My name's Dave. I'm working on it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Bird Gerhl

The old stories talk about gods and goddesses appearing to mortals in animal form, to observe their characters, or test them, or make sport of them.
One day I looked outside my window and saw a robin. Beautiful and delicate and red as a cinnamon candle. I expected her to fly away immediately, but she remained, looking at me, fearless… and I looked at her, and was silent.
The robin kept returning, day after day, and we began to speak to each other. Never with words, only by holding one another’s gaze, for minutes on end. We understood each other perfectly. The little bird would simply look at me and I at her, and she would bathe, and sing, and then fly away. And I let it be what it was, in its simple beauty.
Not long after, the bird stopped coming to my window. Yet that same day I found myself face to face with a beautiful woman with dirty red hair and eyes that contained oceans and violet mittens on her hands. I only had to look at her once to know it was the robin I had befriended. Was she Venus? Minerva? Athena, the gray-eyed goddess of battle? Or some amalgam of the three? I didn’t know. I only knew, in that moment, that I’d love her for the rest of my life, no matter what happened.
We walk together among the trees and along the river, and talk of all things. Of the sickness in the world and the rules of the universe. We lay together and she curls her fingers in mine and I feel like a little boy again. She is a burning thing that threatens to suck me into oblivion when I look into her eyes. She is a siren, singing sweetly as she leads me to the edge of a towering cliff. She is a frightened girl, ever with one foot out the door, one hollow promise floating from her trembling lips.
I stay with her and am terrified. To be so completely taken and certain of my own destruction, certain that she will poison me in my sleep and feel no remorse… yet I feel safer in her arms than a newborn being held by its mother. There is such darkness in her soul, such a desire to torture and twist my fragile body and mind around… it fills me with fear and nausea and yet I cannot but be drawn to her… as if we were opposites, loathing one another and yet needing the other so badly…
I feel as though we are standing on opposite sides of a great plain of battle, I on the side of the angels, she with the demons; the air rank, smelling of sweat and semen, laughter and pain swirling together. We look at each other over this great distance and our eyes ask: can we not come together through all this? Could not our love destroy all these boundaries? Overcome these damning and sacred distinctions? If light and dark were to merge, would it be the end of everything? When the angel and the demon made love in the Preacher Series, they defied all the laws of heaven and earth, and made something wholly new… and they were destroyed for their boldness…
But we live to break down boundaries. We live to defy, and to seek out that love so intense and pure that it threatens to burn our skin away, to leave us bleeding in alleyways, to laugh as we beg for death, for it knows it is sacred beyond all things. We reach for it, and never find it. It is ours, and as soon as we have tasted the blood in our mouths it is gone, leaving us desperate and insane.
I am her slave, and she is mine. I am Severin to her Wanda. She holds me cruelly and loves me like I’ve never known. The world spins; time ceases to exist. And I ask: where is the real madness here? That I once found things like time and boundaries important, or that I am now free from them? Clocks dissolve, and I see clearly.
She is blinding, and beautiful, and I know she will soon be gone. Off to seduce another with her song. I can only let her go.
I love her. I am ten times stronger than I knew I was.
And she is flying, flying, flying away.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Playboys and Broken Pabst Boxes

