Sat, Mar. 12th, 2011, 12:39 am
I'm sitting in a 28th floor bar in Seattle. This city is becoming more and more like the big sister I never had who keeps saying "I told you so." Atahualpa is trying to sing through my headphones, competing with the lounge music. so much changes and so much stays the same.
The other day I returned to the prison. I worked with the girls there for a day. one of them cried. I wish I could write about it here.
I got to hang out with ciara. it was so much like old times. The Ethiopian restaurant in Capital hill where I told her about existentialism was louder than I remember. she still has her stretchy red jacket.
the memoir is being written. Painstakingly slowly but steadily.
Tonight I'm going to rock this Joe Taylor conference. "Mana mamayukmi, palomitay, manam taytayuqmi. Chaysi waqachkanim, palomitay, kay runapa llaqtampi." I'm so glad I brought scotch in my flask.
Life keeps on going. I keep finding and losing La Syrena encantada. Someday I'll find her for good and kiss her tiny mouth every night. Right now I'm making notes and drinking wine as the sun sets through a giant window to my left. the windstorm is gone, the tsunami has passed. when I get back to Vancouver I promise I will return all my phone calls. Right now the lovely Colleen Lines is changing her clothes to come up and have a drink.
Ñawpaq ulata suyaspalla!
I guess I haven't written here for a while.
I'm pretty frustrated with my fellow American human beings and making every effort to immerse myself in humanity in spite of that frustration. it's not working very well.
The other day I heard the worst phrase ever: "It's better to be home alone than home wishing you were alone." this distills all the bad parts out of the Spanish phrase "mejor andar solo que mal acompañado." At least the Spanish phrase carries the implication that no company is better than bad company, (not just company in general.) "It's better to be home alone than home wishing you were alone," is such a concise summery of a self-centered attitude I hate so much: the desire to give up on relationships when the going gets hard, to not work things out when there's conflict, to retract yourself into your own world and be proud of it: your life, your career, your education, your studio apartment with all your possessions and your furniture, your meals, your music, your books. everything the way you want it...
Even those days or nights when I fought with Linda were ten thousand times better than the best days spent alone. Now I see that I was the only one of the two of us who saw it that way. I hate it here. everyone drives around in their cars with the windows closed. everyone goes about their lives on auto-pilot. It takes so much energy to face the world, to do anything, to go anywhere. even today I thought the bus would never come and I almost turned back to my apartment. The past four times I've gone to the Paper Tiger, (the local non Starbucks coffee shop,) it's been closed.
I spend my free time in my apartment, drinking beer and practicing guitar, cooking, sleeping, and building palaces in the wind. That, sadly, is free time better spent than anyone else's, though I would even watch everybody loves Raymond reruns if that meant getting to spend time with humanity. I wish people here could smell the smell of a crowded combi in Peru: the human shit and B.O., the sheep and chickens, the grains and wheat and dirt. That was humanity. That was love. Here even peoples' excrement smells like hate and loneliness. Here, even the meals I eat with my coworkers, (the one time a day I don't eat alone,) are eaten grudgingly, with no appreciation for taste or the process of sharing a meal with other humans.
Yesterday at happy hour, I got fed up with all the gossip and giggling, so I got my guitar out . I sat on a video poker stool and played. I attracted a gaggle of interested WSSB employees and strangers, and even a bartender. I think those people are starved: starved for good live music, starved for real things, starved for things that aren't behind screens or on the other side of cell phone connections or headphones. I'm starved too, and we're all looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places.
A perfect stranger came up to me and told me that I was his personal hero. I, in my bitterness, told him that he wasn't drunk enough. That was no way for a hero to talk, and I'm sorry. I'm trying. I'm trying so hard. But I'm not getting anywhere. It's like waiting for a bus that never comes in the cold. soon I'm going to turn back and cancel the trip.
Wed, Oct. 27th, 2010, 08:48 pm
This morning I proofread Braille volume 6 of "Microsoft Office 2007, a professional approach," possibly the most boring book ever written. As I read, I listened to Woody Gothry, The Colombia River collection. Another picture of this area emerged in my head as he sang: the end of the Oregon trail where progress and ingenuity would converge to build dams and cities. his stories of rambling men who worked to support their far-away families, bums lost in Portland, desperate escapees of the dust bowl to the Pacific northwest made me realize that Vancouver wasn't always a gentrified den of meth addicts where "what flavor do you want in your latte" translates to "you should let me put a flavor in your latte because I'm going to hopelessly burn the shots."
I wonder what Woody would think if he could see it today: electricity everywhere, ruining everyone's lives, the poor river, killed by progress and no longer appreciated.
