Thursday, March 06, 2008

Popcorn Soaked Tears


Be Kind Rewind (BKR), a film starring Mos Def, Danny Glover and Jack Black has received mixed reviews reviews at the box office. I loved it. It made me cry.

Very few movies make me cry happy tears. Actually – I take that back – that is total and complete horse shit. I’ve teared up watching Hallmark commercials. I cried watching this commercial, hearing this song, observing the finale of this tv show and telling this story.

Many Hollywood films try to pull out all the stops to get you to leak salt water into your popcorn. They orchestrate and manipulate, add music, throw in a kid and bring together all the elements of a formula guaranteed to evoke sobbing. Take Kite Runner for example, a recipe for wailing: Fold in two parts little boy, mix vigorously with a voiceover, sprinkle a pinch of child rape, bake under the heat of swelling music, garnish with the kite, flying in the air = Instant Cry.

But BKR isn’t the orchestrated Hollywood formula created with the sole interest of coaxing a cry. No, BKR is an organic and lovely little twinkle of the heart. It’s a celebration of mediocre people with individually few charms – but collectively capable of making a great movie. Discovering BKR filled me with the same unexpected joy received upon stumbling into a dingy New York Diner that turns out to be an undiscovered gem of the city. I thought I would hate it – turns out I love it and kind of want to keep everyone else from discovering its charms.

Synopsis:
A small community video shop owner (played by Danny Glover) is told that his business and home are condemned and that without expensive improvements, his building will be soon be replaced by a fancy new condominium complex. Determined to save his home and livelihood, he sets out to investigate the competition and leaves his adopted son (played by Mos Def), to watch over the store. Mos Def is renting the occasional 1 video for $1 until the arrival of his BFF Jack Black. BFF Black has been magnetized through a freak accident and as he touches all the videos in the shop they are erased. Threatened by demanding neighborhood renters and fearful Glover will be disappointed with them both, Def and Black come up with the idea to re-shoot each film using a dusty old camera - playing all the parts themselves. Herein lies the heart of the film. In order to make the low-budget films – Black and Def employ the help of the local community and soon there is a line around the block of people wanting to see their town and their friends in the low-budget remakes of their favorite films. In a last ditch effort to make enough money to save the shop and keep the condos from going up, the entire town participates in a mockumentary film that recreates the town as the home of a historical hero.

In the end – the shop folds to progress – but you get the warm feeling that the community rallied together and were closer for their efforts. It makes me wonder if this is what the first few Hollywood films were really about. In the start of all the craziness, before the money and rehabbed actresses, before DVD’s and internet piracy – perhaps a movie was about bringing a community together to laugh and bond and share in the spirit of creating something together.

Things I Didn’t Like:
• Movies love to make “progress” evil, casting static cities as unlikely heroes. This film follows the Hollywood trap of trying to make it look like chain stores and DVDs are killing real art. The concept that VHS could be worthy of preserving is more unbelievable to me than the idea that Jack Black could become magnetized enough to wipe videos but not stick to cars and then demagnetize within the course of 48 hours.
• I wanted to see more home made movies!! This was really the best part – watching two people on a $5 budget recreate scenes from our favorite films. I think reality TV proves that while Hollywood makes the big blockbuster films – in the end, it’s the films shot in your own back yard that make people feel warm and fuzzy. Even better if they can quickly be uploaded to YouTube to share with friends and family.

Things I Did Like:
• Watch for the film-within-the-film scene of Fat’s playing the organ. The low budget effects of the trumpets leaping from the church organ brought out my first Kleenex.
• The fact that this film was likely shot in Passaic New Jersey with actual Passaic locals playing bit parts and working as extras makes the film extra special. Indeed, while there were several big name actors in the credits, the true stars of the show were the people of Passaic. This point is best illustrated in the films final three minutes when community members appear in the home made film-within-the-film giving the most natural and spirited performances of the flick.
• The movie doesn’t bother with painting the town, the people or the condemned building as anything more than junk – but it does make the point that with spirit, cooperation and creativity, one man’s junk can be another man’s treasure.

This is what she said, click here to see what he said. Same date, two different perspectives

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posted by Pop Culture Casualty @ 3/06/2008 02:06:00 PM | 5 comments

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sweat Lodge in the Poconos




It was a perfect weekend. Tranquil lake, morning dew, warm fire and spiritual beings gathering for an experience. It was different from the one I partook in last year. The one that changed my life. This one was lead by Lunging Bear. Tall, gentle voice, and blue-eyed leader. He was having problems with his prostrate. TMI? Well, that's what he shared.

His goal was to take us in and out. One swift motion. He smudged half-heartedly and recited none of the rituals. A cd played in his S.U.V. and the hypnotic voice instructed that if a woman was on her moon cycle, to be sure to share this with the chief. I did as instructed.

Lunging Bear looked at me with dismay. His blue eyes widened and he whispered, "You will have to do a separate sweat. Otherwise, you will drain me of my energy. You see?" I was a little annoyed. It wasn't just that I would have to paddle back to the other side of the lake and wait an hour or so, it was that so many people were turned off to this sweat because he was a man that preferred to have the women dressed in long gowns upon entering the wee-pee (or tee pee, as it is more commonly known). Time. Patience. The bane of my existence, really.

The long hour passed, and I watched the sun move from the sparkling angle of the trees, to the shining kisses on the waters' edge. They shone like diamonds. The ripples calmed down to a faint murmuring reflection. I was calm. I was ready.

I entered in the wee-pee. Fully ready to disclose my intention. Lunging Bear sat outside and smoked his Marlboro reds. "Go in," he said. "Don't I have to re-smudge?" I asked. "No. You're fine," he answered cavalierly. I was ready. I was waiting for an awakening. I went in the wee-pee and only about 5 people (from the 35) remained. Some where lounging in bikinis, some were in full gear. I sat close to the rocks and breathed in serenity and centeredness.

There is a tradition among the Indigo people whereupon women in their moon cycles are asked specifically to sit on the Earth and feed it with the milk of human suffering. It reminds nature to awaken and protect, as it had so many centuries ago. With mindfulness, I let the drops kiss the Earth. I let go.

Lunging Bear entered the wee-pee, and when the panels closed, we were cloaked in darkness. He went through the ritual. "What are your concerns?" he asked. In a round-robin fashion, people shared their most intimate worries. He spoke beautifully. He called in all the spirits of healing. A calm swept over our little clan.

