Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Machine Overlords

It's after dinner and my body is currently doing it's own version of Battlestar Galactic, and I'm pretty sure the humans are going to lose this time. The pain is epic, but this is the pain that I have learned to live with because, short of just having my inconsiderate lady bits removed, there is very little I can do about this. Once, every thirty days, I will drink more wine then usual, curse the physical discomfort and carry on. So, you know, a day in the life of most women.


As I exited my favorite comfort bar, it occurred to me that I had no chocolate. Chocolate is a most sacrosanct reward for the suffering of all women and the thought of having to go through this without chocolate was sacrilege. 

Chocolate must be acquired. 

Fortunately, I knew of a pharmacy nearby where I could stock up on the sweet surcease to ease my body and this, then, established the trajectory of the evening. 

In the far too well lit store, I stood out, too well defined in fluorescentes, in front of a chocolate display. 

50 percent off chocolate: the display read. 

"Yes, please."

I proceeded to grab a solid handful of chocolate.

Ask for the additional 1.00 dollar off coupon at the counter. 

"I will!" 

Having thanked the small sheets of paper willing me towards cheaper chocolate I eschewed the self pay and proceeded to a counter. 

"The chocolate told me to ask you for a dollar off coupon."

The lovely young girl behind the counter paused for a minute before her eyes, wide, suddenly pointed to a big red machine. 

"Oh, no, not me. You ask the machine."

"I want the chocolate. Just tell me who to ask." Because I am in pain and because I don't want to deal with life I'm ready to give in, but she is sweet and kind and wants to help me.

"Just come over here. What's your number?"

Of course, as soon as she asks a rumbling earthquake of pain hits my body and so through gritted teeth I rattle of digits and hope she catches them all. The red machines stands there, like a sad cousin to Robot, rather then decrying danger, instead spitting out coupons for cheaper chocolate. 

We walk back to the counter together and she processes my rewards, bringing the total cost down from 40.00 dollars to 17.00. Clearly, a worthwhile venture. She rings me up and I dutifully insert my card. 

"Do you want to keep the other coupons?"

The red machine had spit out a number of coupons, but I just assumed the coupons were for the chocolate so I looked at the young lady rather perplexed, having just come down from the most recent round of thrashing pain. 

"I don't know, what were they for?"

She looks at the paper slips in her hands. She looks down. She looks at me. She looks at the paper. She looks at me. 

"Uh...two dollars off tampons, a dollar off a bottle of wine, two dollars off pain killers, and a dollar of pads."

We make eye contact over the counter. I hold it a moment too long. How can you not?

"So, clearly our machine overlords understand what is happening in my body right now."

We laugh for a moment, but she stands there awkward with the slips of paper. 

I smile at her and break the tension. 

"Which brand?"

"Any, it's general."

"Well, it's clear I can use them."

I take the stack of slips and slide it in my bag next to the large, less expensive stack of chocolate and laugh merrily to myself as I walk out the door on my way home. 

Monday, May 07, 2018

Creative Grief

"How does grief aid in creativity?"

"It doesn't." - Nick Cave, Murmrr Theater, 5/5/2018

An interesting thing to listen to an artist talking about the creative process, especially those artists that you love, respect, want to emulate. The question was fascinating but the answer...

There is something in the answer here that was so powerful and resonating, so exactly right. The answer really was in some way perfect for an artist who wonders about the role of grief in art. Isn't life supposed to be pain, and pain supposed to be art, and grief and tragedy and loss and loving and losing and yearning and longing and searching and seeking and loving and losing again, again, again.

Isn't that supposed to be-

Art?

The dark and the trauma and all the things that shape the soft curves and rough edges of your life. The pain you feel on the page, or in the fabric, or in the brush, a manifestation. When you touch the thing you bring to life and you feel it there for a moment, whole and real and wonderful. The loss, the grief, the tragedy manifest, isn't that supposed to be art? Wasn't there supposed to be something more meaningful than 'it just felt right'?

