Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gambling

A few weeks ago my friend J came down for a whirlwind visit.  She was recuperating after the successful conclusion of a huge event ("The rule is, leave town before the bills and complaints start coming in"), and she treated me to two restful nights at local casino resorts.

Yes, that does seem to be an oxymoron.  How could a casino be restful?  And, why do I need a rest? My days are glacially paced, I have very little to stress me.  Still, it was restful, and it was good to spend time with an old friend.  Also, I pass several casinos a week....all the highways go through reservation land, and most have casinos.  I'm curious about this aspect of my home.

We started at Buffalo Thunder.  It was Friday, and the parking lot was full of wedding guests and weekend gamblers.  I cruised around and then went to the front of the hotel, where I texted J and chatted with the doorman, who told me valet parking was $8.  No, not gonna go there.  J met me at the front door and directed me to the side parking lot, next to the red Mustang that she had been watching from our balcony.  We had both brought wine and TJ munchies, and that was supper.  We talked and watched the alpenglow on mountains to the east, while the parking lot filled. Most of the guests were wearing black and turquoise: those must have been the official wedding colors.  There were also three Samoyed dogs, big fluffy white things walking sedately on their leashes towards the side door.  I yelled from the balcony:  "Pretty dogs, what kind are they?"

(One of the advantages of being old is that I have very little social shame left.  Or perhaps, my impulse control is gone?  No matter.)

Later, behind the wall separating the balconies, I heard the sound of pebbly items falling into a bowl.  Peering over, I saw all three dogs and a small dark-haired girl.  The dogs were eating kibble, and the girl looked at me without comment when I said, "Hello!" So, I left them to it and got ready for our tour of the hotel.

The place is FILLED with fabulous native art.  J is a connoisseur:  she comes down every year for the art fair and, on every trip to Santa Fe, stops by Blue Rain Gallery and IAIA.  So, she was able to identify all the Tony Abeyta paintings, which I like a lot:  representational landscapes with dark blues and earth colors, straight slanting brush strokes that are almost, but not quite, geometrical.  The art was varied:  sculpture, paintings, jewelry, weaving, pottery.

We walked through the lobbies, past fireplaces, fountains, restaurants, and shops.  Then, down the escalator to the casino, a maze of blinking lights, tables, and slot machines.  The machines were arrayed in blocks of eight, four to a side, and the air was filled with the sounds of lions roaring, coins crashing, and blurry loudspeaker announcements.  All of the sound was mechanical and harshly blaring:  the players were for the most part dourly silent, focused on their machines. The employees were smiling professionally, but they sparked no response from the patrons.  The air was not blue with smoke, but there was a definite fug and I wanted to get out as soon as I got in.  But, first we had to get signed up.  J had to replace her card, and she shepherded me through the process.  It's all electronic:  after visiting the counter and getting your card, you go to a machine to register your account.  One swipe, and I was in the system.  They gave me a $10 credit, and we threaded the maze to the non-smoking area.

It was quieter in there, and there were no tables.  Machines lined the walls and blocks of them filled the center.  I couldn't figure out how you would chose a machine:  they all seemed to work the same way, although their bells and whistles were different.  I picked a lion machine, avoiding the gaudier media-based themes.  I inserted my card and started pressing buttons.  J advised me to use the penny amounts and the 20-line button.  I still don't know what it meant, but the machine display rolled, and the credit amount went down, went back up, went down some more, and then I hit a jackpot, announced by a roaring lion.  I cashed out, and got a receipt with a barcode:  $3.30.  I still had some credit, which could not be cashed out, so we went to the machines along the wall and played some more.  Another winning, $3.90.  I was bored with the process, though, because there was no real interaction.  J tried to get me more involved:  she said to talk trash to the machine when I wasn't winning.  Surprisingly, that seemed to help!  But it still was rather dull.  So, we went to the video poker machines.

You could spend hours there, playing the penny amounts.  The credit hovers at the break-even place, going down a bit, going up a bit.  There are no real jackpots.  You only make money if you bet large amounts, which I was unwilling to do, because that's also how you lose money.

We roamed about a bit more, and J spotted a Texan, identifying her by the careful coif.  From a distance, she just looked like a casually-dressed, wiry lady with short gray hair, flipped on the ends. I walked nonchalantly past to see what J meant and discovered that the curl was perfectly symmetrical, hair-sprayed into place, like she'd placed a bowl over her head and curled the ends up over the edge.  It was subtle, but very styled.

