It's been a sort of drudging couple of weeks with Rama hard at work on his rental, but I reckon it's good to stay put and do-the-do from time to time. While R's had his honker trained to the grindstone I've been steadily check-marking my own illimitable lists--I've always been terrible about staying on top of tedious practicalities, but I seem to be becoming better about it, growing up minorly despite myself. I think I've finally bored of the old "struggle of will" "devil on my shoulder" shit, and I'd rather not wait and let procrastination inflate a piddling task into a looming ballooning thing, when I can instead just get 'er done and be done.
In addition to that junk I've been running lots. It's been a daily gamble with the ongoing storminess, but so far I've been fortunate with my timing--I've gone on a couple where it started pouring the litchruhll minute I finished. The runs have helped assuage my restlessness for sure (though less so the cabin fever of being so unrelentingly citified), and I have that nice animal satisfaction coursing through my cuerpo much of the time.
I've also been doing an acceptable amount of reading, at least compared to my dullardishness of late. Our (wonderful) new roomie Ally owns the fourth Elena Ferrante book--!que suerte! I read it in the span of a couple days, which I don't super recommend. As Ally observed seeing my quick progress, "Wow, you must be in a really weird mood." Yup. I appreciate the slipperiness of those books; there's something about the detached narrative style where you never sit totally comfortably into the story. Their ongoing theme is entropy: Ferrante constructs a plot point only to take it apart again. I guess it's sort of like life itself in the complete absence of absolutes or clarity or constants. But beyond that there's a dark presence in the books, a shadowy lurking like Plath's owl in the elm; I feel its "soft, feathery turnings, its malignity."
Speaking of Plath I've begun reading my college senior honors thesis--something I've felt unable to cast an eye over since I smashed it out the insane spring of 2008. The idea of ever looking at the thing again felt unbearable, and if that sounds crazy that's because it was. I had such a gnarled, snarled, shredding knot in me about any and every creative thing, and I feel it's come undone now like a frictionless ribbon. Not that I'm suddenly an artistic genius, but I don't feel the need to flagellate myself over it all any more. I don't feel like something I make has the power to reduce me to piece-of-shit status if it isn't good (whatever "good" is). Nowadays I just enjoy the heady malleability of making, and after feel capable of casting over an un-squirming editorial eye. Therapy, people. It works--if you find the right fit and put in the time.
I'd titled my thesis "Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, and Madness: the Religion of One," and I'm still in the Dickinson half. It's fine so far; some sections are very, "Whoa there--take another bong hit Molly." (I don't like pot--if I was high on anything it was my own cray.) What's been most compelling for me is seeing how I was feeling and what I was thinking about how I felt; I mohss def used lit-crit as a way to process what was happening in my own life, and I was at that fraught juncture in a particularly jagged and seeking head-state. It's also been fun re-visiting my respectably rigorous analyses of some tricky poems.
Poetry is all about compression, which is why it's gratifying to concentrate in on a poem. I think a good poem can bottle a Universal Human Experience. Possibly that notion's coming out of my own deep desire that we all be linked, but I think art sometimes lets you feel what its creator was feeling, allows you to inhabit the same bubble in which a thing was made. Some of my profoundest senses of connection have been through art (well, through words and music); maybe I'm an "alone in my room, I feel such a warmth for the community" weirdo, but I'm far from the shy and wary ivory tower hesitant I once was. I do still think a tapped-in creative offering's one of the clearest ways to communicate truth between people.
Poems (depending on their style) are structures, diamonds, puzzles, chants, impressionistic maps, but they're almost always specifically made, where zeroing in on a particular word can send you down wonderfully weird rich English language wormholes. I'm not saying poetry's always written in the most conscious and calculating part of the brain--right word choices oftentimes I think swim up from the depths of the mind with their long and powerful etymological tails of meaning to present themselves for the page.
Hedonistic reader that I am I've felt content with many song-like poems to sit back and bask in the sound and energy of the language without getting too surgical in my understanding of it. I think this is a completely valid way to enjoy poetry, and in my experience whenever I do get down to biz analyzing one of these long-loved poems I am richly rewarded by their intricacy and depth.
