Thursday, January 21, 2010

Losing It

Every so often I give in to the ghost which burrows in my shadow, and which generally rests while I play music or dreams while I sleep. But I am feeling this enormous cry coming up from him… like ominous regurgitation of some past sorrow I have managed to partition off from my current read-only-memory. I awoke this morning with it perched on my chest so I could scarcely breathe or open my eyes to face it. So I listened...and found I could no longer distinguish the compulsive annoying cooing of the pigeons on the ledge from the creaking pipes and the motors idling outside. And these muffled sobs somewhere… (could I be imagining this?) and workmen cursing and scraping metal and pounding… then further away I could swear I could hear each block's soundscape piling on the next until everything finally became a whirring blur…like all the ingredients of a life are somehow getting ground and whipped into this fog-colored mush. And suddenly I don’t know who or where I am because all the elements— air, light, walls--- have been the same, since the room into which we were born… and will be, up to the room from which we will die.

I now wonder if my Mom is faking her dementia because it’s all so much easier when nothing is expected of one—when you just let go and take the slide, even if you look ridiculous and your old petticoats are flying up around you. Because who actually cares… and who will remember?

All of us, still texting our pathetic donations, holding our rosaries, glued to the television in horror at the Haitian nightmare… do we need to compare our miserable lives to true suffering so we will feel better? Or do we actually envy, in some perverse way, these people who have lost everything… who have bottomed and embraced the terrible excruciation of severed limbs and bone-crushing agony? Those who have met our fears, who have had their hell on earth, and can let go in some way of the terror of losing that we New Yorkers seem to be afflicted with. After all, is this not why we invest our money, made superstars of AIG, assess and insure our homes…to hedge against loss?

A man who is a lifelong Gamblers Anonymous member confided to me the other day that it is not the win that jags the true gambler – it is losing. Because one can’t have or win everything— there is always more. Yet one can lose everything. And therein lies the thrill of the bet. So what does this mean to those of us who are not gamblers but addicted to horror, to tragedy, to sympathy, to loss? We are a race of losers. The House always wins, does it not? And for those of us who are ready to lose everything… are these the real heroes? Is letting go equal to losing everything? Is it not more like giving out, losing one’s grasp, as opposed to leaping into the abyss?

No matter how the media spins things, the abyss seems to have fallen onto the Haitians. So who has lost more… they who have lost everything or we who are addicted to fear? Thinking philosophically doesn’t help this aching I have to just let go and weep… in front of my children, in front of an audience, on the subway… and not one person I know has any sense of it… obviously my failure…my loss, their loss, my pitiful non-Haitian heart, my unburied rosary, the fog, the receding tide of what I have not won.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Barbarians Are Us

So how many of us spent Tuesday and Wednesday night in our warm little apartments watching live footage of the horrific devastation in Haiti, the way we watched after 9/11… pulling our hair, weeping, a bit of voyeurism, a bit of helpless prayer… me always thinking about the women in labor… someone underneath the rubble undoubtedly suffering the triple irony of hopeless birth?

Does this make us better people, walking around with the heavy guilt of our own safe lives, desperately rounding up our friends to give money, to donate services…wanting to board planes or boats, knowing our only power is financial, and many of us are helpless?

So many are miserable…here… the wealthy and the welfared… the phenomenal numbers eating anti-depressants and amphetamines. Do we for seconds abandon our own self-absorbed neuroses and yearnings for plastic surgery, for weaves and laser-treatments, for skin-products and fashion, gyno- and rhinoplasty, dental veneers and hair-dye? Perhaps. And because we weep, we beat our breasts in silence and cannot sleep— does this help? It does not.

Among the moments of unbearable poignancy, footage I saw last night— a truck piled high with cartons of biscuits…unloading and distributing… and someone among the starving desperate hoard surrounding the truck, someone who we now know is in the minority of literate Haitians— cries out, the date is expired on these boxes of biscuits… because he has seen the packaging date, not the expiration date which is somewhere in the way-distant future… and there is a panic, and all the people fear illness, pain, intestinal poisoning…and they run back.. .and there is chaos, and the truck drivers in frustration finally get back on the truck and pull away. But now it seems perhaps someone has figured out their error, and a few begin shouting, and men and children are running after the truck, which has now gone on… and the people are left devastated, starving, abandoned… victims of their own panicky deception.

Because in a moment of crisis so few of us are able to think rationally… and when one has discovered there is nothing, nowhere that is ‘safe’… it is near impossible to make a decision. The earth beneath is crumbling… one accepts the perils of outdoor street-habitation for fear of being crushed indoors in an aftershock wave. Some panic and scream, some weep… some like the teenage girl pulled from her home with the broken leg swear that they are not afraid. Who is this girl, from where do her genetics come—from some godlike warrior-race of such dignity and courage? Because my own son had a fit of rage during a summer blackout when his cellphone could not be charged.

Easiest to see 20/20 with hindsight. To find our way out of an overwhelming maze requires someone else’s vision. Beneath the rubble one has no concept of what has happened…the world, or is it about me? Does everyone see the world from two eyes only? This is the way we are made.

Meanwhile, Conan O’Brien fights on. Why he can’t donate whatever remains of his contract to the Haitian relief effort is beyond me. He will probably never need to budget hair replacement, but he has lost whatever entertainment value he never had. Perhaps he lies awake and thinks… if I were an NFL wide receiver, I’d be getting bought out for way more. Ah, Conan, it’s superbowl month… and there has been an earthquake, and we are sick of the kind of TV which no longer serves. You are both a relic and a souvenir. Your wife will probably not leave you and you can maybe write for an unscripted reality show. You might even get one of your own.