"What are you grateful for?," Lunging Bear then asked. I could hear some people hyperventilating and weeping. So much had been revealed, so many wounds were exposed. Three people expressed their gratitude. So many more sat in silence. Lunging Bear retreated. I was anticipated the four directions, and found myself caring for two spirits, like wounded fawn. I gave reiki to those remaining. I called healing and pure energy and spirit to come and infuse this wee-pee. When I retreated, the sun was setting. I felt the trees call to me and awaken an appreciation for having fed them with the milk of human kindness. I was no longer afraid of the woods. I was no longer afraid of the Earth. I had transformed in a different way. Thank you Mother Earth!!! Abundance is my birthright, and you have shown me the way.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

80s Night


Dressed from head to toe in sequins and tafetta, I hurredly made my way down the street. It was one of those rare occassions where I bumped in to numerous people I knew. One man in particular got out of his seat at a cafe, and came to kiss me hello. I think it was the first time he had ever seen me in anything other than moisterizer, lip gloss and black cotton clothing. The tingling in my mind from the excitement was enough to take my breath away. I raised the hem of my skirt and rushed away, feeling a little like a prom queen.

High school was a foible I rarely think about. Many students, aeons older and more cultured, barely looked my way when making plans. I had always thought it was a cultural divide or perhaps a blue-blood "you weren't on the boat/had to be there" sort of thing. It always left me with the stain of disappointment. Here, however, was a way to revisit that in another decade, at another place, with different people. What was different?

For starters, I was happy to be taking part of this exciting evening. My girlfriend is getting married in a castle, and for fun, her bachelorette party was held at an interactive show in the old Webster Hall. That alone was a receipe for disaster, I thought. When I arrived, they were all gathered on the stage with images of Billy Idol, the B-52's and other classics on the jumbo-tron video screen. Instantly, I was brought up to the stage and a party ensued. The circular, tribal mandala of young souls screaming their faces off and letting loose was the closest carnage of souls exchanging joy, that I'd experienced since sweat lodge.

When playing dress up, surrounded by actors and great friends, it's even greater to do it in the context of what might have been. Ain't sobriety grand?

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Fringe, newbie style


I walked out of the theater. Barely able to remember why I'd gone. "Oh, yea," I thought duly, I owed the guy a favor. It was one of those storylines that I really can't stand. Apocalyptic propaganda. Between the over acting on behalf of the leads, and the rambling script, I could think of another exciting way to spend my evening...namely, in bed watching the paint from my ceiling curl forward.

I wish I'd discovered this blog in advance, http://newbienyc.blogspot.com. It actually gives a really comprehensive run down of the fringe festival, and actually, everything high culture. Alas, I was left to my own discoveries, and really, I was doing a favor for my friend. He was actually stellar, and I really wished he had more dialogue. The endless rambling of the monologue-driven piece was mind numbing.

I ambled about like a blinded deer. Seeing other dazed and confused theatre goers crowding around a plume of smoke, I walked over to see if anyone was willing to share their cancer with me. In typical smoker's camaraderie, numerous packed were extended to me. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. I chose a peppermint patty flavored smoke, and found a bench to sit on and wonder if it was worse to kill myself SLOWLY with a cigarette, or put a gun to my pounding temples.

"That bad, huh?" said a fellow smoker. I smiled, weakly, and looked at him and said, "I guess I've seen worse. When I was high." We both laughed. "At least we have the huddle of misery to gravitate to after, I suppose," I added. "It would be nice to have a peace pipe, I guess. Or peyote," he said.

It was the magic word. I heard myself tell him that he should try out a sweat lodge then. "Sweat lodge?" he asked, bewildered by that phrase. "Oh! I didn't make up the word. It's a real thing. A Native American ritual that takes place every Fall." Before I knew it, I spent the next 10 minutes talking to him about sweat lodge. The leather tee-pee on the side of the hill in the Catskills, surrounded by wildlife and white-tailed deer, the smudging ceremony before entering, the intention given to the head honcho, the four directions, the camaraderie. He looked at me as if I had suddenly shown him a magic doorway to an emerald city. It is possible to find a silver lining in everything. Magic doors and ‘what can I learn and give today’ thinking. I walked away from the smoky theater, having bid adieu to the fascinated stranger, and off I went, like some type of satirical highlander, to spread knowledge of parallel realities. Gosh I’m full of it.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Bloggermouth



The New York Times prints all the news that's fit to print, and myspace/Facebookers type all the gossip that's fit for consumption.

Cue the Disneyland, "It's a small world after all" music.

In an office setting where there was little chance of ever seeing this person again, I spewed venom on my page about an impropriety on this person’s part. Simply put, I set a boundary about revealing my personal information, and this person continued to pry. I blogged about it.

I remember a conversation I had with one of my friends. She had been dating a man who blogged about all of his sexcapades on-line. As life would have it, this woman read his blogs. He blogged about her. He had bloggerhea, it seemed, because all of their news was front page business for all of his internet-nerd friends. He was macking himself out on this page at her expense.

Now, don’t get me started on my castigations or aspersions on social networking sites and their identical tapestry to petty high school cliques, however…time came for me to be bit by the very same bloggerhea bug. I BLOGGED about this person. I blogged about this person in the pettiest of ways. “Look what they’re wearing” “I don’t want this person to be…” insert self-important ideas and beliefs about my superiority over this person. So petty, so small, so not going to get back to this person, I thought. There it was though, the obvious distance the next time I saw them. This person read my nasty blog and was offended. Another person read my blog, thought it was about them, and were also offended. In this anonymous world of ‘he said/she said’ it is always safer to remember it’s a small world, after all.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chick Support on the Side



Curiouser and curiouser...
A few posts back, I was smack-talking about women recently. 'Why don't they have your back like men have for one another?' 'Is it really a chest-smacking caveman support, or are women really more of the quiet steady types?' Then it happened.

I was sitting in a meeting, baring my soul. It was one of those gut-wrenching, 'here is my heart and all of the blackness it contains' soul-ripping/gut wrenching/purging-type of shares that was laden with fear, tinged with self-pity and aching with vulnerability. Who IS this, and where did you put my social mask? The verbal diaherrea poured out with little control:

"I had a show last night and it was great. I feel so empty though. I made mistakes. I promoted another show at this one, and the club owner warned that I would be cut from that club. He looked at me like I was a calculating parasite. Oh my God! I wasn't even trying to do that. I didn't KNOW!!! And then, the famous comic from the long running and popular t.v. show(anonymity intended) came up to me and was hugging and kissing me. It made other comics come up to me and treat me as if I were somehow able to give them something. The booker asked me how I knew him, and I think thought we were sleeping together. And thennnn...I inadvertantly insulted an executive at HBO, thinking he was a comic and making fun of his moustache (my way of flirting), only later to find out that not only was he married, but he was an executive at a television station I've been courting all summer!" On and on this rambling fear spewed. Down, down, down the rabbitt hole of despair.

It was during this display of demons that my power possee of pretties took me out for some tea and sympathy. We gathered around the table and after our orders were secured, bared our souls to one another, collecting the consciousness of love, as only spiritual beings are capable. It was during that time that something magic appeared. The inner glow that had drawn me to these beings began to beam like a bright star on a dark winter's night. All of our lights shone as one.