What a last few days... I hardly know where to start.
I have this article on my computer, written by the lovely Mark Morford, which I have been reading and re-reading. Upon finishing it I am always determined to go straight upstairs and clean out my closet, once and for all. It has been stuffed to burst with clutter since I've lived in this house, and I never touch any of it. Naturally, the few times I've tried to do this, the same thing usually happens: First, I pull out several boxes and spread them over my floor. I open up the first one. It is full of old Playboys. I look in another. There I find old school notebooks and homework assignments and pieces of writing I did when I was 14 and a photograph or two and before I know it I am sitting in my chair amidst the piles of rubbish swimming in a sea of nostalgia and going through each box, amazed at all the things I had forgotten.
Then I realize two hours have past and nothing's been done, but I'm hungry and it's dark outside now and I have to go to work. I stuff the papers back into their boxes (worn, broken down Pabst and Bud Light boxes taken from my days at the G Street Pub) and shove them back into the closet hastily, where they sit until the next time I read the aforementioned column.
This time around, I resolved not to let nostalgia defeat me. I got up early, prepared some Arabian Mocha Sanani in my french press, and put on a recent mix by my fellow mix cd auteur, Ryan. The sounds of Cab Calloway filled the room and I set into it. Determined not to get distracted or sidetracked by whatever I might find in those beaten old boxes...
It was mind-boggling. I opened a box of old vhs tapes and found that I owned a copy of Pump Up the Volume, a movie I've been planning to buy on dvd for a while now. There were splintered Vic Firth drumsticks thrown from a rock show long ago. A large box of what must have been every pair of shoes I've ever owned in my life. Several comics I had drawn back when I attended the Evergreen State College. Memories came flooding out and I was tempted once again to get lost in them...
I did not. I began dragging boxes out to the living room and slapping post-its on them, designating where each would go. My shoes and ungodly tacky old hawaiian t-shirts (what the hell was I thinking?) to the thrift store. My useless, spyware-ridden pc and all its constituent parts to Free Geek. Old copies of The Stranger (a whole box full. Honestly.) to the recycling bins.
This went on till nightfall, and I came damn close to falling into the trap of reading old pieces of writing and looking at postcards from people I could not remember at all... but I kept myself focused and got everything organized and finally put the few things I was actually going to keep (the old Playboys, photographs, some letters) back in the empty closet and slid them to the side. The rest of it lies stacked on the couch in my living room. Tomorrow I will drive them all to their new homes, and come that much closer to living the simple life I so desire... strange how much the state of my closet affects the feeling of my room. Now that it's been stripped to its essentials, the whole place seems to breathe a bit easier.
These were all little parts of me from all the years I've lived, and yet I never touched them. Never called or visited them or asked them to tea. They lie alone, neglected, forgotten.
I don't care about the past so much anymore. Why, then, has it always been so hard to simply let these things go?
It will all be gone. Soon. I still have some big plans for the purging and cleansing of my room and my life, but damned if it ain't a fucking start.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sickness and Sadness

