Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The big purge

If anybody wants some schlumpy, formless summer clothes in natural-fiber fabrics, please inquire. A large box of them is currently sitting outside my door, waiting for it to stop raining so I can put them on the street. I've stopped dressing that way. One of my college friends once mentioned that nobody back then knew what kind of a figure I had. Well, it was better than I thought it was, better than it is now, but is not yet so far gone that I need to hold onto these clothes. If I get pregnant in the next couple of years I may regret it, but I don't think so.

In addition to purging my closet, I got a haircut just slightly like Heather Locklear's. I have not let a hairdresser layer my hair since I was about ten, because it is so very very straight that layers just lie there, balefully refusing to pouf out in the slightest. But the girl who did it this time had a nice haircut herself, and a French accent, and I was at an emotional disadvantage in more than one way. "Little sheggy layeurs," she said, pawing my head disdainfully. I decided what the heck, if it looks horrible I can always go back to the chin-length blunt cut, staple of uptight classy girls, no-maintenance and boring.

The French chick actually did a good job. I think I look sexy. It doesn't feel "layered" at all, just like there's more hair there, and my face doesn't look so horsy. I can slap it into a French twist and little tendrils hang down artfully at different levels. I considered getting the "light irridescent blond" color kit at Pathmark and a set of rollers, so that I could manufacture a gigantic golden mop like Kate Hudson's, but decided to hold off. I'm bleaching it slowly and cheaply with medicinal peroxide instead.

Of course, the day after I purge my closet, pack up all the winter clothes and winter blankets, the weather gets chilly again. I have the windows open and it's almost uncomfortable. I wanted to bike to Pearl Paint and pick up some tubes of white (NEVER buy white paint in a jar, it dries up on all the exposed surfaces and gets nasty and lumpy) but more rain is in the forecast. I may do it anyway.

Working for BWAC was mildly frustrating. Like with most collective organizations, management is erratic. We sat around for an hour before anyone gave us a task, and then had to pack up about fifty paintings for shipping, with inadequate packing material. This should have been done already, since we were the "site-prep" crew; the girl working with me complained all day about the lack of organization, and how last year was different, there was coffee and donuts and pizza, and paint and spackle all laid out, and she just spackled and rollered without talking to anyone and went home. I would have liked to talk to more people, since networking is one of the major reasons I joined BWAC, but I was missing C. a whole lot that day and did not have sufficient energy surplus for gregariousness. So I wrapped and taped and said "mmmmm" for eight hours and went home.

The BWAC girl reminded me somewhat of a friend of mine who came to visit me in Mexico, and complained for the entire three weeks of her stay. After about ten days of it I let her know that respectfully, she was driving me crazy, and she didn't get it. I realized that ritualized complaining is the only way some people know how to interact. The underlying assumption, as near as I can figure, is that things SHOULD be a certain way, it's somebody else's stupid FAULT if they're not that way, there's nothing that can be done about it, and nothing more to be learned from the situation. This strikes me as utterly pointless. If you start from the assumption that there is a reason for everything, no matter how desperate and stupid it may appear, the world becomes a much more interesting and exciting place. It becomes a dynamic mystery novel and four-dimensional jigsaw puzzle suspended all around you, daring you to assemble it. Once you do, of course, it changes completely and you get to do it again, and again, and again.

It occurs to me that this underlying assumption of mine, that everything happens for a meaningful reason, may have been one of the factors contributing to the explosion of my friendship with L. I made a few innocent, wondering comments like "Isn't it funny that you're meeting all these guys named Mark who aren't calling" and she abruptly disintegrated into hostile paranoia. "I don't think it's FUNNY," she said, and proceeded to accuse me of taking "subtle pot-shots" at her. Which could not have been further from my mind. It WAS funny. Why were they all named Mark? What does "Mark" mean. He's the mark, a marked man, on the mark, marked out? Was she missing the mark? Speculations were open-ended, and had nothing at all to do with her attractiveness or call-worthiness, which I took as given.

But in her mind, I had suddenly become a jealous bitch who was sniggering at her romantic failures, and nothing I could say or do would convince her otherwise. Oh well. Actually I dreamed about her last night. We were both applying for a waitress job, sitting at a table drinking Coke and waiting for the manager, who looked a lot like Jim Carrey. Nobody came over for an hour, and we couldn't even attract anyone's attention to pay for our Cokes. She said something self-righteous, and I said, "you're the one who destroyed a friendship for something trivial in your head." She went over to say goodbye, and I realized she'd already worked a five-hour shift with them. I decided that waiting tables was the last thing I needed to be doing at the moment, and left.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Back in the city

surprisingly feels pretty nice. I even exchanged friendly words with my landlord, Phil the Neanderthal. He did not make a fuss about the fact that my rent was a week late, or that my stairwell is a fire hazard, and inquired about the problem with my air conditioning. He was here because the girls on the ground floor moved out. I will miss them. They threw away a ton of great stuff, which I recycled out of the garbage can--two silver-framed mirrors, three virgin stretched canvases, a brand-new mat cutter, a shower caddy with half a jar of lime-coconut sea-salt exfoliator, and a wool Army trench coat just my size. Oh, to have a day job which allows me to think I can afford such luxuries.

