Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Laurel

She was in my dream last night. It was a dream in which I was clearly dwelling in the past--a past where I knew what the outcome would be. I was staying at her house. She asked if I could stop and...I can't quite remember this part...but basically stop somewhere and debug myself of all potential pathogens I had acquired traveling and being outside. It didn't seem like a strange request. I asked a cab driver if she knew anywhere I could go to do such a thing and she said no, so Laurel said 'forget it just come over.' Soon I was in her house, not her house but a house, with her again, bathed in her magic and whimsy like old times. And I knew she was going to die, that in fact she already HAD died, but it was nighttime and we went to bed and I slept on her couch for what seemed like minutes but then it was morning and she came in and said, "I slept so well!"

There were other details I can't remember. A distinctive feeling of having been there and knowing that all of it had happened before. But mostly I was happy. Happy to be with her again for a short time, even though I probably knew that I was dreaming. How else would the entire dream have been suffused with the knowledge that she would die?

It's been 1 year, 4 months, and 25 days. It's still just the very first chapter of my life without her. I think about her randomly and frequently, maybe when a picture of Blac Chyna comes out where her head size/thigh ratio seems impossible (must discuss) or when I'm trying to remember the name of a long-forgotten Rock of Love contestant (of course she would know, and probably interviewed her for 944 magazine back in the day). I was staying in Mendocino a few weeks ago and was so taken in by the striking beauty of the trees and ocean I think I whispered, "I miss you" out loud which felt stupid and satisfying at the same time. I have slowly lost the compulsion to send her a text message. I still have one of her voicemails saved on my phone.

Sometimes I flip through a Dropbox folder with her press clippings, writings, and photos compiled by friends and family called "Laurel's Archive." It is my chance to know her at times and stages I never really did. There she is in a cheerleading outfit, knee cocked, the same face I knew, the same dimples. At her high school prom, plump-cheeked and sporting an impressive 80's bang situation. They're all pictures I never saw when she was alive. The stories surrounding them likely lost to time and the people who were there and knew her then.

Her writing is profoundly good. It's one of the greatest mementos she left behind. In the archive are several poems she wrote. Usually reading other people's poetry is about as fun as sitting in on their therapy session (i.e. not nearly as interesting as you'd think) but of course her poems are devastatingly good. One of my favorites, untitled is simply:

My drowning pool is the loveliest shade of blue. Really, you should see it.
It's always just the right temperature and everything.
I climb right in with a big smile on my face.
I sink down and down
until the water covers my ears and I can't hear a word you say.



it.



Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Too heavy to sustain only with your arms




Images from The Scientology Handbook (1994)
The above images (inexplicable without context and probably no less inexplicable with it) are from the 871-page Scientology Handbook, published in 1994 which is currently available for purchase on Amazon. Since reading Amazon reviews has become one of my favorite Internet past times, I've collected some of the more impassioned endorsements/condemnations here:
"Buy this book, use it, read it, live it! You do not have to be a Scientologist for this to work any more that you need to be a physicist for gravity to work!"
"A book easy to to read with beautiful and explaining images. I'm studying it yet.You must read it over a table because it's too heavy to sustain only with your arms."
"The entire educational system should adopt this, and it is so easy you could do it in under a week. The cause of suppression - since reading this I have never had a cold or illness since. There is much more, and this book would make the best gift to a son or daughter heading off to college, or for any adult that is not flourishing."
"In one sentence, my decesion to buy this book was the best decesion I ever made in my life and it helped me become very happy and successful. I am 33, and the Chairman of an Internet Company set to go public."
"Essentially, Scientology is like Candy Crush; the more levels you clear, the more you spend." 
Thanks for the time waster dangerousminds

Thursday, September 22, 2016

On Cultutal Appropriation


I don't remember when the term "cultural appropriation" first entered the vernacular, but it most certainly entered my vocabulary as a result of reading Jezebel and blogs on the Gawker network (RIP). In the earliest examples I can recall, it was used in response to (white) hipsters donning 'Native American' headdresses at festivals (use of air quotes to denote the headpieces in question were almost certainly not created by, nor for actual Native Americans). I am on board with hating this particular fashion statement as a matter of course, and agree that it is an unambiguously callous and tone deaf act given the wider European history of systematically wiping out the Native American population. Columbus, et al.

