I love watching the pretty young things. I remember when I was them and how real that all felt. All eyes on ya but you never felt it so you had to let the light flash out in strobes, blinding , stunning, slamming into the wall two inches above every head. All of the nuances of who I really was lost in the explosive need to be seen. If the edges were blurry and undefined, that was unknown and beyond the young lady me. As long as I was seen. And now with the edges set in place and the softness existing within it’s borders, safer and softer still, I get to watch you girls. And I love you for it. Your arching faces, bodies in impossible poses that will go on to give you arthritis and aches in every muscle but you are pretty now and that is all that should and could possibly matter. Truth is, the aches come regardless so go ahead. The pain comes regardless, so go ahead. Reach! It makes every one of our lives better to be near you when you do. Even if it isn’t my direction that you’re reaching for. It reminds me of what I was and how lovely it all had been. It reminds me that being young is mostly brutal, awkward, unrewarding and that you pay diamonds for dog shit day in and day out. But in youth the diamonds rise from the dog shit always, the jewels around our necks flash just enough to hide the dirt. It reminds me that I’ve earned my throne and because of the you that used to be me, I can truly sink in the cushion of my kingdom with no regret or debt owed. What you accrue now in interest you pay for in skin and bone regardless, there is no harm because there is no foul. And in the afternoon of your womanly life there is only gentle strides, no more herky-jerky stabbing of limbs in to the unknown brightness of bleached limelight. And if it’s scary for the pretty young thing, and you all are pretty young things, that is as it should be. It has to be, don’t you see? That is our hero’s journey. Because there is no literal leaving of the den to slaughter or be slaughtered for sake of meat and substance when you are a girl. We are born without stone set grace and spend the time it takes to get there doing what it takes to get there. The young me/you/her makes her way to grace by fighting herself in the dark, seeking the love of others to find the true love of self. A wolf to slay and a pelt to carry home to the village who waits. Every exposed angle of her body bleeding for the effort. And that is why I love watching the pretty young things.
Dear Black People,
I’ve written and re-written this letter many different times in many different ways. Every single iteration falling wildly short of the breadth of what needs to be said. Words fail, time passes with so much left unsaid, good intentions paving the road to hell and this letter stays unwritten. But today is the day Black People. If I miss the mark and this letter falls flat on it’s stupid face, so be it. Another innocent black human life was ended by another police bullet. And if I am bone tired of it, how you must feel is beyond my comprehension. So today has to be the day that I say with every fiber of my body, I am sorry. I know it’s not enough. I know it doesn’t bring anybody back or make your day any safer. I know that living in this greedy, myopic country that has built itself on your backs, on your soulfulness, on your immeasurable contributions, both given and taken, has driven everyone of you to desperation and needless heartbreak. And I am sorry.
Like so many white people, I feel helpless in the face of this insanity. But not nearly as helpless as you feel when a cop hits his lights, I reckon. So please understand that I am well aware of my blindness. A reality that you’ve been dealing with for a hundred years, this sick abuse of whiteness, this fucking disgusting flexing of police muscle, is the greatest embarrassment that this country will ever know. I need you to know that I see this. That I will do everything I can to make sure that everyone around me sees this. I want you to feel safe. You deserve to feel safe. You deserve to feel loved by your land. You deserve to stand tall in your shoes, knowing that this world is better because of your blackness, your humanness. And it is. And I am sorry that you have ever spent a single second in this backwards ass reality.
Yes, I wrote this to say that I am sorry. That I am ashamed of what has been done by the people that share my skin. And yes, I wrote this to tell you that I will keep fighting to make you feel safe, no matter how little I can truly grasp, I will continue to battle those that would see you held down. I know that it is a small comfort, a pathetic little. And though I may be late to the game, I will to play my heart out. I will be your warrior. Even if it’s a drop in a massive bucket. I am your ally.
As much as this is an apology, it is also a letter of appreciation. I need you to know that I see you. I know what you’ve contributed to this world. Your grace under fire, your resilience, your faith, your art, your music, your beauty. These things that you have brought to the table are nothing short of magic and I offer my deepest gratitude. Perhaps someday we will be worthy of it.
A White Person
What is tomorrow? Tomorrow is the day that I was going to call my dad. Tomorrow, a long, bright hallway stretching out in to forever. Tomorrow is the thing that happens after the facts, undone but unfolded no matter how much my feet drag. Eye to eye with the yellow light of tomorrow there is me, a fatherless daughter and there is him, a father still. But what kind of father is he now that it’s a day too late to make a phone call?