I mentioned it again. "Sweat lodge is coming up this Fall." There was another woman at the table who shared her excitement and encouraged her participation this season. As I looked around, self-consciously hoping I didn't sound like a Geico commercial-with some gimmicky attempt at slickness for sales for personal gain, I couldn't help but to remember that this is what life was like before t.v. Human connection. Looking at my life from this perspective, their souls shone like a campfire, and mixed opinions were shared and polished like precious gems. "This is what it must have been like before Starbucks!" I thought. Sitting around, enjoying one another's company, sharing new passions and building additional ones, the activity of new plans bubbled up. “Count me in!” “Yea, give me more info!” “I’d love to do sweat lodge.” “Wait. Didn’t you lose your mind last year doing that, and haven’t shut up about it? I think I’ll go.”

When the night drew to a close, I took a deep satisfying breath and gathered my things. As I walked past the Carlye, I remembered the numerous evenings of pretense. A child in an adult world, really, observing cultural norms of a world that I once would have raped and pillaged to be a part of. As I contemplated my satisfaction at exposing the Queen card and all of the Queen's men, as it were, I thought about the relief that comes from playing it straight. No games, no control, no struggle to maintain order in any court or any form of beheading...just satisfaction at knowing that women really do have your back on the sideline. Acceptance, progress not perfection and girlfriends!

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Monday, August 13, 2007

i heart all of ny


Last week, the unthinkable happened. Was it the begining of Sodom and Gamora? Would we really have to gather the creatures two by two? Or was some level of cosmic consciousness involved when they released Bruce Almighty that caused city-wide flooding, causing the subway system to come to a screeching halt?
Unless you were living under a rock, or your very own biodome, you knew there was a problem with mass transit caused by flooding in the Financial District. However, while it seemed the world was drowning and canoe seemed the only logical form of transit, I saw, yet again, human spirit alive and well in this city.
The morning breeze gently blew in soggy whispers in the wee hours of dawn, and I sleepily shut the window closed as I resignedly slipped under the crisp Egyptian cotton sheets. It was roasting just the night before, but there was some comfort in hearing the pitter of rain. Back to bed I went, lazily thinking, “I’ll run tomorrow”. Never in my consciousness did I think that there was trouble brewing beneath the streets.
I walked out of my home in the morning, ready to begin my routine. I bumped in to a handsome man, who came right up to me and told me that I should know, that if I am thinking of using the subway, not to bother. It took him ½ an hour to get out of the subway. There was no chance that the subways were running. They were all under water.
It seemed too strange to be a made up story, and I as I took his word for it, I almost floated by the chaotic line to get IN to the subway. Most people were in a robotic fog, and where forcing their way down jammed staircases while others were screaming “the subway is OUT OF SERVICE! Don’t bother!” It was then that I began to see my city, as if it were for the first time.
Quaint tree-lined sidewalks, ordinarily barren at this time, were filled with pedestrians. Door men walked out of their towers, to see and interact with people who were walking south. Many pedestrians called out in neighborly ways, making sure that others knew that they were aware of the subway problems. This walk, as pleasant as could be, had the best of New York. The best park in the world, fountains in honor of Venus de Milo, production crews assembling to film SEX IN THE CITY-THE MOVIE, joggers and designer dogs, joggers, Horse-drawn carriages, coffee trucks and smoothies to go, mobile creperies making their way to prime real estate, all seemed to flow in a rhythm that was silently trudging ahead.
Was it my perception of a silent and friendly City which had colored my view, ever so slightly with a rose hue, or is this really New York, and the reason why I love it so?

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Woman's man?


I've always been the type of person who enjoys real conversations. I am not all that interested in hearing who has a sale at what store or at what price. I believe I have a limited time on this planet, and my goal is to maximize all I can in this lifetime to create the greatest good involved...and yes, pardon me, but I do NOT believe that the greatest good could be found at the Barney's end of the season sale. No offense, I just don't.
I have considered producing, as a way to make the voices that I enjoy, be heard more often. This has put me in an interesting power position. I swear, if I didn't know better, I'd think I was a man. What I mean by this is that suddenly, men in my field who were so cutting and rude, are suddenly more willing to listen, be curteous and helpful. In many more instances though, their agenda to be promoted by me are as flimsy as their excuses for not helping before.
This got me to thinking about male/female dynamics in the work place (because that’s what I do when things don’t go my way, and I feel like I could do better), I ask: “How this would be different if I were a man?”. Well, for one thing, I imagine if I had to pee, I could just whip it out and go in a phone booth…which was ONE in a series of things my mind was bitching about the night of the show, while I was blind from rage with all that went wrong, and needed to go to the bathroom besides.
This actually just made me think about a male comic I know. A male-comic was promoting his show, and I even received an email from one of his friends, another man, forwarding the message on and plugging the show: 'you should go, he’s really funny'. Meanwhile, that comics’ jokes are all about shitting in a Jacuzzi. Now, I don’t mean to cast aspersions on other people’s pleasures, but...really?
I’m not sure what this is all about. Is this about a preference for scatological humor, or does it have to do with the fact that there is power in numbers, specifically, men’s numbers? I have seen it so many times. Men back each other up. Women will SAY that they do, but statistically, mean are more loyal to one another than women are. Don't get me wrong, I have wonderful girlfriends who are there for me, but there is a different type of bonding when men are involved.
I know: I've fallen into the trap. I pair up with a guy, thinking that their friendship is going to be more uncomplicated than one with a woman, only find out, with bitter disappointment, that at the end of the day, a guy is always going to back up his buddy. Always. A woman: she checks out as soon as she gets married. This isn't your run-of-the-mill bitterness: this comes with tested data.
I just wonder: when are we, collectively as women going to stop listening to the serpent in our garden of Eden and help one another?

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Why hugging and laughing go together



The road to enlightenment is paved with good intentions. I find that on this lonely road of happiness, there are two things that seem glaringly obvious to me: everyone seems to be looking outside of themselves for happiness, happiness is an endangered species.

That may seem like a bold and sweeping statement, so please allow me to explain. It has been quite a number of months that I have dedicated my life's work to making people happy. Specifically, through laughter. Now, this is no small task, considering that my natural default is set on 'death and destruction" mode. It is very simple, really, we live in a culture where all of our major holiday's are glorifying death, our news (and news' worthy items) are bent on displaying human suffering, and I know from experience that if you are happy, there are always a pack of people talking behind your back, calling you phoney or ripping down your efforts.

I will not bore you with details, but I will say this: after I received my hug from the hugging saint, I went about to share that energy with others. I took on the daunting task of spreading that energy in to my career. I found ways to incorporate hugs and laughter in to everything I do. In this journey, I found two things: first, if you click on the picture, you will be redirected to the clip on youtube "free hugs". The simplest way to describe this is one man's wish to get and give hugs all over the world, because he just wanted to be greeted with a hug at the airport. There was acutally OPPOSITION to this effort! The second thing I discovered was: when I set about to rise to the occasion and step on to a higher platform, I had direct attacks on my person, venomous rumors spread behind my back, and a very dark ignoring energy. I guess it should not surprise me, but it is a little perplexing.

