Tuesday, April 23, 2013

White People

Ah, as I start in on this post, I'm already afraid of the consequences that might arise from failing to perfectly explain myself.  Or from being misunderstood.  I shall sally forth anyway, because this conversation is nipping at my heels.

A few posts back I mentioned very briefly my daughter's fencing teacher- a fabulously strict, bawdy broad who goes by the nickname of Nana.  If she were a character in a 40's pulp fiction novel she'd be something like the "hooker with a heart."  Happily, she's not a hooker- never has been as far as I know- though if she were, she'd definitely be the Madame of the place. She is however, Russian born, fiercely competitive and entrepreneurial, intense in all ways including the humorous one.  She is the lady who so deftly (according to me) coined this benignly derogatory term that has been trying to birth itself in the corners of my brain for years.  And that would be... no surprises here..."White people."

Nana rolled this out upon me one day when I was at the studio, waiting for Josephine to finish her group lesson, chatting with some of the various moms and dads in the room.  I had to stop her in her speedy march down the tiny aisle stuffed with parents, bags, helmets, kids in various states of undress.  I just had to tell her Jo would miss her upcoming Saturday private lesson because we, yet again, were going to Ojai to hang out in our house there for a weekend getaway with some friends.  And that Josephine would be going to the upcoming tournament, but there was some additional family scheduling snaffoo which meant that only I would be there one day, Jeff, the other.. blah blah blah.

She looks at me in the unwavering glare of the stare you get whether she's miffed or marveling at you and sighs.  Gives a little eye roll. "Ok."  She says.  Then she turns to my fellow parent (who's also caucasian, by the way, as is of course, Nana herself)  points at me and says "White people."  Rolls her eyes.  Then turns to wink at me to let me know that I'm in on the joke.  Which of course, unbeknownst to her, I already knew because I loved the whole teeny slice of life moment as it was squeezing itself upon me.  The only sadness in it was that I also knew in that brief millisecond that Nana had sized me up perfectly.  I wasn't aghast at all, though I concocted a mock jawdrop "I'm offended" face just to make her sweat a little.  (I can't always show her how much she cows me....gotta show some backbone now and again...)

But really I was delighted.  Because she had encapsulated perfectly this enormous amount of disdain I myself have been cultivating for the "White People" of America- perhaps specifically the ones in my own purview.  Of which, of course, I am solidly a member.  So it goes without saying that Nana beautifully identified for me in that minute my own specific guilt and tendency toward self loathing.

Now for the explaining.  Because as much as "White People" sounds like a slam on color, it's not.  It's not about necessarily being white at all.  At least for me it's about other, deeper things. The primary of which is being privileged.  Being supremely busy with all the spoils of your "white person" life.  Being soft.  Having no backbone because you haven't really had to foster one, and so -Being used to cush.  So used to cush that you have to create things like anxiety and ennui to remind yourself that you are still here in the whole soup of the human race in which there exists quite a lot of suffering!

Tell you what- try the phrase on for size.  You need to add a heap of disdain, and an eye-roll akin to what my (likely your own if you got one?) rapidly developing teenage daughter is so diligently cultivating.

"White people."

Make sure you're elongating the "i" in "white."   Really punch that first "P."  Be sure to say it like it's the PG version of what's most likely the real phrase which begins with a gerund word starting with F.

But now, here's the key.  Make sure when you're saying this- your tongue is planted firmly in your cheek.  (Which, by the way, is a hugely "White Person" kind of thing to say.)  In other words, the Nana wink is included in the delivery.

See- because part of me identifies with the derision, as mentioned above.  How could I not?  I was lucky enough to be born to a family, not with proper "White Person" money or even what now passes for "status" in our 21st Century American milieu where most can still rise given enough pluck, luck and elan.  But my family was midwestern and stubbornly driven to succeed.  And so, I was too.  I did well in school.  I did well in extracurricular activities.  I learned to care about myself and other people.  I grew up in a relatively safe, loving environment despite the dissolution of my parents' marriage in my early teens.

And thusly even through all the crappity crap that ended up being my particularized dealt hand, I not only survived, but actually thrived and (though my neurosis would try to convince me otherwise) now enjoy a fairly cushy, easy, privileged lifestyle.

Oh yeah, and I did also happen to be born white.  Which in this day and age sadly, tragically, still really really matters in this world.

