Hey, so….it’s time once again to launch myself into the Woods of Wunder with all my Doo brethren and sistren!
I thought I might send a postcard from the artist village to whomever might chance to want one this year.
That’s right, I’m gonna send postcards to my pals from the heart of Doo-Nanny. If you want one please put your John Henry below in the comments-place (I’ll collect your address afore we pack up to leave out at the beginning of next week). International friends, you are most welcome to participate!
Here is the catch, because there is always a catch, son: It may not be signed by me. It may be signed by a world-famous folk artist! Or just some freak who likes bonfires. Or the one laydeh who always hangs around the kitchen, waiting for me to put out more salsa. You just never know!
DOO-NANNY! \0/ Collaborate, initiate, investigate, propagate, stay up late, create, inflate, relate! Burn stuff! Whoop, holler, dance, sing, hug a neck and pat a back! Amen and amen.
I had to go to the doctor yesterday. I have been slogging through a personal health situation for the last several years, but in the last ten weeks I’ve been getting pounded on. I need a reprieve in a pretty big way. I’m not built for being infirm; it makes me too cranky, I have things to do. Time to get a handle on this business. I’ve made the concrete decision that I’d rather be in the hole financially for the sake of my health than in the hole physically and having no kind of life at all.
Up the road a piece between here and my (dipped in fabulous with an amazingly rad center) family practitioner’s office out there in the country there’s a big, well-manicured field with a tarp stretched out in it. Scattered on the yards-long tarp are pieces of broken china and pottery.
There is a strange and disconnected loveliness about it. I mean, it was obviously placed there by someone, but it also has the feel of Supposed To Be about it.
Something about it feels sacred. You know that air about something when you run all up on it, don’t you?
I like it. I also like the feeling of a big, out-in-the-open secret. Sometimes the passcode just doesn’t concern you. It’s enough that you know there’s a special door lying in wait.
I have a friend who, as it turns out, knows the story behind the tarp. She shared it with me earlier this year. There’s a farmer that lives on the back side of that property with his wife. He has a compulsion to not let good things fall by the wayside, so he spent many years gathering up pretties and geegaws. “Has a barn full of ‘em!” said Kris, when she was telling me all about the tarp runner.
A couple of years ago, around the time the tarp first appeared, the farmer started getting sick. His wife, in an attempt to stay on top of things, had started combing through his collections. The way I understand it, every few weeks she’ll take a few minutes and go out into the barn of fineries, inspecting the goods. She pulls the pieces with flaws a few at a time and throws them out there on that tarp.
I don’t know what she was hoping to accomplish with this. Could be that she wanted to respect her husband’s wishes and not see the things buried in a landfill. Could be that she, trusting in humanity’s innate nosiness curiosity, figured folks would come poking around, which is why the tarp starts so close to the county road it’s sitting near. Maybe she was issuing an open invitation: “I don’t have use of it, but if you do then have at it.”
That was the interpretation of Kris, at least, who does mosaic pieces and will stop from time to time to see what’s being offered up out there in the country by the farmer’s wife. She tells me that this has caught on with folks in the know: Someone needs bits for a windchime or an altar or a sculpture and they visit that tarp.
Normally it looks very crowded; yesterday it appeared picked over to me. No matter, I was there to observe. I have enough broken pieces of my own to sort and catalog; there is no wanting spot in my collections at present.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
After about four years of frustration and ten weeks of some pretty serious misery, I finally have a diagnosis: I have Meniere’s disease. It will never go away, but apparently once we get this major flare-up under control, there are things that I can do to manage it and keep serious attacks at bay.
The start of this entails getting rid of stress, caffeine and cheese, all of which I run on in turns so I don’t even know what the fuck, you people. Meniere’s is also heavily triggered by insomnia. It took me three tries to type that sentence because I am laughing hysterically.
Any number of things could have contributed to this being A Thing for me, ranging from genetic to environmental. I’ll talk more about it in time. It’s nice just having something to point to (finally) so that a plan can be established.
My doctor is the best. THE! BEST! I don’t know how, in a world of so many terrible ones, I got so fortunate to have him on my side where it comes to my care, but I’m infinitely thankful that I’m not having to slog through a pile of terrible docs in order to feel heard, partnered with, and attended to.
Also, it could have been a brain tumor, which was a very real thought for a minute there. Good Lord, brain tumors cost a lot. I would have chosen to be put down like an old cur had that been the case. But first I would have thrown a balls-out, expensive party and met all of you. There would have been lawn darts.