Why wouldn't people want to join together in something that binds...that doesn't have to be about tearing others' down or perpetuating negativity? I can only guess it is because gravity sets the default at the lowest bar. Happiness is a work out, and maintaining that happiness regardless of the circumstances, requires great spiritual work.

That's enough from me. This little rant is for those who believe in the power of love, and unabashedly spread it around. We are all little bits of a whole that make us one. One human, one love, one hope, one peace. So here it is....my wholehearted hug...just for you. It is all around us...we must just open our hearts to receive and spread our arms to give...and when all else fails, go to a comedy club!

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

I hugged the sun yesterday



I got derailed on blogging on account of a hug.
Let me explain. Three years ago, as I was glowing at a Spa downtown when a man who looked like Jesus (only sexy and in a speedo. Ok. Imagine speedos were sexy…then J.C. with more muscle mass…then…roll!)

So, he told me that he loved the beads I was wearing. I looked at him, and thought him to be as wholesome as an apple beggin to be taken a bite out of. I listened some more to what he had to say. He told me that if I enjoyed yoga, then I would have to see Amma Chi. Who IS this? He said, ‘the hugging saint.’ Thus began a quest to see her.

I’m not going to get in to the dirty details, just suffice it to say that I finally FINALLY saw her yesterday. Here are the points I wanted to outline:

1. I remembered my intention to honor the mother, and Amma is doing Mother Earth’s work. I honored the memory of that and all of the women who occupy this Earth, taking on causes greater than themselves, finding the courage somehow to forge through and bringing joy to the world in some form.

2. it was a really long day (2 hours sleep the night before-BIG MISTAKE) getting all sorts of miscommunication and FINALLY getting my hug 13 hours later.)

3. the build up to the hug reached mythic proportions...but ultimately, I think it was a sound idea NOT to film the actual hug (that private moment was bliss!)

4. I was probably the biggest freak show on the way up to see her because I couldn't stop crying and I was having heart palpitations

5. One of the ushers gave me reiki, and I chillaxed a bit

6. When I was one person away from her, I swear it felt like I was Icarus approaching the sun

7. I gave her the headband I designed that day (as people typically give offerings)

8. She was stunned (as evidenced in her eyes). She looked to her ushers, and the ushers looked it over (as it was not the usual offering)

meanwhile...

9. I entered her embrace, and it felt like I felt just before I entered that tee-pee, just before sweat lodge (which I did after my 5th step)...like she was channeling EARTH MOTHER and I was channeling CHILD

10. My heart will never be the same again.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Treasure in the Park



Sorry I've been so quiet lately. The frenetic pace of the City when the sun comes out is almost viral. As we speak, I can barely hear myself think because of the noises competing to make their own symphony. Yet, there it is. Like an oasis in the City. Bryant Park.
It may seem rather plebeian of me to mention something so basic. The Park. Not THE park (as in the Central one) but the one between Grand Central and Port Authority. Next to the New York Public Library, across from Nat Sherman. That one. Did you know there were treasures hidden within?
As I was filming a pilot, reviewing scripts for ideas with my sketch comedy group, working on new material to perform for my stand-up act and looking for locations for a show I’m producing, I suggested to take a meeting in the Park. Off in the distance, I could see well dressed couples drinking clear glasses of Chablis. Laughter tinkling like the best polished crystal. The symphony of birds chirping like Texan lavender. As my footsteps neared the granite walkway, the crescendo of the orchestra reached new heights. There they were, the participants of an elegant opera, in grand New York City style.
As I made my way to a new found slice of serenity, I caught a glimpse of my old thinking like a hiccup, or a faint echo. It wasn’t such a long time ago when I would not have even known that every Thursday one can go to the concerto in the park. The sense of community and peace is like nothing I can describe, and tastes sweeter than any glass of anything I’ve ever put my lips to.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

“Single Anxious Females”




Our last presidential election recognized the power of the internet, will this election harness the power to pinpoint a specific demographic?

An interesting piece in New York magazine today identifies the ’08 election power demographic as “Single Anxious Females”.

“She’s youngish (between 18 and 44), white (64%), unanchored (36% move every two years), unaffluent (earning $30,000 or less a year), relatively uneducated (only 14% are college grads), and thoroughly pissed off about the direction of America (Iraq, health care, equal pay, and education are top issues).”

Well look at that! This demographic description draws a similarity to the most frequent readers of “She” blogs. You know, blogs written by women for women that have been growing in numbers and intensity in the last few years. Not the typical political blogs like Wonkette, but the personal Chick Lit blogs like This Fish Needs a Bicycle or Belle in the Big Apple. These are the new battlegrounds for politics. So how long will it take for these “She” blogs to be exploited in the upcoming race for the White House?”

Infiltrating blogs with paid marketing messages is the next wave of subliminal advertising. What started with Reese’s Pieces in the movie ET led to a major product placement industry in Hollywood. It followed naturally for marketers to begin their assault on the blogoshpere by getting away from paid advertising in exchange for
strategically placed puff pieces and more obvious hawking of products and clients on blogs such as Perezhilton.com.

And who does Perezhilton.com appeal to with his five million hits a day?

She’s youngish (between 18 and 44), white (64%), unanchored (36% move every two years), unaffluent (earning $30,000 or less a year), relatively uneducated (only 14% are college grads), and thoroughly pissed off about the direction of America (fashion, the ever-fluctuating weight of Nicole Ritchie, the latest sale at Barneys, which Hollywood hunk is Lindsay Lohan hooking up with and what happened last night on the American Idol finale are top issues).

If only Hilary Clinton, the Economist pick for the Democratic nomination, could be sexed up and packaged in a YouTube video link, pre-HTML coded for wide blog release, then perhaps the SAF demographic could be motivated to vote in the next election.

Hey, I’m just glad that young single women will finally be courted to get out and vote. And I can’t wait to see what kind of tricks those marketing geniuses are hiding up their sleeves to capture the attention of SAF’s everywhere.

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posted by Pop Culture Casualty @ 5/24/2007 10:49:00 PM | 5 comments

Friday, May 18, 2007

Horoscope or horse-schiite



Often, it's necessary to dig in a different direction...especially in New York...and most especially after you have had your ass handed to you on numerous occasions.

Cut to: reading a newspaper and fixing your gaze on something that tells you "Associate only with those who are positive thinkers and who want to advance their lives". Seems simple enough, eh?

Add to that: burned out New Yorker, looking for a balm to cure that sun starved itch. Enter: new 'hot spot' complete with swim up bar.
I was invited by a dancer friend who told me that this was a party that could not be missed. So, off I went, with bikini in tow, and had a really lovely evening hanging out with beautiful people....drunk and not.

