The Perverse Ganglia of Human Complication
of my own making, the sum of it
“Today, everything in the landscape seemed in an act of relation, reflected in and reflecting. Shadows of trees dappled the water; the river, refracting sun, played on the tree trunks. The children were part of the pattern too, their eyes were on each other. And what, then, of me? Would there ever be a way to balance [us]?”
How I Became Hettie Jones
Robert Creeley died this year. I didn’t know until just now, eight months later. He wasn’t a friend of mine or anything like that, but it strikes me nonetheless because I’m writing a play in which one of the characters is always mentioning well known people who’ve died earlier in the year, unbeknownst to her. She won’t be mentioning Creeley, but it would be just like her to do so.
Let me be my own fool, a counterpoint, if you will, to Sinatra’s “I did it my way.” Just what the hell any of us are doing is the question.
Earlier this year—August, I guess—I experienced the magic circle, certainly not the first time I’d ever done so, but it was the first time that I attempted to deconstruct the experience whilst in the midst of it, with the explicit purpose of creating a sort of standard operating procedure for future reference. Actually the singular procedure is as follows: leave it alone; or go with the flow; or ride, Sally, ride. They all equivicate.
There is no magic circle for me today, which is somewhat of a positive fortune, I think. No need to repeat that so soon. But there is another kind of geometry at work, and another kind of occult-ish phenomena. Refraction? Refarction? Go ahead, make words up.
Case in point: yesterday I went out on what would prove to be the last date of a short-lived liaison about which I myself was feeling ambivalent but not necessarily so ambivalent as to have closed the door on the situation that very day, particularly as just days earlier I had worked assiduously to extricate myself from a foot-in-mouth situation that threatened the very outcome that I had hoped to avoid—at least until I was certain of my own desired outcome. I was beaten to the punch, not in that I wasn’t the first to deliver the news (though I wasn’t), but in that I wasn’t the first to reach the foregone conclusion (which bums me out a little bit but only in an ego sense: if someone says to you “I’m not interested in you in that way” you wanna be able to say “well, I wasn’t interested in you in that way before you weren’t interested in me in that way” and not have it sound like the sour grapes that it is even if it isn’t. But I blew that and could only cover by offering a refreshment whilst hoping that she would decline because I didn’t really have anything in the house). Does it matter? Not really. That’s the nature of ambivalence after all. But in the awkward closing moments before she walked out the door, she asked, “so what are you gonna do tonight?” I hadn’t thought, let alone felt, that far in advance, having had it all backwards. (See Tsvetayeva: “It’s precisely for feeling that one needs time, and not for thought.”)
Rewind: Just as I was leaving the house for the date, I heard someone call out “Hey!,” and lo and behold, it was a woman I sort of know from around the way. She was getting into her car, and apparently was directing her shout out to another woman who took one vicious look at me and then drove off, kicking up a little dust. "Get in," she said as I sauntered over. She asked where I was headed, and I told her BART. She said she'd drive me, though she seemed peeved. "What's up?" I asked. Her reply: "I just got in a fight with my ex-girlfriend. She thinks I have a thing for you." Have you ever felt steel jaws clamping shut with the whole of you trapped between the metal plates? I had no choice but to chuckle. "Oh, great," I said. "What perfect timing." She turned and glowered at me. But really, how messed up was that to walk into the midst of someone else's angsty moment, completely unaware that you're the false heart of it, and then jump in the car for a ride to your own ill-fated moment?
These are my neighbors for fuck's sake. That minor exchange was the longest conversation we've ever had, and that's the whole of it. It didn't even occur to me to ask if she even does have a thing for me. Who cares? The truth becomes relative in those moments. Had I stuck by the notion that hay is for horses, I might not have even turned in her direction. I would have proceded along to BART on foot. Even if I am a suspected interloper, I could have remained in the dark about it. Filled with an unwittingly blissful ignorance, I might have gotten to the Ferry Building late instead of early. And if I'd have arrived a little late, I wouldn't have been waiting inside the building instead of outside as we'd agreed, and maybe we wouldn't have started off on ever so slightly a wrong foot, although there was nothing else in the course of the day spent together that foretold of the way the day would end. Except that I had my reservations.