I went back to the slots, and brought my winnings up to $10.40.  J brought me some Sprite:  soft drinks are free.  Then, back to the poker, where I used up my credit and inserted one of my receipts, which I also lost.  I quit with a total winning of $7.05, and we went looking for the cash out machine.  You find it by looking for a line of people.

We watched bad TV while I did the crossword and played Candy Crush on my iPhone.  Next morning, J brought me breakfast in bed, and I realized why I was enjoying this vacation:  someone was waiting on me!  I don't have to do dishes!  I'm not responsible for ANYTHING!

Breakfast was excellent:  lots of berries and melon, sweet pastries, mounds of crisp bacon, quiche and ready-made omelettes, yoghurt cups, cereal hot and cold, bagels, toast....J was blissed out by the fruit.  She lives in Wyoming, at the "end of the truck."  Their fruit apparently arrives quite wilted.

We cruised through Santa Fe, and then headed south, out of the incipient rain storm.  Sunset at Tamaya was lovely, but the wind was chilly.  Even though the outdoor pool was heated and the lounge chairs were in the sun, it was way too cold to spend much time outside, once the body was wetted down.

The Santa Ana casino was not located at Tamaya, so we had to drive over to get some action. They did not give me any credit, but I won a water bottle which I later converted into a beach tote bag that smelled of gasoline. We stopped at the Mesa Grill for supper:  it was located within the no-smoking section.  Unlike the separate room at Buffalo Thunder, there were no video poker machines, and the section was only separated from the smokers by a velvet rope.  After a $2 burger and a $4 shake at the Mesa Grill ("HOME OF THE $2 BURGER!"), we checked out the slots.  I put in two or three bills at a time, and my net winnings were $4.  J hit a huge jackpot several times, and walked away with $15.

I'm not sure how the casinos make money, but of course, we were not in with the big players.  The penny slots are peopled by overweight people in scooters, bored men in jeans and t-shirts, and groups of the elderly.  You get the impression that they have nothing else to do, but you don't get the sense of the desperation of the addict.  And, I can see the appeal, in a weird way.  I was bored, but I was also a little hooked by the incremental increases, and undismayed by the incremental losses.  With more time and money, I could have continued to plug the machines.  On a hot summer's day, an air-conditioned casino might be the place to be.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Same time next year

Three years ago, D took me on my first (and so far, only) rafting trip.  We were staying in Taos for a few weeks, and rafting companies are available to take you all along the Rio Grande.  We opted for a half-day trip, east of Taos.  There were four of us, plus the guide.  He put D and me in the front where we'd get splashed the most, and the teenager and her father in the middle.  He sat on the back bumper and steered.  It took awhile for me to get used to the idea that I didn't sit IN the raft, but rather on the puffy outer edge.

We acquitted ourselves reasonably well, better than we did during the sea kayaking in Mexico, where we capsized and dropped D's glasses in the drink, and were separated for the remainder of the trip.  I ended up with the handsome Mexican guide, so all was well.

I am thinking about that rafting trip, because I am sitting at the same picnic/take-out area, eating lunch and writing.  It's March, not June, and I wouldn't dream of putting my toes in that tumbling icy green water.  But, I recognized the route as I was driving back to Santa Fe from an overnight in Taos, and I decided that this would be the perfect place to munch on my apple and cheese. I am taking advantage of my independent state to stop where I want, and as long as I want.  Yesterday, I was in "get there" mode, and I didn't stop for much of anything.  I had breakfast at San Marcos Cafe with the co-op and took pictures of the peacocks, and I stopped by Kokoman's to check out the excellent wine selection and buy 7 bottles.  Then I drove north along the scenic high road, through the mountains.

It was lovely, and I kept thinking I should stop and enjoy the view. But the power of inertia - in this case forward motion - kept me going past scenic overlooks, adobe churches, decorated graveyards, Chimayo, Nambe Falls, turn-offs to unknown towns, galleries, wineries....I just kept going until I reached M's Topsy Gallery on the outskirts of Taos.  M wasn't there, so I called him for a room. (We had stayed at his house that time in June, trading our Airbnb room in Portland for his spacious adobe house in Taos.) Fortunately, he was able to offer me a room in his house for $50, cash.  When I got there, it was 5 pm, time for happy hour at the Alley Cantina.  I gather he goes there most evenings, bringing along the schnauzers, and sits in the patio waiting for H to get off work.

The scene at the Cantina was very small town.  Everyone knew each other, and the patio table population grew and shrank as people wandered through. We joined a 40-something shaven-headed ski bum/surveyer (D), and a 64-year-old hippie with long white hair hanging lankly down from his baseball cap.  He had a scruffy beard, wide-open blue eyes and wide white smile.  He had excellent teeth.  People came and went, cigarettes were lit, drinks were drunk. Everyone that came through the archway was greeted by name, and most stopped for a second to say hi and pat the dog.  A few joined us.