I don't completely love Dickinson or Plath, but I've always been intrigued by the swathing mythology of their lives, and even after years of reading them I felt evaded by them both, which is what I think ultimately compelled me to write about them. Dickinson is so wonderfully cagey and stubborn and pointed; reading her is the pure pleasure of peeking into a bizarre and brilliant mind. One of her her best-known lines--"hope is a thing with feathers"--is a succinct exemplification of her strange originality. Here's another little stanza I've always loved:
So We must meet apart –
You there – I – here –
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are – and Prayer –
And that White Sustenance –
I'm not too re-immersed in Dickinson yet, but when I was reading her in-depth it changed my dreaming--every night I was weird, free, arch, and fluttering.
As for Plath, she was oftentimes not a very good poet; Ariel contains some very good poems. I'm a fan, of course, of the famed prophet-voiced (take that modernists) "Lady Lazarus" and "Daddy," but some of my faves of her poems are the small, evasive ones I still don't get, but contain lodging lines. Because I'm a tyrant on my own blog, and anyway this isn't a cheerocracy, I'm going to put up a few Path lines that also comprise my mind's running white noise.
Clouds pass and disperse./ Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrievables?/ Is it for such I agitate my heart? ("Elm")
In a pit of rock/ The sea sucks obsessively/ One hollow the whole sea's pivot ("Contusion")
A disturbance in mirrors,/ The sea shattering its grey one ("The Couriers")
Water striving/ To re-establish its mirror/ Over the rock ("Words")
The heart shuts,/ The sea slides back,/ The mirrors are sheeted. ("Contusion")
They threaten/ To let me through to a heaven/ Starless and fatherless, a dark water. ("Sheep in Fog")
While/ From the bottom of the pool, fixed stars/ Govern a life. ("Words")
I didn't realize until I started leafing through my book and typing them out that they're actually repetitive images echoing through different poems. It's funny too when I think back on some of my other favorite lines they're all red and fiery, as opposed the the grey wateriness of these. Here's one line that's neither, but I think about it whenever I'm in wet grass:
O love, O celibate./ Nobody but me/ Walks the waist-high wet.
Isolated in these fine, fine days. I've picked up Plath's Diaries again too--the state of my copy warrants a picture.
I got the book in high school because I was obsessed with the idea of reading journals thanks to "I Capture the Castle" as well as this 1950s girl's diary my mom had bought at antique store that Teri and I pored over endlessly (the girl was unfortunately so beyond dull--she was always going to parties with UCLA boys, each and every one of them the world's "swellest" guy). Anyway, I've paged through the The Diaries many times over the years, and aside from the gossip, the scandalous accounts, and the dark portents, the bits of the text that have always jumped out are Plath's deeply pleasing descriptions of being preeningly groomed, of feeling exercised, and of good meals (of which, fifties-housewife-style, she is almost invariably the creator). I think she had a hard time not being buffeted by the unrelenting hurricane in her brain, and the bodily, when she was able to savor it, steadied and fulfilled her as much as anything. Sometimes I feel the same. I'm not tormented by black thoughts, but I do tend to very much in my head. At least a lot of my energy goes toward thinking and I'm sure over-thinking (and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied oe'er with the pale cast of thought). My ex-bf was super into energy work, meditation, microcosmic orbit, chakras, et. al, and from when we first met he was always admonishing me I needed to be more in my body. There are a couple pictures Maddy's and my friend Courtney had taken of us, and in them as a result of the light there's a kind of circle floating above my head.
Though it smacks of hippie mumbo jumbo my ex thought they were accurate portraits of my energy body. And I did feel like a balloon on a string for a lot of years, but I don't think I feel so floaty anymore. I am more corporeal now, and I wholeheartedly share Plath's satisfactions in clothing and cleanliness, athleticism, and good chow. Post tomboyish wild-childhood I've been pretty invariably well-groomed; I'm not a diva about it, and can deal with being "camping clean" for a couple days, but I get downright irritable if I go too long un-showered. Plath's journals contain some very detailed and enjoyable outfit descriptions ("black linen skirt, white jersey, red and polka-dotted scarf to be bright and wifely for Alicante"), and I know mine do too, if I ever cared to re-visit them. Making outfits is a way of expressing and constructing self, or a version of self, and it's long been a fun way to get centered and "be in my body."