The big question is “where does one go when one dies?” Such an obtuse thing to think about, death. The dying part has been documented but death, a mystery. Someone who is dying can communicate still. Bright light, illuminated being in the corner, a beckoning gesture of the hand; carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done, lay your weary head to rest, don’t you cry no more. A walk, long enough for ample reflection, down a bright hallway and then…
I’m trapped in my body. Not figuratively, though the poetry of that tastes good in my mouth, but literally. A knee surgery, no driving, working or anything beyond the most simple of tasks, keeps me tethered to my bedroom. I keep reaching for the reactions that have served me before and they’re not there. Nothing is there but my bed, the window to outside, cream walls and my feet sticking out from under the blanket. So that’s it for me right now. A grown woman who never really had a dad to speak of is now unpacking not having a dad to speak to.
My first instinct is to talk about him, to keep it fresh in my mind. To tell you all of the things, even the things that I don’t remember right now but that come to me as I type this. Like the way that he spritzed his wild hair with water in the morning to get the sleep out of it and how much it looked like a jheri curl. A white dude jheri curl dripping onto the shoulders of his Hawaiian shirt in winter. If I keep writing then I’ll keep remembering and the last moments won’t be the last moments. They’ll just be things done out of sequence. A life can’t be over when there are still stories being told.
A psychic told me today that he is with me. Behind me and to the right. I went to her because I’ve been having dreams that he can’t cross over and it rattled me. He was such a restless human, narcissistic but scared of life. The great comfort of this sudden death was that there was peace for him, its residue settling on those who loved him and wanted more for his life. Until my dreams told me otherwise, I surprisingly felt good. Softly good and quietly good, but good. She told me that he was sorry, they always say that first I guess. We die sorry. Something I know about death now. He wanted to be a better father but didn’t know how, he thought I was better off without him so he left me alone. I told her/him that I wasn’t better off, that I loved him, that I forgave him. That I would always find him in old rock lyrics and in the memories that remain. He asked me if he could stick around to help out for a bit and be the dad now that he wasn’t before, if he could just join the council of spirits that are always with me. She told me that there is no purgatory, that if he stuck around there would be peace for him still. As long as I needed him, he could stay. I said yes. Please stay. I still need you.
So what is tomorrow and what is death? Tomorrow is the day after today, a place for all of the things you haven’t done yet but are destined to do. Tomorrow isn’t a indictment for what has not been done or an escape from what has. It is just a long, bright hallway to somewhere else. And death? That I don’t know. Let me ask my dad.
I was living in downtown Oakland California when Barack Obama won his first presidency. I was sitting at my computer hitting refresh on CNN every few minutes, waiting, waiting, waiting for the inconceivable to happen. Would a black man really sit in the most important of chairs? Would he put his coffee on the most hallowed of desks? Would a black hand hold the pen that had the power change the world with its ink?
I didn’t need to look at the computer screen to know when the results came in. I felt it. The vibration in the air built slowly in to a wild frenzy, the streets filled up with hooting and hollering, the town levitated. I have never in my life experienced the energy of an entire city in a state of joy. It was unbelievable. It was victory for a community that had never won, had never looked at a man of power and seen their own reflection in his determined but weary face. I will never forget what the streets of Oakland gave to me that night. The memory has and will continue to sustain me in times of confusion and loss. It held my head up in November when people voted with hatred and fear not heart, it moves my feet forward when the road ahead is so badly lit and it gives me precious hope today as my country does it’s damnedest to rip itself apart, limb from limb. I have seen how powerful we can be when united over love, I know what we are capable of when our arms are linked and our hearts are sure.
Over the past year I have culled a certain type of person from my life. I unfollowed, unfriended and divorced myself from the people that started showing signs of supporting Trump and those like him. Rather than engage in discourse (however heated) when they posted or said the frightening crap that is now commonplace, I just cut them out. In hindsight this was a terrible mistake. I stood on the tracks and refused to look in the direction of the coming trains, somehow thinking that kind hearted truth would prevail. What I didn’t know was that truth had become so fluid, murky and fleeting, like the smoke from a trash fire.
I was not the only one that allowed the election results take me by surprise. I sat smugly in the echo chamber of my curated life, so sure that ignorance wouldn’t win. And I was wrong. Not just concerning what was about to come but that those who facilitated it were purposely ignorant or nasty. Yes, the loud and hateful few that pushed the alt-right agenda and it’s yucky counterparts are comfortably ignorant, that is a fact. And damn nasty to boot. But the rest of those people did what they did because they could see no other way. Just like the people of 2008 Oakland, the states filled with our disenfranchised, poverty stricken Americans, felt so removed from the shiny prosperity that everyone but them seems to enjoy. Is it really that surprising that a reality tv star would seem so appealing to so many? He speaks their language, plays on their fears, offers that quick, unbelievable fix that so many crave. The demographic that supports Trump is largely poor and undereducated, two things that when put together equal desperation.
