Wednesday, July 29, 2009


It was late at night and it was very dark. The clouds were hidden behind a thick layer of fog and the world moved around her in only three colors: black, gray and white. The roads were nearly deserted, just a bus with its hazard lights on blinked quietly as she passed. And she drove on, driving up the twisted road that skirted like an asphalt snake along the edge of San Bruno mountain, her car’s headlights outlining the bulbous forms of gray clouds that enveloped her like a hungry ghost made of mist and sheets of moisture. There was a musical piece on the radio, an electronic composition without words that seemed so tender, coming right from the unknown heart of its creator and entering hers with an unrelenting curiosity to see what lay open in the late hour. Small tears pricked her eyes as she reached the crest of the hill. The music was too beautiful, how could something like this arrive to fit the moment so well? This was music for the tender dark hours, when night and day blend into one. When the sleeping and the awakened dance between clouds of fog and pull dreams from the void. The music held her, as though the notes themselves were made to caress her curvaceous tears, as though the notes knew why she would cry and they pulled the tears out with a little more force, taking her with them on their voyage through time. As the road flattened out, she suddenly realized she might never know the composer, another song would come on and the beauty of what she had just heard would remain forever in her memory, encapsulating the moment like a dream. Someone, somewhere had made this music, and that person would never know that now, there was a girl driving in a small black truck in the middle of the night, going home. She could never tell them that the notes cast themselves around her like a magic circle, holding her as no other piece of music could. It was made for this. It was this. She was that, and it was her. It took her hand and led her down a psychedelic road where owls feed and coyotes sometimes wander. It held her in its palm, a loving teacher that pulled on her metal gates just a little more. “Open up,” it said. And whoever made this piece…they would never know. What were they doing right now? Sleeping? Eating? Working? Making love? The infinite consequences of their creation were unknowable. Once born, the creation had its own life, moving through time, radio, stereos, ears…moving into and out of perception…being heard by some, being shut off by others. Were there others crying? Others dancing? A thousand ways this piece could go…its creator would never know.
The consequences of what we create are unknowable. We create for the sake of creating, we do for the sake of doing, and then, it is sent, it goes out into the world, drifting like a carefully constructed leaf in the wind. Will someone catch it? Will it go straight to the sea, straight to the blue waves that will swallow up the orange and yellow and green? Or maybe it will drift to land with the high tide, and perhaps a little girl will pluck it from the ocean foam. And maybe it will end up in her collage of thoughts and dreams and her memory of changing seasons. There is just no way to tell what will happen, so we just let them go. Just as we were once let go, like tears already dispersing into the fog before the song that provoked them has come to an end, like ribbons of stardust dancing in the bottomless void of the infinite night.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Discovery Of Habit

The house is shining with the bright light of a new day. The cream colored curtains float like sails beneath the golden light of the incoming sun. The house is ringing in its coldness. The thick Persian rugs do little to deflect the chill of polished wooden floors and pale-green walls. Two rooms away, a TV is on and a little Korean boy sits on an overstuffed couch, absorbing the sounds of barnyard cartoon characters while he slowly eats his breakfast of fried rice and a single peeled banana. Two chambers away, past the kitchen, through the dining room, and beneath the ivory archway into the living room, is where I sit, on a mauve loveseat that’s parallel to the similarly styled couch.
I want to use the word hollow…I see a female standing at the edge of cliff while fluttering bats shake the night through her hair. I feel the coldness of the house, the artificial sounds of the TV…something is strange. It is my perception. It is me standing at the side of the slate rock cliff. It is I looking down at the collection of me that is the bottom. The thing that I fear, the thing that keeps me staring in wide-mouthed awe is the subconscious motivations I have just glimpsed. It is that, pulling back the blankets, opening the eyelids and discovering a naked creature that moves without thought, that moves as though pulled by levers and strings. The moment of discovery is truly shocking, like a zap to the core that laughs in my face as I discover the true intentions behind my own behavior. The behavior I have spent a lifetime justifying, spinning webs and circles around it with my mouth. It’s not that I lied. A lie requires some sort of consciousness. This is beyond a lie. These are the lies that I believe as truth. The things I call ideas, philosophies, thoughts, life choices. These are the things I call “me.” And I both want to laugh and cry as I look into the abyss of my machine and glimpse the habit behind the impulse.

