28 February 2009

@weeklyblogpost - Grid

(Better late than never.)

I think about grids, about living on them, about living off them, and about the Taoist notion that there is no paradox.  (A copy of the Tao Te Ching would be handy here for a brief quote, but alas, I've given away every copy I've ever purchased.  I'm sure I should get another, if only to have it at the ready to pass on yet again.)  Here are the grids I'm thinking about: city streets, life plans, connectivity to electricity and water, and connection to western capitalist life in general.  I'll just stick with the first two for now lest I get especially long winded, but remind me, dear reader, to address the others at some later time.

Here's one of the primary things I love about cities: they are largely laid out as grids.  By orienting myself to a few major streets I can secondarily orient myself to the four major directions on a compass and, even with only a vague concept of where I'm going in relation to where I am, set off confidently in a direction.  If you told me to meet you at 23rd and Tasker I definitely would not have any concept of the specific distance from where I'm sitting right now but I could get there without pausing to consult a map. 

 If, on the other hand, you told me you were anywhere in Fishtown I would envision myself panicking at a series of five way intersections of streets that run with no particular regard for cardinal direction.  Even worse is being somewhere that order is typically expected and then removing it.  To wit, nothing freaks me out faster than Passyunk Ave; it runs through the grid and, if it at least did so on a 45 degree angle I could (maybe) handle it.  It doesn't and I can't.  

Life is invariably more complicated than traffic and road design, and I grew up in Jersey's circles and jughandles so that's saying something about life.  Unlike my walks through the city, I prefer my walk through life to be without such a rigid path.  To continue the city-walk-as-life metaphor this is what it would look like for me: meandering into random homes and buidlings to take in the architecture.  Taking up residence for a month or a year if there were people there with interesting things to teach me.  If buildings didn't look interesting enough to enter and the block seemed to walk around, I might scale them just for a lark.  Why not?

Anytime I've tried to live my life on a logical grid I get drawn off into some more interesting cu-de-sac or labryinth or wooded path instead.  Instead of trying to find a role model who could show me what it looked like to be an artist in a sustainible way, I tried my parent's theory on going to college to get a degree that paid.  The big compromise was going for bio/secondary ed so that I could have a job that allowed me three months off to write.  They weren't happy that I was going to enter such a low paying profession (never mind that my dad is a techer) but it was better than going for English or even Enlish/educations since science and math teachers were and probably are in higher demand.  

As a result I never finished school because I showed up to classes that I hated and I failed them.  I did, however, get consistently high grades in courses such as Contemporary Moral Issues, Art History of Southesat Asia, Global Women Writers and Women and Health:  Power Politics and Change.  I love learning for the sake of learning and I love the intersections I find in seeminly unrelated subjects.  I like looking at veganism through the lens of radical feminist theory and I the Tao Te Ching really helped me understand nutrition, politics, yoga and quantum physics.  I could get a degree where each class logically followed the next and the right series of degree(s), internships and certifications yielded a predictable and profitable career.  I'm glad that lots of people do.  I don't want to, and I've stopped trying.  First of all, none of the destinations seem all that appealing to me.  Secondly, as mentioned in my first post on transit, I think it's all in the journey anyway and that every destination is really just a pit stop, at least for me.  I'll keep on keeping on with my bumbling life path, looking for the transcendtal connection betwen baseball, the Bronte sisters and Panck's constant.

What I'm learning is to meld the two ways of being.  I am walking boldly forward without any idea as to where that will take me.  I will not stop to jusitfy working 16 hour days on film sets with a burrito for payment or tell you how the networking I do there will eventually get me paid.  I don't know how it will.  It might or might not.  I don't know and I don't care.  What I know is that I feel more alive when I'm around the energy of creation that at any other time.  I do not think that getting a degree in art history would be a waste of time if I passed up a steady museum job to be a yoga instructor and freelance photographer anyway.  Just because I'm smart enough to get a degree and use it doesn't mean I should.  I'm going places I love and that doesn't need to satisfy andybody's value system but my own.  I can be happy for you on the grid as long as you can be happy for me meadering through corn fields and meadows.