Conversation was slow and calm -- these people knew each other and everyone's business was old news.  They were just keeping company while they drank and passed the time until the next thing.  The hippie was on his way home to smoke the "herb" that he'd just scored.  D was on his way to visit a female friend who was home after two weeks in the hospital with a punctured lung from a catastrophic car accident.  He was also in telephonic communication with another female friend who was giving him one of her clowder of Persian cats:  she had just lost her house and moved in with her boyfriend, and the boyfriend's dog had mauled the cat.  The cat was still at the vet, but would soon be released to D's care.   He had a kind competence about him that made it seem natural for him to take on these women's troubles.  He smoked and talked, wrinkling up his eyes in a smile, looking sideways at me with a wink.  

A 40-something woman joined us for a smoke while her boyfriend played pool.  She had long straggly brown-gray hair, and a deep freckled tan.  Her tight shirt and cami held small fat rolls at her waist, without apology.  She looked reliable and kind enough, but worn out and no-nonsense tough.  The conversation turned to a matanza that had been held on a local street.  I've heard of matanzas before:  basically it's a Spanish tradition, a pig-roast, held in the fall.  It sounded medieval to me, as it was described:  lots of blood and meat and alcohol.  Once the butchering is done, there's a huge community party, mainly extended families.  D said he'd been to one, and he was the only gringo there.  She said, "I grew up doing those...it was a matter of survival.  We grew and raised our food, and we used everything.  I remember in the winter, digging in the barrel on the porch for the frozen packets of meat."

Talk, and talk, and silence.  D went inside to sit at the bar, the hippie went home, and we were joined by a 20-something man with shoulder-length brown hair, bloodshot eyes, and a thin-lipped frog-like mouth. He was smoking a cigar, and had just risen from a nap.  I never did figure out what his game was, because I grew chilly as the sun set and went inside to text and play phone games while we waited for H to close and clean up the salon.

When I arrived earlier in the day, I had texted R.  He's an OKCupid acquaintance who lives in Taos, and he had recently suggested that we might have a "physical connection."  But I wanted to meet him before having that discussion.  So, part of the reason for my trip north was to see him in the flesh, instead of via Skype.  The distance and our respective work had made it difficult to connect, other than randomly.  Unfortunately, that morning he had said he had three clients contact him, so there was little free time. That had been the case on his previous jaunts to Santa Fe, too.  Clearly, he's not real invested in pursuing the relationship. The stars would have to be aligned just right.  I almost decided to go somewhere else for my getaway, but I wanted the pretty drive to Taos, and I thought I'd check out the Harwood.  (I didn't, as it turned out.)

Anyway, when I texted "I'm here!" R texted back "cool!" and offered to buy me a beer at the Mesa Brewery at 5.  I suggested he join us at the Cantina.  No, he opted for breakfast instead.  So, I went home with M and H and we had dinner (spud-encrusted cod, and a pinot grigio from my stash.)  Then we watched subtitled Korean soap operas, and I went to bed.

I walked down to the Plaza the next morning.  El Gamal, our breakfast place, was on Dona Luz, just behind Taos Plaza, in the parking lot by the Guadalupe church.  I had noticed it on previous trips, without really noticing it.  It's a hole in the wall, with a small covered porch that features crowded tables and stools along the street bar.  The building is long and narrow.  The front room has varied tables with a service bar to the left, a stage, concrete floors, and open ceiling with white painted rafters. The single unisex restroom is at the back.  You walk past a pool table and alcove-rooms, the floor slanting at each doorway and threatening to trip you up. At night it's a bar and apparently quite active, but this morning there was one blond gent with scruffy hair and white t-shirt settled at an outside table, a woman and child inside, and a kerchiefed young woman waiting tables.  She brought me weak coffee in a tall glass with a thin cardboard hand protector.

R showed up while I was sitting at the outside bar with my coffee.  I was talking to C about the schedule mess-up back at the co-op.  (My boss had mistaken her departure time and had to leave that afternoon instead of the next day.)  I greeted him, and he went inside while I finished my conversation.  He came back out and squinted at the sun....let's go inside.  Okay!

He's stockier than he appeared in our Skype talks, with large hands, thick neck, and a broad chest showing through the V of his shirt and brown corduroy jacket. The thin blond hair is just as unkempt, however, sticking out on the thinning top and slamped to the sides.  His heavy-lidded blue eyes are just as apt to suddenly open wide, the mouth just as apt to drop open in response to a puzzling comment.  His smile appears as a forced stretch across the teeth before it settles into a surprising charm, but just as abruptly the lips snap shut while his eyes look down and sideways.