We all sat in an artificially warmed room. From the shifting light of a glowing electronic box, we watched others like us self-destruct. Through this new form of entertainment, through the captured pain of another girl who walked and talked like Jennifer Lopez in a movie wrought with conflicting personalities and alcohol… through this, I saw myself.
“I started cutting myself when I was thirteen,” the girl admitted to the video camera. “That’s why I like tattoos, it’s a way of doing it without anyone knowing.”
There were a couple seconds of silence in the room. The sort of time that stops and quiets even a large TV and two speakers. There was something, something moving, shifting on the currents of artificial warm air, moving through the layers of my body and the soft fabric of the chamber. I felt my body, laying curled up between two pillows. I felt myself still, hardly breathing. A couple minutes before, I had just admitted that I had thought about cutting myself. I remembered laying in bed, in a heap of hysteria five nights ago. I had imagined myself walking to the bathroom and parallel to that vision, I had the thought that perhaps cutting myself would feel good. That night I didn’t get up, I didn’t walk into the bathroom, I drifted to sleep under a cloud of sadness and awoke nine hours later with anxiety ridden dreams grasping at my heels. And as we watched this girl on TV, I remembered that I had thought about it too. I had never done it, but I had thought about it. Now, as she admitted that her tattoos were part of her same habit, I realized that I too had a body covered in blue and green ink.
The show was paused. “Did she just say something about you?” I heard my friend ask. Another second that held still in the well of time.
And then I saw. I could think of at least three tattoos that were spawned from a feeling of anxiety that rattled inside like a soot covered wind I could not shake. There was the time Jay (my old boyfriend) was in jail and I was lonely and scared and felt like the entire world was just too strong and corrupt, it was then that I had the lute-playing mermaid tattooed to my belly. There was the unfinished doodle on my inner left ankle. It was me, that night alone in my apartment, while Jay went out to score some heroin, me that had picked up the tattoo gun on the coffee table and plunged the needle into my white flesh. I picked it up out of terror, terror he would not come back, terror that he would. That dark night, I was overwhelmed with his burden and disease, his recurrent need for money that weighed on my young shoulders. And then there was the word “warrior” on my left thigh, the permanent black letters that appeared only a few hours after discovering that another girl was visiting Jay in jail (at a different time), another layer of his lies revealed. I drove straight to a tattoo shop singing and crying to the lyrics of “I will survive,” or if I didn’t then, then I did many times later. The tattooist had looked up from his hunched position over my leg and asked me “what’s up with this word.” The explanation was crooked and an attempt at ego preservation and a self conscious attempt to hide my own addictive fixation on one diseased person. The man nodded while looking straight through my eyes, sensing the pain that my facial lines and puffy eyes had already outed. He nodded and kept working. And that night, as I walked through Bookshop Santa Cruz with a bandaged leg that stung with every step, I held my head higher and noticed that people seemed to be looking at me differently, as though they could see that the orgasmic pain had lifted a dark cloud. And there were more tattoos…stories and motivations even more murky and submerged in layers of hidden consciousness. I had painted large artistic circles around the reasons for a body covered in mermaids and foliage, explanations to justify the act. But now, I had glimpsed the energetic contortion, the habit and reaction I could no longer hide. And now here it was, here it is, explained in raw simplicity by a brown-skinned girl that still had a mark on her arm and streaks of tears across her cheeks.