I had it in my mind to have a great time, and so it was. What I found most valuable, though, was not the smoking-hot boys, or the ultra cool women but the absolute vacation in midtown vibe. Transported for a few hours, I found a type of bonding that I had been missing. There were other people who actually parroted what I was thinking: it's nice to make a human connection, isn't it?

Indeed 'tis, indeed 'tis....

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Here Comes the Sun



My mind races. I have many things I have to accomplish, but I am living in yesterday right now. Looking absentmindedly at the river, I recall the past couple of days.

I had a show last night at the number one comedy club in America. It was a show that I was promoting for one month. For all intents and purposes, this was going to be a great slot, a wonderful opportunity, and the best show ever.

Here's what actually happened: no one showed up for me. I was not able to perform. This was the first time I had been benched at a show. Any other time I had promoted a show and not enough people showed, my time was merely cut. I was still able to play.


How it works: when there are shows at a comedy club, you can either have a spot, be a regular, be featured, be an m.c. or it could be a bringer show (where you have to bring people). This was a bringer show, but it was also a showcase of new/up and coming comidiennes. The owner of the club was watching to see which comidienne he would 'pass' next. This means that he was looking for someone to add to his regular team of comics. This is also the third show that I have heavily promoted in the hopes that I could submit a tape that Comedy Central has been expecting since February.

How the night unfolded: Receiving numerous cancellations, I frantically got on my computer, sent messages, texts and talked on the phone for what seemed like hours, trying to get people to come. The only calls I recieved where from other comics calling to tell me to give messages to the booker. Never mind. I would face my fear. My people would come.
Arriving at the club 45 minutes before the show, I watched everyone arrive. Ten minutes before the show, I watched one comic down a couple of beers, another smoke 4 cigarettes, and yet another drink copious amounts of Robotussin and then chase it with a white wine spritzer. Five minutes before the show, I watched my colleagues' loved ones wish them well, as they took their seats. One hour in to the show, I watched many other newer comidiennes, take their shot and perform to a warm and lovely crowd. One and one half hours in, I watched my comedy idol perform. One hour and forty five minutes later, I grabbed my things and bolted towards the door. The hot tears that had been welling up all night could no longer be held back.

As I tried to make my elegant exit, my best friend in the business grabbed my arm, pulled me in to her arms and comforted me. The repressed tears rolled down rapidly with an intensity that almost made me wonder if steam was going to emit from them. As I was reduced to a second grader, she asked me what was wrong and I croaked out "I feel like I have no friends". The booker then saw me, and made a couple of light hearted attempts to make me feel better. They both said they knew that I was one of the hardest working comics there. Sympathy has a strange way of actually making me cry harder.

Gathering the last bit of my pride, I made a few weak jokes, grabbed my jacket and walked out the door. The sun had set and the air had a Spring chill to it. More comediennes tried to stop and chat, but I told them I had to run. Then, it happened. A comic who has a special and various t.v. shows under his belt grabbed me by the arm and began to talk to me. Apologizing for being rude, I made a comment that I was rushing home to work on my suicide plan.

"Some women masturbate to release the pressure, I cry and work out the details on how I'm going to kill myself". While he laughed, he handed me his card and told me that he wanted me on one of his shows. Tucking it in my pocket, I made a couple more jokes and said my final good byes.

Two days before: Mother's Day. Making my way out of town, I was off on my timing for the entire day. My family gave up in frustration (as they wanted me to visit the cementary with them). This was the first Mother's Day without my grandparents or favorite uncle. They talked about a family vacation, and offered me a 'discount' on it. I reminded them that I had no set income and that it would be tough to come up with the deposit right now. My sister snickered under her breath, "what else is new"? After a full day of activities, I had to leave right after dessert was served. "I have a show tonight," was all I could say when the disappointed looks were accompanied reproaches of "do you have to leave so soon?" I did.

Mother's Day, evening: Chris Rock dropped in to perform...yet again. This time, he patted me on my arm! I felt like I had arrived as a comidienne.

RIGHT NOW: The Hudson River lops before me at its languid pace. The sun shines brightly. There is not a cloud in the sky. I have several phone calls from friends who called to apologize about not making it last night.

HERE COMES THE SUN, I say. It's all right. It's all right. Little darlin, the smiles will return to the faces now...

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Revolution



I wish I could tell you that I went to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia in that winter of 2003 because I wanted to help make the world safe for democracy, but that would have only been one third of the story. I went to escape the boredom of a serious relationship, and I went because I needed to be bad. I managed to accomplish all three.

That winter, I wanted to be Laura Croft, Tomb Raider. I wanted to leap out of buildings and shoot automatic weapons. I wanted to smoke cigarettes one right after the other, lighting one with the next. I wanted to have an excuse to not shower, stay up late, curse and be politically incorrect. In a boring existence where I was always striving to be good and do the right thing, I wanted-no needed-an excuse to feel naughty. And naughty I was.

This is the BBC and these are today's top headlines... polling stations open today in Georgia... could this be the end for Shevarnaze?

The vintage car radio carried the broken British accent of a BBC reporter through the one functioning speaker of a rusty red Peugeot speeding East through the snow dusted hills of Turkey towards Adjara. I focused on the crackle of the voice to deter the vomit rising in the back of my throat caused by the sort of driving one would experience on a Disneyland attraction. But at Disneyland, because of an ever rising litigious nation I can pretty much assume I wont die. But there is no such knowledge of safety on the backroads of a nation fighting for their freedom and poised on the edge of revolution. Little Ms. Adventurous gripped the door and prayed.

I wanted to save my accidental over seas death for something exciting, like being shot admidst a rush on Parliament. I would rather not die lying in a ditch, gripping my recently amputated left leg, waiting for another driver to happen by and stop to help. My efforts to slow the driver resulted in a 30 second reprieve of the foot against the gas. But as soon as my grip on the car door loosened and the blood returned to my fingers, the assault on the gas continued. I closed my eyes. I could hear my driver change the radio station and I could make out the local dialect reporting on the election.

Polling station number 168 has been.... masked gunmen…. Ballot Boxes have been removed….

Without turning my head, I addressed Henrik in the seat next to me.

“Did you hear that?”

The aging Austrian diplomat was silent. I risked an eye and looked over to see Henrik’s head dipping into his chest and then bolting upright with every turn of the cars wheel.

How the hell could Henrik sleep with this driving? He was pretty old, perhaps he was closing his eyes to concentrate on maintaining his breath. A retired member of the Austrian Parliament, Henrik had signed on to this mission to do some Baltic sightseeing. He preferred lunches and tours of the botanical gardens to primary school buildings filled with smoke, turned into make shift local polling stations.

This sucks! While the other observers are getting action, all we get is closed polling stations and people voting twice. The others are being overtaken by masked gunmen and my greatest thrill is watching Henrik try not to fall asleep in a position undignified to a National Diplomat.

I sulked in the back of the car.