Today I am doing a Master Cleanse fast, which makes me headachy, probably from caffeine withdrawal. I decided that my ankle problem might have to do with toxicity of the liver (this is not insane, the massage therapist pointed out that my entire liver meridian is tender) and so I have quit alcohol for the time being. Went for a bike ride round Prospect Park, which I must do more frequently so I don't go into tree withdrawal again, and did a very lazy, slap-happy, distracted yoga set, pausing every three minutes to snuggle with my Big Splendid Cat. All of us missed one other.

Stopped by Barnes & Noble last night, in desperate search for the new Robin McKinley book, which I need so that I can escape my own brain for a couple more days. Realized that during the last five years (FIVE years? Five YEARS since I've had a steady job? Ack! Ack! Ack!) since I worked in a library, and have been living in other countries and not browsing the new book shelf almost daily, all my favorite authors have been busy writing more books. That's what authors do, right? Whoopee! Backlog!

Argh, I'm hungry. You're not supposed to GET hungry doing Master Cleanse, but I always do. Some people I know have done it for a month or more, but the longest I've managed is two days, in Mexico. Then at the end of the second day I broke the fast with a Baratillo steak quesadilla with tons and tons of really hot salsa. All my vegetarian friends were like, what? You broke your fast with a TACO? You're supposed to start with carrot juice, and work up to brown rice, or some such rot. Sorry, I think I'm a different SPECIES from these people.

I think I've finished the painting for the BWAC show, which has to be delivered Saturday. I don't like it too much, I don't think it's one of my best, but it's not bad enough to pull out of the show. It is supposed to surge and glitter and sparkle, and it sort of does, but not to the extent that I envisioned, and now it's in danger of being completely overworked. I need more space, so I can paint bigger and back up farther, and more time, and more money for huge canvases and brushes and paint. Well, don't we all. I should be all inspired and motivated, seeing as how I've got to go back to the shop pretty soon and start trying to earn my keep again, but all I want to do is lie on the couch and read my new Thomas Perry novel and make a bunch of macaroni and cheese. God, I hate fasting.

I've given myself a one-year ultimatum for stabilizing my finances--if income does not equal or exceed expenditures by the time my lease expires next June, I think I have to move to Maine or Philadelphia, where the licensing laws are gentler and rents are much lower. My friend Sasha vigorously tried to talk me out of this plan, over a way-too-expensive salad at the Brooklyn Diner yesterday evening. It's true that I belong here, and I don't want to go anywhere else. But I've been here two years and still am not breaking remotely even on rent and bills, let alone qualifying for a mortgage on a home of my own, even a stupid little condo which wouldn't be big enough to paint in anyway.

If I think of my current life as a one-year artist residency in New York City, maybe this will motivate me to use my time a little better, market my work a little more (I'm still terrified of gallery owners, even though I AM one) and get out of bed in the mornings. Today I actually got up after eight and a half hours of sleep, hooray. Quitting drinking is probably the secret, dammit.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

What I Think About Sex

Started running just a bit, just a wee small bit, yesterday and today. The problem isn't my aerobic condition; the problem is my left ankle, which tends to lock up, scream and collapse whenever I'm going through anguish in a primary sexual relationship. I took the painful ankle to a local massage therapist yesterday, who specializes in trigger point therapy, horses, and old people. She was frustratingly tentative and cerebral. She kept poking me lightly and asking, 'there?' It came to me that there are as many mediocre bodyworkers as there are mediocre painters; both are deceptively simple mediums with a nearly limitless range of potential lameness. There are kitsch massages, all swoosh and no substance; aggressive, brutal carpenter massages, where the guy knows the anatomy but forgets there's a person in there; formless Abstract Expressionist bodywork; wispy drypoint doodling that is all theory and no affect. Knowledge, coupled with humility, coupled with empathy and power is very, very rare.

A person's body is not a machine that rights itself when you press the right button. It is an instrument that sings if you caress it with skill and with passion, warps if it is left out in the rain, sulks and decays if you put it in a box. I want a bodyworker who goes straight to the sore places and sinks into them over and over, stretches out the kinks, unblocks the flow, kneads and swirls like a cat dancing on my spine. I want someone who allows energy to flow through them like a cataract, who doesn't chatter or explain, who senses my body because they are in a body too, and they know what bodies feel like. Someone who massages people just like *I* do, dammit.