The house seems strange around me, but it is me, not the dwelling that reeks of strangeness. This raw truth, this evidence has opened before me like a gutted pig. How strange to be fooled by myself. How strange to talk and ruminate and make complicated explanations for a behavior that goes deeper than skin and deeper than bone and deeper than the existence of this machine. I am ruled by these habits, these things that I cannot even see. The nature of lies goes deep. The nature of self delusion goes deeper. We have pulled a small layer back and looked inside, a small bit of the subconscious is revealed, naked in the light of day. It is shocking to get a glimpse. So shocking to realize the extent of circular lies and grand explanations.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Slow Guidance

“GSP!!! GSP!!! GSP!!!!” Fans pumped on energy drinks and cheap liquor and watery beers and bright lights and the collective energy of thousands chanted in the sports arena. Guys in T-shirts gave the “rock-on!” sign with their hands and young painted women looked seductively into the passing video camera and I just had to wonder if they really enjoyed watching two men fight each other or if they came as the good-looking companion for their boyfriends and husbands and perhaps to make sure they didn’t get into too much trouble. The scene was drenched in the aroma of adrenaline and manly sweat and sweet intoxicated breath. It was loud and it had all the ingredients for smaller fights to occur in the stands and for sexual aggression against the outnumbered women. It could happen, if this were a country where people wandered over the edge and gave in to their most savage tendencies in a collective burst of action. But this was not that kind of place, not in the sanctioned sports center of Nevada. They would all end up watching the fight with enthusiasm and they would shout and chant and in the end, after it was all finalized by a couple of judges, they would drown the rest of their sparkling energy in another cold beer and maybe, if they had any left, they would spill it into the open legs of their woman if they happened to have one or maybe a prostitute if they didn’t.
“GSP!!! GSP!!! GSP!!!!” The octagonal stage was the center of a stadium-like space, it was the epicenter surrounded on all sides by black chain link fence that had a black mat-like padding at the very top edge. Two fighters paced around the ring, a referee ran back and forth, monitoring their punches and kicks, looking at their hands to see if they were grabbing the opponent’s shorts, or was it the fence? He ran around them, moving constantly in a tension between being close enough to see every detail of their engagement but light enough to get out of the way should they move positions and come tumbling towards him. Watching at home, it was easy to forget that there were many cameramen surrounding them as well, capturing it all, every twist and punch, close enough so it felt like we were there, just inches away from all the sweat and blood and taut skin that struggled to either make contact or avoid the blows.
A bell went off, indicating the end of round two. “The Pit Bull” was bloody; the area below his nose was covered in smears of red and one of his eyes was starting to swell. He went back to his corner and sat down on the small stool while one of his trainers propped his legs up and shook them slightly. His team was next to him, one of them was yelling loudly about what moves he needed to come out with in the next round. Matching the pitch of the cheering crowds, the trainer gave him advice, but the fighter stared straight ahead, looking into the distance, perhaps seeing a blur of lights and shapes that bent and twisted in the corners of his eyes. The fighter nodded, but could he hear the voices or were they like the buzzing of flies that he had somehow gotten used to?
On the other side of the octagon was GSP and his trainer. His trainer was kneeling almost in front of him but slightly towards the right. “Okay, breathe, breathe…are you with me? Come back to me. Do you hear me?” The fighter looked at him and nodded. “Okay, we need to calm your breathing, can you do that?” The fighter nodded. The trainer spoke to him with the voice one would use with a little child, a child that had just made a pretty drawing, not the full grown muscular man that had just spent the last ten minutes punching and kicking and submitting an opponent that was 30 pounds heavier than him. “You did very good in that round, I’m so proud of you.” He said it like many parents have spoken to their children, he spoke slowly, deliberately, saying only what was completely necessary. There was a second trainer on the other side of GSP, this man had not said anything, but he kept his arm moving up and down vertically and very slowly, indicating with his slow hand the way GSP should calm and move his breath. In the excitement of cheering fans and multicolored spot lights darting across the audience and the noise of thousands of people talking excitedly, among this noise and energy, the trainer was able to cut straight through the static and chaos and reach into the heightened state of GSP to communicate with him directly. He used tone, gesture and careful words to communicate what he needed. With this gentle touch, the trainer was able to calm his fighter down, to bring him back to a space where words made sense and directions could be understood.
On the other side of the ring, another tired and heightened fighter sat, many words were shouted in his direction, words that contained instructions and advice, but could he hear it through all the noise and energy that was going through him like electrical sparks? Did they make sure he heard them or did they just keep sending out words to mix with the countless other shadows in the stadium?
When travelling through a tunnel of lights and sounds and sparks, it is slowness that will guide us in the right direction. It is slowness that we can hear, slowness that can be perceived as different among the shooting stars and bolts of static. Slowness is necessary. Giving directions is good, but to complete the circle, for the advice to be effective and useful, the directions must be understood and followed through. In the basic raw state of the animal, it is slowness that we can understand. It is tone. It is clarity.
The round was about to begin, “Okay, when you get out there, I want you to jab and move… what are you going to do?” “Jab and move,” replied GSP, looking directly into his trainer’s eyes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Piece Of Paper