But then, as it inevitably tends to do in the insular and fart-soaked virtual chatrooms also known as the Gawker comment sections, the outrage expanded to include white people with cornrows, anyone getting butt injections, eating tacos, wearing big earrings, and taking yoga classes. And thus I increasingly find myself wracked by self-doubt when it comes to getting dressed. Can I get acrylic nails? Can I braid my hair? Can I wear that squash blossom necklace my boyfriend got me for my birthday? If I want to avoid being a cultural appropriator, the answer to all of the above is a resounding NO.

Now I myself am as over-educated and liberal-minded as the average Jezebel commenter, and I understand that donning the visual markers traditionally associated with a minority population if you are not part of said minority group can be problematic if you do not understand the deeper context of those visual markers. But the reality is also that we live in a global culture, and with the globalization of commerce and the Internet of Things taking over our cultural landscape, it is nearly impossible to shop or eat or merely exist without coming into contact with different nations and varying aesthetics. And besides, to not wear/eat/consume anything that doesn't directly correlate to your racial, ethnic, or national history is not only nearly impossible, it surely carries with it its own set of complexities and insensitivities. We all know (for history and Donald Trump tells us) what happens when cultural "otherness" is spurned in favor of jingoistic nationalism. And it's not pretty either.

So if it is both deeply offensive and impossible to avoid, what then? There has got to be a way to differentiate between "blind appropriation, cultural insensitivity, and outright racism" and genuine appreciation and intellectual curiosity about other cultures and other ways of being/dressing/thinking/and eating. I.e. there has to be some middle ground between Kardashian levels of black cultural theft and, I dunno, walking around looking like Georgina Bloomberg. Surely, right? But maybe not. Or maybe hyper-vigilance is a necessary first step to assuage the transgressions of the past several hundred years. 

Perhaps the key (besides avoiding blatant rip-offs of important religious and ethnic visual themes) is to simply be more conscious of what we (white people) wear and what it means to its culture of origin. I would liken this approach to knowing more about where your clothing is made (which I have written about previously). The only problem is, whether or not I take an academic approach to learning more about why, for instance, Oaxacan women wear the traditional huipil embroidered blouses, it will still be viewed as insensitive, myopic, tone-deaf, and ultimately exploitative to wear that pretty Mexican embroidered blouse I found at the thrift store because people will assume I'm just another white asshole. And I'm not going to lie, I don't want to be viewed that way any more than I want to wear Chinos and polo shirts.

I guess what I am (hypothetically asking) here is: is being aware and being educated a 'pass' for me to incorporate the visual cues of another culture? Because I have heard it both ways. Either the problem is that a white person would have dreads at all or the problem is they would refuse to acknowledge the unassailable black origins of that hairstyle.

Sorry if this all seems a little bit...petty given the number of black deaths at the hands of police officers in the past months and as recently as this past weekend, but I started this post ages ago because it is something I think about regularly, being a person who is predisposed to sartorial experimentation and adornment. By no means do I want to assert that I am pobrecita because now I can't wear whatever I want whenever I want to. I merely hope that it will someday be possible to incorporate the visual markers of other cultures as a celebration and exaltation of those cultures. In the words of the great Dodai Stewart: "You can steal from a culture, or you can be born of and truly appreciate that culture while recognizing you are not quite of it." And I will do my best to shun the former and embrace the latter.


Monday, August 15, 2016

If you want to be famous, you must do something more badly than anybody in the entire world


In my near-constant and endless wanderings through the virtual world, I recently discovered (thanks to Flashbak) the work of Miroslav Tichy, a Czech photographer who remained largely unknown until his photos were finally exhibited in 2004. Known as the "perverted flaneur," Tichy roamed the streets of his hometown Kyjov in the Czech Republic with large, ungainly homemade cameras fashioned out of cardboard, wire, tin cans, and spools of thread. The homemade cameras let small amounts of light leak onto the negatives, giving his work a hazy, dreamlike quality.

His preferred subject matter was women, and all of his shots are candid, voyeuristic photos taken surreptitiously on the street. He was likely able to get away with this because his cameras looked so shoddy most people assumed they were incapable of taking actual photos (see below).

Tichy, with one of his homemade cameras
Tichy had a refreshingly postmodern take on art and technique. Of photography, he said:

First of all, you have to have a bad camera and if you want to be famous, you must do something more badly than anybody in the entire world.