So I think it's important to identify and understand the validity of this phrase, "White People."  I'm choosing to take it on and with zeal, apply it to those I see around me every day.  Maybe in a weird way like the African American community boldly embraced the N word (I am a white person and therefore not allowed to even type it.)   They turned the socialization and stigmatization around.   You gonna call me that?  Fuck you- I'M gonna call me and mine that with ENDEARMENT so you can't HURT me with it anymore!

Now, we whites taking on the low-racist-level version of "White People" as some sort of a burden really have no business comparing ourselves to this bold maneuver- but I'm using the comparison just to illustrate the point that it's similar from a sociological vantage point.  I am attempting to turn around what I feel has been unfair and untrue underground socialized thinking as well.  And that's namely that White People are Better.  See- I think that's just simply not true.  In any way.  Though we certainly have been in charge of the better part of the Western world for a very very long time now, we are just no more deserving at all.

There's the heart of my highly-educated, white person guilt.  I and mine don't necessarily deserve the keys to the kingdom any more than anyone else does, and yet- we've got em.


So- in case you're still a little fuzzy about what this is all about- I'm going to provide you with yet ANOTHER list.  Because I think it might help.  And please, feel free to add more in the comments section if you get it.  And god help me, I hope some of you- white, black, yellow, red, green, puce- understand what I've been trying to get at here.  Otherwise I perhaps come across like a horrible reverse racist.  Well- perhaps that's true of me.  Oh well.  Just trying to work it out.

Here's a list of some shit that's really really "White People:" (And just to be clear, at least half of it applies to Yours Truly.)

1. Whole Foods

2.  Second Homes   (oddly, not third, or anything upwards.  Because by the time you're there- you're possibly in the very most uppercrust of monied society which could mean you're a famous sports star, and you're most likely not white in color or in any other way.  Or you're a sheik, and you have 15 domiciles.  Not white either.)

3.  Vitamixes

4.  Private cooking classes

5.  Colonoscopies

6.  Ativan, Xanax and Klonopin

7.  Malbec and Viognier

8.  Luncheons

9.  Hybrid vehicles

10. Organic everything

11. Cloth baby diapers

12. Hand sanitizer-- especially purse size

13. The Symphony

14. Espresso makers

15. Jimmy Buffett   (**does NOT apply to me- I feel compelled to make note)

16. Smart phone headsets

17. Sur La Table

18. Naming your daughter Madeleine, Abigail, Emma or Kaitlyn.  Especially if her middle name is Rose or Grace.

19. Pet spas

and perhaps the whitest of all white things-- with which I am very much enthralled--

20. Downton Abbey

And seeing as I just got home from a Ladies Luncheon today- replete with rented fine china service and  65% cacao chocolates dusted with curry and/or bacon bits- I am rather relieved to have written this blog today.  Like a coming out for me.  Not only is my name on the top 20 list of the Whitest Names in America (really?  Holly?  yep..)  but I just might be for surely and for real be an actual "White Person."  My music life, which maybe gives me a few points in the soul category, doesn't really even begin to balance out the White Personess I emit out of my very lavendar-lotioned pores.

I guess my kids really are right.  I am not cool, and never will be.

Fuck it.  Gotta run.  Need to go shine up the stainless steel kitchen appliances with some metal polish.  The Windex has been leaving streaks and I am NOT HAVING IT--

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chapter 3: La Sagrada Familia

I wasn't positive my kids were going to love their spring break in Europe.

And now that we're two weeks away from it, I'm still not sure that either of them truly loved the trip.  They both appeared to have a relatively good time most of the time and I do believe there were some A-ha moments for them both- surely many more for my 10-year-old daughter than for my 8-year-old son.  The son who was visibly disgruntled at having to leave all electronic equipment behind each morning- forced away from the hotel room (read- a consistent Wi-Fi source) on a daily basis to go seeking tourist attractions.  It put a real cramp into his All Minecraft/All The Time Especially On Vacations sort of personal manifesto.

And yet despite that- Truman loved Barcelona.  At least, he says he did.  Josephine was happy in both cities, Paris having already enthralled her before she ever stepped foot on an international bound flight for Charles De Gaulle.  In fact, she informed me sometime late in her fourth grade year that she wanted to live in Paris when she grew up- perhaps go to college there.  "Hm.." I responded, a bemused grin trying not to launch itself rampantly across my face thereby causing Josephine to (rightfully) retort that I wasn't taking her seriously and why she ever tells me anything, she doesn't know?!  Instead, I calmly asked her "Why, Jo?  Why Paris?"  "Well mom," she says completely seriously, "Probably because of the fashion there.  You know- the Fashion.  And the art."

