Needles and Pins

I don't remember a time I didn't love this song. Searchers. Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The Ramones. Tom Petty. Every cover pretty good because the song is so solid. It moves around, which version I like best. 

Guns

I decided to go watch some movie shootout scenes that I have always liked in that way you like a scene from a movie, or think a scene is powerful or provocative. I also like the final battle scene from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. But this current exercise was about watching fights, battles, conducted with guns, specifically, and in light of last week's school shooting in Florida and all the school shootings that have come before it. What would I think of these shootout scenes in the shadow of another gunning down of kids at school by another kid?

An observation from watching the clips - 

Both sides have them. The guns. The value of guns in these scenes don't distinguish between good and evil.

I am not currently in possession of some big opinion about guns or gun regulation. I'm just asking myself why I've like these movie scenes, these gun fights, these bloodbaths?

 

Abstract Communion

Religion is like social media in that it makes communion with the abstract, the non-physical, more trenchant than communion with the world of our senses. 

So, I read The Passion by Jeanette Winterson, yet again. 

 

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I'm Your Man

I liked this song. Then, some tv show or movie used it in such a way that made me not like it for a long time. It was a negative association. But now I can't remember what the associated thing was and I like the song again. 

Another Cookie Story

I noticed the new cookie shop in December. I walked by it frequently. It's never going to make it, I thought, just selling cookies right downtown. 

But one day, I went in. I looked at the cookies. They were big. I saw the price on the card above each row. $3.25. $3.75. $4.25. Who's going to pay that for a cookie? Good, I thought, heading out the door. All the less tempting. 

Then, one evening, the door to the cookie shop was open and the cookie smells wafting out to the sidewalk. I looked inside. 

Samples. Hmmm.

I went inside. I sampled. Oh. Those samples were good. I bought a big, thick, chocolate-dipped peanut butter cookie.  

Not long after, I went in again. This time I got a cream cheese brownie. Over the moon. Soon after, another.  I was only going to eat half and save the rest for a friend. She never saw hide nor hair of it. 

I thought I was saturated. I thought I was over it. 

Then, today I went in and after sampling the broken bits ordered the Cherry Tart cookie. After I paid, the young man behind the counter offered me a buy 10 get one free punch card. My arm lifted independently of my mind. I watched my fingers grasp the card's edge. 

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. 

Who would pay $3.25 - $4.25 for a cookie? 

Turns out, me. 

Snow Event

They're calling it a snow “event.” Impassable roads, that kind of thing. Get your business taken care of and be prepared not to go anywhere. 

Carmen loved snow. She loved it coming down on her face and back. She loved being toweled down when she came in. The only time she ever left the yard and went on a walkabout was in a torrential snow storm. There was a bad influence at play. I’m not going to mention any names.

It was Mini, the Corgi mutt. Blazer went, too. At about 45 pounds, Blazer had mountain dog good looks, blue eyes, and a gumball for a brain.

Blazer, Mini, and black, bulbous-headed, 90 lb. Carmen marched right across the snowdrifts over the fence. Carmen would have never done it alone. But you give her a cute, short male buddy and she like-y and is up for fun. So off they went. When we realized they were gone, off we went after them. We trudged our way down the street in the blizzard and found them a few blocks away, two of them being held gently by the collar by kind humans looking for tags.

Usually, if a visiting dog left the yard, Carmen was a total tattletale. She’d stand in the yard and bark until someone came out and found out.

Carmen. 2003-20217

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The Cookie Incident

I go into the bakery. I want a chocolate-dipped peanut butter cookie. My turn comes and I make my request. The young woman turns around and opens a bin behind the counter. She returns and asks is it okay if the cookie is broken, just by a small piece. I say that's fine, and secretly hope it's not missing any of the chocolate covered side. She returns to the bin. This time, I'm watching a little more closely and I realize there are several cookies in the bin. Unbroken cookies. But she was shoveling the broken cookie out the door with me. 
Really, I don't care. 
But I also wonder what was it about me that had her pawn off the cookie on me? Did I look like a pushover? Did I seem strong, able to handle a broken cookies without my losing my shit? 

 

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Two Separate Incidences and A Handsome Man

One.