Back in Action

Notes.  1) I've be writing and rewriting this blog both literally and in my head for an hour and some days now, respectively. 2) The break in blogging was due to an unusually intense and, thankfully unusually short major depressive episode. 3) I have long been drawn to Hindu god and goddess stories and art and, while I am not a religious person, often find these to be useful in my meditative practice.

I don't feel like a chronicle of my experiences of depression are useful or necessary at this juncture, but what snapped me out of this one is of note, at least to my mind.  I have been fortunate to have learned a number of helpful meditative practices in the last eight months or so and decided that, for the first time, a journey would be appropriate.  I've never worked with a shamanic practitioner but with a little advice from a friend who does this regularly and my intuition to guide me, I started a very strange journey which is at some points difficult to recall.  The purpose of the journey was to find the root cause of my recurrent depressive episodes and thus be able to address it more effectively.

From the time that I lost any ego/control and simply became an observer, here is what I recall:  (It is dream-like in its surreality and I would imagine that, like a dream, I was dealing in metaphors that spoke to my reality, although I don't care to make any effort to interpret them.)  First I spent time in a lake.  I wasn't the only being there, but I don't remember who/what else was there.  I was concerned about being under water for too long but my intuition told me to just remember that I started life in the womb with gills and that I could still use them.  After some time underwater I emerged to talk to Ganesha.  (He is the Hindu god that one prays to before praying to any other god and is regarded as the remover of all obstacles.  His mother is Parvati and his father Shiva, the god of destruction.)  I don't remember what was said or done.  

After our initial interaction I stated the intention of my journey: find the root cause of my depression.  At that point my back was opened and my seventh thoracic vertebrae removed and shown to me.  It was completely shattered and dirty.  Parvati then replaced it with either a new or healed vertebrae and then closed my back.  And that point I returned to speak to Ganesha again and this time he was many times my size.  (I usually picture him human size, if at all.)  He is an elephant headed god with a four armed human body and, for the second time in recent meditation, and ended by falling asleep on top of his belly with his trunk in front of me, protecting and shielding me.

That is what I remember of the journey.  Interestingly, my yoga teacher has identified my t-spine as the place in my body with the least flexibility.  This isn't the first meditation that focused on this part of my body and I have found increasing physical flexibility with each subsequent meditation and healing.  Likewise, there have been multiple yogic experiences in which the physical act of entering and working through a pose has facilitated a meditation, journey, or significant and intense emotional state during which I maintained a typical state of consciousness.  (The latter has always been unpleasant because conscious attachment, logical assessment and extreme discomfort make if difficult to learn from and/or release the feeling, as opposed to a detached meditative state where I can notice without judgement and then let go.)

I will never cease to be in awe of the mysterious ways in which our minds work and the ability that we have to heal ourselves.  

16 February 2009

Young Urban Cyclist - 5 of 5

sweet gear ratio
moves well from city to trail
versatile. (like me)

Young Urban Cyclist - 4 of 5

these are merely a 
few my favorite things
(the dog would not pose)

Young Urban Cyclist - 3 of 5

making a quick left
i forget the hand signal
the dead save no time

Young Urban Cyclist - 2 of 5

sure the studs look cool
but sadly all bike seats hurt
(i ride standing up)

Yes, I really am a pistol. Once, I was The Pistol in Bed Thirteen

At the request of @FirstPersonArts, I am here to share with you the story behind the title of my blog.

Picture it.  Philadelphia, January of 2007.  I am slightly cold lying in my hospital bed, waking up at the tender age of twenty two from my first colonoscopy.  (There's really no gentle introduction for medically prescribed sodomy with a camera attached to a flexible tube, so I figured you, dear audience, wouldn't mind me jumping right in.)  The last thing I remember was realizing that the reason that my arm felt so cold was because the room temperature anesthesia flowing into me via IV needle was significantly cooler than my core body temperature.