But before long, I had a plan. I pushed myself up into the front seat, between my driver and my translator and used a little broken Georgian.

“Any suspect polling stations where we might find a little corruption?”

My driver looked sideways at the pretty young translator and then back at me through the rearview mirror. He turned down the radio.

"We are instructed to take you to station no. 34."

"Where would you like to take me?"

He paused and continued to stare at the road.

"Down in no.13 they stuff the ballot box. You can find a staff in the back office just checking off names and stamping ballots valid.”

“Ooh, that’s good. Let’s go there.”

My driver snuck a smile and traded a look with the translator. She flashed a grin back and our driver pressed his foot down on the gas sending me abruptly back into my seat, jostling the arm of poor Henrik and causing him to wake from his peaceful slumber.

"Is it time to eat? Or is it the faster we drive, the faster we arrive in the next town, and the faster our driver gets to smoke another cigarette?"

Henrik wrinkles his brow. "Please Tell him that I would rather he break the rules and smoke a cigarette in the front seat then kill us en route to his certain lung cancer."

But instead, I used my limited grasp of the Georgian language to ask the driver who sings the song playing on the radio.

Henrik turned his body and tried to rest his head against the window. And I got ready to uncover a little corruption. But had I known what I know now, about the sort of corruption I would discover at polling station 13, I would have asked the driver to keep on going until we got to Adjara.


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posted by Pop Culture Casualty @ 5/13/2007 11:05:00 AM | 1 comments

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Stuff That Makes You Cringe



Hi, remember me? I know, I know, it's been a while. Love can be very distracting. But I'm back. So many newsworthy moment, so many world events that merited a snarky remark, so many Britney Spears debacles that passed without my commentary. You know you have been away a while, when Brangelina adopts a new baby and Paris is sentenced to prison in your absence. I want you to know that I thought about all these historic passings, and I even tried to write about them. But something totally out of my control happened. The keyboard just lay there under my fingers unwilling to take the notes being dictated in their direction.

It's true! I suffered from three months of finger paralysis. I thought at first that my fingers were just cold. But rigorously rubbing the hands together did nothing for my troubles. Hot baths only made me sleepy. And you can't wear gloves while you type. I wept over the computer, refusing to believe my predicament. I dropped to my knees and prayed to my HP, "God, why have you forsaken my blog." Nothing. Just more useless thinking. And we bloggers know - our thinking means nothing without the sound of fingers furiously tapping across our keyboards.

I went to the doctor and begged for a prescription to give me back even the use of my thumb on the space bar. He told me to drink a cup of coffee every four hours until 6:00 in the evening. I rushed to my URL every morning to see if it worked, but nothing new would be posted.

I was ready to give up, throw in the towel, accept my fate as a nobody corporate zombie and then, a miracle.

Last night Chuck Palahniuk read a story to me as I sat sweetly smiling in the front row of the Philly Free Library auditorium. I twirled my pearls and straightened my skirt and thought about how lovely my life was in every way. But then he looked me in the eye, staring down from a podium carved out of an old Maple tree and everything changed.

"Everybody has a story to tell. Other writers tell stories about the every day man, but what about the other guy. Who is going to tell his story? Who is going to shed the light on the dark parts of mankind. Even the sickest and most twisted stories have a message for us. And it's our mission to gather up our guts and go out and tell those sick and twisted stories."

He said a lot of other good stuff and he told a lot of really cool stories too. Then he tied it all together and the 500 strong crowd felt as if the three hour wait in the rain to hear him speak was all worth it.

That's right, 500 people waited in line for him to read some fan mail, tell a few short stories and answer questions about his craft. 500 people! To hear an author!! He ended the event by dispersing a large box of fake severed body parts through the crowd. Sitting in the front row, I had my pick of appendages but decided I needed none of the bloody limbs to remind me of the experience.

Now I'm not sure if it was Chuck, the warmth of an auditorium filled with 500 twisted readers, or that the coffee was finally kicking in, but when I got home I could feel my fingers starting to tingle a little. I laid them out over some blank pages in my journal this morning and they were able to grip a pen. I wrote a short piece about how much work I had waiting for me in the office and how I needed to get my ass to work and stop pussy footing around at the kitchen table. Miraculous! Amazing!! Chuck heals! Coffee cures!

I decided right then and there, that one day, I wanted to be one of those writers to inspire 500 people to wear wedding dresses and veils through the crowded streets of a bustling city in the hopes I would autograph their book. I have too many nasty stories to tell, too many dating horror tales to lament, too many pop culture casualties to report, to be letting my pen have a rest.

So, I better get cracking. Oh yeah, and today on CBSnews.com, I got a little reminder that it is the most painful stuff to write about that makes the biggest impression on others. Check it out (printed below).

The year was 1987, the boy's name was Rob, and 13-year-old Ingrid Wiese had some pressing concerns.

"He kisses weird," she wrote in her diary. "I just hope it doesn't stick and I don't end up kissing like that forever."

Twenty years later, Wiese hauled the diary out of storage and read it to a bar full of strangers just for laughs.

"
Cringe readings," these exercises are called, and they are growing in popularity around the country.

Groups in New York and elsewhere convene to relive what most would rather forget: the depths of their teenage angst. Participants get up on stage with their ragged, old diaries and are instructed to read only material embarrassing enough to make them cringe.

It turns out that embarrassing is also funny. When Wiese appeared at the reading, held monthly at a Brooklyn bar, the room was packed beyond capacity. The 33-year-old fundraiser may have been cringing, but her audience was cheering.

"When most people hear about it they think, 'Oh, God, that would be just absolutely humiliating, I would never do that,' " said Blaise Kearsley, another reader. "But I think there's something so universal about your adolescent diaries and your poems and your school assignments. It's just stuff that everyone can relate to."

Indeed, as readers spoke about zits and boys, sex and death, they heard plenty of knowing laughter.

Perhaps only teenagers or former teenagers could follow this diary entry, written by a 14-year-old Kearsley in 1987:

"When we got to the dance, Erin was depressed because she likes John and he spent the whole night dancing with Ada. But Ada was upset because at the end of the dance John frenched her. And number one: she likes him but she doesn't know if she likes him in THAT WAY. And number two: John is good friends with Dan, her ex, and she knows that Dan will have something to say to John about this."

Ah, young love.

The Brooklyn event was started by a local administrative assistant, Sarah Brown, who in a momentary, drunken lapse started reading her old diaries to friends — and discovered they had finally become more funny than painful.

The monthly cringe reading has since landed Brown a book deal and a pilot for cable television's TLC, allowing the 29-year-old to quit her day job. Similar events are happening around the country in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Milwaukee and Seattle.

"When you're a teenager, everything is the same level of intensity," Brown said. "They read about boys, or girls, or their parents, or their friends, or school, or something serious like, you know, a divorce — but ... there's no change of tone."

