aspiciat

a girl in her city, watching the sunset

Archive for the month “August, 2015”

Get up and Fucking Fight.

One day in Autumn of 1995, I heard a song on the car radio.

I sat in the car my first ex-husband’s parents had given us (in his name) upon our wedding; in a parking lot at Orange Coast College, facing Fairview Rd., (I think); late afternoon, I was early for a class in Russian history, listening (as I do) to the classical station.

Back then, there was an afternoon feature by the drive-home host, a song with some intersection of classical and contemporary music.  I think it was on this tiny feature I heard Zap Mama the first time, and it might have been near or next to  the second broadcast of Garrison Keillor poetry moment.

The reason KUSC played the particular track (by a singer-songwriter called David Wilcox) was the plucked Bach Air (in G) at the end of the sung lyric.  

I wrote the last sentence wholly trusting everybody has heard of J.S. Bach.  If you haven’t heard of Bach, I’m very sorry.  (FYI: math isn’t really difficult.)

Anyway, this is the Wilcox lyric.  It is not extensive.
It is immense.

If I had a spell of magic
I would make this enchantment for you
A burgundy heart-shaped medallion
With a window that you could look through
So that when all the mirrors are angry
With your faults and all you must do
You could peek through that heart-shaped medallion
And see you from my point of view

I do not consistently see myself through anything like this burgundy heart-shaped medallion, though I suspect it’s more honest than all this noise in my grumpy, hungry, crowded head.  

Sometimes, when giving advice, I assure whomever’s at the other end: I am telling you this to tell myself.

In all the advice I offer (to myself), I come back to desire, I return to pleasure.  A thing I say to newly coupled up or cohab sorts:  “The most successfully married people I know fuck daily.”

Even this is advice to myself, though I’m devoutly single.

I think about these lines a lot:

 …when all the mirrors are angry
With your faults and all you must do

Me, in a mirror:

weird pouch belly/stretched out thighs/stupid boxy hands/all that is wrong in my forehead/embarrassing posture/ridiculously clenched jaw I never look like myself in photos. I’ve lost the thread of minimalism I don’t know what I want any more Do I care about anything, at all? I keep forgetting things in the budget why aren’t I working overtime right now I haven’t seen my uncle in two weeks I haven’t posted a month of letters.
Nothing is comfortable because     I deserve no comfort.

I’m caught in my curls.  Or must excuse their lack.
I beg pardon when people reject that my hair isn’t grey and I’m 40 years old.
I dither about what to wear to walk to the market.  “Will that skirt and this t-shirt with those boots adequately convey the truth of my being to complete strangers?!”

Fuck all of that.

One doesn’t look into mirrors to see other people.  Nobody else is telling me these things.
I didn’t plant my feet on the ocean floor to maintain pretense.
I didn’t stay alive to beg pardons.
I didn’t name myself to offer excuses.

Listen (she says to herself), here’s the reality:  your wingspan is the prime meridian.  It is not a fucking farce.  It has precisely nothing to do with anybody elseyour own sweetest hausfrau, your own most apt project manager, your own most generous sugardaddy, and, your own best girl.

Curls, bones, skin, blood, salt and all.  

Goddamnit, Sanger.  Get up and fucking fight.

Take me to bed and fuck me into that doubtless gaze.  Fuck me so good that I walk funny.  

(Here’s a link to the song if you want to listen (it’s not really a video)).

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An Open Letter To Internet Radio Algorithms

Dear internet radio algorithms.

The way you do classical makes me want to puke into f-holes.
This is a phrase I started using in 3rd grade.  I was in 3rd grade 32 years ago.

As far back as I remember music, I remember classical music.  My parents weren’t terribly into classical. My mother loves Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but she couldn’t tell you Spring from Autumn, though she’ll happily admit that she’s not really interested in knowing music.  

My grandparents, on the other hand, were well-versed in classical.  And jazz.  And some pop, though not very much.  A lot of Dixieland, Big Band, Swing.  And classical.  Once upon a time, my grandmother was a concert pianist and my grandfather had his own dance band.  He could play any wind instrument.

I fell in love with cello when I was in first grade.  At the beautifully weird elementary school my brother and I attended, that’s was the first year you could enroll in music.  But only for stringed instruments, winds had to wait until third grade.  (When he could, my brother opted for oboe.  What a weirdo.)

The ensemble introducing  stringed instruments declared cellists had an easier time learning if their left-hand pinky went past the top knuckle of the ring finger.  I didn’t care that my fingers weren’t ideal.  I would make it work.  I showed off my hands could stretch! I had done a year of piano lessons and could bridge an octave from thumb-to-pinky.  By the way, I didn’t like piano lessons.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter too much whether my hands were ideal or not; most 1st and 2nd graders at all interested in strings wanted a violin.  I got to learn cello!