I’m in the old Blackfoot River Brewery taproom back in the days when it was more likely you might be talking to someone you didn’t know before you got there. Some guy is telling me his opinion about something. I listened, and then said something more on the subject. He said, no, and then repeated what he had already said. I said, yes, I heard you, this is something more on the subject. He repeated no again, and repeated what he had already said. On it went for a few more rounds. His perception seemed to be that me saying something other than exactly what he said meant I was misunderstanding him, or disagreeing with him and needed to be corrected. I don’t remember how I bailed on that.

Two.

The (old) Windbag. Some local face, a guy, pretty good looking I had noticed over the years. But in the brief snatchings of conversation we’d had, it was nothing I was interested in pursuing. I’m not so much about guys who have learned to skate on their looks. Though I recognize it's possible they've just learned what they had to to get by and it just didn't happen to be very much. *  

Anyway, Mr. GoodLooking tells me that I’m his type. I tell him I’m not interested. He tells me, no. I didn’t understand. I was exactly his type. It doesn’t matter, I told him. But, he insisted, I was EXACTLY his type. It was like he was trying to tell me my experience of my own life and preferences were incorrect and I would realize it if I would just listen to him.


*
 

Cultural Appropriation

"Cultural appropriation." It appears there's a conversation that is on. So, here's my question, and it is offered as an opportunity to explore the subject, not to point anything out.

If I take an African dance class taught by an American white woman, is that cultural appropriation? If so, by both of us? one of us?

What if it's taught by a person from an African country? Does that change anything? What if it's an American white man who lived and studied in Africa for a decade?

Then again, this is what choreographers do, often. Cross-pollinate. What if you appropriate something, adapt it or fuse it with something else, and put it out there as something novel? Is this part of the cultural appropriation discussion?

On another note, isn't cultural appropriation the name of the capitalist game - turning art and values into politics and commercial items - you know, something you can raise a buck on? (Symbols of revolution become poser goods on $70 distressed t-shirts. Nothing's wrong with the t-shirt, unless it's about adopting the image of a value as part of your "profile," more so than your character. The same could be said for wearing a crucifix under other circumstances, or wearing the t-shirt of a band you don't and haven't listened to. But they're "cool" and that makes you cool that you know they're cool.)

I'm not looking for answers to guide my behavior about a dance class ("Do whatever you want!!"). I've got it covered. I'm interested in this emerging label for a cultural dynamic.

My current thought is that the basic, dominant, operative cultural model right now is exploitation. Steal. Take. Hijack. "Use." It's accepted. It's considered a skill set. I don't like it, but that's how it looks to me.

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Heroine's Journey

(also at The Story Plant

I drank with my sister in Downer’s Grove, Illinois last Friday catching up on each other’s lives as we waited for a text from her daughter.  Finally, around 10, it came in, from her youngest, my niece, who was in St. Louis at the Black Lives Matter march protesting another ‘not guilty’ verdict for another cop who shot another black guy to death.

“Got out just as the SWAT team arrived. Safe.”                 

My thoughts have been fractured and staccato lately, mirroring the off- rhythms of the world. As a seeming consequence, I’ve been writing in loose prose and poetry. An invitation to write about “women’s roles” arrived to this jagged mind state and my gut response to the invitation was, I thought we could be astronauts now.

I rebelled. I threw a fit in loose prose

and I thought about the differences

between roles, stereotypes, and archetypes.

Nurturer. Lover. Cheerleader. I am them. Not roles. Part of me,  

which isn’t to say there aren’t roles I play as I walk my beat.

We play roles.

Or, roles are assigned to us, organizing our complicated selves into consumable units circumscribed by function.

But a role isn’t necessarily a violation of one’s self, of course. It can be an expression of one’s self, too. But I do think separating ourselves from our roles is a lifelong learning, whether those are gender roles, family roles, or cultural roles. Certainly that separation is one of the hero’s journeys.

Or heroine’s.

The assignment, “women’s roles,” also made me reflect on the cultural need to “gender” everything and the emerging movement toward a more continuum-based understanding, or better yet, a patchwork understanding of gender, unconfined by the limited boundaries binaries dictate and govern our minds with.

I do love a writing assignment and letting it take my thoughts away.       

Assignment in. Writing out. Women’s roles. Here’s what happened.

 

Women’s Roles

Bread baker.

Rainmaker. 

Tongue biter.

Freedom fighter.

Soldier.

But not really.  

A woman soldier.

Prisoner.