While the readers try to keep it light, plenty of the material in their diaries is dark, heart-wrenching stuff.

"Why? Why do you think someone could really love you?" a now-grown Ingrid Wiese reads to the crowd.

"You're fat, out of shape, covered with zits. You can just feel how your body is GOING. Your arms, your wrists, your calves. You're insecure, immature, and" — she lowers her voice to a whisper — "your grades reflect your intelligence."

The 33-year-old Wiese says it's enough to make her wish she could somehow give that insecure girl a hug.

"I just want to go back and tell that kid so many things, but mostly that 'you're just all right the way you are,' " Wiese said after the reading.

These days, Wiese's emotions are less heightened, and she carries herself confidently as she walks from the stage. Still, some things never change.

"Of course!" she says when asked if she still obsesses over boys. "And I write all about it on my blog."

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posted by Pop Culture Casualty @ 5/11/2007 11:20:00 PM | 2 comments

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Men looking for wives and babies?



His eyes flirted with the sun like pinwheels of color and soul. It helped that they also undressed you fully with their intensity. Those LIPS, though...Ay! He had the kind of lips that begged to be smooched. Actually-they were like a fruit pop in the summer: sweet, luscious and ripe for the sucking.

I spent a full afternoon downloading his pictures, forwarding them to my friend, with a 'what do you think' note attached, as well as obsessively reading his blogs. All the while, I was looking for clues for compatibility. He had a couple of really deep blogs, but they were lyrics or poems written by someone else. A hack, eh?

He blogged, in one, about how he just couldn't have sex without love anymore. The IDEA that a man his age would even be THINKING about that, well, it was shocking! I'm so used to oversexed, sex-starved, shallow New Yorkers, that this anomaly was as refreshing as an Arctic breeze in the Spring. He was ripe, though, for this kind of blog as he had just come back from a wedding. The last of his friends got married. He wrote how he played with his god-child and thought that he could get used to this. That's what he wrote. Aw, right? Wants to get married...annnnd have babies? Alert the presses!

I melted when he told me that he wanted to have a child who looked just like him. That's not my button, either. It was the juxtaposition of this seemingly stoic caveman-slash-athlete with a tender need for procreation...it was, well...confusing.

I had put my privates in a proverbial mason jar when I got sober. "Concentrate on yourself" many elders told me. This was something that took some getting used to, but once I learned how to transmute my sexual energy into creative energy and saw how much I was getting accomplished, well...I didn't want to give it up all that quickly. It has been over a year, though, and my born-again virgin status was vibrating like a kitchen timer. Boys seemed to be coming out of the wood works.

My contemplation of my ever growing hymen gave out to the tug of war that came with persistence on his part, just as I was looking at his lips with drunken lust. THIS is worth tossing away months of self control: drunken lust! While we kissed like horny teens, my mind judged with stern reprobation. "Is this someone you are serious about? Is this someone you can REALLY build a family with?" and just like that, I shut my mind up by saying, "But I'm not looking for that right now. I just want a little sample. Is that so wrong?" Who WAS this new person? Kids, marriage, serious relationship??? Ugh. I was losing my edge.

Wherever those doubtful thoughts bubbled up from within me, were mirrored in him, for he broached the topic of a 'serious conversation' with me. We actually had a mature chat about the goals we had. That's when he told me that HE was celibate, before I even told him that I was! He said he was 'working on himself'. That he was looking for the REAL thing. He actually said, "I can't have sex. I'll get too hurt." I stared at him in amazement. Mostly, because not a stitch of my clothing had fallen by any waist, shoulder or even collar-side.

"Now, is he just TRYING to get me to fall in love with him?" I cynically thought. Before I could judge it any further though, I just thought it interesting. There was a time when I could only find shallow men in hot pursuit of animal gratification.

Now, I can only find guys who can't commit to having sex because they aren't "ready." They exist, these strange relationship types. Here, here to the attraction factor!!!

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Drums along the Hudson



It was a simple Sunday, like most others. I awoke with the streams of the morning sun dappled along my face. Would I carpe diem, or carpe sleepum? That was the question.

In a fit of adrenaline-slash-guilt from pissing away the week, I quickly put together a coordinated designer outfit. If I was going to schlep around the tip of Manhattan, I was going to do it in style. Without even second-guessing, I hailed a cab. It was only after the driver pointed out that it was kind of ironic to take a cab to go hiking, that I even dared look at the impropriety of it all.

I was going to hike at Inwood Park, and then check out Drums Along the Hudson.

What followed once I arrived can only be described as magical. The sun was just making it above the ridge of clouds, and the dew was magically placed along the moss-yes, folks, moss along the granite boulders. Hiking shoes leading the way, I melted as I saw a brook make its way along the rocks and roots. Many trees were falling from the attachment of poison oak vines that were sapping its vitality. My goal was to make it up the mountain, along the terrain and back down before my coffee was digested.

I had a black out. That's the only way I could describe it. Miles away from any car or exhaust, hearing only the sweet chirping of chickadees, woodpeckers and bluebirds, as only a natural symphony could be composed, I found myself seduced by the sounds of this elegant bird score. I looked in wonder, as I heard the whistling of baby hawks, making their way to their nests. I sat on a collapsed tree trunk, with gruel in my hands, in utter amazement. This was still Manhattan. I was deep in nature, surrounded by oaks, cherry blossoms and white birch. My jaw dropped and I was humbled as a cardinal swooped down and took a kernel from my hand.

Hours later, I made my way out of the forest, and yes--I could see the trees--and just as I went to leave this paradise, the scent hit me. It was the smell of sweet sage which I had discovered during sweat lodge. My nose followed the murky sweet smell. This was a renaissance. The rebirth of connection.

Making my way to the origin of the sage, there were a line of women singing tribal songs with melodic drums beating in union. The songs were familiar from that day in sweat lodge that changed my life. Upon halting, I looked around and it was a greater circle than I had ever imagined. My feet were firmly planted on the ground as I watched Native American children playing with Aryan families, dogs rushing under alpaca wool, and glimpses of feathers and fur peaking beneath headdresses’. The familiarity of the music and the large circle took me back.

Transported to the tee-pee once again, I remembered my vow, "I have come to honor the mother" I said. As we faced the North door of the journey, I ran out of the tee-pee in a full sweat. Everything had become light. The thoughts and visions of my colleagues played out in their chakras like cartoons. Kneeling and panting before the burning oak, I knelt carefully and purged my inner demons, "Bring us back to nature! Remind us of our connection to the divine source!" I uttered, as the tears flowed from my sweaty face.

Picking myself up off of the ground, I wearily made my way back in. Seeing the shining faces in the dark, I knew my prayer had been for them all. It had also been for my home.


Although this event may not be repeated in this area, it jump-started a reminder: there are many events like this that celebrate nature and Native Americans. The realization of this, the serendipity of being at this event without warning and the smell of sweet sage, cleansing my aura yet again, played out like a distant dream, trying to find a voice. Our little island is jam-packed with surprises, isn't it?