Suddenly my attention is drawn to the IV, still in my arm despite having been disconnected from the bags and tubing.  It itches, and I am overcome with an irresistible urge to pull the needle myself.  I think, hell, I've set my own nose the last two times I broke it with with just the handle of a plastic spoon, a Bic lighter and athletic tape. I think, gosh, I've had one whole semester of student nursing  clinical experience.  (During which, it bears noting, I never *once* touched an IV.)  I think, golly, all the time on TV there's someone with no medical training doing an emergency tracheotomy with a pocket knife, a pen and rubbing alcohol.  I think - no, wait - I wasn't thinking, I was stoned out of my damn gourd on whatever drugs are strong enough to make you believe it's OK for a team of strangers with drugs, an air compressor and that  damn camera to be messing around with your asshole.  Because, let's be serious, that generally doesn't sound like a recipe for success.

The one things I was thinking at least semi-coherently, lying there in the thirteenth curtained bay of the Pennsylvania Hospital Gastrointestinal Associates, was that I was going to pull my own IV and that everyone would think it was oh-so-hilarious.  They'd be talking about that kid with moxie for weeks.  The doctors, sure that they had just a run of the mill patient on their hands, would admire my mad medical skills, theretofore unknown to them.  And, absolutely without a doubt, the nurses would stand around the water cooler talking about that impish kid, the pistol in bed thirteen!  Yeah man, I was going to be the coolest guy who just had a camera shoved up his ass and was waiting for his mother to drive him home, like, ever!  Friends, I swear to you that this made perfect, utter sense at the time.   (This kind of convoluted thinking is also the exact reason that I don't/can't use drugs in a recreational manner.)

Needless to say, not only was I not revered by all in the medical practice but the tech, who I swear was flirting with me earlier (and thus I'm glad to say was *not* present, at least to my knowledge, during the procedure) was not at all amused.  Granted I'd staunched the light trickle of blood with gauze myself and seemed none the worse for the wear but he seemed altogether disappointed in me.  I loopily tried explaining how uncomfortable and itchy the IV was but he wasn't hearing it.  

In fact, I think he literally misheard what I said at all because his response was "if you're feeling discomfort it sometimes helps to pull your knees into your chest and release some of the gas that they pumped into you during the procedure."  I was lying in the fetal position trying to take that all in and, as I didn't immediately stir, (did I mention that I was stoned out of my gourd at the time?he started to explain again why that might help me feel more comfortable.  Half way through what he was saying I spryly rolled on to my back, pulled my knees tightly into my chest and than relaxed the rest of my body in a way achievable only through spiritual transcendence or, in this case, intense pharmaceutical intervention.  I let it fly.  I felt so. much. better.  

He. Looked. Mortified.  And he was definitely not flirting anymore.  

So, that's me.  I've got moxie.  I'm impish.  My bodily functions can apparently offend people who assist in performing colonoscopys for a living.  And I will always think of myself rather fondly as "The Pistol in Bed Thirteen."

Young Urban Cyclist - 1 of 5

This post draws on some inspiration from @weeklyblogpost when I originally thought I was going to do my "Transit" post on my new bike. I thought some pictures would be appropriate, snapped away on my iPhone, and then wrote something completely different. However, I still really liked some of the shots (minus the graininess of some, but hey, when you can't afford a fancy new Cannon D whatever at the moment, you make do, yeah?) so I decided to use them in subsequent blogs.

Where the big inspiration *really* came in was via @k8iedid and her photo blog "Better Off Soaked." What can be better than discovering a great new photo blog you ask? Well friends, I will tell you what. I actually got to see the photographs presented by the artist her self at a First Person Arts Salon and hear her talk about her blog and how it got started. (Incidentally, FPA also tweets: @FirstPersonArts) What really captivated me was her thoughts on the broken umbrellas that she sees and what stories they tell her. Some of the photogrpahy on the blog is simply captioned, some has haiku, and one favorite even has a gossip columnesque "spotted" write up about accompanying it.

Seeing as I so happened to have five pictures and five days of the week where I would be working and taking classes, I decided this would be a great opportunity to cheat my blog, as it were, and get a number of posts ready on the weekend that I could share throughout the week. Moving forward, I will choose a photo theme for the week as well as the style in which I respond to them. That should definitely be an interesting exercise in a variety of writing styles. Feel free to suggest photos and writing styles you would like to see as I'm open to reader participation. Without further ado, I give you Young Urban Cyclist, Part 1:

a good bike is your
urban liberation but
watch out for the cabs 

15 February 2009

@weeklyblogpost - Muse

I am inspired by artists who surprise us by leaving their messages of hope, beauty, frustration and anguish all around the city for me to find.
Sometimes they exist in communities like The Tiberino Museum in Powelton Village.

