and it has pine paneling and a brown shag carpet. My new husband is talking to his friend A___ on the phone. It’s been almost two hours. I am lying in bed next to him, waiting, in my white bra, white panties, white stockings and white garter belt. I am waiting for crazy sex and deep love and a feeling of forever. I keep calling myself Mrs. M___ over and over and over. And in the morning, I write it down: I am Mrs. Tracy M____.

Now

March 19, 2009

I’ve given up my writing for her.
All the words that were in my head,
I’ve let them go, and now
I’m hollow and barren
and reading shit poetry
for no fortune or fame.
I’ve given up my confessions
for him
and his reputation
and his people
and his feelings.
Being in love with a surgeon
rips your heart out.
I’ve lost the wide
open space of those empty
days when the lilt of time
is filled with the ups
and downs of my own brave,
imbalanced
world of emotions.
Those moments which
are no longer mine,
where I was the source
and the sink
and all the mundane stuff in between.
Those days when you lie in the grass
looking up at the sky
and watch the clouds
wax and wither like
smoke from a match, and
you have the time to think
how everything is so damn
vague and changing
and that all you want
is for this moment 
to last forever.

Quiet

March 18, 2009

I’m listening to For Emma, from Bon Iver. Their video is actually far better than their studio version. They shot it a capella, in Paris. D gave it to me a couple weeks ago and I watched it and cried. I’m sharing it with y’all.

Peace

Dream of the week #1

March 17, 2009

dream house...

Here’s some background info first: I’ve been sick for a couple days. Completely rundown. Actually, all my whining about being rundown from sheer pleasure has been a little inflated compared to Sunday night and yesterday. I truly hit a wall. This, after a weekend of excessive fun and pleasure. Oh, poor little hedonist and her rough life. 

Anyway, I have been veering off my daily routine. Not myself lately. And it’s not that I am complaining. I’m not! But my subconscious is, in a sad, lost soul kind of way.

All that being said, here’s the dream:

I was with my family in a big house on a hill and at one point, I went to go to my own house, which was at the bottom of the hill in this little town of multi-colored row houses. I’d been many times before, but honestly, it seemed more like an old shanty-looking,  vacation home. So, I grabbed the key from my parents’ house and headed down the hill to see some of the stuff that I had stored there- namely, my journals. 

When I got to the row of houses, mine was completely gone. Erased. And via eavesdropping on some of the residents, I learned that the owner of the town had burned down the house and took over the land to build his own place. He felt my house had been vacant too long and decided it was abandoned. 

I cried hysterically and ran back to my family home, sobbing not so much over the loss of the actual house or my other stuff, but for the journals. When I told my mother what had happened, she said, “you go back to that man and tell him you want your things back. He owes you! He stole your property.”

So, I went back to go yell at him but before I got the chance, I came upon a resident who told me that the owner had saved my journals and that they were still in the basement (foundation), in the part of the house that wasn’t burned. On that news, I headed down into the basement, which was more a crawl space. I moved through cobwebs and dirt and darkness and there to the right was a huge, green incinerator filled from top to bottom with unburned books of mine, ready to be set afire. At the very top, as I climbed into yet a tinier, but brighter section of the crawl space (there was a window, though dirty), there I saw all my journals, safely preserved and painted gold. 

Interpretations?

Confession Mondays, 1

March 16, 2009

In an attempt to force myself to write more I have appropriated an idea from Nicole Callahan’s blog of a confession day. Sorry if this seems like flat out thievery, Nicole. But it’s a great idea, and I thank you for it!

That in itself could be my very first confession. However, being me, I have to bring everything down to a much seedier, trashier more provocative level. Thus, a more appropriate confession: 

I’m addicted to unique, intense, weird, hot, demoralizing, intimate, deep, fun sex. 

Wheph…there. I said it.

Devendra Banhart

March 12, 2009

I came upon a youtube video of “Little Yellow Spider” last week and it opened me unto the world of Devendra Banhart. I guess the first thing that came to me was, is this what would happen if Jim Morrison and Charlie Manson had a baby? Obviously a revivalist of both, Banhart’s style ranges from Latin and Hindu sounds, which I found to be intensely global and mysical, to deeply rooted undertones of hippiesque folk stuff born out of the sixties and seventies. In fact, despite the well-roundedness of being raised in Venezuela until age 13, it’s his American folkish sound and lyrics that make more of a statement than anything else.

I can’t say I’ve noted any real individuality to his lyrics. For the most part, they evoke the Beatles; that overly simple, catchy phrasing with a line or two of great depth about war or something.  I Feel Just Like A Child is one such example:

From my cave to my grave I guess I’ll always be a child

Well, I need you to help me reach the door,
And, I need you to walk me to the store,
And, I need you to please explain the war,
And, I need you to heal me when I’m sore.

You can tell by my smile,
That I’m a child. 

And I’m a bit bored too, with the make love to the animals and the moon and stars stuff at this point- despite our re-awakening via global warming that we are all connected– he’s saying the same drug-induced shit that Morrison said, that Lennon said, that Jefferson Airplane said, and all the other psychadelic freaks of that era. Then again, he’s a genius if you consider that we are the snake eating its own tail. 

Music aside, my biggest disappointment lies in the man behind the scenes. Personality is a big part of the way I experience sound.  I need to know who’s behind the tune, for me to appreciate it. So, I found an interview he did a while back, just so I could see him move and talk sans stage presence and I came to the bitter conclusion that he’s really just another retro knock off. He has nothing new to say right down to his predictable remarks about dropping acid. Come on, man. Adding that little “if you have a good acid trip [like I did]” incongruously to an interview is like wearing a V-neck, argile sweater to a country club. Conforming and bland. Like, have an identity of your own, man. This ain’t the sixties. Is anybody even dropping acid anymore? 

Anyway…

What he does seem to offer is something the younger generation can appreciate: a glimpse into what it might have been like forty years ago. It is very interesting to watch how well he embodies the spirit of Haight-Ashbury, Woodstock and the hippie movement, in general. I give him credit for that (check out the home-movie version of Freely and tell me that’s not eerily reminiscent of the Manson Family, which, by the way also resided in Topanga Canyon). But we’ve lived through those times. These are new times upon us, and I don’t believe they can or should be approached in the same way our parents approached things. Do we really need to smoke dope, play guitar, grow our hair and dis war to shake the world into realizing it’s time for a change?  These are bullshit, desperate times and our art, music and culture should reflect that. 

Overall, I want to look forward, not back. Give me something new. Not some hippie talking smack about his fans being his “extended family” and owning Jim Morrison’s sofa and singing about “pigs” giving birth to a child with hooves instead of hands. That’s too Helter Skelter for me. If there’s one thing I can surmise about this guy it’s that his retro style is too perfected. And sadly, that’s a paradox. As Jefferson Airplane ‘s co-founder Paul Kantner once said: “If you can remember anything about the sixties, you weren’t really there.”