So, my intellectual interaction with classical music began more than thirty years ago.  Long before I began studying cello (it got to be “studying” kind of serious, private lessons on weekends in Chicago, not just ensemble classes in the afternoons at school), I knew (at the very least) the melodies of the biggies like Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Bach’s 3rd Brandenburg, etc..

The first young persons’ orchestra with which I played had a rehearsal conductor that I precociously found lacking.  With every ounce of the earnest melodrama a 9-year-old might impart, I bemoaned  to my all-knowing grandfather, “he is like a bear! Both hands do the same thing! Every five measures, he’s another beat too slow.”  

My grandfather did not likely pat my head and ignore me.  It is very likely that he knew I wasn’t fucking around.  My grandfather, my kindred spirit, was my first conductor. I learned how to follow a baton from his own deft, long hands.

For my first (very big) performance, the program concluded with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, conducted not by the no-rhythm bear who had rehearsed us, but by a fiery, brilliant woman.  She smiled, she fairly danced, she was perfectly fucking joyful.  I had my music memorized, so I didn’t — I couldn’t take my eyes off her, her face, her hands, her baton.  I trusted her immediately, fully.

I have no idea what her name was.  When the fireworks went at the end of the piece (timpani?  blanks shot into barrels?)  I wasn’t startled.  My cello and I were the same, together with the others to make an amazing sound, all part of this glorious moment.  There was nothing shocking at all about it.  

I’m long past playing cello now, though I’m pretty good at appreciation.  And, for an abjectly armchair, fully un-credentialed critic, I’m OK saying that I do or do not enjoy a performance.  

I took myself last year to a performance of the Emperor Concerto that I hated from the beginning (because of the conductor (not the pianist or orchestra, both of which I would have liked if they didn’t seem so much like they’d rather not be there, dragged about the piece)).  At lunch with colleagues the following Tuesday, I said (with no hope of anyone knowing what I meant), “It was fucking awful.  I wanted it to end so badly I clapped between movements.”  One of my colleagues coughed like he was choking on his noodle soup.  I almost yelped. “You understand?!” We saw each other, his metal-water-green-copper eyes met my own mismatched green/gold.  He nodded.

For the uninitiated in philharmonic etiquette: wait to applaud until the whole thing is done. This is signaled to the audience when the conductor lowers her or his arms all the way.

Take this comparison: there are many theatre companies that might perform Hamlet or Midsummer Night’s Dream.  One company does not produce the same show as another.  I don’t overmuch love the Emperor, but it was on a program with other pieces I VERY MUCH love, so I took it in, with the unstudied expectation it would be OK enough.  I didn’t stay for Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky), which is really one of my favorites ever.

I wrote most of all of that to say to anyone with any idea about algorithms: just because it’s classical music does not mean it is calming.  Bach is generally cheerful and mostly groovy, (I’ve got theories.  I won’t discuss here).   For reals, google. It appears as though you’re trying to sink the entire “lowercase c classical” genre simply because there’s no copyright by which you might get with profit. None of the classical mediation radio! is good for what it says it is.   It is Romance; the Baroque pieces are buoyant and there are too many terpsichorean glories, whether vast or tiny, to be considered “soothing.”  Personally, I don’t find nearly anything “soothing” written by Ravel, Mahler, or Faure.  They’re enervating, maybe rousing.  Usually I hate Debussy, because I longly and largely hate Debussy, so he’s no good for “meditation” or “soporific.”  All of the mentioned composers stir me out of easy or sleepy and fully negate the lullaby because I’d rather stay awake to listen.  What the hell sort of meditation do you expect is ensuing via Saint-Saens?   Can you stop it?! I want to listen and sleep at the same time.  Riots don’t only issue from the flights of Wagner or marches of Williams.  There’s a lot to hear in a lot of works.  

What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
 When Jubal[4] struck the corded shell,
His list’ning brethren stood around,
   And, wond’ring, on their faces fell
  To worship that celestial sound,
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?

Linky!

Love,
Sanger

A Narrative Navigation of Assumptive Acceptance. Or: sincerely, thank you.

Two hours before sunrise, I turned off the a/c.  I still woke up around seven.  I tried to talk myself into going out for breakfast, but couldn’t decide where I’d go, so I made bacon and eggs and did dishes and I tucked in to readsleep again. The one place I wanted (possibly needed) to go wasn’t open until ten.