Other times they reclaim an area of urban decay.

Artists embolden me to speak my own truth, and to do so from a place of unconditional love.

Most amazing of all, when I need a kick in the ass they can sense it and they chalk my office building.

@weeklyblogpost - Transit

When I saw @stellargirl tweet about@weeklyblogpost I knew that my excuse for not regularly blogging had come to an end.  It is true that this blog was due a week ago yesterday and that, having moved the due dates to Sundays, that I will be turning in my "Muse" themed blog later today.  That's fine.  Whatever keeps me writing.

Beyond those blog assignments I intend for this blog to be a repository for sharing any experiences and thoughts that I feel speak to shared human experience. I could limit myself to being a vegan or health care or LGBT or film blog, but limits are stifling and I have to a lot to say.  At the moment, we're here to discuss transit.

The obvious route, city boy and SEPTA enthusiast that I am, would be to literally discuss mass transit.  Yes, I could get excited about it.  Ask me about that abandoned Franklin Square stop on the PATCO line some time and watch my face light up.  I read all about it on SEPTA's history page one day when work was slow and the khaki cubicle walls were pressing in on me. 

However, while the Broad Street Line isn't exactly interesting without end, the human condition is.  When I think about transit I think about myself my friends.  I think about the ways in which we are in transition.  We are transitioning careers, genders, marital statuses and street addresses.   It is exciting, frightening and heavy with risk; it is tantalizing with the possibility of reward.  This often seems as awkward and uncertain as our pubescent transition to sexual maturity but hopefully with greater wisdom and fewer breakouts.  

I don't personally know where I'm going.  I am a train departing 30th Street Station, bound for all destinations at once.  I'm trying a bit of everything.  I'm figuring out what makes me money, what makes me happy, what gets me laid.  I am busy wondering why I'm in debt, if film is the exact fit for my artistic and entrepreneurial interests, and if there is an herbal cure for a sexually transmitted intestinal parasite.  I  have stopped buying lunch at Whole Foods every day, I am working on sets, writing in a journal, starting a blog and just attended a social media conference with Jeff Pulver in NYC.  I took black walnut for two weeks and, yes, it killed the parasite.  I'm getting there, even if I don't know where that is.  

There are two ways to look at this (at least).  You can be transitioning between gears and for a (hopefully) brief time your bike pedals will spin furiously without engaging, without providing torque, without converting your energy into forward motion.  This is what I feel like when I answer phones and emails and coordinate surgeries and conferences that, in some vague sense, "help people."  Mostly these actions help earn other people and organizations tens of thousands of dollars *per day* while I earn little in monetary compensation or emotional or spiritual satisfaction.  At the moment all of my forward motion is derived from ancillary activities such as event designing for non-profit organizations or acting in indie shorts.

The second bit is interesting because it is not transition, but the actual act of transit.  It is not the road or the bike we pedal on it, but it is the journey itself.  It is engaging in the activities that challenge me intellectually, physically and spiritually.  It is pausing before rushing to defend the status quo.  It is moving purposefully in a direction.

I'm doing it without and without grace and dignity.  I like it.  This is gritty and exciting. Somewhere along the way I have realized that there is no destination, but only a series of refuelling stops on a journey that, if we're lucky, is engaging and uninterrupted from cradle to grave.  Any time we have stopped the journey we have fouled things up.  For example, if I got a degree in accounting (something, incidentally, that I could never do as I think numbers are somebody else's job) then the way I see it I would have two options: keep up the journey by finding challenge in growth within accounting or start taking a tap dancing class after I got done crunching numbers.  If I were an accountant who wasn't being challenged inside or outside of my career I would be reduced to living in just one dimension without growth in any direction.  When I'm a movie producer and entrepreuner I will certainly be studying astrophysics and art history on the side.

Transit is challenge, education and growth.  Transition is moving from one lesson to the next with all the beauty and strength that we can muster.