Fast-forward: She leaves. I get a call from A., a lovely man who dangles music before me, which I accept, hook, line and sink her. We end up at a very happening, newish little spot in the Tenderloin called El 222 Club, which immediately becomes a placeholder for my unloved, wounded ego. I fall so in love w/ El 222 that I am jealous that it’s not in my neighborhood because it would easily become my home away from home… except that if it were in my neighborhood, it would immediately become overrun with urban hipsters, the lack of thereof being a large part of its appeal.
The hipster factor, at least last night, was like college hipster as opposed to urban hipster. College hipsters bear a subdued sort of intellect that has less to do with age and maturity—they’re actually quite mature, wearing it on their period piece, patch-covered elbows as they do—and more to do with the fact that they’re nerds who know how to live it up. Urban hipsters pander more to whatever movie scene they think they’re reading for. Anyway, I felt right at home in my past… could easily have been an undergrad evening spent at my grad school haven of choice, Ann Arbor’s sadly defunct Del Rio. And that was the beauty of it for me: I could have been in Michigan. For that matter, it could have been Portland. College hipsters transcend place like that. Urban hipsters, like the ones that overrun the Mission every weekend, are definitely a product of place. Poised side by side, New York hipsters have a look quite distinct from LA hipsters, and there’s likely no mistaking Chicago hipsters for San Franciscans.
Anyway, it was a good night. My friend’s roommate is part of a brother-sister act. Calling themselves The Culprits, they have been described as “accomplices in the dark art of black market beats and old timey torch songs.” Madeline, the sister, is a red-haired chanteuse who was clad that evening in a long black dress that upheld her classy jazz singer demeanor. Counter to that, brother Nick spends most of his time bobbing and bouncing like a sprung spring whilst manning the iBook that spits out their self-de-re-constructed beats—say for example, a lo-fi Duke Ellington breakdown that melded with this listener's own beating heart in a manner that whispered Lamb—which is a good thing in my book. When he sings, Nick’s voice reminds me of Arto Lindsay; when he moves, he reminds me of Danny Elfman's words "oingo boingo."
The preceding act Beatheart vs. Warmen Fussi was also ear-catching, with their “live hardware-based ambient tek-house cubase abuse.” I was particularly plussed by the moments that bespoke the influence of old school Detroit Techno. Yes, sonically and spatially it was a night that made me feel right at home in my metaphysical homelessness… except I couldn’t shake the feeling that my friend wanted to be more than friends….
Rewind: Aside from the fact that I’d been scratched off of one dance card only hours earlier, the immediate irony was that such attention would have been welcome oh about a year and a half ago, when I’d had a little crush of my own that seemed totally unconcerned that this friend is a guy. ‘Cause you know I don’t do that anymore. Eh, you snooze, you lose. Maybe that explains things: I slept ‘til 2:30pm on Thanksgiving Day.
Now: I can’t wait to go to Osento in a few hours and sweat away the sins of my foolish ganglia. Waiting to be released in the salt of my pores is a week’s worth of misnomers, misfires, misanthropies, and personal missile crises. I can give you an example of each. I spent my birthday and Thanksgiving with my ex-girlfriend (having turned down other gracious offers to have me) who has so thoroughly excised that part of our relationship that I am convinced that for her, it never even happened. Thus, even labeling her as an “ex-girlfriend” is a misnomer. Revisionism speaks, and when it does, it sayeth we’ve always just been pals. And good pals. I mean, were she to be reading this, I wouldn’t want to offend. It’s just that one of us lugs around the unexpurgated, people’s history version while the other one’s King James is a lot lighter in the binding, if you know what I mean. That said, she’s always been good company, for real, and that’s all that matters in a world that prefers reality television to reality.
For instance she insisted I do something for my birthday and the next day twisted my arm into doing a Thanksgiving, too. I’m not saying that either of these things were important or necessary to me within the isolated context of preordained dates on a calender, but I will say that they were enjoyable interludes for which I am grateful. I know it's a commercial but it's true: you can't put a price tag on memories. Certainly if I had stayed home alone as had been my plan, I would have been fine because I wouldn’t have known what I was missing, but the fact that I actually had a good time, nay a truly very lovely time, was a much grander vision than I had anticipated. Kudos to her.
