Midnight Ramble


Turning the key, I hear the wheels scratching the tar and asphalt, metal struts hitting cement. The skateboarders like the open space–and the night. This corner of the strip mall is recessed, secreted at night far from the beaming boulevard with auto showcases and fast food restaurants.

Tonight’s boarder seems older, maybe mid-thirties even. He is lean and has a beard, and he looks like he is in the zone, grooving with sways and swivels. And jumps. Fluid like an eel.
But then I thought about my sweater I left at Gina’s last night. I don’t know when I’ll get it back, and I like it so much. 
The door needs to be jiggled after it’s locked to check that it really is locked. Or maybe it doesn’t, but I need to check anyhow. The locking click of metal into slot and resulting tightness in the door’s mobility are pretty good testament to the door being locked. But I must jiggle nevertheless. It’s a compulsion.

The skateboarder makes another round to my corner. I sit in my car for a few minutes before driving off, taking inventory of all of the cords and usb plugs and devices. I charge and read, sometimes play games to wile away the time, chip at it with distraction; they are long shifts.
How free inside the gut and soul to skateboard when it’s right, when the sync is on. I remember snowboarding and those clicked moments: it feels so natural, so inborn–and joyful. The same joy as symmetry or coincidence, synchronicity, except fuller and rounder.
There is no snow boot big enough now. I won’t be boarding in a long while, I imagine. Still thinking about tattooing that bracelet silhouette on my ankle after it’s gone. It will be gone.

Though dinner last night was elegant and lovely, the guests lively, the hosts gracious and welcoming beyond measure–as always–I needed to be alone and felt awkward. Old friends should not make me uncomfortable. I’ve known Gina and Richard for decades. Perhaps because I just sermonized on introverts and declared myself one, I needed to prove it to myself. Since no one else cares. But I did feel sick, dizzy, like I was going to pass out from being too drunk, only I had had only one beer and a good amount of food with it. Could it have been stress?
My social anxiety is not that extreme. I don’t know what happened to me. But I suspect the pot everyone was smoking–and the over stimulation. F and C, new to the usual guest list, talk a lot, quick-talk about intriguing topics only remotely known to me, like Photoshop and cellular biology, so I have to concentrate. I can’t tell if they are smart or silly, self-inventors or mere drunks and stoners. Maybe all of them, and who cares? I suppose I have to label them so I can figure out if I like them or had a good time. Did I have a good time?
Their space–an oasis in urbanity–is mind-freeing, open to nature’s chaos mixed with their own, overlaid with nourishing touches, finishes and tucks of warmth. The night had that last bit of summer air, only a hint of cool. Unusually thick for a Southern California September night. Usually, the desert cold of night sets in around this time. So dinner outside was perfect, candles and overhanging white lights, festival lights without color, decorating trees and wood trellises. The fire pit flames cast shadows on the brick walls low like baseboard trim to the relentless hay, weeds and succulents strewn through the unrolling backyard.

It was a potentially too-long drive past Manhattan Beach, not in the maddening sense too long, but past the point of acceptability for a one and a half hour dinner. How many hours should one drive round trip proportional to the time spent at the dinner? Had I spent four hours, which I could have had I not freaked out, and drove two hours, which I did, then it would not have been a bad return on my driving time investment. The ratio seems reasonable.

Mopping the store floor when buzzed is the only way to get the full enjoyment of mopping. It’s like seeing Forbidden Zone on acid. Everything makes sense when you do.

Turning the lights on, cruising in my jalopy, a champagne 1998 Nissan Maxima, the first three-point turn to get on track gets me up close to the skateboarder, who dovetails just at the left side front end of the car.
His eyes meet mine, and I want to peer into them hard to see what it feels like to be free inside, to know joy at the core so fleeting, yet practiced in stealth, climbing the degrees of duration until the skill to ride fearlessly and flawlessly was always there. Only my windshield is too dirty. I swoop past in a wide arc and catch the flash glance each of us share, acknowledging our existences seconds deep; then I hit the bright boulevard headed for home.


The Good, the Ugly and the Human: a Tuesday Musing


Credit: http://m1.i.pbase.com


To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the human condition of the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertain and on a willingness to be exposed; it’s based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from its fragility.
Martha Nussbaum, philosopher

Ruminating about abandoned love lately, I wonder how humans, a number of them anyhow, can open and shut their hearts with such certainty in such an uncertain world. How does one end a relationship, long and loving hard, and thereafter eviscerate the heart-memory of the once cherished object of his or her love, the light in his heart, the heat in her loins, never to speak or think of the other? Where, precisely, sleeps the graveyard of deep emotional attachment?

No one can control another to the degree necessary to keep and savor that other, to anticipate fear and resentment, illness and death–no way to squeeze answers to the riddles of human behavior.