For any of you who may know my daughter Josephine, perhaps you've already chortled in disbelief to yourself.  Because up until VERY recently, Josephine Adele Petunia Lieber, a young woman endowed with many wonderful traits, including a consistently upbeat demeanor and flawless lust for life, has not reflected ANY of her mother's penchant to cultivate any sort of fashion sense whatsoever.  She has been surrounded by friends who do, however, and so I assumed that her comment about wanting to "live in Paris someday" was likely prompted by some playdate flop-on-the-bed talk with her girlfriends- at least one of the friends who has a penchant for magazines, shopping, accessorizing.  Or one whom at least seems to have mastered the ability to wear a pair of pants for longer than one day before holes at the knees and/or indelible Sharpee marker slash dirt slash motor oil stains renders them unwearable.

So when we arrived in Paris- all 38 degrees of it- she was undeterred by the chill and wind.  She saw the Paris that I see, and giddily fell in love.  She was, of course, ready to.

Truman on the other hand.  Paris was "ok."  And that's a direct quote.  Perhaps the only soul alive on this earth today who's been to the jewel of France and still believes that Paris is "just ok."  But Barcelona on the other hand-- ahh--  well, he's always been a sucker for the beauteous darker-skinned ladies.  Barcelona was great, according to Truman Lieber.  Namely, he says, because of one man actually-- because of the great architect Antonin Gaudi.

Now I can't really choose favorites between the two cities- they both enthrall and delight me.  And I have a tough time choosing which of our many tourist stops were my favorite among them all (of course, Montmartre now begs to be at the top of that list, considering m'last blog entry.)  Though there was the Montjuic Park, and Park Guell and Notre Dame and La Tour Eiffel and the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona and shopping in St. Germaine and every Gaudi structure we encountered and and and---

But I do choose the Sagrada Familia as perhaps the only monument we encountered on our vacation that I will probably devote a blog entry to.  One might argue this cathedral- easily the largest tourist attraction we visited- definitely deserves the attention.  But mostly it's because this particular holy structure captured not only my attention (like shooting fish in a barrel really,) but captured the heart and imagination of my 8 year old Minecraft obsessed Truman.  He was oddly like a kid in a candy store inside this huge unfamiliar church.  "Look mom- you look up and it really does look like a forest.  Like he wanted it to."  (um- oh yeah!  I'm thinking.  We watched that 60 Minutes segment about the Sagrada Familia that my mother in law turned me onto 10 days ago or so before leaving for Spain.)  "Mom- mom- remember how they said that each column of stone was stronger than the one next to it moving up toward the front of the church?  Because the stronger ones needed to be close to that statue of Jesus over there?  So, those big pink ones there are the strongest, Mom.  They're from Persia.  Persian marble."

Now here I must pause a bit.  Because I have not painted a fair and well- rounded picture of my kid.  Yes, my flopsy mopsy beautiful toe-headed Venice surfer boy of a son is stubborn.  And video-game obsessed like almost all his peers.  And loose of limb and good at most sports that he seems to lack any real competitive nature to excel in.  And really funny- almost always getting the joke- meaning also the adult ones- and delivering his own comedic gems with impeccable timing. (If only he could really understand that yes, comedy comes in threes, but once you've made someone laugh once with the thing... you don't trot the same thing out 3 seconds later and expect the same reaction. Or 10 seconds later. Or 30 seconds later. Or even later on that night. Yeah- just not gonna happen, kid.)

I guess what I'm trying to get at is, Truman is usually pretty damn smart for an 8 year old.  And I forget this because, like many boys I know, he comes off like all the others: vaguely smelly, cute, and distracted. Truman just wants to hang with his peers- watch his Comedy Central TV shows- build his many various minecraft structures on the various servers he's connected to, or play with his pet rat.  He doesn't so much want to read, or even talk much to other adults.  But he has a memory like an elephant.  And so, while he's regaling me with the Persian Marble thing, I'm thinking, ok, well that DEFINITELY must have been a 60 Minutes factoid because God knows, I never told him that.  I don't even remember hearing it.  But of course, Truman does.  Truman remembers everything.  (Maybe one day he'll be a very effective politician.  Or lawyer.  Yeesh.)