But not really. 

A female prisoner. 

 

 

What is a woman’s role?

Caster of spells.

Cutter of throats.

Defender of evil men.

Indirect.  In your face. Interpretive.

Master and minion

of the Snake.

Beautiful

pretty, cute, or ok.

Or . . .

(please god, no)  

Because it is your story.

 

 

What makes a role a woman’s role?

The pay grade?

The caring?

For children? The sick? The boss? The injured? The broken? The poor?

What makes a symbol hers?

Cup and cauldron,

Holy hole.

Passive vessel through which and in which that which is whole cums- comes.

Receiver. Receptacle.

The passive voice,

she who gets

periods

raped

sidelined

silenced. 

 

 

What is a woman’s role?

Creator

of babies,

or blood.

Either way, creators

make the Word flesh, strike the neural chord that makes the mind sing and the brain squirt and thus the body feels

the journey, from Word to flesh

from thought to biochemical

from idea to feeling.   

I’m telling the story.

 

 

What makes a book a women’s book?

Is it the promise of love from another, or even from one’s self, should the former come to be too much to hope for or believe?

Self-esteem.

Self-love.

Empowerment.

A private embrace of an unvalued wholeness that leaves the body hungry. 

I’m telling the story 

Of the Word made flesh that strikes the neural chord that makes the mind sing and the brain squirt and thus the body feels

the journey, from Word to flesh, from thought to biochemical, from idea to feeling.   

I’m telling the story

Of woman’s roles which are words

made Flesh.

 

Many Moons Ago in Ojai

I spent two weeks of the time I spent writing my novel, Shaking Out the Dead, in a friend's friend's tiny house in Ojai CA. I drove there from Montana. No dog. I heard the song "I'm Like A Bird" by Nelly Furtado for the first time on the L.A. freeway. I learned how to fingerpick on the guitar during those two weeks and wrote pages and pages of the backstory of two of my characters, one a main character and the other a secondary one. I thought it would all be part of the book. I didn't include any of it. But I can still see those two characters on the side of the road in the Mojave Desert. 


While in Ojai, I acquired this acrylic in the picture below. My relationship with it changed as my relationships with the characters in my book changed. It's been in storage for the past two years and I have recently pulled it back out.

 

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The Musical "Hamilton" and Systems Theory

I saw Hamilton last weekend and it has stayed with me. The show is not about just the Revolution, that big day when everyone raises their arms and shout, “we’re free!”  It’s about the after.

Does freedom mean “time to build a new system that supports freedom”? Or, does it mean “no more systems,” as in, “we’re free of them”?

The latter is naive. Systems will form as long as there are people who want to get anything done. Systems arise to facilitate objectives. The more people agree to a system, the easier it is to get things done that people want done, basic things, like having a system that allows us not to live in our own excrement.

Systems build the roads money runs on, too, which is why many are so bad. Their primary purpose becomes channeling money instead of the task it is supposed to perform. That’s what a corrupted system is - a system whose primary design element is about accomplishing anything other than the stated purpose.  

 

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The Elements are Restless

Have had the 4 Elements (air, water, earth, fire) and their correspondences and mythologies in play in my mind for several months (recreational thinking). Was thinking this morning that they are all acting up.

Winds of the hurricane - air
Floods of the hurricane - water
Earthquake in Mexico - earth
The west burning - fire

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Bear Dream

Night two after the bear attack, I had three dreams about bears. I had one more a couple of days after that. No dreams of bears since until last night when I dreamed about The Bear for the first time, not just "bears." 
In the dream, I was showing someone a video I had taken leading up to seeing him, then seeing him, then whoop, thunk, clunk - no more footage. In the dream, I showed it to two different people.

When the Bear taps me on the shoulder, I feel it's best to say, 'you rang?' 

Along the Fence

A middle age lady with curly hair was walking the sidewalk outside of the fence escorting a wee one scooting along on a riding contraption for toddlers. Carmen barked a few deep, low ones and walked the inside of the fence beside them. I said from the porch, "She's just an old lady who wants to let you know she's still here." The lady said, "I know the feeling." 

Quiver Factor

I've been asked what I thought about the bear scene in The Revenant and it really didn't hit any nerves. Last night I watched Legends of the Fall for the first time since the bear and the bear scene at the end of that movie had more quiver factor for me.