Friday, October 30, 2015

You, Too…..

For the last 8 years, I take this weekly Latin hip-hop dance class.  The teacher is this dread-locked, sexy, ultra-talented dancer/percussionist/DJ who choreographs routines to great Latin and Brazilian music I wouldn't otherwise get to hear.  Lately he's been playing this version of U2's  'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' with a samba beat, and Spanish lyrics--- it's fantastic and grooving and nostalgic all at once.  The chorus is in English… as though there's no translation for this lyric.

I remember well when this song came out-- I was fortunate to be a guest on the Lou Reed/U2 tour and I saw from stage left-- at Wembley-- and other massive stadiums, night after night, Bono come out and sing these lyrics with compelling personal passion.  Backstage the band was all hanging out with various supermodels-- who knows what was going on in his head-- a young mid-life crisis-- a confession, a genuine plateau of confusion, as often happens when people encounter that kind of massive success:  questions rather than answers?  He was sweet and adorable and at some kind of peak in every way, and when he sang this song, he made himself vulnerable… it was like an anthem of self doubt.

But it wasn't until this week, doing my little steps and turns, that it suddenly occurred to me that the lyric doesn't mean just this unfinished search for some kind of answer, but maybe the writer hasn't a clue what it is he is even looking for.  Seems so simple--- but all these years, I didn't get it.

Anyone observing my dance class would undoubtedly see all kinds of 'lost' people: the tattooed and outfitted girls who are living their Beyonce and Janet Jackson fantasy--- the older Hispanic women who shake their hips with real soul and sexiness, the men who can't seem to get the rhythm in their body-- the over-50 women who bare their midriffs that no one wants to see-- one who wears a leather bustier and even manages a split.  It's a little over the top, and one wonders what drives these people… there's significant competition for the front row, and having our teacher grab one of us for a few bars is a coveted reward.  I lose myself in the music-- it's exotic and different, and I'm beginning to understand the bass rhythms.

At the end of the class, there's a cool-down to this Brazilian version of a Bryan Adams song.  Another guy who, in the late 1980's, was looking for his heaven in the arms of the British princess.  He bought himself a house and moved over there, wrote her a couple of songs-- the tabloids printed stories of their affair…who knows?  I'm sure he was devastated by her death.  I guess he didn't quite know what he was looking for-- neither did the Princess, apparently.  Or she knew what she wasn't looking for, which  made the royal family uncomfortable.

I never found what I was looking for in London, although I thought I did, briefly.  As often happens in life, the answer we find doesn't necessarily take us through the next set of questions.  Our lives don't stop-- they roll on endlessly, with our own high and low tides and storms and days of calm.  Sometimes what we most want passes us by when we're asleep or obsessing about something useless.  We fail to love the person in our path because they don't look exactly like our current version of love, and then it might be too late.

As I get older, I think I spend less time waiting.  I used to love the periods in my life when I was pining for some boy or man, crossing off days on my calendar until he came.  There was nothing like those days and nights-- they felt lit up, enchanted-- thrilling.  But these days, I am inclined to reach out and embrace whatever I find in my path.  I love going to flea markets and thrift stores-- you never find anything you want, but the random discovery is what makes these visits amazing.  It's like scraping the bottom of some strange ocean with a net and coming up with a shell or a plant or some amazing rock.  Useless but  day-changing.  You take the thing home and it becomes part of you.

I watch people drop off donation boxes to thrift stores-- the book boxes are sad and predictable--- college textbooks, marriage manuals, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, some Steven King and Joyce Carol Oates, then fitness and diet books, retirement planning, sometimes books about healing or cancer… then self-help books, manuals on depression, dealing with death, meditation tapes-- -a Bible… and there you have it… a man who maybe found what he was looking for, at least on a Barnes and Noble bookshelf,.. and then, like all of us, realized that we have limited options at the end.

Night after night, people dig through our trash on my corner--- looking.  People buy Lotto tickets-- it's uncanny the numbers of dollars spent because they believe they are going to win-- that they will be able to have what they are looking for.  The belief factor-- is mind-blowing.  People of limited income will spend a small fortune over a lifetime… convinced that the next ticket is going to be 'it'.

My rich neighbors seem to have more money than they can count-- -some of them get into collecting.  Men buy expensive guitars which they'll never play like a young hungry musician who cannot do anything but play, because he has no choice, and his heart is already full of music.  These wealthy guitar owners will never find what he has, but they might look around-- play a little, feel something-- fantasize about a different life.  One of my friends tells me she is working at a soup kitchen some nights-- feeding the homeless.  She is looking for something, maybe… paring away at her guilt because she is extremely fortunate… and doesn't realize that this system is failing the truly oppressed and underfed… but she is not looking there, not walking through East Harlem at 3 AM and seeing the numbers of bodies looking for cans and bottles, or dreaming under boxes and blankets-- dreaming of something they may or may not have found.

I think I now know it is the looking that matters--- not really the finding.  And the richest things we find are rarely if ever the ones we are looking for, because life doesn't work that way.  The best we can do is keep postponing the ending, because the finding will go on and on, and that is a gift in itself.  It's just a matter of trying not to predict or ask-- and accept the random order of life as it is, because some things are so constant-- the light and dark, the sky, the stars and moon, the seasons, moving the clock back one hour as we will all obediently do this weekend--gaining an extra hour of looking, maybe an hour of shivering in the cold or rain, an hour of love, of music, of a hotel room you have bought for a night of love, of time spent writing a song, of pain, of pleasure, of looking, as I will see it, because it might just be the hour when I will find something I wasn't looking for at all, like a poem,  and it will be enough.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Some Kinda Love

Betrayals and break-ups always seem more prevalent in the rain. This cold relentless October rain was sort of a jolt to the city; just one week ago we were bathing in the radiant sunlight of a warm September, waving to our Pope, feeling a kind of hopeful optimism and magnanimity.  Everything I did felt just a little 'blessed'.  Tonight, it's business as usual. I've committed my one or two unforgivable social etiquette sins-- let the rebel-girl out of my mouth--  been just a tiny bit mean-spirited.  I'm soaked, freezing, snappy and blustery.