Now- La Sagrada Familia translates to The Sacred Family.  And this huge mammoth church is clearly Antonin Gaudi's greatest work among a portfolio of groundbreaking stunners- though he only lived to see a fraction of it actually built.  It's still not entirely constructed- they suspect it will be finished somewhere around 2025, I believe.  But over the decades since the beginning of its construction at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, this building has been faithfully, painstakingly attended to.  Well, really like all other massive, major and minor historical European cathedrals predating this one- it has been sweated over and brought into existence chunk by chunk by a huge posse of dedicated stone masons, artists, architects, engineers and the like. For years upon years.  Hell, Notre Dame took over 250 years to build, so this house of God is moving along rather quickly in the grand scheme of things!  Point of interest via 60 Minutes:  There's one stone carver born in Japan, who moved to Barcelona in his early twenties to meet the aging Gaudi and throw in his talents on this work, and he has ever since been helping to sculpt the Sagrada Familia's famous outdoor facades for almost his entire 75 years of life.

But back to the title of the thing.  Sagrada Familia- Sacred Family.  I find this interesting- not as a Christian, because I am not a Christian. (Though I grew up in the church and was baptized at 13 in the holy waters of Lake Michigan.)  But this title reaches out to me as a human, and a soul who though she's roundly denounced all religion as sorely lacking, cherishes her very personal connection with the Divine Spirit  (or God, as others might say.)  And this enormous chamber that Gaudi, the very devout Christian that he was, conceived of to celebrate his God and his Son did feel like a holy place.  Not only is the actual physical surrounding of the cathedral monstrous and unlike any church you've ever been inside of, but the space itself, the very air seems charged with - for lack of a slew of specifics- love.  This church celebrating not only God, not only Jesus, not even really only Mary, but celebrating the WHOLE story of Jesus from birth to death is most clearly, most palpably a holy place.  And this is coming from a gal who truly thinks Jesus was an amazing guy, with some absolutely right on ideas, but not at all the son of God.

(If you care, if you're interested, in short- I believe we're all sons and daughters of it all.  That's right- you, me, the neighbor's annoying cat perched on the fence just outside your home office window, the little eight legged tannish spider you keep meaning to squish in the kitchen ceiling corner because you're not sure if it's poisonous or not... we're all sacred.  All of life on earth- all of everything outside of earth- all of it all.)

But my views aside- this church and its architect, Antonin Gaudi, is really so very special.  Even (I might almost be tempted to say especially) eight-year-old Truman Lieber  could see this.  Truman with his penchant for building things in cyberspace and being just as mesmerized by train and ship models as were his Grandfathers before him. (One grandfather is an architect.  The other is a structural engineer.  Another great-grandfather was both...)  I don't know if it was traveling up into the towers and walking the myriad of steps that comprise the nautilus-like spiral staircases, or leaning out the windows spaced at intervals along the way- frightfully high- so overtly higher than anything else for miles and miles and miles around that you feel like you really might be touching heaven if there were such a thing.   But I believe my son was truly moved by the spirit that day- moved by the Sagrada Familia.

I certainly was.

And I wonder if it's the concept behind the name of the place- if it's the many tendrils of concepts that connect each stained glass window and iron door frame and marble column and granite carving-- they all seem to be cohesive in a way.  A Church dedicated to a Family.  A Sacred Family.  Which for me means - Us.  Humanity.  Not just God and his boy, not just the virgin who conceived of him (ahem.  ok, that's the only truly 'blasphemous' thing I'll say on that.) Not even the sacred Trinity, which, like almost all religious iconography and/or symbols,  I find so useful actually in theory rather than in actuality.

This place felt like it was meant to honor Faith and Spirit. And whether you're Jewish or Buddhist or Christian or Muslim or Hindu or nothing- Faith and Spirit are a part of everyone's existence.   Because even if you don't believe in anything in the spiritual realm, you do believe in something.  Even if it's only the oxygen you breathe, or the goals you have set for yourself, or possibly the people you love.  You believe in, and must tie and connect yourself to SOMETHING.  And this feeds you faith and gives you spirit to move forth in life.