Anyway. This Sex thing. I figured I'd just EXPLAIN, finally, instead of getting into all these confusing, cross-purposes tangles, tangles that have been happening to me now for nearly twenty years. These scenarios are the stuff of farce. For years I have been considering writing a comic novel that begins with me reading a Georgette Heyer Regency romance novel on my boyfriend's bed, while he quietly and elaborately ties himself up. Occasionally I prod his penis with my foot; he groans in ecstasy, and we pass the entire afternoon in parallel fetish harmony.

But if I started, the funny stories would not end, and not a jot of enlightenment would be obtained, for each story is a story of separation, confusion, isolation and miscommunication. A friend of a friend of mine, bless her heart, recently attended a "sex workshop" in Manhattan, because she felt she needed some liberation. The instructor used some sort of egg object to masturbate in front of the entire (co-ed) class, then the participants paired off to coach each other in the technique. For other classes, an "intimate partner" was needed, but if you came to the class solo, they'd pair you up with someone. Oh, blarrgh, horror of horrors. It boggles.

Okay, so don't start getting upset and calling me a repressed fascist. I didn't finish yet. Learning the mechanics of sex is not bad, wrong or evil. It's merely necessary. It's also not sex; it's practicing scales. I can't get that excited about scales. For me, sex is intimate. It is integrated. And it is singular.

Arrgh, that doesn't work. Let me try again. Sex is the top of a fiddlehead fern thrusting through the earth. It is rooted in a single place; it pulls the sun and the water and the soil through itself, it pokes, it springs, it releases lace and glory to the air. It is concentrated creative potential, at one with its surroundings.

Intimate, what is that? It means you know, and are known.

It has always baffled me when people talk about having 'great sex' with people they barely know and don't particularly like. How is this possible? Yes, you can have an intense physical release, made all the more intense by the mystery, the adrenalin, the danger of an animal encounter with another animal in the dark. It's fine as far as it goes. But it doesn't last, it goes nowhere, it isn't rooted in anything. Non-intimate sex is lowest-common-denominator plumbing, snot-rag-for-the-lower-extremities, parts is parts. How boring. How depressing.

This is why, when all my college friends were blithely entering into polyamorous angst and telling me I was an uptight prude, I didn't get laid at all. I danced instead. Can we say, "sublimation?" Freshman and sophomore year I went to parties and had five beers, and when Joe Jackson's 'Steppin' Out' came on I started whirling and didn't stop until the song was over, and only then did I notice the circle of gaping mouths around me. Later on I discovered Austin's peerless live music scene, and for three dollars I could spend the whole evening doing interpretive movement, channelled straight from the source. The musicians would ask me, 'how do you know what we're going to do before we do it?' and of course I didn't; I wasn't thinking at all, just entering the flow. I was simply present.

I didn't want to sleep with anyone who wasn't interested in my soul, was all. The boys who approached me seemed all about ego, and arrogance, and indifference. They didn't give a hoot if I got pregnant, or herpes, or heartbroken. So I kept dancing. Allowing the complexities of music to direct me was the closest I could find to an intimacy high.

Later on, I tried, I tried so hard to un-repress myself, to get it the way other people seemed to. My first lover was simply awful in the sack, worse because he thought he was the greatest. He'd slobber all over me, put his hands in the wrong places, and misinterpret me jerking my face away from his octopus tongue for thrashings of ecstasy. The second was worse, a misogynistic narcissist who thought my body was disgusting. On and on, an act which should have been about communication became an exercise in frustration and misunderstanding. I tried to separate sex from relationship, from emotion, from partnership and communication, and failed completely. My first instinct has always been to integrate, and I think it is a sound one.

Great sex, I think, is a poem about a person. What I like is fine because I like it. What you like is beautiful too. How may these specifics work together to make art?

What interests me is tantric sex, which I haven't read much about because it is too damn frustrating to think about without an interested partner. How about moving very, very slowly, just to see what it's like, or gazing into each other's eyes for twenty minutes? What is there to discover? Can our souls touch each other?

It takes an enormous amount of trust, strength, and good boundaries to embark on a project like this; also chemistry, community and committment. Which is why I've so rarely tried it. I don't want to gaze into the eyes of someone who might suck me dry, or rip me to bits, or freak out and abandon me, or smell really bad and start to bore me. So I apologize to all the people who might have felt rejected by me over the years. What they didn't understand was that when they said, "hey baby, yer cute, why don't we get it on?" what I responded to was, "hey baby, how 'bout I suck up your soul and use it for Kleenex?" Just my own freaky baggage.