The conversation was not uncomfortably forced, but it felt random, like his thoughts were stressed and elsewhere, and he had to make himself respond appropriately to the here and now.  We talked about New Mexico, and I told him that I'd found old information about him online. He said, I doubt it, there are a lot of people with my name.  Yes, I knew about the actor and some of the others, but the info I found was about a computer store in Taos....Good for you, he said, that's me.  And he showed me the card.  But, he's not working there any more.

He had a pita breakfast sandwich, and I had eggs Florentine on challa with a yummy sauce.  We talked about Airbnb and about travel, and he consumed his Turkish coffee and spicy condiments, saying, it's good for respiration.  I asked if he had asthma, and he said, no I live at 14 thousand feet, in an Earthship.  At that point, a 20-something dread-locked man at the next table entered into our conversation.  He owns property up at R's complex, and they immediately began trying to place each other.  "Do you know....?  which lot do you mean....?  you wanna sell...?  Oh yeah, he's selling, but she took the house..."

Yes, Taos is a small town, everyone knows everyone else.

And that was the end of our date.  Forty-five minutes in, and he was up and paying the bill, coming back with a handshake offer which I converted into a push-away hug.  I settled back to finish my coffee and check my iPhone while his silhouette passed the window, staring straight ahead into his day, no backward glance.  My guess was that he would not want to be contacting me again, and I was glad that I had not taken him up on his offer to share a room in Espanola.  However, he did text a somewhat equivocal message later.  He's an odd duck, but not malevolent.  I'd be interested in seeing how the Earthship community works, but my guess is that they are all marginal and quirky in some way.  Like R.

Meanwhile, however, I wrapped up the visit and began the drive back to Santa Fe.  And here I am, sitting by the river, watching rafts and kayaks pull out, listening to trucks rattle past.  A chilly wind snatches at my paper, which I hold down with purse, knitting bag, and my writing hand.  My hair flies about my face, crows soar past with a brief caw.  Whitecaps break, water rustles over and around rocks and boulders.  I'm in no rush to move along.  There's nothing much to do until rehearsal, no need to push it.

I think about independence.  I want to finish the book I took from S's library and mail it back, along with his house key.  And that will be that.  I am still figuring out what to do with my desire for friends and lovers, and still figuring out why the relationships with men get so tangled.  But, each of these flawed humans has brought something good to me.  Today, it's this time by the river, the river which also holds memories of D.  They are good memories, and this was a good trip.  I can follow V's advice:  when I start feeling sorry for myself, think about the benefits of independence.  Yes, I need people, but I can be choosy about whom I let into my life. I don't need to lose myself in the process.

Chocolate and creativity

Last weekend I attended the annual chocolate and coffee festival in Albuquerque.  You'd think the event was tailor-made for me, but, sadly, no.  There's something about crowds of obese people, lining up for free tastes, that is.....shall we say, off-putting?

I also don't really have a palate for these things. I don't like dark chocolate, for example, so the whole 75% chocolate claim leaves me cold.  I did taste the blueberry in the Ethiopian coffee, but it wasn't a selling point for me.  And I was intrigued by the use of grass-fed cow butter in place of cream....it actually worked.

Still, there was very little chance to learn much or enjoy the process.  I discovered that Whole Foods and the local co-op sold most of the products, which was a big "duh."   I reaffirmed that chocolate-scented soap is just plain weird. You want to eat it, but you can't, and anyway, who wants to smell like chocolate?  Not surprisingly, chocolate with chili and caramel with salt are still hot ticket items.  But for the most part, we seem to have run out of ways expand the taste combinations. Someone capitalized on Breaking Bad by mixing waffles and turkey with chocolate.  It reminded me of chocolate-covered bacon:  two excellent tastes that just really don't do much for each other.

Maybe I just am not a festival kind of gal.  There's a certain kitschy quality, not to mention a horde mentality.   People roam around, looking for something to capture their attention, but it's all sound bites, and then off to the next thing.  You can't converse with the vendors, because their eyes are roving about, and people behind you are pushing for a place.  The quality offerings are rare, and there's a sad quality to those booths:  no one is going to buy those things at that venue.  Attendees don't even bother to gawk, it's out of their league.  People with real money don't go to these festivals.