So the universality of this place captivated me.  And I felt like I was home a little bit in this amazingly astounding, weird, gorgeous, demonstrative, Alice in Wonderland-styled place of worship and devotion.  At home with my family in the place dedicated to worshiping the family that we all are together.

Here's a few photos we took of the Sagrada Familia.  None of which of course do any justice to any part of this place, but pictures are fun to look at, and I think I've typed enough long-winded paragraphs.  Please forgive the occasional baseball hat of another unwitting tourist.  It was tough to get photos of this place without having people in them, there are so many there at any given time- even given how big it it, even given that I'm taller than most in heels (small heels- kitten heels on my boots.  I knew I was gonna climb some stairs after all...)  Hopefully you can catch a glimmer of what I felt in them. Adios, my readers, for now. Hasta la proxima, mi familia!

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Do More of That" - Chapter 2 of European Vacation

I fell in love in Paris.  Again.

Though this time, not with the city, nor with any of the many dreamy Parisian lads flying by on their bikes with scarves blowing in the wind, ruddy cheeked from the chill like a prep school footballer on the field in October.  No, I am a happily married woman...

And yet- I did not fall in love- again- with my husband!  Strong and steady, he is, always at my side- our love has deepened to what I believe on good days is akin to what the Beatles were getting at with "One day when we're dreaming...deep in love, not a lot to say..." sort of thing.  On the not so good days,  it's just the humdrum love of long-term marriage.  Love aging like a fine wine into contentment and deep familiarity.  Not a whole lot of room for crazy fiery passion any longer...hm... ("Wait-- oh wait, young Parisian lad!  You there!  Arrete!  Arrete!")

But anyway.  That's a blog for another day.

I fell in love in Paris this time around with an artist.  A woman.  A dead woman to be exact.

And heaven knows I'm not the only one.  Apparently this woman-- Suzanne Veladon is her name- was quite the toast of the town in her day.  And because I did not take a whole lot of art history back in my youth, I was very spotty on the story behind the lives of all those Belle Epoque Parisian thinkers and painters and writers-- all those Dadaists and Impressionists.  I had never heard of Suzanne Veladon.

Which seems crazy after all.  Because I had heard of all her compatriots - Degas (her mentor,) Renoir (her lover, fan, and painter of one of her famed portraits,) Toulouse Lautrec (similarly a fan of her work and a friend. Also painted a portrait of Suzanne.)  In fact, I stumbled upon her name because I was looking for Erik Satie in Paris.  Satie- the self-monikered " phonometrician" (as opposed to composer) who back around the turn of the 19th Century into the 20th, penned the melancholic and delightful Gymnopedies that have stuck in my head since childhood.  I played each of the three as a kid too, many times over, because they were A. technically easy and B. vaguely sad.  Both of which suited me to a tee in my early teens.

So I've been a Satie admirer for years.  Especially since he was so modest and poor- such a great image of a starving artist in his little 10x10 foot room almost on the top of the hill of Montmartre.  I trudged the family up this very hill- all these sets of stairs in Montmartre after snapping a disheartened picture of the Moulin Rouge upon the main drag of that part of the city which is so incredibly like the French version of seedy Hollywood Boulevard.  All the Le Sex Shoppes left and right, I almost couldn't walk up all those steps to find my Satie and his little room on the hill after all.

But we did -- I assured everyone that what I was searching for on the top of Montmartre was worth more to me than the brick red windmill sandwiched between two other buildings now- one housing a theater as well, and the other a nondescript chunk of office concrete.

I had to go up there- I don't know what I thought I was looking for, but it definitely had something to do with my starving, self-deprecating Satie whose work and whose energy I've always resonated to.  It had something to do with that. Of course the world always has other plans for you, and so the irony is, that yes- Satie did live in this little room up there on number 5 Rue Cortot, with a glorious view of Paris spread wide from the top of the hill nestled up close to the Sacre-Coeur.

But what wasn't there was the Satie museum I had read about weeks previously in the Sunday LA Times.  (Turns out that's located just outside of Paris in a suburb I believe called Arcuiel where he was forced to relocate after running out of all his dough in Paris itself.  Oops.)  There was nothing but a small brass plaque positioned above the front door of a small apartment complex marking the place Satie used to live.  Modest- easy to miss.  I suppose, somehow fitting for the composer of the sweet, shyly meandering Gymnopedie strains.