This philosophy could just as readily be applied to the type of talentless fame we've come to expect from reality TV and middling pop stars. Hey, it worked for Meghan Trainor. If you can't be good, be bad. But don't just be bad, be the worst.









All of his photographs are untitled and undated, but span a time frame from roughly the 1960s through the 1980s. He died in 2011.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Leaving San Francisco


I'm sitting in my living room on the threadbare, dirty carpet. There are boxes all around me, the room is strewn with 9 years' worth of personal detritus that I lovingly collect, frame, display, and shove into forgotten drawers. Out of the picture window, framed like a neon light-up poster, are the cotton candy clouds illuminated by a solstice sun that is taking its sweet time slipping behind Twin Peaks. Bernal Hill is to the right, the giant cranes in the Oakland shipyards are directly across the bay, standing like monstrous trojan horses. The neighbor's weird chimney vent that looks like a knight's helmet and shakes its head (gently or vehemently, depending on the strength of the wind) is unmoving, staring just off to the left where the plum tree that reaches its branches against my window is slowly bearing fruit.

I have spent 9 years of my life in this place, in my own place filled with my things, with this view from not the apex, but the near-apex of the hill. A place that makes it difficult getting in and out of your car--the door will keep trying to slam on your calves as you climb out. Visitors nearly always enter the apartment breathless, even if they only parked across the street, their cheeks and lungs flush with new blood.

I have moved from nascent to fully-formed adulthood in this apartment. Age 24 - 33. A time period that took me through 3 jobs, 2 boyfriends, 9 roommates. Roommates that come and go as their lives take them to other cities, other apartments, other jobs. Dean, Julia, Tara, Alicia, Brooke, Lori, Ben, Wardell, Monica. Gone but not forgotten (although I wish I could forget Ben, the roommate who locked himself in his room drinking for 3 months and never bothered to wipe his pee off of the bathroom floor). I hold their presence with me as I pace through the empty rooms, down the narrow hallway. Their DNA must still somehow remain in the lead-based paint and the threadbare carpet.

I want to remember every detail of every thing that ever happened to me within these walls. I want to memorize the floor plan so that 10, 20, 30 years from now, when I am calling somewhere else home, I can still conjure up the details of this, my first apartment. I want to remember every sunset that I watched from the living room, momentarily stopping whatever I was doing (or more likely, watching) to take in the vibrant colors and expansive mural of the city. I want to remember conversations had and un-had, parties thrown, lazy evenings spent in total and complete relaxation. I want to remember the guy who walks his cat on a leash and is maddeningly un-humorous about it.

I am sentimental and to forget is anathema.

But change is inevitable, and whatever comes with this new chapter of my life, my non-San Francisco chapter (working title) will surely bring with it new things to be wistful and wax poetic about, so I really shouldn't be standing in what was the spare bedroom getting all misty-eyed. It's not like I have nowhere to go. I won't be homeless. I'll just be transient for a time, without a home of my own but not without a roof over my head.

And what is home anyway? How much does it really matter, to have a place filled with your shit that you return to at the end of the day and feel comfortable in? A place where the DVR is filled with your recordings, where the coffee grinder is right where you left it. Where time unfurls with an ease and predictability as comforting as pulling a warm fleece blanket around your shoulders when the June gloom sets in and the wind comes howling out of the west and sweeping down the hill. A place where you can walk around in your underwear and be ugly as you please.

All this is a roundabout way of admitting that I'm moving in with my parents for a time while I sort through the cognitive dissonance associated with being a textbook gentrifier who can't afford the city she helped gentrify. OH THE IRONY. I will miss this place.

Stay tuned for more adventures.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Goals

Goals. Not Hashtag Goals. Here is what I'm hoping to self-manifest in the year of Our Lord, 2016.

1. Travel somewhere new
Taj Mahal, 1959
Arc de Triomphe, Paris 1960
Tahiti, 1962

2. Read more books


3. Pick up a new creative hobby
The Art of Ornamental Orange Peeling, 1910

4. Keep expanding my musical horizons

 5. Visit a big city when it's snowing


6. Invest in laser hair removal


7. Keep exercising


8. Be less flaky

9. Furnish my patio

Friday, January 1, 2016

Why Does Time Fly?



If 2015 felt like the fastest year yet, welcome to the club. And if you need more reasons to fear the speed of your impending demise, check out this terrifying infographic by Maximilian Kiener that explains if you live to be 100, half of your perceived life is already over by age 7. 

Happy New Year!