It is a twisted and strange thing to me, this elevating of such a crass and obvious liar, but when all the cards are laid out, I understand how it happened. When quicksand is slowly swallowing ones life, it is hard to blame the person who takes a hand from the devil. Choices that are made in desperation tend to be ill informed. Albert Einstein said, “An empty stomach is not a good political adviser.” There are many ways to go hungry in America.
As Trump continues to populate his White House with crooks, morons and oddities, each one more rank than the last, we the people hold our breath. Even his staunch supporters look on with confused expressions, refusing to make eye contact, that cocksure posture beginning to slump. America has become the most watched reality tv show ever, all of us waiting to see who gets voted off the island. We’ve been punked. We’ve been slimed. We are a laughing stock. What on Gods green earth do we do now? The only thing that America has ever had in spades in foolish pride. So let us use it now. Let us take pride in our land, the vast stretching glory of northern America proper. There are immediate battles that can be fought by us here and now. Some have watched and some participated in the stand off against the DAPL. Most recently 500 veterans were called to create a human barrier between police and water protector, 2,000 showed up and within a day the POTUS handed down what I think of as a stay after months of peaceful resistance. Information continues to surface concerning the ETP’s plan on ignoring the ruling but in the mean time, victory. How sad it is that we have to fight so hard to wrest American soil from a such bloody, greedy hands? But we did and we will. Together. Standing Rock is proof positive that united we achieve the impossible. There is power in small groups with pride, however foolish, in our country.
Whether we like it or not, our eyes are open now. We see how our flyover states have been ignored, how we have stopped truly seeing the people around us, the needy, the uneducated. If for some reason you don’t understand how we got here then I suggest taking the time and figuring it out. We owe each other that much. It is our great privilege to be citizens in a country that baked the pursuit of happiness in to our constitution. A part of that right is responsibility to the country as a whole, not just the prosperous parts. And we’ve failed at that. But we are not beyond saving. I look around me and I see the peaceful protests at Standing Rock. I see woman protecting other women from harassment and ribald assault. I see good men doing their part in this battle as well. I see the hard war on black lives coming under the spotlight. And for the first time in so very long, I see people not looking the other way.
It’s not perfect, it still needs so much work but we the people can drop the foolish part and feel the pride alone. The kind of pride that comes from participating, from helping, from understanding and most importantly, from forging unity where there was none. I felt so frustrated, so lost in all of this until I forced myself in to action. There are so many things that we can do when we work together. Be it locally, globally or somewhere in between. We are so powerful when we unite. Let’s take comfort in that. Let’s get to work. Let’s fill the streets with the energy of love and the pride of a people together as one.
Excerpt from my journey to Big Sur.
It’s a story that comes for me and I promise to remember, but don’t. I tend to forget when I most need to remember. Tip of the tongue stuff, it is in there somewhere stuff. Flotsam, jetsam, win some, lose some stuff.
Slow down and try to find the story, but like wind and smoke, grasping at it disseminates the sentences until they are just letters. So I sit here and wait in the space where sometimes words from before come back.
Stranded between wanting to get lost and being lost, one leg on each side. Split simply up the middle. And I can feel it coming, the story that I am trying to remember. Swimming into vision, corner eyed and colored.
Why do the people of the spiritual, mental, whatever improvement world seem so cartoonish to me? I am probably afraid to be like them, I know that I want to be like them. When you are sorting out the parts of yourself there is surely a time of masquerade. Trying on the faces of the bodies that are enlightened and evolved or appear to be. I want to look and sound like them, maybe be them.
And I get distracted from the story again. I take pictures, think about emails and texts and tomorrows list of to-do’s and life’s list of to-do’s. Anything else until there is nothing else to think about but not do.
Here is the now: Pacific Ocean din ceaselessly rhythmatic, a hush sound that builds and crashes, drawing in like a shallow breath and out again, over and over. The damp, a sheen on me a sheen on everything. Fecund earth rotting and growing, dying and rotting. Even the dead bits sprout life. Pine needle earth stamped flat by sandal footed contemplative pacing. The stone bench under by back making it stiff and ache. I shift around for comfort knowing full well that I will still struggle to stand up. So I put it off, the standing up.
I know there is honesty in places like this. Like me it’s part real, part try, part tall tale. I keep thinking that if I keep writing dribble that the story will sneak out of my hands without me noticing and I come to having bled all over the place. Words like a massacre on the paper. But what is there for real are just the ordinary, neighborly, non-criminal words of a girl who knows so little about her own self that she still uses a thesaurus to paint and a dump truck to move a pebble.