For Conan, like my son during the blackout, perhaps this was his personal earthquake. What is pathetic is that it’s all ‘game’ for TV—the endless gossip-mongering and personality posturing, the Cramer bs and Deal or No Deal, the heartfelt weeping of Oprah and her weight issues, the disaster footage, the bloating corpses that find themselves TV stars without contracts or even permission to be filmed in the ultimately humiliating state of human horror which is the future of each and every one of us, whether we are being nursed and morphined in a hospital or flattened by a drunk driver.

Does literacy and intelligence make us good? It certainly does not, nor does seeing with that third eye. Is Anderson Cooper a better person than Oprah? They will both do more good than I. But one can try to get off the truck and explain about the biscuits... one can try to send anesthetics and antibiotics and help those who can help. Today two teenage girls were sitting on their front stoop in Brooklyn enjoying the warmer weather outside...and a man walked by and shot them. Whether or not they were thinking about the Haitians. Whether or not they had Haitian relatives, or whether or not the shooter had Haitian family and couldn't get his own medication. For the non-helpless among us-- and you might know who you are--- one can try to be good.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Crouching Bloggers

Longest hiatus yet. Having a blog-identity crisis. Every housewife on the block has one now— the amount of verbal waste on the internet is colossal. If words were pennies, we could pay the Goldman Sachs bonuses for the next 4000 years in just a week.

I’ve been cutting back on so much, I started to hold back on verbal output. I almost posted one last month called ‘Crouching Tiger’. I always hated golf. Who was the comedian who once described golf as the sport invented so white people can dress like black people? For me, I can’t take seriously any sport that doesn’t involve either sweat or speed. And Elliot Spitzer already walked in his shoes. Why do we act so horrified? There were no murders. Tiger Woods makes a very poor poster child for adultery. He’s too nerdy. Swedes (hence the wife) like golf. They also like black people and they don’t have a lot of Afro American celebrities there. I’m sure he doesn’t fit the stereotype. No Chris Brown style beatings. In fact, it was the wife who might have hit Tiger. Which iron did she use, because she got quite a bit of mileage with it?

Now that we have that out of the way…. Aren’t there larger all-American dreams which have been shattered of late? Like the entire economy? Like the US Treasury? Like the MTA which is again crying poverty while their legal staff is brushing D&G shoulders with the bankers who at Miami-Basel (timed of course to coincide with bonus-week) shopped until they dropped for 7-figure paintings, to keep their cash balance just under conspicuous?

At the end of 2009 I found myself pathetic and nostalgic-- missing Mary Travers, the Village Gate, the Ramones, Andy, Max’s, juke box longing. Eleven days into the New Year I am missing other things-- the stray dog I found on Madison Ave in 1979, the innocent days of serial killers in Manhattan, waiting for a boy to call, the Star Spangled Banner sign-off, curly phone cords and rotary dials, neon, subway grafitti, getting naked under winter sheets with a boy I scarcely knew. It is not just getting older, it is the whole media/internet-rounding of edges and corners…
I feel looted…I feel robbed of some kind of innocence… like finding your parents are bad.

But what are bad people like now? People have secrets… we are exposed but they have secrets, more than ever… worse secrets. People that torture animals, children. People that watch this stuff on the internet. Corporate secrets. The kind that enabled our financial wizards to rob us blind and make us pay for it. The gilt-coated Goldman Sachs CEOs are going to enforce charitable giving quotas for those who earn enough to feed whole continents and whose daughters probably puke up their $1000 sushi dinners in sonic self-cleaning toilets. No DNA in the bowl.

The cancer rate is going down because no one wants to go to the doctor. We are sick of co-pays and information they give us to make pharmaceutical stocks go up. Death could be a relief. Galaxies of information--- green products, clean energy… and still there are evil Nazi lovers, the guy in line behind me at the grocery store--the haters. The lady beside me in the gym who makes a comment.. .we assume others are tolerant… and then they say something that reveals the vituperative soul they are and we try to create a few extra inches between treadmills.

Golf.. I always knew it was a sinister sport… it always disgusted me. Even the word—nerdy and gagging.

Last night on the train home, there were some spectacular freaks of the kind I haven’t seen in years, except nightmares. One guy with a stench so bad the whole car was empty. A smell beyond putrid human waste and rot. And on the next car, where there were 2 separate guys singing for their supper or their fix---whatever… arguing… engaged in a tournament of God blessing to death the tired and drunk passengers who mostly have their ears stuffed with hip-hop and are too overdressed in the cold and lazy to reach for their pockets and you can’t put debit cards into cups. But on the car, across from me—a lady… praying maybe, itching like mad, stuffing her hands down everywhere and scratching like a mad dog. And standing by the door a Jesus-type black man with the gnarled dreads, and sandals…in this frigid January… one foot bound with filthy bandages and oozing… oozing a color not in any paintbox. The other foot—the unbandaged one---dried to a shade of bone---and the toes seemed to have dropped off—like old tree branches. And the guy is wiping up something on the floor – some fluid which seemed to have leaked out of him, and he is cleaning it up with a napkin. Do you try to pray? Do you ask God to bless the stenchy-squishy beyond-medical-helpless? Maybe this is Jesus. Not the handsome sexy one everyone wanted to fuck in Hollywood versions. Maybe also this is a man who just tortured and raped another dysfunctional freak. Maybe he is serving some kind of celestial sentence for unspeakable acts. I can't tell anymore. I can't figure anything out and I hear myself wish people a Happy New Year and resolve to keep on creating music I think is important and pray for some kind of posthumous acceptance. And part of me on that train wants to vomit and part of me wants to cry and part of me hates myself for being so fucking cowardly and helpless that all I can do is go home and post worthless words like trash in the endless dump of the web.