::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::
This is my go-to feelgood song. It spoons out big dollops of hope all over everything just by its exuberance and intsy magic finger cymbal ting! sounds.
Every time I hear this it feels to me like Prince is throwing some sort of big cosmic party and this is his engraved invitation to all of us.
2) It’s time again for Doo-Nanny. HELLS YEAH SON.
3) A Canadian is downstairs. The internet intersects with life and it works.
4) I got nominated for Voices of the Year. You can see the piece and vote here, if you so desire.
5) Things are happening. This year aims to be triumph and tragedy hammered together in a manner that might leave everyone wondering which is which. For some reason, I am grinning out of one side of my mouth at the notion of this. Adventure. The first-quarter prediction is that 2012 has a whiff of adventure about it.
6) I know so many amazing people, I swear to God.
7) Over the next few days I’ll be driving around Hellabama in a gold GMC pickup. Wave and holler if you see me; we can clink beers and grin for a little bit.
Today I feel like ‘amen’ is being breathed all over me, if that makes any sense. I hope you have a day like this soon.
It is eleven-thirty on a Sunday morning and I am sitting on the most comfortable plaid couch my ass has ever had the pleasure of attaching itself to; this couch is perpendicular to a bank of industrial windows in an old sharecropper’s house. (contextual photo here) The house is surrounded by shotgun shacks all around and I was supposed to have my ass attached to a couch in one of those, but fate intervened so now I have an eighteen-foot corrugated ceiling where my ideas can waft up to and bob around, teasing me and waiting for me to play.
But one of the shacks would have served just as well. Ideas lurk in the corners of those. The ceilings hold dreams waiting to be plucked.
It’s raining. My traveling companions (picked up willy-nilly along the way) are all still tucked in rooms, presumably rain-soothed, hopefully warm and delighted. That’s my wish for them, anyway. The rain started easy this morning and so did I, washing some dishes, making some coffee, thinking my thinks. While I’ve been sitting here taking in words, percolating my own, the rain has ramped up the show a good bit but hasn’t exactly decided that it wants to stick with that plan of action; it keeps waxing and waning, a comforting striptease of intensity that is yanking at my middle where all the words and all the emotions settle themselves so as to let me function in the day to day.
Last night I had one dream: In it I was a picture in a frame and I burned up. The frame itself was left pristine; florid and beautiful, it was open and ready for a new picture of me. The fire was sudden and startling and at first I grieved because I didn’t realize for a few seconds what that empty frame floating in front of me truly meant. Then it dawned on me, though, that this space –this beautiful golden delineation of matter– was just an invitation to Other, which is something people pine for the whole of their lives.
So now: “Pick what goes in that frame, girl. And you don’t even have to pick especially carefully. Fire will come and take it away if it’s the not-right (not-right isn’t the same as wrong, see?) option and you can pick again. Fire is your friend. Fire laughs and licks and pirouettes in a jagged-fluid line. Smile into the fire.”
I spent probably the first thirty-two years of my life pretending I wasn’t this broken thing. Then I sat perplexed at the notion that something about me just wasn’t right and I probably better fix some shit. My life reverberated with ‘huh’ –not a question, a statement: “Huh.”– for a year or two and then I resolved to get my hands dirty with the clearing away of messy and misappropriated insides.
Scut work. Sweating and swiping the backs of your filthy hands across your dripping forehead work. Finally, finally the breaking done, the clearing-away, the standing and the surveying, the terror and excitement of bare ground and the notion of what goes there now. Finally those things, Seanie. Finally.
Regrowing yourself is overwhelming in a way I’d have never imagined. See also: I am a complete fucking badass.
It’s all culminating now. I think I have all the seeds loose and ready in my hands. It’s just a matter of configuration now, of deciding if there are rows and how I want them laid out or if I fling them to the wind and laugh and wait for the return. Probably, as is my nature, it will be some of both. I’m broken clean down and ready to see what comes of it. You know. You know.
Send me that Wiki link that I lost. I was drunk and howling that night and I need to read that shit again. I have different eyes now. In exchange, here’s a present for you.
I hope your Sunday morning coming down is as peaceful and as loaded as mine.
I have an elaborate plan and I am not even kidding about this shit. What’s that? You say that you’re dying to take part in it? Well edge in closer, buddy, and I’ll preach a little.