As I grow older, I'm noticing I become a little more clairvoyant and uber-empathetic.  I don't just observe-- I actually feel things around me.  I can read minds and hearts and find myself having to blink  and look away more often.  Tonight I began to hypothesize that there are two kinds of love-obsessed people: the ones that are all about being loved, and the ones that are addicted to loving.  We know the narcissists-- attractive and charming-- generally someone at their beck and call, their 'mirror-boy' (or girl), not to mention some in the wings, waiting for a stage-cue. But their counterpart-- the 'lovers' who are  so good at maintaining relationships, at partner-grooming and socializing--  they give gifts, they dote-- a little like pet-owners?  And I can spot them in a second.  The ones not currently 'in a relationship' are stalking the online dating sites, browsing Bridal magazines, seeing themselves as half of any given celebrity couple.  They are theoretical, future wives.  They make very good partners-- they cook, decorate, make reservations-- and for some men-- this is great.  They will get married, have kids, vacation, play doubles, barbecue, retire… and some will wonder where it all went.   I see these couples all too often… they seem happy and even look good together-- this is important.  But what I see now, also, is this missed connection somewhere; for the 'other half' of us-- the ones who don't really know what it is we want from love---- they will fail us and we, of course, will fail them.

Having read too much from an early age, I tend to infuse common objects with symbolic meaning.  I see a card lying in the road and find some ironic synchronicity.  Tonight I stepped onto a curb and there was a long stem… without the 'head' of the rose--- just the twig, and the thorns, lying on the puddled sidewalk.  At first it looked ominously decapitated… this is a bad sign, I think.  A death card.

A car passes-- windows open, despite the wet night… blasting some Coldplay…  Magic, I think it's called…and I don't and I don't want anybody else but you… the driver hitting the steering wheel, mouthing lyrics… I could feel his exhilaration… young, driving through the wet city, Friday night… picking up his girl… it has always been this way-- music lets us love-- through the lyrics, through the sounds… we let go, we align with someone's joy… we dance…

I can remember how this is and was… the songs we love, the songs we loved… burying our face into some chest, eyes closed… feeling enfolded and lifted into the music… even when it is a different man -- we can still close our eyes and be inside the song, inside an old memory , another dance… it is okay.  How many lovers, dancers, are closing their eyes in the wrong arms… leaving their dreams in a heap on the floor while they crawl into some warm bed… the wrong bed, the right bed… we can close our eyes and be somewhere-- anywhere.

Thinking back… how this bald man coming out of this building, with the glasses and his shirt collar buttoned up tight--- he could have been that soft long haired boy, swaying by the stage with a beer can, looking at you like you can save his life… and you can…and you did, maybe,  and who am I now, this woman walking on the slick sidewalk in the street lamplight thinking about old love, evaporated nights, reading a message into some missing rose petals?   Loves me, loves me not… we'll never know this way, will we?

James our local boom box-bearing homeless resident of the street… is howling tonight, holding his box like a megaphone, screeching out lyrics to a distorted track… he is looking not just thin but taut and drawn, ashen… wired and wiry, angry and boisterous… pointing up at the moon, chanting and preaching, singing and stomping.  Where is his love?  Who will dance with him in his dream?

In the lamplight I see something shiny-- it's a jade earring… I take it into the Starbucks on the corner.  A woman has called them, they tell me-- maybe 5 or 6 times, looking for this earring.  It was nowhere.  No, she hasn't left a number… but I leave the earring--- it's perfect and lovely...another piece to a cosmic puzzle that won't be solved, a lost soul watching its other half sail away..

My apartment feels cold and damp; my son surprises me with a late-night visit-- comes to sleep over-- feeling some October restlessness he can't shake…I remember those times, when everywhere felt like a rocking boat, a crowded subway-- except that one bed where you could lie in the dark forever, listening to the minutes-- a record on the turntable… a 25 minute universe, while all you are is the music, the ceiling, the bit of streetlight streaking onto the wall… the man beside you for an lp eternity… your version of paradise… inside this music where you can really love, like Neil Young says.  He hasn't quite found that bed this time… and maybe his boyhood room feels like 'home' for tonight.  Within minutes he is sleeping peacefully.

I am still thinking about my bad angel-- the one bed where I could always find my home… missing for so long, the last time lying beside him on his hospital bed, trying to absorb the pain… Sing to me, he said, in a morphine stupor, but he can't hear me anymore… and the lights, the lights were harsh and the machines were humming and the roses by his bed-- the perfect white roses-- they couldn't keep him any more than this headless stem I have somehow carried home… and that one person-- even if he lived.. he might have slept with other women because people do this-- they betray you, they go away, they shoot up and pass out and step out in front of cars and they jump-- they jump into and off and away.

I do one of those random record picks with eyes closed and I get the Velvet Underground… the one that starts with Candy Says.. so fragile and vulnerable… and I light a candle, and my son wakes up and joins me for a glass of wine and makes fun of my music.. while he stares off, unusually pensive, for him….By about the 3rd track he taunts me a little, singing in his out of tune buoyant boy-voice that gets me smirking… mocking the lyrics and now he is up and mock-dancing and grabbing my funny green stem in his mouth-- I am full out laughing… Put on your red pajamas and find out..  and I am singing, too, now… suddenly Lou Reed and I are as we were, as we will always be, in the music…