Around 9.30 I was up, headed to get a coffee out; I wanted to leave the a/c off as much as I could today. I needed second breakfast. I went to a market on the same street as the other place, got snacks I know and queued up on one of two lines, both long, both stacked with people who had full carts.  The person ahead of me “did a record spend!” (his bill came to $248).  

I had two bottles of water, two Epic bars, a flat pack of gum.  

The person behind me asked:  “Is that from Hindu or something?”

I’d like to state for this record that I understand the risks of visible bod-mod.  I can recite short explications off by heart. I say, “thank you for asking!” when those (overcome with curiosity) ask to make tactile contact with the beautiful scar carved on my right arm.  I say thank you for asking even when I say no, please don’t.

I know, even in Los Angeles, there’s an omnipresent objectification (notwithstanding bod mod) and it’s accepted that I asked for this because I’ve decorated or altered my own body. (More on this some other time.)

Whether the public consumes these isn’t my concern.  Ink, scars, metal, curly hair (!) do not actually mean I am an interactive cultural anthropology exhibit.

It so happened yesterday two people (at a different market) commented on the labyrinth tattoo but they were rather sweetly awestruck and immensely more respectful.  One approached me from outside my vision, whilst I dithered about which bourbon I wanted. “Excuse me, please?” I turned to see a store-uniform-wearing woman, young.  I thought she was going to tell me I needed to put my stuff in a basket not my satchel.

“Your artwork is so beautiful, what is it?” I realize she means the tattoo between my shoulder blades.

“It’s a labyrinth.”  I smiled.  I could see her thinking, I tried to help, “It’s a path, it’s a walking meditation, there’s only one way into the center, and a different way leads back to the beginning. There’s an Ancient Greek myth of Daedalus -”

“Oh!  Ariadne!”  We shared a really big smile.   Not everyone gets that one.  She repeated her compliment, and I said thanks, and that was it.   

The other interaction, minutes later, similarly “that’s wicked cool!”   And then we talked about the scarification. He reached, but stopped himself: “Oh shit, I should ask!” though I hadn’t flinched.  I said thanks!, but he reconsidered, because scars are cool and all that but “you mean you really actually had your flesh removed?” is a bit further afield for most.

This morning, with my Epic bars and and my waters, waiting behind the record-setter of a grocery shopper, a woman blurts “is that from Hindus or something?” which is a clumsy overture (if not ugly), and I really just want to drink all the water in the entire store and also all the water in all the stores and eat my bacon bars and I don’t feel like speaking, let alone explaining anything to anyone. I can barely figure out why the fuck did I come to Torrance? I’m groggy and cranky because I needed to eat an hour ago.

“The words are transliterated Sanskrit. From The Upanishads. Quoted by T.S. Eliot.”  

This answer was pointedly deliberate intellectual snobbery. I wanted to avoid further conversation.  

And I totally missed the fucking mark.
In the future, I will say: Please leave me alone, I want to eat second breakfast and to recall why the fuck I drove to Torrance.

She kept talking to me. “Yah but that maze thing?”

“A maze has multiple ways to get through.  A labyrinth isn’t about confusion, it’s about clarity. It’s meditation.”

I wish to all the bacon that I fabricated any of her reply.  

Oh, yeah, I was in Morocco?  With a professor?!  And we needed to have a piss and finally found the toilets, we called it the toilet labyrinth! and there was a sign ‘wash closet’ and  — I’m Jewish, you see — omygad we found out later that we shit where the Arabs wash their faces.  I don’t care! (laughs)  They deserve it for all the things Arabs and Muslims did to us.

My mouth goes dry, gaping at her. I invoke the literal, trying to make a point. “They who? When you used the toilet?”  

“No, but omygah!, I asked this tour guide if they could find out my dna from the shit I took because those people are totally going to come after me, right?”

“Pardon?”   

“…in a different place there was much better signs: Turkish toilets and American Toilets.  It’s better not to have to share that with them. Those people.”  

What in seven goddamned evers has this got to do with my tattoo?  I look towards the record-setter in front of me, all bent on optimism his tab was nearly calculated.  

Then, Moroccan-toilet-storyteller took a step too close to me and grabbed my arm to see more of my ink.

I step away and pull my arm from her.

“Please do not touch me.  I do not know you.”

She says, “Oh, I’m a cool person!”  As if saying this means it’s ok for her to step toward me again and reach toward me again.

I step back again.

Slowly, calmly (I have sweet fuck no idea how) I say:

“You did not ask me if you could touch me.  And you’re racist.”  

I left the explicit unspoken.  Here it is: racism is not cool.

She shut up and backed off. 

Finally.

“Thank you.”

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