ELABORATE PLAN, PART ONE:
Acquire the following items:
+handful of small bills
+some safety glasses
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART ONE: Please make every attempt to acquire these things legally. It would be stupid as shit to get arrested for swiping plastic glasses and/or five bucks in ones, der.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWO:
Place these items into your handbag or backpack or poncho or whatever the hell thing it is you use to wag stuff around from Point Ay to Point Bee or Point Cee or Point Eleventyseven.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWO: If you're one of those progressive-type brainwashed feminist laydehs, you can just put the glasses in your car and your money in your pocket; GO WOMYN-SISTERS, GO.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART THREE:
Go to thrift stores.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART THREE: Can substitute 'yard sales' for 'thrift stores'.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOUR:
Buy all the cheap a) plates and b) tinkly glassware you can afford.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOUR: No one piece of tableware can cost more than twenty-five cents.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIVE:
Drive to middle of nowhere.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIVE: 'Middle of nowhere' should be the sort of middle of nowhere that one might mistake as a possible hidey-spot for the handiwork of serial killers or moonshiners.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART SIX:
Get out of vehicle.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART SIX: Dude. REALLY? You REALLY need instructions for this part? If that's the case, just abandon the plan now and go your ass back home.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART SEVEN:
Look around. Find a tree with a broad trunk that has about sixteen feet of clear terrain outwards in all directions.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART SEVEN: Don't overthink that shit, friend. Let your instincts guide you. Flow in the force, Luke.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART EIGHT:
Get previously-mentioned cheap plates and tinkly glassware out of vehicle.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART SEVEN: Make several trips if you have to and ZOMG BE CAREFUL WITH ALL THAT BREAKABLE SHIT!!1!]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART EIGHT:
Carrying your tableware, walk to within eight feet –or thereabouts– of the tree you got a visual on a few seconds prior.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART EIGHT: Don't trip.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART NINE:
Place the breakable shit(!!1!) gently on the ground at your feet.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART NINE: You can get all fancy if you'd like and spread it out all around you just a little....just make sure it's within easy bend-and-reach distance.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART TEN:
You should’ve donned the safety glasses back at the car before loading your hands up with cheap punch cups and ugly-ass ironstone. If you didn’t, go back and do it, GAHHH.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART TEN: Don't argue with me. Put on the safety glasses. They make you less of a badass, but if you were to lose an eye you'd have to waste a significant portion of your time in the future explaining to people how that perfectly usable eye got away from you, which will make you look like even LESS of a badass. Plus also it would up your dumbass quotient significantly. Then someone could legitimately call you 'candyass dummy' instead of just 'candyass' and nobody wants all that nonsense, now do they?]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART ELEVEN:
Get in touch with your inner maniac. Tell him to meet you up top in a couple seconds.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART ELEVEN: Be sure you're stout enough to wrangle the maniac back down into his usual spot when the time comes.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWELVE:
Pick up one of the items at your feet.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWELVE: Bend at the knees, sugar. Bending at the waist should only be done in the privacy of your bedroom when donning stilettos and wanting to appear completely slutty as part of strippery and/or role-playing funs.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART THIRTEEN:
Let loose the hue and cry of your soul by way of your pitching arm and hurl the item in your hand at the trunk of that tree you so masterfully chose.
(ed note: you awesome decider, you!)
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART THIRTEEN: Screaming like a crazed banshee just prior to and during the throw improves aim and also heightens the overall experience for everyone involved. It hypes up the room, so to speak, and the show gets more epic by degrees.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOURTEEN:
Repeat until all tableware is vaporized against that trunk.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOURTEEN: This is not a silly little endeavor, no-no-no. Oh man, you are a treasure to future civilizations. Some archeologist-dude is going to dig these bits and shards up out of the loam and sense in his very bones that some sort of ritual happened at the dig site long, long ago.]
ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIFTEEN:
Calm yourself. Smooth your dress, finger-comb your hair. Leave this place…..that is, the physical one. Hopefully the mental/emotional location that turned you into a plate-flinging motherfucker is already in your rear view and you are no longer suffering the chastisement of your peace.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIFTEEN: Go forth, child, with feather-light heart; be stoked like a mother at the knowledge that your fury burned bright and loud but nobody got hurt and everyone is poison-free, to boot.]
This fifteen-part-plan is henceforward known as a Plate Party. I think I’ll be throwing myself one real soon. A couple of other people have already said they’ll join me.