To be exposed is to be vulnerable, open to danger, criticism, injury or death, whether physical or emotional. Who does not fear the ending of a relationship that houses everything, one that contains all of the self thrown into it?

Dedication to the notion that love means giving all to another bears some responsibility for the resulting grief and betrayal after the end. A piece, some important part must be held back, some core or foundation must be withheld in order to keep the self and the other intact. To invest all is to have everything to lose in life’s uncertainty: love’s cessation, life’s leaking despair, disability and death. 

The burden of possessing every morsel of another being trumps pleasure, smothers desire. 

Many believe the heart cannot survive loss, a conviction that obstructs the happiness that inclines a good human. To withdraw from others, from a lover or society that disappoints, having been badly burned, merely reduces risk of exposure; it does not prevent calamity or inevitability and so a doomed attempt to control a world in hopes of preventing further hurt and loss. 

Humans cannot surrender their frailty without losing their humanity–or their beauty, according to Nussbaum. The good and happy human is unafraid. The tremulous unhappy merely encircle the tenderness and delicate skin of being with armored excuses and persistent tasks that disengage and anesthetize the will to enter the fray of the raw and unknowable–the human circus of flight, fancy and faith–forever locking doors behind them.

Hearing to the Heart of What Matters

Tripping on sounds of birds outside my window, I can hear them over the swish-throb of my own heartbeat sounding in my ears, a pulsing slightly alarming and soothing all the same. I can also hear the clanking of a dish outside the closed door of my room emanating from the kitchen where I imagine my mother is sitting, skeletal and serene, in her wheelchair, gazing off through the filmy stare that inhabits her face now, the cataracts of her mind’s eye reaching some unknown space outside or inside her head that swirls and lulls the cerebral juices to twitching stillness, her jerking to and from that space in seconds like recognition of a face, an idea, a musical slice of song, a voice…. 
I imagine her waiting like the baby bird with beak wide open in anticipation of its mother’s nurturing tongue, depositing the meaty worm of egg or pear.  

Where are you, Mom?  I miss you hard like a crowbar to the back of the head. 

My thoughts cannot stay on task. My self-imposed inspiration today is directed to my ears. Listen. It is nearly impossible to hear the murmur of soft utterings spoken outside my closed door, cooings enmeshed with frenetic blather-blurbs of television banter of I know not what over the din in my brain. 

I hear her dully, though. She calls my mother’s name over again sweetly, as if to a child, “Doris…Doris…Are you hungry?” The answer is unintelligible, but of course she is hungry. Her mind does not remember satiation. She, who ate more for comfort than survival, dieted constantly, losing hundreds of pounds over her lifetime, and is now, ironically, the weight her doctor claims befits her small frame no one knew was there. She always felt fat, was fat because she said so, and my father confirmed, except for the time she lost fifty pounds and he said she was too skinny so brought donuts and candy home for her to eat, the very same items he would chide her for eating when he reminded her that she was a “fat ass.” His love was always a savage love.

You are a saint. I cannot blame you for checking out, Mom. I want to be where you are only too often, though I am afraid of dementia’s detritus. You are braver than I ever will be.

But back to my exercise of listening to the sounds, right here, right now, this moment. It’s no use. I cannot hear distinctly above the rhythmic swoosh in my head. It’s my heart. The sound of a moving dish slid across a wooden table, rumbling and ceramic shrill, draws me to her again and again, outside my cave haven door, tended to by caring voices and hands that are not mine, sitting alone with feet, arms and hands moving about her, tending to her every need in studious care, while her husband sleeps off the night’s numerous calls to relieve himself of the plaguing piss of the swollen prostate that stems the flow of sleep and slows his 82 year life ever so much more, each pace a step from bed to toilet to table to television. 

The soft pings of my electronic devices notify me that someone has me in mind, has read something I wrote and appreciates or takes issue with it. The whistle of “hey, answer me” has sounded also from my phone and I know that I must answer that one, feeling it in my bones and the back of my neck, even though it is just playful pointless slinging ping pong balls of inanities. I somehow believe I need the nonsense, like my bread and butter banter, countering the angst of imagined life sentences I carry submerged like an atomic sub awaiting the directive to fire.

But now I can hear the dogs bark outside in the distance, loud enough to distract me from the door bell ringing  from my phone–simple email notification of stuff like yoga newsletters or soccer updates that can wait–and the murmur of my heartbeat in my ears, backdrop to the dish washing, sing song lullaby caress of Mom’s caretaker and the chirping tree creatures and the people’s pets next door and the insensate stream of yak yak from the tube and my mother’s babble, my father’s snore and my daughter’s running out, late for school, clomping down the stairs and slamming the door. I don’t actually hear but the anticipation of that last sound because her noise is not announced yet and should be–a human-made ping in the nerves from a mother’s consciousness of time, responsibilities and household goings on.