I prefer craft fairs, where you have a fighting chance of seeing something interesting, and where you get some ideas for your own work.  But, it still depresses me.  There are a lot of people creating a lot of kitsch, and even more people with worthwhile products that aren't selling. I remember when my friend M was selling her jellies and lavender-in-handkerchief sachets.  She made the rounds of the fairs, and had a good time doing it, but it was mainly a break-even sort of thing for her.

Marketing and consumerism in general confuse me.  I don't know how to market my own skills, much less a product.  And I don't know how real artisans make a living in this Walmart society.  But they seem to be doing so.  Just today a German blacksmith was visiting the co-op, checking out the location:  K wants a railing from him, but of course he can't afford it.  The blacksmith said he'd think of something that was in K's price range, maybe work with a fabricator, whatever that means.

(It's funny, what a small place this is....I recognized the blacksmith from the demo I attended last summer at Chris Thompson's place.)

So the question is, how do I take something that lights me up, like chocolate, like music, like writing, and make a living at it?  Do I need to? Can't I just enjoy what I'm doing, without validating it in a consumer society?  It doesn't seem so.  Even the non-profits for which I perform have to pay attention to the bottom line.  For example, I have been recruited by the Santa Fe Chorus to swell their numbers for Beethoven's 9th.  The group that I sing with, Coro de Camara, will receive $100 in return, while the regular SFC singers have to pay for the privilege.  And I get no money out of it.  But, because there is a product that people pay for, it feels legitimate.  My other creativity does not.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Praying without ceasing

A few weeks ago, a friend asked for prayers for the safe recovery of her seriously ill father.  My knee jerk reaction was to pass the request along to my more religious friends.  I don't do prayers, being an agnostic.  I don't believe I have a direct line to a spiritual boon-granting entity, and I'm not even sure that I believe in the power of positive thinking.  I treat these matters in a very pragmatic way:  if events seem dire, and I am unable to do anything concrete to assist, I send good thoughts out to the Universe and hope there is something  that can use them.  And, I contact people who seem to have that direct line that I lack.

It's sad to be adrift in a dangerous and painful world.  I want to believe that there is more to my life than a carbon footprint and fleeting connections to beings as ephemeral as myself.  My therapist says that every day is a gift, and that people enter into my life to provide an opportunity to learn and grow.  It's hard for me to believe that, despite the collective wisdom of the world's spiritualists, who all say similar things.  I wish I had the comfort of KNOWING that there is a purpose to my being here, and that my task was clear and worthy of the gift.

So, I think about prayer.  Why do people ask for prayers?  Why do we offer them?  My sister, whom I contacted in the emergency described above, does not believe in prayer as an answer to a petition.  She will pray if asked, because she does believe in the power of caring.  But to her, prayer is a communication with God, and her prayers are those of intent and focus.  She believes in St. Paul's concept of "praying without ceasing," which means, do your work with integrity, as a response to God's gifts.  In other words, have a clear intent and connection with the higher power as you complete your daily tasks.  The humblest actions can be imbued with the spiritual, if your focus is there.  Or, as Gustav Uyterhoeven says (in The Chess Garden), God is not hidden from us, He is very obvious, He's just waiting for you to pay attention.

Pay attention.  Be Here Now.  Live with intent.  It's all the same thing, and it's so very difficult to do. I analyze and question and kvetch.  If I am in a quiet space, I start thinking of things I could or should be doing. I want a product, and the product has to be measurable.  That is, it must have mass, an appeal to the senses, or an obvious effect.  It can be as subtle as an improved mood or as obvious as a photograph of the sunset.  But, it has to be something tangible in order for me to validate its worth.

My therapist asked me to find a practice that could silence the over-analyzing, because it leads to negativity which I embrace so hard it becomes real.  Thus, I'm lonely and rejected because there's something wrong with me.  I'm unproductive because there's something wrong with me.  I can't move back to Portland because there's something wrong with me.  She suggests that I question the premises:  am I really being rejected, am I really unproductive, is moving back to Portland really not an option?  But above all, she suggests that I stop with the kvetching, stop giving power to the negative self-talk, and live in the moment that is the gift to me.

I remember my sister telling me that she believes my prayers are those of joy and thanksgiving.  When I rejoice in the New Mexico skies or dance on the beach, I am praying.  And it is true, at those moments, I am not analyzing, not asking for anything:  I am joyful. But those moments don't happen often enough, and when I am faced with a rejection, I revert to my default negative self-talk.  I stop praying.

S once told me that what first attracted him was that I was clear about my needs.  Now, it turns out that this clarity is also what has repelled him.  I need friendship, I ask for it, and I don't get it.  So, perhaps this is another reason that prayer should not just be a statement of wants and needs.  While being clear about your needs is good when communicating with business partners, the more intimate relationships (with lovers, with friends and family, with God) require something else.  The connection needs to be more about joy in the gift, in this case the gift of friendship.  And one cannot petition for it.  One can only rejoice when one has it.