It is dark, but early yet: Only nine or thereabouts? It is misty and it would be tomb-dark save for the half-moon and I am more or less in the middle of nowhere, winding into curves and stretches of unknown. Every forty miles or so there is a place in the road with an ancient brick store, a steepled church and (most likely) some railroad track. Some of these places have the luxury of a flashing yellow light hovering over the road like a specter. Where are the wires? Well, they go away in the night. They rest; those wires can afford to rest in the dark in a place like this. They come back in the morning. Until then, the yellow light haunts the air twenty feet above the road, a warning.
Why the hell would anyone need to yield? No one ever travels here. I am here by happenstance, by the impetuous taking of a side road to see where I might end up if I shaved the corner off of the route that is considered safe and sure. LaGrange, Georgia is somewhere ahead and if all goes well I will be there by ten or so. If all does not go well I have blankets and a couple bottles of water in the back of the car. There may be a stray beer back there, too. I have a gigantic metal flashlight, a notebook, some trail mix in a basket next to the seat. Hell, I could stay here –hidden– for a couple of days should I need to.
(and by ‘need’ I mean fuck civilization –my version of it, anyway– I am going to pull a camp chair out of my trunk, set it in the middle of a field, crack this beer and hum a few bars about that banner what’s spangled with stars)
I am in a place where most strangers would be afraid. That is no boast, just a testament to how the South sings to my bones, calls them according to name, recognizing them and where they ultimately belong. Yeah, the South gets all in these bones of mine and of course they are compelled to sing back. We woo one another, me and these red dirt places, and I am never Not Home no matter where I might find myself (as long as I am) zipped up below the Mason-Dixon.
The deep blat of a train’s horn rockets up out of nowhere, upending my reverie. Whereisit, where! isthattrain rattles through my brain, which is suddenly at attention and mashing all the levers, working the gears. My eyes are wide and searching, my foot comes off the accelerator, I use every sense I can to suss out where the train might be and whether or not I am blindly ambling into its path. There are no warning lights here, no protective candystriped arms to save me from myself. I’m left to my own devices or stupidity, whichever manages to win out first.
Devices, it turns out, are triumphant again. That, or I’m one of those fools that God has snatched up out of her own way time and time again. Sometimes I wonder why He doesn’t tire of my foolishness and say, “Welp, if she’s THAT DETERMINED to die, I’ma just go on and let her.” Maybe it’s because I have a purpose and try to live accordingly, even if I don’t necessarily know what that purpose is.
Because I defeat the train and because my adrenaline is still a little up, I accelerate into darkness which is once again comfortable. It’s not long before I find myself in a series of curves that wind upward. At the apogee of one there is an average ranch-style house that is just like all the others save for the sign out front:
It has the obligatory mystical red hand anchoring its center.
I’ve never been to a palm reader, never snuck off into the woods to some old Sayer’s house to have a wart spoken off and my future spoken to. I’ve never visited the gypsy tent at the carnival, though I have once or twice been tempted by the theatrics of it. At those moments I was always sitting on a poor spell and felt the need to be flung around the Tilt-A-Whirl was greater than my need to hear what the fortunes might have in store for me.
One time, though, this boy read my cards and also my palm in the back of a smoky bar; he was earnest and quiet and I trusted him: What could it hurt?. This was the second time we’d ever spoken in my life and turns out he was pretty dead on in the big scheme of things and he rather read my mail. I never saw him again after that, but not on purpose. Things just work out like that, you know?
For the barest of moments I think of pulling over, because I want to walk up onto Miss Carla’s porch and knock on the door so that I can say,
“My palm is not made of stone. What if anything it says to you can be altered by my shaving a corner off a safe route, by taking a right turn? What if my palm’s just faking left?
“Isn’t the thirty bucks that someone is gonna hand you to tell them where they’re going better spent on gas to get there?”
I am flying down the highway that Ralph and I used to travel, groggy with humidity and third-shift obligations, on our early ay emm returns from work.
The sunroof is open, my window down, and my elbow is propped up on the door. My hand, fingers slightly splayed, is upright and barely cupped into the streaming wind. The air is moist and near-cold. I imagine it splintering through my palms and wrists, crucifying me. Crucifying me to this mountain.
Sometimes I think the red clay taste of this place, the sting of fire ants on naked toes, will never leave me.
Double lines, broad expanse of fields to my left, chicken houses and horse trailers and apologetic farms to my right.