I am told it may be high blood pressure or blocked ear canals that cause that murmuring metronome reminding me that I am seething flesh, a mere mechanism of pumps and cogs and wheels of spongy muscle and sinew. I pay the tellers no mind. I like my heart beating and so the sound comforts me, synchronizing my outers and inners, recalling the always-at-hand task of staying here now with me, with us, with it all, embracing what is: the fauna and flora, birds, dogs, people I love, strangers, trees, leaves, sky, wind, vibration of the telephone and the sky, the stirring of creaking beds and limbs that dash above my head in squeaking pain of wood stretched to capacity by age, use and disrepair, this old house of ours, in our circle of suburban secret burrow and peek, safe seclusion of sound and stare. 

I hear the circle of my heart. And it hears me. The world begins and ends in the heart of creation, imagination, the bonds that tie and break, the ebb and flow of living matter, all in a day’s work, in a disciplined moment of timeless listening–to life living me, us.

Solipsistic Bullshit

credit: toptenz.net

Having a meta moment, I sit crouched outside the bathroom door opening up to the backyard, seeking shelter from the firm sprinkle of rain, and sneak a cup of coffee and a cigarette. My children–my progeny–are still asleep inside the house. I don’t want them to see what they already know. I smoke–sometimes, today anyway. Shame and secrecy, they are the byproduct of the perception that mothers model what they want their children to do and be; they distort intuition. Isn’t it better to be the canvas of a human painted with flaws illuminated?

Maybe it is the product of a Southern California rain on November 1st, a clearing of the long-settled dust of many months, but I am acutely able to watch myself watching me. My crouching self–avoiding and inviting the cool, clear drops that promise to enliven with a crisp penetrating sensorial incitement and also punish with its shivering collateral damage of the body’s heat colliding with the steely shrapnel of the cloud’s burst–battles the storm that is me at this moment, ambivalent and aware of the torture that self-division inflicts. I watch the watcher that projects the image of a writer at work–thinking, sensing, anguishing and yearning.

At this moment, I am not a writer. The bloated title comes, historically, with a delusional job description: write the self. But producing self–whatever that means–in words is terrible and writ with horror, even as it is mundane and ministerial, the process a struggle of expression and impression. Which sentences will crackle, crumble onto the page, and will they make or give me sense? Am I controlling the craft, manipulating my readers to go where I want them to go? Hardly. I drive the machine even as it marionettes me. The parcelized being of person and persona is a schizophrenia that refuses medication to ameliorate symptoms of the madness that is creativity and desire, perception and reflection, subject and object. I gaze at the gazers.

They stare back. But each placed word on the page paralyzes me with its uncertainty and finality, each a declaration of intention that slithers past the page and is collected by greedy eyes waiting to filter, covet and reformulate me in the conceit of collusion with them. The bound nakedness of that truth evokes a howl of self-righteous anger and vanquished surreptitious surrender. Maintaining possession, control, gives way to the inevitability and yet the desire to be roped, imprisoned and silenced, and therein lies the eroticism of writing, which has always captivated me.

Words that pour, violent ejections from the loins of the abyss, are urgent and unconscious. The onset of these emissions are unpredictable even as they are inevitable expulsions evoked by exterior impetuses, events that seize all that has ever been known as life. Jail, for example. Imprisonment causes a vacuum of words with which to reproduce a reality. However, if not too long, the sentence (time) can pool the river of artifacts of the taken-for-granted daily distractions of driving, feeding and sleeping, still its flow to near evaporation, to a distant shade of memory, so that when released, the force of the cascade into the stream of the overground is formidable and unrelenting–impossible to swim to safety. I had no choice but to write then.

So how does one go back to jail when the fount runs dry and the words eke out painstakingly, letter by letter? How to not merely reproduce and occupy but inhabit and transform that space inflicted by powerlessness is where this morning’s meandering mistress muse takes me, as she often does.

Surely what we do–what I do–purposively, what I enact and deliberately create in and are imposed upon by the world, will summon up the cell. If I confine myself to others’ expectations in order to silence the gut-craving screams to be alone long enough to hear my own voice, the words may once again spill from my ears and eyes. If I convince myself that there is no other path but the one I am on, which is fated, inevitable, and irreversible–limiting my career choices, feeding the money hunger, slaking the pleasure deficit with sweets and sex and the many, many mindless patterns of performing an existence–really focus on that doom, perhaps then I can float the rapids of rhythmic type-tapping onto dry-land highways of unending sentences.

Tedious metaphors incarcerate. This miserable musing is nearly over. The irony of enslavement and freedom is the parody that we enact in fantasy scenes of the mind, bedroom and theater. Creation (and sometimes a helluva good orgasm) is born in the suspension between these two states–my banal conclusion. The only question left to answer: do we let others watch?