So- the disgruntled kids and vaguely annoyed husband that comprised my family were soon distracted by some chocolate crepes and espresso in a nearby cafe while I rabidly Googled on my phone anything relating to Satie so that I could somehow salvage the moment for them and for me.  Don't know if I ever really did that for them- hopefully at some point our children will be happy they've trudged up and down and around the famous steps of Montmartre- which turns out to be very much akin to our little artsy, dingy, lively LA suburb of Venice here in the CA.

But I was successful for myself, for in the moments of desperate electronic research, I of course land on Suzanne Veladon.  Because not only was she a quality artist in her own right, and the mother of the famous painter, Maurice Utrillo, but she was the only love of poor Erik Satie, who enjoyed six glorious months in her company, only to be dumped roundly by her when she abruptly moved herself and her son out of his tiny flat.

Apparently, Satie never loved again.  Supposedly never even tried- no dates for lovelorn Erik who spent the rest of his phonometric days pining away for Suzanne and writing her letter after letter for 30 years following their wild but short lived affair.

So I became enraptured with this woman.  This woman whom Google tells me is known as "The Mistress of Montmartre." I read as much as I could find about her (in roughly 24 minutes- the time it takes for my family to consume two chocolate crepes- one with whipped cream and one without- and an espresso.)  I found images of her art- I found images of her portraits.

Turns out- she was a spitfire, this Suzanne.  And a wonderful artist.  Turns out, she was worthy of Satie's obsession.

First of all, Suzanne Veladon was quite a looker with her sweet heart shaped French visage- large doe-eyes widespread on her face.  Fiery red hair.  Lush lips.  Tiny waist and hands.  Had she been a wee bit taller, and born 100 years later she could have been a Victoria Secret model.  But she was also a sassy survivor of a lady having been born to a poor washerwoman - dad up and split.  She dropped out of school at 9 to work as a waitress, groom, laundress, eventually running away to join the circus as a trapeze artist!  Which she probably would have done until her dying day had she not taken a terrible fall, which did not end her life, but ended it in the circus for certain.

(I'm now going to bullet point here because I know this might be a little tiring- reading a poorly constructed bio of someone YOU could just easily google yourself.  There' s just a few more points I want to get at about her life because they were salient to me.)

- Then, at 18 gives birth to bastard son Maurice
- Moves to Montmartre district of Paris where she works as a model for artists
- Becomes a fixture in the thriving art scene and in the lives of Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, and of course, my little Satie.
- Has many portraits of her completed by these masters
- Under the tutelage of Degas, learns to paint and begins her life-long journey of becoming a master herself
- Begins to teach her bi-polar son Maurice how to paint to help him deal with his mental illness.  He will eventually surpass her in critical acclaim and become much more famous than his mother as a painter.
- Sometime after her affair with Satie (and there were many many lovers in this woman's life, make no mistake) marries a wealthy banker.  Stays married for approx 12 years
- Leaves the banker- falls in love with a man 21 years her junior.
- Marries this man - Andre Utter- in her FIFTIES
- Lives well and happily into her late 70's in her chosen bohemian lifestyle


That's called living, I think.  Yes- there were clearly many casualties, as I suppose there always are around the fiery ones.  Many hearts broken and marriages disrupted and relationships sullied and promises broken in and around the life of Suzanne Veladon.  But boy oh boy, did she live that life. She loved and lusted and fucked and loved some more. She worked her craft and her art.  In fact, she apparently worked on some of her oil paintings meticulously and forever before deeming them to be "completed" works.  One piece in particular took her over 13 YEARS-

So- I come home with this.  This is my treat and my reward for blindly moving forward sans guidebook upward into the Montmartre district of Paris (we missed many other fantastic points of interest there as a result, I am certain.)

I come home with a renewed European sense of self.  As artist, as woman, as spitfire, as one WORTHY of continuing to not so much trudge through this artist's path that life and I have chosen for me, but to dance through it.  To shimmy and move and fly and occasionally stumble and fall down on it all covered in horseshit and mud.

Because if you're lucky- life is long.  And there's nothing you're supposed to DO, no one or where you absolutely have to SEE, nothing you need to GIVE or TAKE.  It all is just part of the crazy beautiful quilt of your existence- moment by moment, stitch by stitch.  Wherever it is that you find yourself.