I felt so much pity for the whole production process behind "Microsoft Office 2007 a professional approach," from the authors, who thought it would be interesting to use corporate Ohio and Pennsylvania as a "case study," to the transcribers, to the people who have to bind every proof and final copy of the volumes, to the people who have to read it. I wanted to throw my coffee across the room, to scream. "Stop!" "Sing! Turn off the electricity, fuck Microsoft Office!"
Tonight I smoked a cigar as I walked to the store on the corner of Grand and Mill Plain after an amazing meal of fried tofu, quesadillas and rice. I passed the cemetery, and suddenly I had a new appreciation for it. I stopped and put my hand on the fence and thought of all those people who knew The Colombia river in its prime, all their lives. I still don't like Vancouver. I still have no respect for most state employees and have to try hard every day to not be cynical and hateful of the school system, but at least I have some historical perspective now.
Tue, Jun. 1st, 2010, 04:53 pm
on Saturday, I went canoeing in the arboretum. It was a sacred experience to smell the smell of minerals in the water again, hear the way the sounds of traffic disappeared once we entered the arboretum, and to be a part of juji130
's first canoeing experience. I only regret not bringing my guitar, or not taking more time to enjoy the surroundings and less time to paddle. I could write a song about what it was like to finally discover Issaquah, home of so many of my friends with Juliana, a 21st-century pilgrimage that ended at cold stone creamery ,time getting away from us as pop songs played on the radio under her sweet nonchalant wisdom.
I had more encounters with Quechua in strange places in the city. Today, at Opened books, without even my mentioning that I spoke Quechua, the sales woman mentioned a Quechua poetry anthology by Cecilia Vikuña. It took me a minute to remember that I have read a book by Vikuña, a Chilean Aimara-Spanish collection of children's stories. Completely independently ,we found a poem in a Gabriela mistral book called "Quechua song." I have also had multiple encounters with the Klein 4 group, but those probably aren't as interesting or poetic and mostly have to do with Arthur's and my drunken epiphanies about integers m and n who are relatively prime. I no longer find these connections strange and hope I can keep embracing them. Life is fantastic when I do.
During all that time I spent in the Andes and in Reno, the Illimanis or the Apus were protecting the frequent-buyer card that ciara and I jointly started two weeks before both of us broke up and moved away from Seattle in 2007. The guy remembered me, and explained that they usually throw un-used cards away, but some how ours escaped. In the mean time, Linda, the isomorphic Klein-4 counterpart to this beautifully poetic experience, was calling me.
I finally found a classical guitar adaptation of Alfonso X's Cantiga Santa María. We'll see if I can learn it. I bought an anthology of Hebrew poetry from medieval Spain which might have Alfonso in it for good measure. I asked the waitress at College In where I grabbed lunch to read it to me. She said "no" with a weirded out voice. It wasn't even busy.
All this synchronicity is making my agnosticism swing towards a belief in god again. I confess that I bought that Hebrew poetry anthology with the hopes of finding Him in there somewhere, maybe on a lonely hot summer night, Daniel F playing in the background: "la distancia nos ha declarado la guerra, nos ha declarado el amor." The most rational explanation for the past few months of my life is that god or something like it is looking for me.
The problem with lj-posts is, has always been that they are made of words. Nothing more and nothing less. four years from now none of this will mean as much to me as it does now. maybe I'll be able to play and recite the Cantigas, maybe not. Maybe LM will still be in my life, maybe not. maybe the Opened Books guy will still remember me and not throw away my card. maybe... maybe... maybe... For now, I'll go to the airport and lose myself in the now, what D.H. Laurence or ST. John would call the flesh. Help me to put less faith in words and more faith in flesh.
Last night I dreamed that I was walking across Mill Creek in Walla walla on a foot bridge. Suddenly the bridge ended over the middle of the creek . I stuck my cane out to try and find the next part of the bridge and I couldn't reach it. Then Fiona, Linda's housemate, came walking toward me from the other side and told me to be careful not to fall in. She tried to describe where the next part of the bridge was, but I couldn't find it, was too afraid to take the step.
I woke up, and it took me a couple minutes to figure out where I was, under a sheet in Arthur's Ballard house where the air smelled like rain not trying to cross mill creek. Memories of the night before: walking on the UW campus with Shir ,Arthur and Rachel and reminiscing, talking about the Klein 4 group over Indian food as if no time had passed since 2006.
But time has passed. Yesterday, I walked up to a street musician and, with all the courage and Andean Fuerza I could muster, said:
"Imaynalla kachkanki? Ñuqa napakullayki runa-simiwan Ayacuchumanta."
The equivalent of "Hayka Quichuata yacharqanki," though in a dialect I Could barely understand.
"Iskay watakuna Huamangapi yacharqanim?"
