Musings and Mirth
The problem with motels is that you never want to leave them, or I don’t anyway. You’re half-way between here and there and for now, here is the known. There is the unknown. I’m half-way to Telluride at a Budget Inn in Flagstaff, Arizona, one of the prettiest little towns West of the Mississipp. I woke up around 6am and drove to the drive-through Starbucks, which was like a block away. And for now, I’m still here but soon I will have to go there.
Sleep was fitful at best — no complaints about the room or the bed…it’s the opposite of blogger touring where pics of nice hotels are posted to the envy of all of the readers. You’re probably thinking, in Bette Davis’ voice, what a dump. But I’ve stayed in dumps and this ain’t one.
My drive got off to a late start because I had stuff to do back in town, you know, stuff that never seems quite worth it when you’re stuck in traffic hours later? I had Dan Savage’s new book to keep me company. I have to write up an appreciation of Mr. Savage soon but suffice it to say – it’s such a great book, summing up much of the advice columnist’s philosophies, which if you’re a regular reader or podcast listener you already know. It’s nice to be reminded of the POA, which is, the “price of admission” to be with someone. Maybe it’s giving up anal sex, maybe it’s being monogamous – whatever it is you know that to be with someone you probably have to make at least one compromise. And then there’s “ggg” — good in bed, giving pleasure without expecting it return, game for anything (within reason). He’s also big on being “monogamish” – which is you remain in a long term relationship that can become open if there is a need. As long as both people agree, you disclose the relationship, and you use protection.
Then there’s his very strong opinions on religion and gay marriage and straight pride parades (Halloween!) and parenting his now teenage son. Savage is so brilliant and articulate and funny. One of the lines from the book that made me laugh out loud was when he said “I am married to a stay-at-home dad who does all of the cooking and chores … in a speedo.”
Regular listeners to his podcast will recognize many of the major themes from the Savage repertoire (“my husband looks great in leather,” his dearly departed mother Judy Savage who, upon hearing that her son had come out, told all of her Catholic family members “if you have a problem with him, you have a bigger problem with me.” And of course, his truly moving accounts of life as the gay parent of DJ.) but he just goes deeper and longer here. It was a joy to listen to, as always.
I have to say my dark thoughts took hold on more than one occasion. Like, will this be last trip before I become a news item? And how will they sum up who I am. Will it lead with my terrible fuck up the night of the Boston bombings (just nevermind), or will it talk about how I was on my way to a film festival…will there be a Kickstarter for me? What of my funeral? I’m putting it on the record right now that I just want a big party for my funeral. A big fun happy party. And only Bob Dylan should play on the loudspeakers.
Okay, but enough of that. It’s always fun being on the road because there are people going somewhere, from here to there, on their way to doing something that will eventually make up the history of their lives. Is it a familiar trek? Were they going to meet someone new?
I rolled into Flagstaff around 10:30, so tired I couldn’t even surf Twitter. In mere moments I will get back in the car for another long drive through the Colorado mountains. I will be “there” and everything will change.
I have mapped out my route, imagined doing all of the things I need to be doing but haven’t done any of them yet. I will need to pack. I am contemplating bringing my bike. It will be a very long drive with nothing but the road ahead, my torturous thoughts of mortality, American corporate sprawl, and then the mountains, looming large and jagged, busy defining beauty. Into the crags and winding roads, amid the Republican lawn signs, I can only hope I have something other than Christian radio to listen to this time when my NPR stops working and I’ve run out of all of my podcasts.
I’m thinking audio books.
Telluride, and all of the Colorado, is so pretty you can’t believe it’s America. It’s one of those places that makes you never want to die. It also kind of makes you want to shuck it all and move to the mountains, have a vegetable garden, date the local sheriff. Make blueberry pies. Or camp inside a tiny log cabin, shut yourself off from civilization, and concoct crazy conspiracy theories from your dark hole.
But I’m going anyway. I will see movies, wake up early for that great coffee shop, I will wait in line, I will ride the gondola up the mountain, I will hopefully see a lot of happy faces. The adventure begins anew.
It’s sort of a shame that we have to live our lives waiting to die. Will it happen suddenly and unexpectedly? Will we see it coming, like an engine going out in an airplane and that unbearable agony of the next few minutes? Or will it be a prolonged illness? Will we die before we get so old no one wants to deal with us anymore? What does life have waiting for us at the end?