I am unhinging myself perhaps finally from the last vestiges of a need to be commercially recognized and/or "successful."   I am tired of the "marketing" hat I've forced myself to wear for years now.  Not that I can't wear it, not that I don't actually- turns out- have a little inherent talent for selling and understanding what makes people gravitate toward certain things or ideas vs others- but I don't WANT TO.  That's not who I am and not what I do.  I am an artist and a grump and a wild silly dancer and at times a comedian and at others a depressive mother fucker who likes to shack myself up in my room with the piano and delve into Rachmaninov.  Or Satie.  Or Jimi Hendrix.  Or Holly Long.  So I think I'm going to do more of "that" in the forseeable future.


This woman behind the counter of the Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy gave me a gift last month after I'd been compulsively driving myself there week after week, searching for yet another natural supplement to help stave off the viciously debilitating anxiety---  I think during this visit I had gotten in a protracted conversation with another aproned herbalist behind the counter about my digestive tract.  As related to my heart issue.  As colored by my hormonal imbalances.  As perhaps affecting my insomnia.

And this other older woman pharmacist, having overheard it all, jumps in and asks me what I do for fun and relaxation.  

I say, "I'm an artist, and so really doing my art- making my music, performing on stage and writing songs or writing anything really, is what makes me happiest. I feel the most alive.  So, I don't know what I do really to 'relax'- I'm not so much for the 'relax.'"

"So you make the music and you a singer and a writer?"  (She was of some form of Eastern European descent.)

And I say "Yes, yes I do, and I am.  But I haven't been doing that as much lately. I've been in a slump."

And she says-- "Aha.  Yes.  Well-  there you go.  You go write.  You go make more of the music.  You do more of THAT (she gestures a bit with her hands here, shaking them slightly away from her body as if air drying them after a wash)- you going to be fine."

Perhaps the most essential vitamin and mineral for this starving artist.

So, thank you Suzanne Veladon.  You may not be aware, but our affair has only just begun.  I've already written a belabored mediocre folk song about your life.  Perhaps if I edit it carefully and stick some reverbed electric guitar behind it, it will be worthy of performance at some point.  And google keeps calling out to me with updates about you- I think there may be some movies about your life- certainly many many books...

And of course, thank you, Erik Satie, for bringing me to Suzanne.  Not like you aren't still important to me in your way, but I'm suddenly very very hot for your ex. (How familiarly that must ring for you...)

And finally - thank you eastern European homeopathic pharmacist lady.  You are wise and smart and as it turns out, very very right.  I don't need another supplement.  I don't need to chart my bowel movements or count the hours of sleep or vegetable calorie intake...

Right now,  I just need to do my art.  I need to do more of THAT.

(Didja notice I changed my header photo?  I thought it apropos for this travelling series of posts.  It's a nice snap captured by my daughter who fanatically drained away the digital camera battery day after day on our Europe trip taking bizarrely framed artsy photos at every moment.  I thought this was a great candid of me.  Or at least of the me I was trying on for the 10 days in Barcelona and Paris. God bless that Josephine- she rocks it behind the lens.)

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Traveller's Guide

My family and I have just returned from a lovely and exhausting 10 day trip to Europe.  Two cities in ten days didn't sound like a lot, but when you're doing it with two highly energetic elementary school kids, and it's just you two parents "on" as tour guides- all the time- 24/7... it turns out, deciding which croissant to choose from the in-hotel breakfast bar in the morning can seem tiring.

Yet it was wondrous- Barcelona and then Paris.  Really a great trip.  I'm thrilled we went and equally thrilled to be back home.

And I'm sure most other people at this point might spend their time posting pictures or unwinding sweet yarns about their fun family excursion on their personal blog.  Me, however... I'm not feeling it yet.  Perhaps it's the jet lag.  Perhaps it's post-trip malaise. Perhaps it's just the fact that I have really yet to  poop following approximately 22 hours in the air and in three different airports approximately two days ago.  (Has it been two days now?  Or fourteen?  Didn't we just land this morning?.....)

But in my current moments of unpacking, both physically and psychologically, I thought instead of laying out chapters of our Spanish/French holiday,  I'd provide my readership with a list.  Because I like em.  I like the lists.  I've got one next to me right now, o course- the "Just got home from Spring Break, Gotta get back to your actual fucking life you slacker, here's some shit you gotta do" list.   But I won't present you with that piece of doldrum either--

What I will provide below is slightly reminiscent of the actual list we left with our dear house-sitter upon jetting off across the pond.  You know, all the nitty gritty shit she hadta know about where the pet towels are for when the cat pees on the floor, and how the faucet can get sticky in the downstairs office bathroom...