"Sí, dos años. Solo te quise saludar. Tienes un hermano quechuahablante aquí."
I'll never forget the confidential tone he used with his friend as I turned to walk away, the fast Quechua and Spanish, the surprise in all their voices. I was tired, and I had to hold back tears of nostalgia and happiness.
I had been imagining that moment for a long time. I always imagined myself proudly exclaiming "I did it! I went to the Andes and learned Quechua, and you naysayers said I couldn't." This humility surprised me as much as them. but I think it reflects my finally learning several hard life-lessons.
Now the music reminded me of Ayacucho: cold windy nights where, leaving some bar I would stumble across a comparsa and a growing group of dancers in the street. for a minute, the Seattle wind was converted to a "ventarón," and the music didn't seem as happy as I remembered it. It tasted like caña, the smell of cebada and pan chapla in the cool mornings. It sounded like poverty. And the charango player played his charango with so much pride and passion that it, not the quenas or the maracas or the guitar, was the last thing I could hear as I left Quichua Mashis playing on the street corner in Seattle Center.
I have a good life right now. I have a girlfriend who makes me feel validated about knowing so much useless math, I speak three languages, do good work and have good job prospects for the future. I live independently, and yet for some reason it feels so tenuous. it's that old Edgar O'Hara adage from the nameless Italian poet: happiness walks on the edge of a sword.
Two weeks ago, Paul, one of our band members, became suddenly and extremely morally opposed to a David Bazan song we were planning on playing the 28th. We picked the song as a consensus between agnosticism and Christianity, (both other members of our group are Christian and David Bazan and I are agnostic,) but the song deals with Christian themes in what I think is a respectful way. I thought we had agreed that we were ideologically alined enough to play it, but then suddenly he was blowing up in the practice room about how it made a mockery of original sin and he wouldn't stand for it. He then very passive-aggressively avoided practicing or playing with us for two weeks, and just yesterday decided that he did indeed want to play on the 28th, just as Ericka decided that she was too introverted to play. at the same time, Linda candidly told me that she didn't want to sing, eliminating two of the not-yet practiced songs from our set.
I would throw in the towel for this performance but, 1) it's kind of a big deal that we get to play at Sapolel, and 2) I had to change my Seattle flight from Friday to Saturday and did so to keep the gig. All this band drama is so typical that it makes me sick to my stomach.
Yesterday I lost my keys. I wouldn't be so angry about it but I lost them in a stupid way, (taking them out of my pocket so I could lay on the floor comfortably while playing a board game.) I searched and searched and searched, all over, searched for the entire length of a two-disk Bersuit Vergarabat album and didn't find them. I was only 20 minutes late to my meeting, but the thought of arriving to locked apartment that I couldn't open made my day terrible.
I found out today that Monday was my last day in Tricities. I didn't say goodbye to anyone because I thought I was going two mondays from now. I wonder if they're even thankful for the crapload of work I feel like I've done for them: the hours of lesson preparation, the patient enduring of terrible public transportation in the middle of winter time... I wonder if I'm just making a martyr of myself; maybe everyone works hard...
Here in Walla walla, I keep expecting the school district to say something like "well, the year's almost over, good job," or even "don't do anything else for us," but everyone just keeps behaving as if I and the students will be here indefinitely. I really don't understand this behavior as we only have two more weeks and it seems like we should be putting an exit plan in place. Maybe no one cares...
Soon I will be in Seattle. I haven't had time to think about that much, but I'm sure it will hit me soon.
Sun, Mar. 28th, 2010, 07:35 pm
Exactly a week ago today, I played Huaynos by a fire in the rain as people planted potatoes. I drank porter and ate amazing lamb stew, and climbed a hill with a woman named Margaret who described the scenery to me as looking like The Heath. "not Thomas hardy's heath," she was quick to point out, "but something more like the Brante Sisters' Heath."
When I got home, Julia and Rossie were just returning from their weekend in Oregon. As we were drinking corona and making stir fry, a very minimalistic piano song in e-flat major came on NPR . I was mesmerized by it and almost moved to tears.
On Monday, after returning from tricities, I grabbed my guitar and headed to Vintage on a total whim. I was tired and hungry, but I ended up silencing the crowd with my set, which included Sirvinakuy, Piedra y Camino, and El Inquieto. I have become more comfortable with playing and singing into a microphone.
On Wednesday of this week, I left for an Americorps retreat in Randall Washington. I breathed the mountain air, forgot about troubles in Walla walla, and met and jammed with some amazing people. On Thursday night I hung out by a camp fire in the rain with a guy who played Tarega on my guitar. On Friday morning, I hiked to a water fall, and after ducking under the guard-rope and holding onto it with one hand, leaned out and stuck my cane in the spraying misting water. On the slippery walk down, I slipped and fell, scraping my right wrist but not breaking any nails.