Anticipation is what drives a misfire, i.e. the “failure of a model to make an official flight when its launch is attempted.” So there was this totally hot chick at Thanksgiving. She sat right next to me, exuding hotness. Then she shanghaied the entire table’s attention, holding court as it were, with what turned out to be a completely nonsensical spewing of nonsense. I think she went on for about 10 minutes, during which time I don’t think anybody knew what she was really going on about, though we all bore polite smiles on our faces in between forkfuls of grub. Occasionally, some one among the 10 or so of us women, would venture to ask a clarifying question that regardless of the words spoken actually translated to “what the hell are you talking about?” but her exasperated answers (“Rebel Without a Cause! I wrote it!) served to confuse us all more. I didn’t get it. And that’s when my friend J whispered to me “go for it.” Go for crazy? Thanks, already been there, with each and every one of you. Psst, there’s your misanthropy.
Which leaves the missile crisis. Enter the one whom, for the sake of this discussion, I shall refer to as The Scud. The Scud and J and I all met on the same night about a year ago. Apparently our tri-mutual friend had meant to set one of us up with her, and apparently J and I didn’t follow instructions, having gone home with each other. (I believe that account holds true in both the People's and in the King James). The Scud, by the way, is … you know … great ... owns her own business, owns her own look—no mistaking her in a crowd…. She cornered me in the kitchen and asked me what I was waiting for. I thought she meant which of the four mouth-watering desserts that lay unmolested on the table. No, silly. I thought it might be easier if I asked what she was waiting for, and she said, "the right woman." Even if she didn’t know it, I knew it wasn’t me. That’s when my stomach started cramping, and I got diarrhea. I think I ate some bad eggs earlier in the day. My many trips to the bathroom made her think I was avoiding her and my destiny as la numera una. It got to a point whereupon I did want to avoid her, but honestly, I was simply having gastro-intestinal issues. During a holiday party. At some else’s house. Oh the humanity.
Had I really answered the question of what I was waiting for I would have gotten into big trouble. I won't say it now either because I don’t know what eyes shall rest here. See there’s enough trouble in my love life or lovelorn(a)ness, defined as a persistant and pervasive lack of not love but something that's missing, for me to be cautious. I’m not trying to make myself seem like a loser. I haven’t run out of self-esteem, though I do, after these little bush forays (ha ha see I haven’t lost my sense of humor yah, these little bush skirmishes, bush runs, bush whackin’ yah all that…) I do run out of steam sometimes, and for one who is steam-driven (fire sign + water sign) that can be a matter of some concern. It’s like when a steam iron runs out of steam and things get fouled up. Turn the heat up and the iron starts melting and burning the cloth; turn it down, and the wrinkles get stubborn and refuse to lie flat.
So I called Shan, the mother of John's three kids and my dearheart, and she spoke a truth to me, the only one who would. "Come home," she said. I sighed, expelling what little store of hot air was left in me at that moment. Oh Christ. It comes to that, doesn’t it. I go back to Detroit and let them fawn all over me and get me all pumped up, and then return to Cali, get back in the ring, and I go down after a few blows to my emptiness.
But wait! All is not lost. For one thing, I have my increasing faith in the occult. Though as a rootin’ tootin’ American, in God I trust, I can’t put any faith in him nor in myself. But hoodoo, now that’s the ticket baby. They don’t call me Black Magic for nothin’. (See now this is when I knew that girl wasn’t right for me. I can’t even casually hang out w/ someone who doesn’t understand that the concept of blackness itself is vastly comedic when its source is someone like me. Even J. gave me a high five for that one. I mean c'mon!) Anyway, there’s a botanica at the end of my block (that’s why I love this neighborhood—Osento, the voodoo store, and overpriced produce all within one block), which is convenient for me since putting my faith in dripless wax figurines seems like less of a stretch than anything else these days. Besides, candle-burning is the most practiced and most simple of the magical arts.
Art, baby. Now we’re gettin’ somewhere. Like the another art that I believe in, astrology. You know what the skies portend this week? First off, New Moon in Sagittarius this Thursday, which means the opportunity for a fresh start every which way one can look. It’s not unlimited though. The waxing phase of the moon is only two weeks later, so there needs be an urgency to get a jump on any of these little projects I spin my wheels on day in and day out. Meanwhile, Mercury will turn direct on Saturday, ending the last retrograde of the year—another harbinger for cosmic relief. So maybe being written off by a singular audience of one girl yesterday was a blessing that I have failed thus far to acknowledge as such, lost as I am, in ungroundedness. Yes. I feel pretty good, actually. Cut the ballast. Move on. These are my true confessions for the moment, though they are subject to change.