A caution light, a sign with a large, stark black + and I swing into a right turn, slowing significantly. A pebbly road paved with what I’ve always referred to as ‘gravelcrete’ is seated between trees that could masquerade as rows of the blackest of monoliths if only their bumpy tops did not give them away. The sky above is still impossibly blue, even though the sun took its’ leave of the horizon two hours ago. It is strewn with bruised indigo clouds that don’t even pretend to be fluffy. They are as flat and as stretched as the road before me.
Hung low, hovering barely above creaking power lines is something that I immediately recognize as not a star. No star has a vivid ring of afterglow like that.
Is it Venus or Mercury? I was never any good at the planets; the one I am on is perplexing enough.
A left turn and another left turn finds me in a darkened rural parking lot. Car idling, I kill the exterior lights and mash one of the interiors, splashing light across my crotch and thighs. Her Automobile Holiness. Our Lady Of The Nighttime Park.
I’ve unbuckled my seat belt and am digging for my laminated and spiral-bound 5″ x 7″ notebook when a large truck pulls up and points it’s bulk at my door. Fucking cops and their obnoxious compulsion for shining the loudest light possible into your cranium….
I swivel my head to face the rumbling diesel monstrosity, keeping my body decidedly forward, and squint-scowl into the glare. I am hoping that Deppity Dawg is disconcertingly reminded of The Exorcist somewhere in the back of his Roscoe P. Brain.
After what seems to be a rather blinding eternity, boyfriend gets outta the light-bedecked truck and approaches my car. Never mind the fact that I am sitting in a circular sort of drive and am pointed toward the road, which would allow me to bolt at any second. Der. He asks me what I’m doing, and I vascillate between three responses:
1) Jump outta the car and wave my notebook, then eagerly open it and begin a dramatic reading from any of the notes/unfinished pieces there. Bow deeply and grandly upon completion.
2) Click away at my pen in a mad sort of fashion while staring straight ahead and tell him that I am busy composing my suicide note, after which I plan to plow a bullet through my grey meat with the big, BIG firearm currently under the passenger seat.
3) Tell him the truth.
I opt for number three, because if/when I go back to the big house, I want it to be because I was acting crazy for a valid reason and/or cause and not just being crazy for the sake of the in-your-face irreverency that I am so darned fond of. The last time I went to jail it was really no fucking fun, because all they let me and about 20 (standard overcrowdedness) other women do in the 20′ x 10′ common area was clean the shiny-painted cinderblock walls overandfuckingover for hours on end while listening to a cornpone gospel preaching station. (Some of the other chicks actually fought over the opportunity to clean the bathroom, I shit you NOT.) Not to mention the fact that when I was inprocessing, they couldn’t find matching duds in the appropriate sizes (laundry was out or somesuch), so I was walking around in an orange-striped top and green-striped bottoms (they color-code the stripes for the severity of your offense). I suppose this meant that I was mildly dangerous from the waist up. At any rate, I felt that I looked like a pack of motherfucking Fruit Stripe chewing gum. w00t!
So when Officer Howdy Doody asked me what I was doing, I simply told him that I was out for a drive and pulled over because I thought of something I needed to write down. Then I waved my notebook and pen for emphasis. He explained to me that there had been a lot of vandalism as of late (ehhh…hicksville and the kids want kicksville….ehhhh….) –why, some of it had occurred in that very lot– and they were “tryin’ to keep a handle on things and take note of comins and goins”. So of course he deems it necessary to see my license and I oblige.
He seems to be taken aback that the photo represents me with blue hair, so then I push my luck only a minute bit and direct his attention to where it states that I have blue hair and blonde eyes (I was a mischeivous, sneaky bastard at the DMV that day, lemme tell ya!). I then tell him that look simply did not work for me, and I decided to try things the other way around. He informs me that I look better with blonde hair and blue eyes. I tell him that my mother agrees wholeheartedly. I then offer to show him my favorite tattoo, but he declines and bids me a lovely evening, as he is comfortable that I am on the up-and-up.
After he drives away I settle in to capture brilliance on paper and then painfully realize that I cannot for the life of me remember the phrase that I pulled over to write.
For fuck’s sake.
I sigh and pull back onto the blacktop, but not before reminding myself to not bother about pulling over anymore. I should just keep on doing the knee-driving-at-90-MPH-and-furiously-scribbling thing that I have favored thus far.