That is the story.
All the things, he had them. And it was real, I know it was. It was real because I felt it and still feel it, so long gone. For so many months the only reality that I wanted was forgetting. And since there will never be forgetting there will have to be remembering.
In such a short time everything that happened changed me so completely, in many ways I was weakened but also altered into something new, like a forging in fire. It wasn’t romantic as all that however. It has been made perfect by time and the mystery of the whys and how comes. But it wasn’t romantic. I wanted it to be and so it was. I guess I could have done that with anybody if the moon was just right and the perfect music played. If he had stuck perhaps the love thing would have faded, not perhaps, probably.
That love thing running like a horse away from the stable into the field, feeling freedom and the dust churned up by pounding hoofs. And somehow I still need to remember, despite the hard stop, despite the wickedness of it all.
If I stand in the face of it and make it look at me while I look at it, maybe the pull will soften and I can imagine myself giving in to some one new. Maybe but maybe not. Memories like a stampede and time like the slowest clouds moving in the hottest sky. Fuck it.
*All images are via tumblr, not mine, if you see an image that belongs to you please contact me and I will site you or remove it.
Allow me to preface this with a stone-set truth; we will all die at some point. Very few people get to choose how they go and those that get that choice usually make it based on three factors, pain, fear or hopelessness. So the rest of us do not know when we will go. We do not want to go. We choose life, that is why we do our best to live it. There are a million ways out of this mortal coil, today I address just one. The highwire. If you can go your entire life without losing someone to adventure then good for you, one less heartbreak. And if that bullet is dodged you still won’t be exempt from loss. The book of death, with the names of beloved kin inked on it’s pages, will read like latin, indecipherable and mercilessly difficult. That is what it means to be human, life, death and the stuff in the middle, the bulk of which we never fully understand. However “natural” an end may seem, I promise, it will be no easier to navigate. The chatter around the deaths in the ‘extreme’ sport world shows that somehow folks feel dying one way makes more sense than another. That ideology implies that death is preventable by living some sort of prescribed safe life, which is foolish. That method will do nothing to rewrite the ending. In truth it may only ensure that the hero of the story spends it begging for a new draft when there is only the rough first cut, no do-overs, no take-backsies. Which brings it all back to the final truth; the end is coming for all of us and those last moments aren’t the story, the life in the middle is the story.
It is impossible to perfectly navigate the loss of a human, there are no right or wrong ways, none of it makes sense on paper. And why should it? I won’t ever know what it is like for those that have left us, that is only for them to understand. I can, if need be, address what it is like for those left behind because I have been, many times. But you don’t need that. It is no mystery how American society deals with being left behind by our loved ones. We legislate, we go to war, we ban, we gird, we wail, we punish. Our culture belabors the act of publicly grieving (and it’s many “stages”) far more than the unsensational act of appreciating the life and it’s impermanence. All are quite familiar with what grief looks and sounds like, few can truly see that on the other side is gratitude and acceptance.
What I suggest now, today while I still breath, is wouldn’t we all would hope to see family and friends go full tilt sucking the marrow out the bone called life? Loving their life like barn on fire? I would rather watch my lover stretch his wings into the great wide empty than see him wear a hole in the couch. That is the great mind fuck of life, longevity does not equal quality. Nor does a premature ending mean greatness. Our belief system asks faith of us but refuses to accept when we give ourselves to the idea of a bigger, unknown picture. It will never make sense to some why a person would put themselves in perceived danger and call it fun. Or that a person would spend their life hunting down the highwire and the abyss is runs along. But here’s the thing; that is none of your business. That is their life, their dragon to slay, their story to tell. I am speaking to those spectators that belch unquantified opinions into the ether without ever taking the time to pursue their own mythical creatures in their own unwritten story first. You don’t need to understand why. What you need to be asking yourself is why not. Why not live without fear of dying? Why not show your children that boundaries are meant to be stretched, tested, redefined? Why not feel the wind in your hair? Why the hell not? Not everyone needs to put on a squirrel suit or summit Meru to do this but wouldn’t we all be better served by a life lived with adventure as the theme? That can mean many things, not all of which are physical. The mental adventure is just as rewarding. And fear will be a part of that but we have to push through it into the glory of truly living. Because the alternative is a boring story to read let alone inhabit. We don’t go in to this wanting to die or being careless about our bodies, it is the holy grail we seek, a happy life that gives us satisfaction and a good night of sleep. If I can live to be eighty with the heart and soul I have now, I will be the hero in my story. If I die to tomorrow I will be a hero still. As for the rest of it, I have no idea what any of it means. What I do know for sure is that if I die doing what excites me please don’t suggest that it was too soon or pointless. It wasn’t. If my death is pointless then so was my life.