On the other hand, my friend's father is much better, and she thinks it's because of the prayers.  Perhaps knowing that people cared was a source of thanksgiving, which in turn was a source of strength and ultimate recovery.  Perhaps it was just the way things were supposed to be, the way they were always going to be.  Or perhaps prayers of petition do work.

Whatever is the truth, I'm sending up prayers of thanksgiving for the well-being of those I love.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Ongoing Whine

I sent a whine to my friends, because it was the anniversary of my divorce and I was feeling sad.  The responses varied from silence to reassurance (you ARE beautiful and beloved) to sympathy (anniversaries are like poking at a wound that is healing:  fresh pain), to irritation (he never loved you, he USED you, just get over it already.)

All of these are valid responses of course, as is my ongoing pondering.  I find that I have been distracting myself from really thinking about the divorce and from moving on, though.  I let myself focus on other people (again) and I let myself be hurt because the new friends don't love me wholly and immediately.  The real problem is the men:  they seem to think that I'm looking to replace D, and I'm not.  I don't know why I traded in my single blessedness for marital strife, but I do know that I am not ready, if ever, to partner up again.  While one friend commented that it would be nice to add someone who adores me to the interesting and creative mix that is my life, another said that partnering was an anomaly, a small part of me.

And I think that last is the truer observation.

So what is it about me (or them) that makes men think I'm looking for a relationship they cannot give?  It's not just about lack of attraction.  For example, I've met some polyamorous men.  First they pursue me, and then they panic at the thought of getting close to me.  I'm not sure what it is about me that attracts these men and then repels them.  I'm not asking to be the one and only, I just want to be treated like I'm important and wanted.  Surely the point of polyamory is that the relationships can be multiple and loving, as long as they are honest?  Apparently not.

And of course, the monogamous men are looking for Ms. Right.  They are not interested in casual dating, and I'm not interested in anything but casual.  Somehow it's okay to be rejected on that basis, though.

Really, I don't know why I let this distract me.  I never did need men to make me feel loved or happy, and my past experience has shown the fallacy of seeking fulfillment in that arena.   Is it because I tried and failed at partnering that I'm trying again?  If D had died instead of being divorced, would I say, "Okay, been there, done that, time to try something new"?

Or do I just want to get laid?

What are my thoughts? One night I had a strong dream about T. I think about him a lot. A year ago, he was still a major part of my life, taking up my attention and focus, constantly texting, always aware of what what going on with me, checking up on me every day, helping me get through various obstacles. He was there, and he cared. I think.

Missing him is an ongoing thing, almost more painful than missing D. I wrote to T from the train, telling him there's a hole in my heart where he used to be. He did not reply. I didn't expect him to. But he was such a huge part of my recovery, and I thought he'd remain part of my life and he has not. I can't accept it. I don't know why he dropped me so abruptly. I keep wondering what I did, even though I know, really know, it has nothing to do with me. I am the person I've always been. Stronger, but still needy. Resilient, but still fragile. Fragile. The song D sang to me at our wedding.

A year ago, T was a crush, a support, a shoulder to cry on. Now, what is he? And who am I, and what do I want?

I am living in the mountains in New Mexico...something I've dreamed of doing for years. But, I'm alone. I'm working, but it doesn't feel like I'm working. I'm not free to take off and see people, but in any case there is no one I want to see, nothing I want to do, no one who wants to see me. I know people, and I like them, but none of them are soul mates, and none of them pursue me. In fact, they reject me when I get too close.

It appears that I need to find what I want to do. M thinks that I'm living the good life: choosing my work, choosing what I do for fun, what I do for sustenance. B thinks I'm being creative and growing. V thinks I'm pursuing my dream of living in New Mexico.

I think I'm floundering. I know that I'm floundering. I think I need to talk to my therapist again, set up some counseling sessions. Cry. Figure it out.

Sometimes I want to write to D. Sometimes I want him back in my life. Why? Did I leave him because I'd had enough? Or did I leave him because I had a crush on T? I don't think so. But I don't know if it's true that I just ran out of anything to give. I don't know what made me decide to leave at that exact juncture, and what made me decide to stay away. I do know my friends and family exerted a lot of pressure to keep me pointed towards escape. My health and finances improved dramatically: I can't ignore that.

But my emotions are still raw. I still don't know what I want to do, and I'm still mourning the loss of....what? The loss of a lover? Of the future I had planned with him? Of purpose? Of someone who loved me and thought I was beautiful?