She looked out the window and saw a small scrap of paper blowing in the wind. It was a small yellow post-it note and the wind pushed it to the fence where it stayed tangled in the bunches of wild mustard plants and yellowed bits of grass that clung to the edges of the yard. A white moth-like butterfly flew over the wooden fence and disappeared into the eucalyptus grove that covered the hillside below. She stared at it, at the little trail of darting white that had faded into green and silver. Her house was warm, and because of the heat inside, she indulged in wearing only purple panties, that had lace along the edges, and a striped purple T-shirt. Her legs were bare except for the pink slippers keeping the bottom of her feet warm. She wanted to go outside and get the little bit of paper. She wondered what it said, where it had come from, who had dropped it. Would she find her own writing on the yellow paper? She wanted to go outside, but, although the sun was out, she could see by the rustling eucalyptus that it was windy, and wind, at least here at this elevation and so close to the sea, meant chill. She was not anxious to let the wind brush past her and strip from her the warmth she had accumulated over a night of sleeping under thick blankets and warmed by space heaters in every room. But what was on that paper? How come she didn’t just look right past it the moment she saw it? How come it didn’t just fade into the other images that she took in and let wash over her without a second thought? Was there something different about this piece of paper or was she just getting fixated on something, finding meaning or hidden purpose when there was nothing there. Maybe there would be nothing on it. But why couldn’t she just stop and go back to her computer and start writing? What kept her standing here at the window, so close to the cold wind that managed to find its way in despite the glass barrier? She thought about all the things she had lost over the years. The small chunk of Tibetan turquoise stolen from her bathroom. Her stacks of vinyl records. Her purple and white batik shirt that just went missing one day, the blue v-neck T-shirt that Suki had given to her before her parents sent her to a rehab facility in the mountains. Could this piece of paper be one of those things, a precious bit of her or someone else, something that was about to drift off into the bushes any moment, only it had stopped here for a brief second, waiting by the fence and held close by the mustard stalks.
Act now! This is the chance. Move and grab the curiosity in front of you. Act now, or it will disappear forever and you will always wonder, you will always stand by the window and wonder about that thing which called to you and you did not respond.

Friday, July 17, 2009


My mind is the map,
the highway, my thoughts
red, yellow…thin pink…pale dotted lines
they grow thick in places,
epicenters of thought
cities of hardness
huge chunks of cement and yellow road signs.
The roads multiply,
Verging, converging,
they circle.
There are exits that lead to still blue lakes and empty parking lots
there are black and yellow entrances straight into the heart of the city,
where neon lights and blinking men with red-eyes wait on the sidewalk
begging for a quarter.
Inside are the many paths, all so close at hand.
With so many places to move into and out of,
there needs to be a way to maintain focus.
Where are the roads to dream?
And with so many colored roads, which dream shall I pick?
I carry only my heart
I bring only my willingness
I step over potholes, I walk through the headache of tar fumes and stalled cars
There are a thousand paths,
There is one clear blue choice
There is a highway inside, a million places to get lost,
A thousand sights to remember
It is me in here
You out there
And sometimes the paths cross.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Climbing Aboard

