Monday, October 17, 2011
I have been carrying around my black Moleskine journal all around the past 10 days and except for writing little exhaustive fragments on Amtraks or a clothing list a la Joan Didion I haven't been able to write anything. I told myself, you will write down thoughts for yourself before you think of thoughts for others. To no avail. Perhaps I have no self anymore if not mediated by readers. Frightening thought. Or: some freedom the white space of Blogger. Automatic writing then Publish. Perhaps this is basically boiling down to the ease with which I can type versus handwrite. I could try to keep a diary on my computer but that feels wrong as well. When I think of it I hear the Doogie Howser Casio theme song in my head.
I have been traveling through the beginning of this tour feeling a heaviness, a blankness. I found myself getting terribly lost and finding myself in unsafe situations, which I still experienced with a passivity, like I was myself a character. John and I finding ourself on a bridge without pedestrian sidewalks late at night in Portland. Wandering around in 102 degree heat on Sunset Boulevard, in tight black jeans, finding myself at a fairly swank spa that seemed out of place on that particular stretch, getting my toenails painted, slowly, dark green, by a 23-year-old who just moved to LA from New Jersey three weeks ago and told me about her problems with her roommates in her cramped place in Studio City and confessed to me she once wanted to write, although she didn't know what, that's what she'd be doing, if she wasn't doing this, shrugging to the place, my toes, and also telling me she longed to cut off all of her long glossy brown hair. All while I watched Sunset Boulevard silently (apropos) play above the receptionist desk, it was that kind of place, gesturing to an old glamour without really reaching it, and wondered how many people in the salon, empty except for the hairstylists outfitted in black and the lower-caste in white, knew what film it was, or whether they just saw an old movie and old people. And felt rather like I was in the novel I've been traveling places to read from and blear on about.
More high-risk situations. I found myself, again, in the heat in San Diego, getting lost walking from the Sheraton to the campus. Several times. Couldn't make it up the hill. The heat, I think. A disorientation. Once I ended up on the other side of the campus with my books in tow, having been given scarecrow-directions by UCSD students. A kind employee in a facilities truck gave me a lift to Atkinson. That night walking to dinner with Bhanu, again, lost. We hitched a ride with a student in the dentistry school, literally, hitched a ride, thumbs out. If someone picks us up we're still young and attractive Bhanu decided. She made her British accent more accentuated for the dentistry student, who was quite amiable, so he would think at least one of us had the appearance of elegance and nonchalance, like hitching is completely appropriate in other environments. She told him that I was a very famous writer, hilariously, totally of course wrongly. When it was everyone there who couldn't wait to see her, to hear from her, myself included. It was lovely getting lost with Bhanu. She who singed her hair at the Excess panel in lieu of reading from her talk or Schizophrene. I told her earlier via email when she was telling me of her San Diego plans that I wish I was someone who went swimming in the sea, like her, like others at the conference.
And then the third time, with Kate Durbin, after the Excess panel, I went last and read overlong, it was naked, vulnerable, weird, reading from Heroines, this work I've cooped up in myself for so long. And I read a passage of spousal madness, of the sometimes violence of a dyad, and felt guilty about this, because I missed John so longingly, but he had helped me pick out the passage. I don't know what anyone thought of Heroines, honestly. There was kind of a silence afterwards. And then someone asked me if hysteria was real, and if evil was real. Or maybe they asked Johannes or Kate if evil was real. What is evil I wondered. I am still wondering this. I guess I don't believe in evil. I guess evil is a moral explanation for systems and phenomena that are extremely complex and transcend the individual. I guess I've always felt evil is besides the point, or isn't a good enough explanation. I believe in fascism. I think Heroines is entirely about fascism, which I see constructed through language and relationships. But anyway after the panel I wandered a bit with Amaranth, who I was so glad to meet, and Kate D., sorry to miss their gorgeous freakish newspaper twinning performance the next day. Kate D and I wandered around campus foraging for healthy food, and then decided to head back to the parking lot. Again we had to be Blanche DuBoises and accept a ride up the hill, this time on a motorized cart, Kate D with her painted on black eye and bleeding nose, and her Victorian costume, me hanging on in back, clutching my now-warm ginger Kombucha with one hand.
About the conference. Such obviously brilliant and accomplished people. I would like to have had tea with many of them one on one. But I think people who really dig such mass gatherings, like in their bloodstream, are people who went to camp as children. I never went to camp as a child. In the summer instead I played with my two siblings, all of us a year apart, and when we weren't hitting each other or lost in our solitary reveries around the house we were engaged in games of magical imaginary. There is something there I think. At the mixer Friday night after the Stars panel, where I read from Green Girl, the scene where Ruth cuts off all her hair, a tragedy becoming a frothy comedy, for a while I sat alone at a table and ate from a small square of vegan tiramisu and the complimentary kombucha, two of my favorite things. Of course since it was my only dinner I proceeded to get violently ill afterwards, which prompted me switching my tickets back home so I could rest and restore for two days before heading to New York tomorrow morning for the reading with Laurie Weeks. On an aside, I've truly become a 65-year-old woman. IBS which becomes much worse when I'm traveling really does make one feel like a hag, no longer a girl. In all of these situations where I've found myself surrounded by beautiful and intelligent people, fellow writers, in fact, for once, I most of the time was trying my best not to let an explosive attack of gas escape me, or playing with my waistband because my constipation was bloating me so much that I felt 5 months pregnant. Seriously. That's basically what I have done the entire tour so far. This is where I was at this mixer, doubled over with horrible cramps, smiling and trying to make some sort of conversation, conversation that sometimes felt like an explanation of why one was worthy to sit at the table. I didn't try to sit with people, later Tim Jones-Yelvington and Megan Milks sat with me, both who I find kindred and always enjoy talking to. And lovely students from Cal Arts who later gave me a ride home. But I realized at that moment that it is difficult for me to be a physical body in these larger gatherings. Also that I'm not entirely socialized, and I've actually become less and less socialized.
At home yesterday I felt completely fine and restored almost immediately. Back to solitary or the dyad. My comfort zone. John had to work yesterday afternoon, so after a lovely morning sitting out on the porch reading the Sunday times and drinking endless tea I spent the afternoon researching various spicy sauces to mimic the food I ate in Portland.
Excuse me now my toilet's all stopped up. I've been plunging it all morning.