Surely I can plan my own future, supply my own purpose, love myself, think I'm beautiful. Surely I don't need another person for that.

Meanwhile, I'm dating men who are married or in committed relationships. Even though the relationships are "open," it's clear who's the second class citizen here. Me. Regardless of what they say about loving relationships, it does not feel good. If the primary partner decided they didn't want me around, I'd be gone. It's not like a friendship with a married couple. My emotions are more strongly involved, and the hurt of rejection is more strongly evident. Why am I doing this? Why am I putting my focus on relationships that hurt?

Do I miss that pain?




He's so very quotable...

There is a HUGE wind outside, scattering juniper pollen far and wide, pissing off the birds (or, so I interpret their frantic cheeping.)  I wanted to go for a walk, but I think I should let things die down a bit.  Otherwise, it wears me out instead of energizing me. For instance, I walked with C up the hill two days ago and crashed immediately afterwards.  And I've never been able to nap in the middle of the day before.  So, I'm blaming the pollen.

I could take advantage of this time to practise, of course. The APO concert is this Friday, and the last two rehearsals have been very, very scary.  We have focused the rehearsal time on The Planets (by Gustav Holst), to the detriment of the Mozart and the Haydn horn concerto.  Now we have one rehearsal left, tomorrow.  Yesterday D, our conductor, kept saying, "We need to spend about twenty minutes on that movement....Let's go on, we'll look at it Wednesday."  I think we'll be there until midnight!

"It's about terror,"
He says.  Right, color me scared:
One more rehearsal.

I don't really like the Holst.  The "hymn" part of the Jupiter movement makes me think of The Big Valley. D says it's "noble," but I think it's banal.

On the other hand, it's fun to see all the special instruments:  a bass flute, curled around itself; a bass oboe, long and belled at the end:  a cross between an English horn and a bassoon; a bass clarinet, and a contra bassoon; two harps, two sets of timpani, a sampler and a xylophone.  (I'm getting the full meaning of the timpani, as we are squished up next to them.)

Despite the terror, I do enjoy this orchestra.  The musicians are mainly competent and kindly, and they seem to enjoy life.  D definitely does.  On St Patrick's day, he came dressed in green  plaid and commented that one of the movements in the Holst was a jig....how appropos he said.  On looking around, I observed that most of the musicians were also on board with the green theme.  The ginormous piccolo player came draped in shiny green velvet, with a tall shamrock-covered hat. The rest of us all had muted shades of green:  forest, pea, lime.  There was no true green to be seen, and, oddly enough, people who didn't wear green seemed to go for the negative of it:  purple.

So, I'm looking up through a sea of random green, checking out the tempi and thinking, "Normal people are out drinking green beer and throwing darts, not panicking about fitting in all the notes."  But musicians are not normal.  Who but a musician would spend sleepless nights, deciding whether to conduct in 1 or in 2?

In rehearsals, I find myself jotting down things D says because HE IS SO CUTE!~

"It should be between 147 and 152. Yes, shoot for 152 in practice. It's easier. Except for the triplets."
A violinist
Conductor is NORMALLY
A very good thing.

Notes from rehearsal...
Re: Dvorak
The maestro thinks its
Much more interesting when
We play together.

Re: Adams
He places each note
Precisely where he wants it.
It's an adventure.

Post-rehearsal....
A mild suggestion
To the strings: "Play together.
It'll be more fun."

I am quite puzzled
When I read "aargh" for "arco."
I need new glasses.

A haiku to understatement.....
"It's going to be
An adrenalin rush if
We don't know it cold."

(Rehearsed the Barber
Third movement at half tempo.
It is still scary.)

Ferocious triplets:
"See, it's what the people want."
If they only knew.

We play the trio...
"It's a mid afternoon sound."
Um, that's naptime, right?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Drumming

On Sunday, I attended a drumming meditation at The Source in Albuquerque.  I did not know what to expect.  The leader of the circle, Issa, was a man in his 20s or 30s, whom I met at S's house back in December.  We friended each other on Facebook, but all I knew was that he was a musician and did recording sessions.  And that he had a Swedish girlfriend named Isa, which made talking about them very confusing.

But, he invited me to come, and I was going to be in the area, and what the hey, I am still looking for that perfect way to meditate.  The labyrinth is good, because it involves walking and gives me a pattern to focus on, but I'm open to other suggestions.