Staring brightly into the sky, they dreamed of rainbows that never ended, of colored trails that flew around the earth like great open freeways of possibility. The singular road forked with smaller trails and disappeared over bridges and down pixie-dust covered tunnels. Rainbows arched in the sky like Becky had once described over a pipe of psychedelic grass and created concentric circles that looped back in on themselves before branching off into the distance that was lit with the hope of red and green and purple. The roads moved like pretzels and clovers and dove in on themselves, leading to other planes where rainbows were called by other names and seen with different eyes and painted with other colors. They stared at the rainbows from the ground, their necks pinched and eyes wide with the energy of amazement. How would they ever find a ladder big enough to reach the road?
They just needed to get to the lowest point on the road, but even that was close to the hawks that coasted the sun drenched sky. Until now, they had only heard rumors of this road, great yarns overheard in pubs and simple lines read in old books. But the storm clouds had opened one morning as they walked home in the quiet hours of a new day and as white gave way to the awaiting blue sky, they saw the rainbow highway. They stood at the bottom, standing just under the lowest dip of the road they could see, the spot that they just might have a chance of accessing if they could figure a way up. Bright speckles of light moved on the colored current.
There were large wooden ships and nearly invisible shapes that expanded and contracted like dancers. No one spoke, but they all wondered how to ascend. Just how did anyone get started? How can you get from here to there? From where you stand to the place of your dreams? From present reality to the farthest goal, to the unknowable without shape? To the places where dreams smoke and speak in other tongues, where creation is in the simmering pot, the golden cauldron tended by a silver spoon. Just how do you get from here to there?
Out through the black hole of a sparkling tunnel came a ship. There was the silhouette of a person, a young man along the side of the helm who looked to the landscape below while his right hand was raised to his eyes, blocking the gleam of the sun. His head was slightly lowered, scanning the ground patiently and then looking out towards the horizon. He looked out as though expecting nothing, as though he had looked out into the distance for a thousand years, seeing nothing but birds and water. As he passed along the lowest dip in the colored road his body twitched as he saw them, “Do you want to come aboard?” he shouted to them through cupped hands. “Yes!” they shouted in unison. They didn’t know who he was, they didn’t know were the ship was headed, but as the boy threw down the braided rope, they grabbed a hold tightly and started to pull themselves up using strength they didn’t know they had.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Far Away