Either which way, it is an inevitability. The Sun will always come up, men will always be a mystery, and we will die, each and every one of us.
Meanwhile, our brains keep figuring life out as we barrel towards the end. For instance, ever notice why old people drive so slowly or count out exact change or stop using their credit cards? They have figured out that the risk is rarely worth it. Driving fast no longer holds its value, who wants to be in debt? We become so wise about life and have figured it out almost completely that we annoy everyone else. I think about this when I do something sensible, which is hardly ever.
To that end, I’ve figured out some undeniable truths to share with you. Are they real truths or are they mere illusions, waiting to bloom into terrible mistakes? For now, though, they seem kind of true.
1) You must find your Seat of Power – the disappointments in life can often be mitigated if you know where the source of your power is. That means, not forgetting your worth, not forgetting who you are, and never surrendering the thing you’re best at. I thought of this recently when I found myself in an awkward position with people a third my age. What did they have to say to me? Nothing. What did I have to say to them? Oh, I could have lectured them on a few things but the truth is, they didn’t want to hear what I had to say. It sucked back me backwards in time when I was a teenager in my small hometown. I hung out with the townies, wore tight t-shirts and drank beer but all I could think about what how little in common I had with them. I wanted out and I wanted out right then. I endured by keeping my trap shut and drinking Coors. But I knew I was out of there as fast as my feet could take me. Back then I hadn’t connected to my seat of power but whenever I feel that awkward inability to fit in, or want to be where I was, I recall my seat of power and all at once I am not the small town girl with a poor education but Khaleesi, from Game of Thrones, commanding my dragons to burn people to a crisp on my way of conquering the iron throne.
2) Sometimes your want and need is equal but that is rare. And it might not be permanent. Sometimes you can’t believe how quickly you bond to someone. Most of the time the people you want don’t want you, and vice-versa. Sure, this is only an affliction some of us are lucky enough to be stricken with but it seems to be nearly universal. I think you have to find the one who loves you. Your own love can grow over time but having a devoted person who wants you and only you is really the key. After a while, your flights of fancy will fade and the land mass will emerge clearly and distinctly from beneath the clouds. I am not sure that monogamy works. But I’m also not sure who can have a relationship with anyone that isn’t monogamous. We all want to be wanted. Maybe it is only designed to work for a short amount of time. But otherwise, you’re just a moment, a fleeting, delicious moment that staves off mortality. How can that be a goal to shoot for? Butterflies, sunsets, the Santa Ana winds are all fleeting moments but you should only be that every so often. There has to be two people who want only each other, at least for a little while.
3) Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn create cinematic perfection in The Philadelphia. There are only a handful of perfect movies and this is one of them. It is a truth best not to be argued.
4) There is nothing quite like sex. It is a gift that shouldn’t be squandered. Our bodies should be used and abused until we are no longer able to merge, to liquify, to satisfy. If you are sitting around wasting your body shame on you. Find a way to dive in, even if it means not finding love along the way. Ani DiFranco says it best.
5) Every picture you hate of yourself will almost always look a lot better a year later. It’s a simple truth of the self loathing principle. It doesn’t last very long, the hate. Before long you see yourself as others likely see you.
6. The pain of heartache eventually goes away. It doesn’t seem like it ever will. It hurts so bad and the pain lasts so long – every song you hear, every movie you see, every happy couple you observe stabs at your heart. But a day will come when it won’t matter anymore. You could bump into that person on the street and it wouldn’t matter. Hate is not permanent. Sure, there are some people who are worthy of a lifetime of hatred. But the lesser heartbreaks they fade.
7.Life is not the internet. It isn’t and it never will be. Go out and live. Pretend the internet never happened. All of the great things it affords – information, connectivity, money, shopping, dating – it’s the great mating hub and cultural watering hole but it still isn’t real life.
8. Not many women can pull of a bathing cap. Katharine Hepburn was one of those.
9. Art, literature and music are vital to the human experience. No matter where you are or what economic status – this is what humans do that very nearly justifies our existence on this planet.
10. Take care if your vitals. FLOSS. Do yoga. It will fix back problems forever. Eat a little, mostly vegetables.
We know that we are all going to die. It’s terrifying when you think too hard on it. Be here now.
Flesh makes a temporary border
Lasts as long as a whisper–
what separates you from me.
You wrap your fingers
tightly around what feels like my heart.