The Source is less than a mile from my old home in the Parkland Hills area, but I just discovered it recently. M and I walked up one Tuesday morning and got coffee.  The coffee shop is on the north side of a quadrangle of buildings that are rented out for yoga, lectures, drumming, and other healing arts.  M is friends with the owner, and it is all very New Age.  It's placed in a stark section of Carlisle, just off busy Gibson, near Kirtland AirForce Base and the Sunport.  But if you could airlift it to Portland, it could be set down in the Hawthorne district without causing a blink.

I got there 10 minutes early and followed the sounds of drumming to a little one-room building with doors opening onto the deck and table area.  Issa was inside, seated facing the door.  He had set up a circle of floor chairs (the kind that are made of canvas, have a cushion on the floor and a long rectangular back set at an angle to the cushion.  We used to have them in the kids' area of the library, and they could stack, one within another.) He was beating out smooth practised rhythms on a wide circular hand drum, strong stubby fingers fluttering along the rim, seeming barely to touch but producing a resonant pattering boom.  He was dressed in black, with the sweater hanging over his paunch and giving him a cuddly teddy bear feel. His shoulder length dark brown hair curled around his face, his dark brown eyes looked slantingly down towards the drum, his profile showed clean and Semitic. Then he looked up and saw me and beamed, bouncing to his feet.

He had promised some extra drums, and I wound up with a beautifully inlaid doumbek, which he said he'd taken around the world.  Bits of the mosaic were missing, given credence to a life of adventure, and the drum-head was made of a tough sort of plastic, not leather.  I learned to make the resonant sound in the center of the drum-head, and the lighter "tek" sound along the rim.  And, while I couldn't do it consistently, I  was now ready to participate.

More people arrived, and we formed our circle.  Ages ranged from mid-twenties to mid-sixties.  People were dressed casually, in jeans and t-shirts mainly. There was long grey hair tied in a straight pony tail, long red curly hair hanging loose, short curly hair, buzz cut bald, short with a cap.  And my short rakish salt and pepper hair fit right in.

We started with the singing bowl, passed around the circle.  Each person said his/her name, and the rest of us chanted it three times.  (It reminded me of the Unitarian Sunday School getting-to-know-you routine.)  Then we spoke our intentions, and blew into the bowl before passing it along.  Some spoke at length about spiritual connections with the earth, about losing patterns that no longer served.   I was succinct:  I want to let go of grief and loss and I want to embrace serenity and focus.

Then the bowl was set in the center, where it could collect the resonance from the drums.  Issa asked the participant to my left to start us out with a basic rhythm.  When it was settled, the next person took it up, then the next, then the next, all around the circle.  When it reached me, I found it surprisingly easy to join in.  I had the rhythm in my ears and I could feel it in the air.  My doum-tek was tinny and soft, not like the deep sounds the others were producing, but it slid into the sound without stress, giving its own color to the rhythm.
I closed my eyes and gave myself to the drumming.  Then I opened my eyes and looked around the circle.  Some were grave, focused.  Some were dancing with their hands, tossing their heads.  Some had beatific smiles, some were expressionless. Issa looked up at me and smiled, and I shut my eyes again.  The rhythm continued for 20 minutes or so, and then I became conscious of a deep insistent 'doum-doum-doum'....the rhythm had changed, we were all changing with it, and after several minutes we settled into a new rhythm.  It was organic, there was no leader, it just happened.  We played the new rhythm for another 20 minutes and then the sound got softer and softer until it just stopped.

Issa leaned forward into the center and struck the singing bowl so it rang, and our intentions and our drumming went out into the universe.

The whole time, I had been thinking, I've done this before.  And then it came to me.  In the summer of 1995, when T and my cousin were living with me, my friend Tim came by on a visit,  He had driven from Oneonta, NY, staying with friends all across the US.  I was his next to the last stop:  after visiting his cousin in Seattle, he was going to Hawaii.  From that trip, he never returned.  Every once in awhile, I look up his name, hoping against hope that he turned up again. Instead, I find other people's blogs about that time, and what it meant to the people whose lives he touched.  I dream about him.  I blogged about him a few months back.

And I remembered him last Sunday.  Here is the story I shared with the drumming circle, a version of which went into his memory book and into that other blog entry:

One day, he was doing dishes in my kitchen, when he began tapping on the metal sides of the sink.  The taps became hand slaps, satisfying reverberate booms. My cousin picked up chopsticks and began playing the bottles and jars of kitchen utensils on the counter.  I drummed on the counter, and T started dancing.  We must have jammed those rhythms without tunes for half an hour.  I never forgot that feeling, and I felt it again last Sunday.

I don't know if it was a meditation, but it definitely helped me touch something deep. I think I'll go again.