I heard his voice, the deep, deep laughter that made me think of density, of hard, rich wood and the palpable thick air of a forest floor covered in a shaded canopy. I wanted to describe the sound with my hands, I formed a ball shape with my skinny fingers, holding onto the air as though it contained a thick brilliant rock, something I almost couldn’t get my hands around. He laughed again, shaking the earth with his bodily rumble. The content of the conversation was almost irrelevant. Through layers of fatigue and inattention, I barley heard his concern, some young Tibetans were turning to violence to make their struggle heard. Would they become like the Palestinians, hungry and tired and frustrated? Tired of occupation, tired of the old ways that produced no fruit.
But I barely heard that. I was tired from a long day of selling soap at an outdoors farmer’s market and when the music stations became fuzzy going through the metal doorway of the Bay Bridge, I tuned the radio to Heart and Soul, a BBC Christian-slanted show on religion. On the air was the voice of the Dalai Lama. He talked about his possible successor, he wasn’t sure that there was even a need for one. He addressed the speculation of a female taking his place as a political and spiritual leader. He said “why not a woman?” and laughed with every muscle he had.
I pictured the male and female monks on a bed, laying close to each other and not touching, not talking, just moving and sharing in each other’s energy. I saw the cold stone room, they lay on the bed in their robes; from his depths into her, from her void into his, from his presence into her absence, from her love to his attention, …Is it easy for them up there in the cloistered halls of a monastery? Away from soap and markets and ordinary people walking around with strollers and wedding rings and cell phones? Away from this black truck, these tires which take me over a bridge. Away from the skyscrapers which roll out like empty promises on my right.
I forgot so much today. I walked around quickly, looking to the vendors on each side of me while my body continued forward without an instant of attention. I was not a well-honed beam, but rather a spattering light in need of repair. I talked without need to the vendor on my right, I ate ice cream without attention, I looked at my hair in the reflection of my car to check its state.
It’s so easy to forget it all. It’s so easy to think of myself as a girl who drives every Saturday to the market and sells soap. It’s just so easy to forget it all…to look at the couple holding hands and reach out to them with my machine-desire of sticky happiness. If I lived there, out in the mountains and surrounded by a sea of maroon robes who had accepted their lives as something “other”, as different from the world of TVs and magazines and the semi-annual sale at Victoria’s Secret, a sea of maroon robes who had sacrificed the body’s desires for another way, would it then be easier for me? Is it easier for them? How can I learn if I can’t even remember? How many days can I spend on the tight rope? Not quite them, not quite other.
He laughed again. I pictured his round, tan face. A picture of deep lines and clear glow. The picture from the bumper sticker, “Get Stoked!” it said, right next to that beaming face. That face on the bumper of a new station wagon that was always parked on Hwy 9, just a few hundred feet from my house in the Santa Cruz mountains. That car parked a couple feet from the entrance of a little wooden shack, another picture of the Dalai Lama facing the street through a glass window. I drove by a million times, always turning my head to watch the withered prayer flags blowing in the wind, wondering each time what lay inside and then quickly forgetting as my car continued on.
How many things have I let it slip from my mind? I would drive pass the beaming face, wishing I could be stoked, but I had school and bills and a boyfriend on drugs who needed money, lots of money to help his pain. Could I ever be stoked? So I drove on by, letting the whispers of prayers fade from my skin.
He laughed again. Such a deep sound full of curiosity and delight. A sound that has given up on the reason to laugh and just fell through the air like a rock with wings. Did he need a reason to rumble the rocks of the earth, to rattle the fragile speakers of this car? It was as though he was saying, “let me get inside you, take a vibration of me with you.” Maybe then I would finally be stoked. Or maybe I would quickly forget.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What Do You Do?

The question is…what do you do? I thought about it all night, long after the movie credits played and the characters faded from the set. I watched their forms fade as blackness overtook their shapes. They had picked a path, one of the four dirt paths available on the wide plane of Mississippi; long, wide spaces of opportunity whose future remained unknowable in the distance. The road ended at the horizon and promised nothing...just darkness and haze. Just pick one and start walking. Four choices, four paths, four ways.
So what do you do?
What shall run through me?
There are roads that lead to life, paths to a simpler type of death, paths to sleep.
Where do you want to go?
Can you find the will to keep walking, to keep lifting up one foot after the other when the rain starts pouring and each sound of roaring thunder warns you of the choice?
Through hunger, through self doubt.
Choose a path and walk.
Walk it well.
There are pawn shops along the route and crusty hotels and sweet women who’ll grab your wallet and smile as they hide it in their shirts. If you want to learn, start walking. Choose a path and walk. The lineages come down like raindrops. They are as close as dandelions, and you could grab them, if only you weren’t so blind that you can’t even see the grass.
Four paths.
Four choices.
Can I walk until the locusts come to blind me and the devil comes with shiny white teeth and a smile that doesn’t hide the sweetness of my captured soul?
Can I walk into the storm?
Muddy toes, cold skin, squinting against the wind. It’s me that brings the devil, me that paints the sky with rain, me that tightens the noose.
What can I do to open the door, unbolt the lock and turn on the lamp?
Can I allow it all to run through me?
Moving through each little open pore, each tendril of matter and stone, like electrons run through the filament and light my little room.
Can I just breathe and continue to walk and let it move me, coloring me in its travels?
Can I make enough space, open this little cold heart and sacrifice it all to let it move?
This is a vessel, a fleshy, bloody capsule that needs to be emptied just a little to let some fresh water in. Like tubes of paint waiting for a hand, like windmills waiting for a strong gust.
Let this body be the brush, the hand, the willing embodiment of Real movement.