On Friday night, back in Walla walla, I saw an amazing performance by a fourteen year-old girl who played violin and sang some of her original songs over her dad and uncles' guitars, along with some vashti Bunyan covers. (Vashti might just be my new favorite English song writer!) Her performance brought me to tears.
Last night, amity and I drove to Milton Freewater Oregon where we listened to a tight country band play to an almost-empty steakhouse in the middle of nowhere. we drank porters as the spring wind rushed outside.
on Saturday, I sat down and started playing what I felt. All of these experiences: the waterfall, Ana's performance, the discovery of Vashti, the camp fires in the rain, the potato planting, the way everyone got silent for my performance at vintage, came out in something that I can only explain as a musical catharsis. (Notice how closely "catharsis" and "catarata" are related.) I was able to get it structured, and I think I may have my first instrumental composition.
Sat, Mar. 13th, 2010, 02:16 pm
I can feel the coplas, coming, like sheep leaving the corral as mentioned in the previously posted passage from martín Fierro, the poem whose first line has been the title of this journal since the beginning.
This morning we recorded. everyone, (Paul on Piano and Erica on percussion,) played really well, but unfortunately we couldn't get anything useful because of a combined problem with the condenser mic, (condensers are the bane of my existence,) and a mixer driver that wasn't compatible with windows vista. We ended up doing a "dirty recording" since everyone was there and ready, but it doesn't sound any more impressive than something I could have recorded with my laptop microphone. It felt really good to be referred to by the recording engineer as "the artist," (it happened once while he was talking on his cell phone and he used the phrase directly with me once,) and his pleasant surprise at my being able to play and sing at the same time felt good. (he said that a lot of amateur type people who ask for recordings can't.) All our practice paid off as we were able to get a perfect take on the second try. I gave myself a lyrical mouthful though, and I fear the verses don't sound natural. It's done in spite of artistic imperfections and ready to submit on Monday.
Unlike when I finished my last song, I feel like this time I still have a lot of song left in me. Hopefully I'll be able to write something less dark than a song about almost getting sued and kicked out of Americorps. In spite of everything, I'm still happy and still have a lot to live for and look forward to.
in less than an hour, I will pick my sister up from the airport. We will drink gold schlogger and celebrate the arrival of spring together. If we have time, we'll play at vintage. I should vacuumed and get everything cleaned up...
It's such a nice day, Jorge Cafrune playing through my headphones and the smell of apple pie filling the house. it's nice to take a breath after this crazy week.
Wed, Mar. 10th, 2010, 02:31 pm
I have a classical lesson in less than an hour, and I haven't been practicing because of recording. should I fake that I've been practicing and play a scale/rhythm I've never played for her before?
Sometimes I type a random word into winamp's music library and listen to the playlist it generates. Since Christmas eve, my favorite playlist has been the one generated by the word "lament". It's had some huaynos, a couple of salsas and cumbias, a zamba by Cafrune, and now, months later I find that my "lament" playlist has nearly doubled in size as a result of copying some more Argentine music, Lindomar Castilho, and the Julio Iglecias discography to my hard drive. I find this amusing and ironic.
on Saturday we record. I finalized the lyrics today after a bout of inspiration yesterday afternoon. To me the song seems like a bad version of Pink Floid's "Welcome to the Machine," a metaphor that has always seemed to over simplify the "man versus the system" conflict to me. I started out with an idea of what I wanted to say and the sound I wanted to make and got too mired down in specifics, and now the song doesn't know what it wants to be, the story of everything Americorps touches...
This town is filled with so much hopelessness. This morning I took a minute and stood by the creek, and I thought it could be running with the tears of wrecked lives and dashed hopes. It's a very pacific northwestern kind of hopelessness, plus something else, maybe generations of poverty, or the kind of emptiness I feel radiating from meth users. Sometimes I feel like everything here struggles to hold me back, and the conflicts I cause by trying to push forward, by continuing to be the person I am in spite of not being accepted are waring me and everyone else out. I don't care if I'm run out of town/Americorps on a rail; I'm not forgetting my Spanish, I make no apologies for being well-read and traveled and wanting to learn more each day.
Tue, Mar. 9th, 2010, 05:27 pm
a otros les brotan las coplas
como agua de manantial;
pues a mí me pasa igual;
aunque las mías nada valen,
de la boca se me salen
como ovejas de corral.
Que en puertiando la primera,
ya la siguen los demás,
y en montones las de atrás
contra los palos se estrellan,
y saltan y se atropellan
sin que se corten jamás.
--Martín Fierro, canto XI