Exercise also makes bodily habitation a thing of pleasure. The last few years especially I've been spoiled for cardio and become very out of sorts and skin-crawly if I don't as Rama says "get my cwayzies out" with a run (he and Poundo also have lots of cwayzies; their antidote's the ocean). I like hiking and all (which Rama and Poundy prefer), but that doesn't usually work me the same way, and I'll find myself craving a little more to feel "peace on my body, when tired and beaten," so that I may "sleep in peace when day is done; you know what I mean." I suppose I do have a better balance in that way now; I'm less frequently mentally mired in spinning ether.
As for food, I've always enjoyed good eats, but I don't really like to cook. If I'm fixing sustenance for myself I stick mostly with eggs, sandwiches, and quesadillas. Lucky for me I've always been surrounded by talented chefs--my mom, Madz, my ex, and Rama are all skilled and gifted in la cocina. I'm getting a bit better about helping Rama prep, but I still don't have a lot of confidence. Last week (because as I said I've been quite bored), I got a bee in my bonnet to Make a Meal. I cooked a veggie pot pie and a vegetarian gluten-free shepherd's pie; neither turned out catastrophically (despite the fact that my cook-sesh facetime with Eisen devolved, as it ever were, into dronkenesse), but I haven't had much of an appetite for either dish. Same thing the other night--I made for myself a variation of the "bomb" or "labor-intensive salad," and though I know I should tupperware some for work tonight, the idea brings me no joy. Why is it invariably yummier when someone else makes it?
Besides my culinary "adventures" I had another recent, infinitely more exciting interruption of the tedium. I'd passed a few days hanging with Rama in Petaluma; he worked on his place and I did computer-y stuff and read. On Wednesday morning we were prepping to head back to the East Bay for my work shift. I was checking out the Instagram of the woman who is Joanna Newsom's friend and main photog, and saw she had posted a picture of a dollar bill Drag City (Joanna's label) had sent her. With pen they'd doctored George's face to look like Jo, and on the post Annabel Mehran (the photographer) had @dragcityrecords-ed them. I hadn't known Drag City had an Instagram, clicked through, scrolled down a bit, and saw a picture of Bill Callahan. I clicked and was super crushed to see it was announcing a concert I assumed I had missed, then realized it was in fact happening That Very Night at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma. I was as I mentioned scheduled to work, and sent Erica a frenzied text asking if she could cover. She had the GRE that afternoon, but angelically offered to come in after at six. Frothing, I texted Brick to ask if I could do the opening side-work, leave, and have Erica take over after an hour of hostlessness, and he replied he'd simply himself cover the shift. I cannot describe my mania of joy--I was running around the house whooping and leaping and and fist pumping, and, in an unfortunate combination of the latter two actions, actually punched an arched part of the ceiling so hard I got a blood blister on my knuckle. Very shoal, but totally worth it.
This was the second time I totally serendipitously found out about a Bill concert the day-of. The other time was many years back. I was furious at my ex-bf; as I recall he was going to remain another couple days after his group left their Nevada City retreat house with just one other woman from his practice. I don't know if I was jealous or what, but I'm sure I was being kind of nuts. Anyway, thinking, fuck you I'm going to go see some music tonight, I opened up the East Bay Express and lo, Bill was playing that evening in the city. I went with Teri, who was going through a break-up and found the music tragically sad (it was Bill's Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle Tour, so yeah.) I love that kismet shit.
I had brought with me in my 'Luma duffel bag one perverse outfit, a whimsical white cotton brightly-flowered Laura Ashley dress I inherited from my ma (she actually wore it to Karl and Aliki's Kauai wedding).