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Celebrity, celosia and celibacy at Tribeca Film Festival '07


I was at the Tribeca Film Festival opening night. A launch party for a little film that a friend of mine was in. It was not as glamorous as certain high level movies by casa de Weinstein, but it was enough to make me want to cry out in anxiety all night. This ‘small scale’ event attracted big names in Mexican cinema and some actors that I haven’t met, but have seen and respect. They were all there, all swarmed by people, all being adored. I stood behind, watching in utter fascination. How much longer would it be before that was me? Is that what I even wanted? I saw the caterers go by, with their trays of delectable treats. One by one, the treats were turned down, in exchange for the smiles and looks of unending adoration and phrases filled with praise.

The event was supposed to celebrate a friend of mine who was in the film. I was dressed to the nines, as they say, and should have been glowing from the excitement of being in the ‘inner circle’…or closer to it, anyway, but all I could think about was what I was not getting. Even yesterday when asked what the name of the film was, or where we went after, I drew a blank, because all I was focused on was my inadequacies and how far away I was from where I wanted to be, and how my date was getting more attention than I was. With all of these self-hating thoughts floating through my head, I turned to other thoughts.

It is amazing how much money goes in to these events. This was not even the A-list party, and the wait staff alone tipped the bill over in to the thousands. Each person must have spent, I don’t know, $200 at least, just to walk out of their door.

That took about two seconds. I went back to analyzing the events of the night. Cute boy. Check. That feels good. Film festival. Check. That feels good, too. Jealousy over actors in the lime light. Um, not-so-good. Feeling sorry for myself for having to take the back seat on this one, instead of being the guest of honor. Um, danger? Bad territory in the head. The amount of parties I must have missed in a life time due to bad decisions from my past life. Ugh. Get off this train of thought. The amount of tall blonder white women at that event and how badly I feel about my body when I compare it to people who have had plastic surgery and designer work-outs/meals. Danger, danger!!!! Approaching dangerous ground…will implode in 5, 4, 3, 2…!!!

How often do I go for the things that destroy me? The minute I began to obsess about the things that I did NOT have, the tapestry of my inner happiness began to unravel. By remembering that I can get off that run away train and be in the moment…I can approach terra firma and live. I chose to obsess over my date’s perfect lips and how they would meet mine by the end of the night. Celibacy be damned, celibacy be damned!

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Four Directions...never lost


I had exactly 20 minutes to get to the Warehouse in Jersey. It would be a feat in and of itself to get there and be able to put on the show of my life. I ran through Times Square, seeing flashing lights off in the distance and breathing hard to catch my breath after many start and stop again sprints. It was time to make a good impression, but I knew I was cutting it close. In my frenzy, though, I had a yogic chant blaring in my ear.

ganesha sharanam, sharanam ganesha; ganesha sharanam, sharanam ganesha

It felt like the first time I had ever really seen Times Square. Off in the distance, the blaring horns of the cabs, the homeless men begging for cigarettes, the bright lights and excitement of the Madam Tussad's, Olive Garden and Cold Stone all in a row waiting for tourist patronage. Feeling beads of perspiration, I tried to ignore the fact that my coat was too heavy for this time of year. It was a gorgeous, yet chilly Spring day. Then, it happened, the combination of the chanting, my racing heart and a tree that I had never noticed before, slowed the shutter of my mind down to simple photos. The bloom of the tree took me back somewhere magical. It was as if I had taken a quantum tranquilizer, and everything progressed like slow moving images. There, plain as day, were the inner lights of humanity on display. Some where dim, some were brightly light with excitement and hope and still others were extinguishing at a rapid rate. Auras on display. The sadness of the human condition was extinguished by the popcorn blossoms in the distance. How long had it been since I watched a tree bloom?

ganesha sharanam, sharanam ganesha!

The chant promised the removal of obstacles, and here was this bright sun and life, as I had never noticed it before, coming towards me. The sadness in the face of some was too much to bear. As I slowly turned, internally, there was a compass that was leading me to the gate I would have to go out of. Everything seemed slower. Even now, the cursor and my typing seem to crash down at an almost stopped rate. I had to hurry, I had to make my bus, I had to run!!!

In the corners of my mind, I remembered how often I would laugh at people who had travel anxiety. This was not an anxiety to leave the City, although I do admit to suffer from separation anxiety when I pack my bags and watch my loved City disappear in the distance. No, this was a community. This was my family, as I had seen them on display in the streets, so asleep, yet so much a part of my experience. I stood in the Port Authority, with the chain stores each beckoning my attention, and the stress of so many faces on parade. That is when it appeared. The knowledge of the four directions that I had brought with me from sweat lodge.

The chief had sprinkled bear claw shavings in the hearth, and said, "Migwich" to the buff, scantily clad farmer boy who carried the molten rocks in. I surpressed my sexual urges and tuned in. She began the ceremony by making a cross with her hand. She began to chant in a native language, which strangely seemed familiar to me. She spoke to us in the darkness of the tent, and all that was seen was burning embers of the bear claw residue. "There was a time when this motion meant the four directions. It was not what was taken from us. It was not symbolic of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. It was the four directions. Mental, physical, spiritual and emotional compasses that provide inner guidance. You can never be lost again, for this will be your compass." Yet, here I was, in the middle of Port Authority with no clue as to where I would go next.

The sweat began to pour down my face. Asking numerous "authorities", I was sent in four directions. Each door I went out of, I would feel the steamy stench of asbestos hit my senses like a truck. Retreating back in the depressed artificial lighting, I remembered that day, that spiritual experience, and the reason that even this 'stress' did not penetrate the way it once would have. "I have to get to Jersey in 20 minutes. I have no idea where I'm going. I will be okay, though," I soothingly said to myself. Mothers with babies ran by, everyone, it seemed expereriencing the confusion I felt. Then it happenened...an opening in the middle of the floor, like a compass. I could hear the explanations, North: giving it away; South: compassion and healing; East: the door to the direction you are headed; West: the door of intention. Intention...I looked at the rushing people, and felt a little less like a New York in that instant. Something greater than myself, spun my heel in a semi circle and I almost went skipping across the high gloss tile, down the escalator, gliding miraculously to my gate.

When my ticket was collected, the chant slowed down to a halt. Breathing heavily, I took a deep breath. Not sure of what had transpired, and lost in thought, the bus slowly pulled out of the gate. We were in the sunlight once again, and I could see the stadium off in the distance. "How long had I had this compass?" I wondered, as the last beads of sweat formed on my brow. Time. The human construct, yet necessary barometer of measurement, had been on my side this time. Perhaps I was leaving the tribal beats of the City drum, but for a brief moment, I was connected by something greater than myself, and I found the direction within. The one that is infinitely connected to Source. For the first time in a long time, I felt lucky. I did.

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