Last night I met with a friend at a coffeeshop. We sat in the dimly lit back room and drank tea and talked. One thing we talked about was what we felt most strongly defined us. For both of us, two primary things came up: our sickness and our sadness. We all have our little sicknesses; things we obsess over or do against all better wisdom. Parts of our nature that will lead us into harm.
As I rode the bus home this morning, watching the rain run along the windows and obscure the signs of the streets crossing East Burnside, I thought back to it. I have many things I consider “sicknesses,” which isn’t to say I don’t like them (in fact, some of my favorites things about myself fall into this category), but they aren’t particularly healthy.
One of these is my compulsion to make mix cds.
It began innocently enough, some years ago, when I made my first mix as a gift to myself and two close friends up in Olympia. We were soon to part ways, and the songs were to remind us of the times we’d shared, enjoyed one another’s company, and so on. Harmless enough. But it continued when I began to document the music I was listening to each month. I’d have a mix for July 2001, then August, and so on. A journal in music, if you will.
There were also (and still are) the mixes that I have made for various women in my life. The intentions have varied, but they always basically revolved around the idea that I was expressing my feelings for them through the music in varying degrees between the subtle and the not-so-subtle. Some boys brings flowers, some write love letters; I make mix cds.
I like doing it; I’m good at it. But I let myself get a bit carried away sometimes.
Midway through High Fidelity, John Cusack briefly states a few rules for making a good mix cd. I have elaborated this question into a full-blown essay, and still constantly obsess over it and revise it in my mind. It’s developed from something innocuous and pure into something almost viral: over the past two years, I have become more and more aware of a part of my brain that scans every song I hear for its potential inclusion on some as-yet-unborn mix. Scanning for theme. Emotional tone. What about a mix about leaving home? About starting over? What about this? What about that? It prevents me from really just listening to whatever it is I’m listening to on its own merits, just for the sake of enjoying it.
This has got to change.
I adopted Ryan’s habit of creating four mix cds a year: one for each of the seasons. Both to help process the change, and to keep from stretching myself too thinly. The winter mix was recently completed and sent out into the world. And now, naturally, that little bug in my mind has begun frantically working on the spring compilation. Here in the dead of winter. Immediately it begins dreaming up new mixes to fill the void until spring comes, or worse, keeps nagging me to get started early on the spring comp. Sometimes it's a conscious process, but always it's going on somewhere outside of my awareness as well.
It's developed a life of its own. I can't stop it.
What I can do is examine it, and hopefully come to terms with it.
I’ve been reading this wonderful book on Zen called Dropping Ashes on the Buddha, basically the collected lectures, teachings, and letters of Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn. I’ve read many books on Buddhism and Taoism and spent a lot of time thinking about them, but this book in particular is really driving home the point that I, despite all my good intentions, am still just as attached to my own desires as anyone else, however noble and cultured I might find them.
I read the book while waiting for the bus and the more I read the more I thought about how far I have still to go. I have been meditating regularly, yes, but I still approach it with that desire-mind, that mind that feels a bit superior for having done it. I don’t let this stop me, because practice is the important thing. I sit, and it’s good. But I know I’m still approaching it from the wrong mindset.
Still, it’s got me thinking about all the things I do, and all the things I think of when I ask myself the bottomless and simple question: what am I?
It comes down to my sickness and my sadness. I’m tremendously attached to both of them. They’re intrinsically tied to my identity. I’d fight tooth and nail to keep from letting them go. And yet as I read the damningly simple words of Seung Sahn, I know that they are, in the end, hindrances as well. Over and over it comes up: This is thinking. This is, as Hamlet said, just words, words, words.
Put it all down.
So where does this leave me? I am not remotely ready to give up all my earthly possessions and let go of my opinions, judgments and beliefs, nor am I willing to cut my hair off or stop making the mixes. They may feed my vanity, but they also help keep me sane.
But I know that I have to find a middle ground, a healthy relationship with my sickness. It comes down to simply being present. I can embrace the tendencies without letting them consume me if I simply stay in the moment and don't over-think it. When I'm looking in the mirror, that is everything; there is only me and my hair and my vanity. When I’m working on the spring mix, the spring mix is the entire world. But the rest of the time I have to really focus on just being where I am, and not drifting off into the land of scanning songs or worrying about what people might think of me. I have to drag myself, kicking and screaming, back to the present. Right now. The only place where the music is playing. The only place I’m really alive.
The sickness and sadness can remain. They’re a part of me.
But everything in its right place.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


I had written about half of a long update when Safari decided to summon the spinning rainbow pinwheel of death and freeze, and it was lost. I am too tired to try and recreate it. It pisses me off when things like this happen (Gmail, I must say, is wonderful in this respect. Auto-save drafts. Rock).
I was going to write all about my thoughts on the new year, and how, despite my constantly professing that it meant nothing to me, I did feel a little thoughtful and a little like reflecting on things and asking what the hell I really believed. And all I could come up with was this:
New Years' is a tool, like anything else. Being the globally sanctioned day of beginning again, turning over a new leaf, etc., it is useful if you need an excuse to do that. But I just cannot emphasize enough: each day is new, and practice and consistency outweigh any one day's actions or decisions or resolutions.
Mark Morford recently wrote a column which captures the essence of what I feel about the whole New Years' thing (I highly recommend reading his blog in general, he is insightful and hilarious and wonderfully wordy).
For my part, I have been extremely productive so far. Ryan and I have recorded three songs, fueled by red wine and candlelight. I am meditating again, and thinking and writing more. These are things I was doing before the new year, and ones I want to keep doing. The resolution, then, is to simply continue. I know where I want to go and what I want to do.
Each day is new. Each day there must be new resolve and new determination. If it helps you to have a special day for it, so be it.
Whatever helps you along your way.
I'll raise a glass to that.

p.s. Here's a song to kick your ass into gear, if you need it.