Tongue and teeth,
My well worn terrain
burned out by flame,
Awakened by fire,
starting new. Yes. So it does.
When a minor player in the mechanism
of your body
throws off its insignificance
with a soft line,
finger across palm And so it is–
when you speak everything stops.
It has to.
What keeps life and the natural world
moving is the why–
You talking to me even whispering.
Is the wonder,
The Miraculous and the mundane,
–Adonis with his dog the beach.
–Himeros filling up the gas tank.
–And Eros making sense of the day.
Open doors down endless corridors.
Your eyes and this–
North Hollywood, August 2013
Patti Smith imparts the wisdom that comes from being a survivor, a learner, a teacher, a woman, an artist. It is like finding a buried treasure, this.
As much as I love men (eye candy) I love women even more I think. As I get older, I am appreciating women who are straight shooters. They can cut through the bullshit if they don’t care whether you “like” them or not. There aren’t many because, of course, we’re conditioned to want people to like us and to do that we have to be nice. Why is it so much easier to hate women than men? I don’t know. Miley Cyrus? Can’t stand her. Kim Kardashian, go away. Can I rattle off the names of some men I hate? A little harder.
When you pass 40 you start to know what it’s like to feel invisible. The male gaze, or what I like to think of as the mating circle, is dependent upon who else is available at the time. So, if you stand out on a dating site that’s because the selection is fairly limited, making it easier for you to be singled out and selected by the male population. Walking down the street in New York or Hollywood, or hanging out on the beach, you’re not going to be noticed the same way because the pool of choices is so much more broad. Make sense? Okay, does it half make sense?
If you live in a big city, chances are you will have a less of an easy time meeting people randomly – unless you are one of those drop dead gorgeous types. You have nothing going for you out there in the world other than your looks. If someone likes how you look they will talk to you, notice you. But on a dating site, on in various selective communities online it easier to stand out if you have a “special set of skills” that might be attractive. For instance, if you’re smart, funny and know a lot of stuff and look even half-way decent (on the internet, for the most part, that translates to: not fat) you will get attention. You will feel like a Playboy bunny walking down the street even if, when you walk down the street you look average, worse than average even. Funny how that works. This is what I have always loved about the internet since I got online nearly twenty years ago: it kind of levels the playing field. Or it used to anyway.
I am finding, as I get older, that I appreciate women more. Perhaps this has to do with not being competition with them much anymore, especially the younger ones. Sure, sometimes I am filled with envy that they have their whole lives ahead of them, and other times I remember what things were REALLY like at that age and how hard life can be until you really figure out who you are.
I love to read bitchy, snarky articles online. I love to read women who challenge the mostly male commenters at male-centric websites. I love those who use their smarts and their wits to compete even when it’s so much easier to use their bodies.
The truth about women is that too many of them spend their days marinating in fantasy. I don’t think fantasy of the romance novel kind is very good for women overall. I think it sells an unrealistic ideal that is impossible to attain, for one, but also it’s a time waster. Think of all we could accomplish if we weren’t sitting around waiting for Prince Charming? Honey, that train has left the station. Waiting for Prince Charming is as futile as waiting for Jesus. They ain’t never coming for you. You have to do this life without them. Moreover, half the time, you yourself are the rescuer, the Prince Charming, who is coming to save everyone else.
When we give up our power as leaders, bitches, cunts, rulers, goddesses in hopes of being attractive enough for a guy we define our validity by the fickle desires of a visually based sex who is just as easily distracted by the next shiny object (pair of tits) coming down the pike. It isn’t that men don’t matter. They matter. A lot. It’s that our sense of who we are and what we can be should not depend on what they think of us.
Easier said than done. The thing to do always is to channel Patti Smith. She is the honey badger of older women. Fuck growing old. You can still be this:
I think Sam Shepherd wrote this about Patti Smith – and all I can say about that is, Sam Shepherd. Enough said.
“If you were still around”
If you were still around
I’d hold you
Shake you by the knees
Blow hot air in both ears
You, who could write like a Panther Cat
Whatever got into your veins
What kind of green blood
Swam you to your doom
If you were still around
I’d tear into your fear
Leave it hanging off you
In long streamers
Shreds of dread
I’d turn you
Facing the wind
Bend your spine on my knee
Chew the back of your head
Til you opened your mouth to this life
Homestead Valley, Ca.