Except this list is a bit different.  This list will entail what one would have to know if one were taking over not my house for a time, but my LIFE.  A body-sitter list, if you will.

So just in case I go away for a time in the near future, and I enlist you to take over as Holly Long - to BE Holly- here is a brief, yet helpful guide for you in two parts:  Holly at Home.  And Holly On the Road- should that need arise.   ($75 per day plus expenses, right?)

HOLLY AT HOME- The Traveller's Guide

First of all, thank you so much for stepping in last minute.  I'm not sure what I would have done had you not been available.  We'll talk on the phone to go over everything sometime before I leave, but I thought I'd send you a little precursor of some things you'll need to know about taking over as me for the next few days.

1.  First and foremost, you will have to sweat the small stuff all the time.  But you will have to be really good at pretending you're not doing that at all.  Well, except to your husband and kids.  You can never really fool them.

2.  You must obsessively clean shit that will immediately get messed up again.  Either that or-

3.  Spend inordinate amounts of time organizing something unnecessarily- like the chopsticks in the silverware drawer.  This is almost always because you are simultaneously engaged in-

4.  Freaking out that you're not doing enough for your art.  Or your children.  Or the world in general. So when this happens, you must divert and procrastinate.

Ah!  Which reminds me-

5.  At least once while you're me, take the dog and a book to the coffee shop.  Be sure you sit in the coffee shop with the intention of "getting inspired" by your surroundings.  Read the same three sentences over and over again.  Then wind up just feeling guilty that your nanny is picking the kids up from school and essentially parenting them while you fritter away the afternoon making eyes at the 20- something tatoo-ed barista.

(**Note.  If you need to accomplish this task, but don't want to leave the house, the same result can be had by watching a few hours of your favorite cable TV shows on demand.  In the middle of the day while the rest of the adult world is hard at work in the spirit of progress, productivity, and survival.  Don't forget to eat almost an entire bag of potato chips and onion dip while doing this too.)

6.  Sing and/or play some sort of musical instrument and/or write something down at least once every day.  Otherwise you will actually start to disappear.  It's been proven.

7.  Which brings me to number 7.  Always spend a little time each day (and/or wee early morning hours) feeling like because you're 42 and you haven't yet accomplished anything remotely grand or interesting, your life is probably over and you'll never get anywhere.  You got good at that around 22.  You're too old- you used to be young, vibrant and relatively attractive and now the best you can hope for is probably somewhere in the realm of "handsome." Plus,  you might not be particularly good at any of the things you've spent 42 years trying to cultivate getting good at.   Be sure to familiarize yourself with these thoughts.  They will be taking up a lot of your time.

HOLLY ON THE ROAD- The Traveller's Guide

Ah!  So I've enlisted the brave soul that you are to become me while away from the homestead.  It must be that I'm just too weary or afraid this time around to attempt it myself.  Again, I must thank you from the bottom of my heart, and please know that my cell phone will always be on should you need to reach me at any moment to answer any Holly Long related questions. 

1. Bring your Ativan.

2. Bring your other bottle of Ativan.

3. After about the second day and the second glass of wine, you will finally feel as though you have arrived anywhere you are at that point, you will be grateful for the opportunity to see whatever part of the world you're currently in, and you will be much easier to be around.  This feeling will leave you, and return numerous times while you're away.

4. Anytime you think of it, try to be nice to everyone around you because though you're unaware of it now, as a result of your nervous tendencies, you're probably being a bit of a dick a lot of the time.

5. You won't really poop until you get home.  S'ok.

That's all you need to know!  Feel free to buy me any fantastic foreign baubles, unnecessary clothes or shoes you think I should own.  I can't get enough of all that stuff.  Have a ball, and I'll see you/me when I/you return!


(I do promise some actually interesting European trip related thoughts at some point in the upcoming week.  Since one of you may want to read something about something other than myself and my deep well-tended neurosis.  I mean, yeah- Gaudi was pretty cool.  And Paris has a bunch of stuff in it that I might be able to scrounge some words around.  Ok- you've convinced me.  Next post- Los Thoughts De Europe!)