I agree with the statement that grief does nothing for art.

It's not the grief.

It's the living after the grief.

It's the picking yourself up day after day.

It's the knowing that the dark, dark, dark is there.

It's the knowing the thing that shapes you.

It's in having looked at the evil in the world and watched it mold you.

It's in the knowing that there is unstoppable hardship, but that you do not stop.

It's in the going on, the going through, the going by and getting past and getting on and getting along.

The art is after the grief.

Waiting for grief to make art is the most pointless thing in the world. The art comes from other places.

"Sometimes, you feel so anxious and depressed. You feel like a failure. Like a fraud. And that builds up, you know. It just keeps getting bigger until suddenly you breakthrough it and it's like an epiphany and then you suddenly have this burst and you make something and it's brilliant, you know? You can just feel it. In the way the words line up together. The way they play off each other..." 

Encapsulating the thing that holds you back, the block that sits on top and suddenly you lose it and it all explodes on the page, through the fingers, through the paint, through the words, through the body, and in that moment the creativity takes you and you are all the creativity and you are everything and nothing and light and the void and it is amazing. Euphoria that burns to the core.

Revelations.

The never ending spike of thinking and feeling and knowing and wanting and dreaming and going on.

Going through.

Creating.

Wanting.

Being more.

Doing more.

It's not the grief, you see. It's never been the grief.

It's everything else, and the art, that is the release, the realization, the moment when you know that in whatever it that you just did, there is something that no one else could have done before you and no one else can do in the same way after.

That's creative.

So far beyond grief.

Maybe somewhere in the madness of the process itself lies genius, which is a comforting thought. The rest is, really, a madness.

The madness is the hardest part of art, and possibly the best part of art, and possibly the reason to keep doing the art at all. More so than love, or the muse, or the passion, or the pain, or the grief.

The madness.

I am a mad artist.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Nick Cave at the Murmrr Theater

 At this point, I feel like I spend a lot of time writing about Nick Cave, though in the history of all my public writing, there is barely an nth of it dedicated to the fine workings of Mr. Cave and the Bad Seeds. Of the artist that I love it is true that I have seen Nick in concert more often than the rest. I saw him again last night. I'll almost surely see him again in the future, even if I have to brace myself to do so at a large stadium style venue. It is Nick Cave and it is worth it.

This trip was planned to align after another stint in dreaded Baltimore, but a lovely train took me to New York city and the lovely Hellion kept me housed at his cozy place to prepare for the lovely event that I would attend in the evening, thanks to a friend who knows me well enough to know that an extra ticket to Nick would not go unused. I had a ticket, I needed an outfit and I wanted to prepare. Having been on the road for the better part of a month with no ability to be myself, my true, authentic, real, wild, goth, alternative, dark, strange self, I packed a corset and dress specifically for Saturday. That corset went on at eleven in the morning and didn't come off until well after 1:00 a.m. I have not a single regret on that front. I felt I looked the part for a Nick Cave shindig, with a corset that harks to almost Big Tent Circus feel, being both goth and carnival amusing at the same time. Someday, I shall surely get myself a top hot fascinator to match.


This particular Nick event was a bit different from other events, following on from some of his early experiments with Q&A events. Essentially, it was rather like an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit, the overall concept was Nick having a chance to sit down with the audience and let them ask him anything they wanted to know, and he would do the best to answer.With all the preparation and thought put into what I wanted to wear I felt right for the event,  I felt right about my life at that moment, and I felt very good about a question I wanted to ask.



Perhaps because I was feeling all my weird, strange, unusual, mysterious goth girl...perhaps because I've spent far too much time this year reading science fiction, but the question I wanted to ask was one I was fairly sure Nick hand't heard before and the answer to which I was genuinely curious. My goal was to ask something different, unique, but also something that would engage a response that couldn't simply be boiled into a yes/no or rehash something that had been said in different ways before. Since have my work life is around composing open ended questions that require engagement the question construction process was easy enough, it would all be in the execution.