Its frivolousness made it the perfect choice for this exuberant surprise outing, though when we got there just past nightfall men and women alike were dressed like lumberjacks in winter. I'm pretty sure I went to Gundlach Bundschu once before back in the Bistro days, but I'm not certain. That main part of the winery was pitch dark--from the parking lot we walked a dirt road to the large barn they convert for concerts. The "doors" opened minutes after our arrival, and over a barrel Rama and I imbibed a bottle of their Gewürztraminer (there was No Beer) which was as Liz would say "deese," and we got to keep the glasses. We dinned on Indian "tacos" and a rice bowl from the food truck serving the event--we devoured our rations like starved gulls, and then Rama braved the line for a second round of chow (the truck guys were stoked at all the raked-in dough). We'd been among the first people to arrive, but in the rush for spots I'd focused on snagging us a barrel in the bar area for dining purposes. And so we didn't get one of the coveted along-the-wall bench spots, nor had we known to bring a blanket. At least for this show people hunkered down on blankets in front of the stage and remained there seated throughout the show. (I most definitely took notes for next time.) We passed the opening act (Rebecca's friend!) at our a-ways-back barrel, and when it was Bill-time Rama pulled one of his signature moves and positioned us in front of one the posts by the "sound booth"/table, so he could lean on the column and I could lean on him. It worked. Funnily the deejay playing records before, between, and after the live acts was in fact Andy Cabic of Vetiver. We always joke that Vetiver is R's fave band because he saw them so many times last year (one more time than I did because I couldn't get off work for one of the shows): at The Independent in SF, the UCB Botannical Garden Redwood Grove (this is the one I couldn't get covered, so he brought his ma and Dave instead, and then they dinned at Flora), The Chapel in SF, Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, The Sweetwater in Mill Valley, and the very next night The Starline in Oakland (with Liz, Stacy, and Maysam who was in town--funtimes).
The Bill show was so ridiculously good. I feel Bill becomes steadily more generous as a performer; before Gun Bun my favorite show of his had been at the Great American Music Hall in November 2013--he did a version of One Fine Morning that had me levitating. (This one is in the same vein.) This Gundlach Bundschu show was particularly remarkable because it was a solo show, just Bill and his geetar. How sweet it was, and there was very little chaff in the mix. Pretty much everything he played I wanted to hear (which isn't to say he played everything I wanted to hear, if that makes sense): "Dress Sexy," a wonderfully spare yet well-milked "One Fine Morning," "Jim Cain," "Drover," "America," "Say Valley Maker," "Rococo Zephyr," "Rock Bottom Riser," "I'm New Here," and "Running the Loping" (I don't remember the order). He didn't play too much off his last album which worked for me (not a massive fan of it); he did perform "Spring," which is prob my favorite off Dream River, though the "all I want to do is make love to you" bit totally yucks me (it's like how the word "lover" really bums Liz Lemon out unless it comes between the words "meat" and "pizza"). What was great though was in this performance it appeared Bill was well-aware of the ick-ness of the line, and in his epically butthole-ish way rubbed the audience's collective nose in it: "all I want to do is make sweet, sweet, sweeeeet, sweeeeeet, SWEEEET love to you." And his shitty little cowboy riff in "America" was all the better solo. It was just such an remarkably awesome show, and at the eventual encore we were able to get right up close since it took so long for him to come back to the stage people had already begun to depart. He's fine as ever--just sayin'. And (though it mildly ticks Rama off when I talk about it) I think it's pretty rich that he ended up marrying his biggest fangirl--just saying...
Annnnyway, great concert. I'm super effing looking forward to upcoming Jo shows at The Fox and, splurgingly, at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. Robin Pecknold's her opener for both--he opened for her at The Fox in 2010, and they had his sound way too fucking loud. Dude's got pipes, and it was just ear-splitting the way they'd set him up. I hope it's a little more dialed down this time around.
We've also got some camp plans in the works preceding that Big Sur concert. Rama's birthday (The Big Four Oh) is Saturday April 2nd, so we reserved a couple sites up North 4/1-4/3 in the hopes that peeps can come celebrate, and then Monday we'll head down for three nights of camping in Big Sur, with the Joanna concert that final night. It's coming up quick.
I've written this bloggity over the course of a week or so, and I feel more appreciative of this lull than I did at the beginning of the entry. It's all going to speed up again, which I do love, but it's pleasant having a thoroughly clean house and not a lot of overhanging biz. So I find myself reaching some of the same resolutions: to enjoy the present, to cultivate balance, and to stay grateful. (I've missed Rama so much the days and nights he hasn't been around, and though I've been all edgy and tiff-picky and probably not the most delightful version of myself, I do always feel so very thankful I met him and he's in my life.)
Anyway, here's to the spring.