Do not salt the wounds of those navigating what it means to be left behind by implying that there was any other way. Go live your life like it matters. It does.
At the base of what looked like a blue run on the Tetons but what is the second highest mountain in Bali there sits a cluster of temples. It is a tourist attraction and I know that because of the passenger vans that released a bevy of snow white confused german people into the forrest. Bali seems to know when I am just about to break from the soupy heat. It sent us a booming deluge that pushed everyone under awnings. But it felt so good..it seemed like a purification. God knows I could use one of those…We didn’t even make it past the first set of alters before a solid three inches of water covered everything. You shouldn’t read in to every thing that happens, most of it just happens and that’s it, that’s all. Yet in this merciless rain I saw how everything is a temple, even a semi dry spot by a garbage can in a courtyard littered with incense sticks and rice. In that rain I could feel the gods guiding me to some strange truth.
In western faith the faces of God and the holies around him are always placid and peaceful. Here they are mischievous, revengeful, indifferent. They need an offering every single day. Much like life. Whether you want to be reverent or not, there is little room to avoid the temples and the gods that guard them. Temples and metaphors, forever and ever.
When I took off on this trip I made a promise to myself that I would put myself in the face of fear. All of the little things that stop me from experiencing life, I want to confront and squash them. Turns out that scootering is one of those fears. All I can imagine is road rash and head ons. Three days of scootering and I am a fucking fiend! Don’t be surprised if you see me on a Scoopy rip tearing through Jackson Hole. Anyhow I, as per usual, digress. On an evening scooter with thunder clouds putting a rush on things we dipped in the Echo Beach parking lot to see the end of a cremation ceremony. It’s not morbid as all of that, this was the part where they call the soul back home with music. And then the rain came. Hard and sudden. Following the procession of cars and scooters, music playing the entire time…cymbals and flutes, drums, we laughed and smiled. And they laughed and smiled with us, maybe at us, but either way, moral was high. I do believe that we called that soul all the way home.
Every day I feel another layer peeled away, on me and on this place. There is so much here. And the food…jesus christ the food. More on that next time.
*All Images are property of Mustang Josi. That’s me.
An island of incense and quiet people. A loud city with quiet people. There is so much heat and wet, I am sweaty sunburnt and mosquito bite rich. We went to the beach today for some tourist time and I see that burning man cool is king here still. If not cool then sunburnt sweaty and fanny pack rich. There is little in between.
In tropical heat you cannot move fast unless you are on a motor bike and there is wind in your hair. The moment you slow down every thing closes in and you must stay in a second gear kind of speed and accept the blanket of warmth that adds pounds to your step. But there is so much beauty when you slow down. The kind that they try to emulate for the tourists in places that don’t have such a natural love of color and life. The thickly aromated flowers that creep up through ruins and never finished surf shacks. Vegetation that will not be stopped by any blade, only slowed. Colors softened by rain and sun. It is perfect. I love the kind of place where a dirt road empties out into a post card beach and every one is moving with leisure.
The Hindu religion permeates everything on this island. Offerings of food, incense and flower petals sit on/in just about every stoop and cranny. I have always loved belief systems that gravitate around Gods that act on feelings, Gods that can be truly angered. And by that token, truly appeased. When we arrived after many hours of travel and tumult, we found the alter that was is the far corner of the property and knelt at it. This gorgeous place and the kind people in it needed to be recognized. And so in our own way we gave an offering of our thank yous and promises to enjoy every moment that we have on this tranquil and exciting island.
Like everywhere I go I fall in love with everything. I imagine myself abandoning my life and giving in to this one. I could do that too, I could live here and be completely happy.
Stay tuned for more on this trip. Pictures in the next entry I promise.
I’ve been dreaming of you
And the taste of your love, so sweet
Honest, it’s true
And the dark, heavy rain
Where the gravedigger’s song is sung
You’ve been torturing me
Tout est blanc
Je t’aime, mon amour
Comme j’aime la nuit
Is the crow flying eight miles high
Over wire and wood?
With a head heavy pain
The magnolia blooms so sweet
And it fades just the same
To the sea
To the wheels, my love
‘Til they roll all over me
With razor white teeth, so sharp
Honest, it’s true
And the dark heavy rain
The magnolia blooms so sweet
Only torturing me
To the sea
To the wheels, my love
‘Til they roll all over me