The event was down in Brooklyn at the lovely Synagogue/Theater called the Murmrr. I met my friends outside and after some shenanigans we call get in and all got seated. The stamp on my wrist almost looked like Hebrew script, which worked with the overall effect of the venue. Low, wooden, seats that folded out, cross cut, almost prairie style trellises across the ceiling, thick deep brown stained glass on all sides, a small stage in front, a piano on the stage, a lamp, a chair, microphones. It brought to the event a religious reverence that many in the audience almost certainly embodied as they sat to listen to a god, a man, a ghost, a guru.

There was a piano on stage and I already knew from all the internet groups there would be singing. I took my seat, buzzing with excitement, anticipation. The lights fall, there is nothing but darkness, the sounds over the speakers of a poem filling the space with words, lyrical, soft, interpretation, and as the poem finishes, the lights go up, Nick at a piano and he begins with a song.

From there it is on to the question and answer. The girl who gets the first question is not far away from me, her question, to summarize, is really "Why are we all here, Nick? What is this thing you are doing?" And the answer, without being flip, but in a direct, self effacing way is "I'm not really sure yet."


He thinks through what he wants to say though, this much is clear. It takes him time to work it out, to talk through it. This is so different from a concert gig, so much more intimate. The veil of power and light is stripped away and he is simply a tall, thin, older man who is still trying to figure it out, day by day, whatever the various circumstances might be. The good, the bad, the all to painful to live through.

By chance, by crook, by fortune, I had the second questions. I slipped easily into my public speaking self to quiet the butterflies in my stomach and make it easy to project into the microphone, engage with the audience, and as the question, perhaps silly and without a point (secretly, I hope brilliant and memorable) that I had come to ask:

"So I wish had something sort of meta to ask you but I've been thinking about this for a few days and the question that I wanted to ask is: given that we have a satellite that is probably going to spin out into infinity that has a gold record on it full of music, I was wondering if you had the opportunity to pick a song from your catalog, from your collaborations, something you yourself have written, anything, that might exist in the universe, into infinity, on a satellite that may eventually  be intercepted by other intelligent beings, what would that be?"


To which Nick responded, "I'll play it."

Then he sat at that beautiful piano and into the microphone "For the aliens."

She was a catch,
We were a match
I was the match that would fire up her snatch
There was a catch
I was no match
I was fired from her crutch
Now I sit around and watch
The mermaids sun themselves out on the rocks
They are beyond our touch
I watch and watch
Wave at me
They wave at me
They wave and slip
Back into the sea
All the ones who come
All the ones who go
Down to the water
All the ones who come
All the ones who go
Down to the sea
I believe in God
I believe in mermaids too
I believe in seventy two virgins on a chain (why not, why not)
I believe in the rapture
For I've seen your face
On the floor of the ocean
At the bottom of the ray
I do drive a relentless course
I do husband alertness course
I do mermaid alertness course
Watch them out on the rocks
Wave at me
Wave at me
They wave and slip
Back into the sea
All the ones who come
All the ones who go
Down to the water
All the ones who come
And all the ones who go
Down to the sea
For all the ones who come
And all the ones who go
Down to the water
All the ones who come
And all the ones who go
Down to the sea - Mermaids, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

I was pleased and amused, and even though it was probably an off the cuff answer, there is so much here that makes so much sense. As I unpacked it to Hellion later, "It's a brilliant choice. It contains everything you need to understand the strangeness that is life on earth. From our ridiculous obsession with sex and sexual pleasure, to the small finite amount of time a relationship lives, to God and religion and salvation (two religions in this song at least) and mermaids. All our beliefs in fictional narrative and the power that lies in then taken to the nth degree. And then, of course, the sea, the stones, the rocks, and the time we spend as creatures, idle, waiting, watching, coming and going. It was truly a perfect choice."

Clearly the question resonated as later he would come back to it just after explaining the relationship between Blixa and Anita Lane. Just before laying into the chords he says, "I'd put this one on the space capsule, too."

