That same day Mike and I went to see another group of artists — a play at a local theatre that a friend of our was in. The show was The Fantastix and if you’re not familiar with it, in a nutshell it’s the story of how real life and its struggles enrich the lives of two idealistic and romantic young lovers. At the theatre that night, I saw an old friend; an actor and an artist I’ve known for twenty years who could tell you more about real life than you probably want to know. He’s a gifted artist who has, in his lifetime, spent time on the ragged edge (sometime slipping over) of homelessness, alcoholism, drug addition, and a host of other addictions. He’s been in love with some wonderful and not-so-wonderful women. He has done things that have made angels both laugh and cry. He has truly flirted with the devil in many, many respects. He is, I think, what the play tried to be. He is also a great example of Andrew’s work as well, an ongoing conversation between who we are, and who we choose to be.
I love you, Jazz.
Sunday, February 14, 2010 — A tribute to Tom Waits
Valentine’s Day found Mike and I at a fantastic event. A very successful artist in our area hosts concerts in his home once a month. Basically, he opens his house to whoever shows up, for free, and only asks that the guests bring a bottle of wine to share, don’t make a mess, and stay out of his wife’s kitchen. This evening was a tribute to Tom Waits, a writer/musician who gets the notion that we are all both tough and fragile at the same time. This night about 200 people showed up. The shot below was taking from the loft looking down on the “stage.” In the upper right is another friend of ours is on lead guitar, wearing a pork pie hat. The energy of that night was phenomenal! Moreover, it is an example of what I’d been missing for years. Speaking of before and after, a few years ago Mike and I sort of defaulted into a pretty boring routine. We didn’t go out, didn’t seek the experience we wanted to have, didn’t engage with the world the way we wanted to. The bad part of this is that we’d find ourselves on the couch on a Saturday night at 9:30pm, contemplating not only going to bed but where the heck the time was going.
I started The Dogged Pursuit in part to figure out why I wasn’t happier with my seemingly idyllic life but also to rediscover those things that I’d lost or never fully embraced. Let me tell you something, folks, this is a huge part of it. I love going out; I love music and dance and art and people and experiences and energy and life and I wasn’t fucking living it. Heck, WE weren’t living it.
It’s actually one of the most interesting things I’m discovering about my Beloved and I, and a huge part of our before and after. I used to think in my head that “he, due to his “introverted nature,” was holding me back from all I wanted to do. Bullshit. I was holding us back. I am the spark of the Mike/Stasha unit. He is the engine. And while my Dogged Pursuit of Happiness is intrinsically tied to him, it works best when I am looking forward, not backwards or sideways, and he is doing the same.
Monday, Feb. 15, 2010 — Legacy
Most of you know by now that I’m a book nut, a word nerd, and lover of learning and language. Knowledge shapes who we are, molds our beliefs, and ultimately makes us who we are. So if you want to know why someone is a certain way or believes a certain thing, you’d be wise to read what they read and when they read it. It is especially important when you consider the people who made you who you are, who set your “default settings” so to speak. In my case, my parents, grand-parents, and the deeply religious and Southern community in which we lived.
The books below all belonged to my Granny, or my Mama’s mama. In this photo — and you can barely see it due to my cropping — the books are resting on a hand-pieced and hand stitched quilt that she made from various scraps of worn out clothing, gauging from the patterns and fabrics, sometime in the early 60s or 70s. That quilt is part of her legacy to me. Also in the photo is one of her necklaces (she didn’t have much jewelry) and a pair of earings that think (hope) my Granddaddy gave her. By today’s standards, he wasn’t a great husband but, by the standards put out in these books, she was a pretty good wife. Which is really quite sad.
I have a whole post I’m working on dedicated to these books but let me give you a quick tour. The green cover in the upper right is titled Fighting the Traffic in Young Girls: or the War on the White Slave Trade. The opening paragraph reads “By the white slave trade is meant commerce in white woman and girls for wicked purposes. Most of it’s history cannot be written, for two reasons: That these crimes are kept secret as far as possible, and that they are so revolting that their details cannot be published and ought not to be read anywhere outside of the bottomless pit.”
Moving clockwise, the next book is Sweet Smelling Myrrh which is essentially a vile story of emotional, physical, spiritual abuse presented as an example of a woman’s true place and a virtuous life. Granny believed this to her core. Build up your treasures in heaven, accept all suffering, bear all injustice because God’s decided you get nothing but a shitstorm here.
Growing Up and Liking It was well-intentioned and probably pretty progressive then, but it’s comical now if you know better. Trouble was, I didn’t know better. Shit, I didn’t know this much ’cause I was never even given this messed up book.
But the most disturbing is the book open in the center. It is titled A History of the People of the United States and is a text book. On its delicate and fragile pages are notes and names of friends scrawled in the margins as well as questions and homework assignments. She studied this book. She was tested on it. She (and the rest of her friends and family) were graded on her understanding and knowledge in this book. It teaches with authority about the War of Seccession, the brutal occupation and dismantling of the South, the social and political disorder created when mentally inferior Negros (who were loved like children and pets) were unfortunately released into a society they couldn’t comprehend or contribute to. The injustices committed by the North and Northerners are detailed and reviled. Some of the headings in this chapter are: “The Bravery of the Southern Woman,” “Actual Distress of the People,” and “The Faithfulness of the Slave,” the latter of which waxes nostalgic about how the faithful Negro would follow (as if he had a choice) his master in to the field of battle, rejoicing in the Confederate army’s victories and sharing his master’s sorrow at defeat, and if necessary, bear his lifeless body home to his kin. At home the faithful Negros left behind would protect the master’s women, children and other property while ensuring as best he or she could the prosperity of the old homeplace.
Now I ask you, if this is what you believe, and this is what you teach your children who in turn teach it to their children, and everyone you associate with believes the same thing, and your understanding of God backs up your belief as not only accurate but Devine and Ordained, would you be surprised to find out a mere generation later is still pretty fucked up?
More on this particular legacy another day.
To be continued……