My questions, of course, were not the only questions he answered. The journey was somewhat circular and some of the questions being asked were questions that had been asked, but there was powerful meaning there for artists and creative types. It struck me and consoled me he talked about not keeping a journal or writing notes about everything. It struck me and consoled me when he said that creativity like his, was a job, like any job. It struck me and consoled me that he still wasn't exactly sure what he was doing.

There were other things.

But, one that stuck out was his thoughts around his art and grief. The question was along the lines of the role that grief plays in the creative process and his answer encapsulated something it is hard to admit but known to many of us that must create: be that through writing or music or other....

Grief has nothing to do with the creative process. It's not the grief. As an artist it is the constant questioning, the anxiety, the depression, the ever impending sense of worthlessness, the internal feedback loop that says you can't do anything of value that builds and builds until suddenly, epiphany. Creative breakthrough. The moment of something new in the time and place that was ready for it.

He said more, and it can be broken down in a hundred different ways, and we will all take with it our own moment of meeting. In the back I ran into SugarSkulls, my lawless partner who helped gate crash the Chicago stage with me a year ago. There were others from the online cults, of course, and those I came with. Our takeaways were each different, the concert our own, the meaning we make of it the meaning we want.

In the end, it was an unusual, intimate and vibrant experience. An artist working to transcend just the body of work, to be more, to be human. Not a god, really, or even a guru, just a father, a husband, a human walking the earth, looking for mermaids in the water and trying to master existence along with the rest of us.


Thursday, May 03, 2018

Travel Heat

It has been a day. The company continues to shoot me around the world.

I date myself: like Tommy playing ping pong, I am blind and deaf and dumb and yet I do it anyway.

Six hours in an airport lounge connecting with a human I want to know is barely enough to mitigate the fracture. I'm pleased with myself for being...something. Worthy?

A friend?

A human?

Other?

I don't know.

Processing is a pretty penny and not all the pennies have dropped.

What I do have is being in Baltimore again. I hate Baltimore.

I don't want to hate Baltimore, but I do. Baltimore, a neglected city. I recall watching The Wire with the boy and needing the subtitles to follow along to the almost Shakespearean qualities of the language (that the series itself becomes entirely Shakespearean is almost secondary).

My taxi driver calls me stupid. I only took a cab from the airport because I didn't want to jump through ride share hurdles at 10 at night when the city is warmer than a sauna.

Forty minutes later I am in an alley.

"This can't be right?!" I say.

"This is the address you gave me."

The driver has an accent. English is not the problem here,  it's the address. Being a respectable man from the region that is most likely Indo-Paki he doesn' want to leave me on the street. Nearby five people sell drugs, three sex, one pimp waits in shadows.

"No Ma'am"

"I want out."

"I'm not leaving you."

"I'll be fine."

I'm being polite to myself here, but I am barely holding it together. I was supposed to fly at 6 a.m. A flight pushed back to 3 p.m. an arrival pushed back til 10 p.m. I am tired. I am cranky. I am exhausted. I am getting out of  a cab surrounded by sex workers (respect sex work, it's a thing). The driver is concerned, but I keep insisting on the bill. I want to be done. I trust these women on the street to help me. Perhaps I am naive.

Perhaps I am that experienced.

"Excuse me, are you looking for -"

I look across the street. While I was trying to find the hotel I had called and while, less helpeful then a Korean hotel, it was clear I was nearby. When I exited the cab the intention was to walk.

"I'll come get you."

And here he was. I get into the hotel and there is a line. I go into a corner to breathe and calm down. There are so many emotions under the surface I am not allowed to express. I want to cry, I want to collapse, I just want some food!

It's been a long day. My own fault.

I refuse to eat the proffered Lean Cuisine and go to the noisy bar up the street. I have to many bourbons.

I feel better.

I am entirely alone.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow will be better. I live for tomorrow to settle the pains of today's long hot night.