Monday, July 23, 2012


It just occurred to me that "spectacles" and "spectacles" are a pleasing pair of homonyms. Things to look at, things to help you see what you're looking at. I could carry it further, go all metaphorical, talk about how some spectacles of the show or performance stripe might help us see the things we look at while we go about living life. Or, I could revel in word geekery and point out how "spectacles" and "spectacles" are inevitable, simple children of Latin's spectare, which means, of course, to look.

(I feel compelled to share the fact that my dictionary of word histories has, on the same page as "spectacle," four entries for the word "spell." Though, I've never used that word to refer to a splinter of wood, despite its apparently respectable lineage from Old Norse.)

(I have now destroyed any illusions of coolness that I may have possessed.)

Spectacle #1:

Shan and I went to a show that Amanda Palmer played at Public Works. We got to see the lovely Neil Gaiman, which is always a pleasure, and give him a hug, and ask him about a project that we want to do for Sharp & Fine. In the near-ish future, we're planning to do a dance adaptation of Neil's poem "Queen of Knives." I've wanted to do some version of this for several years, and it finally seems like the right thing to do next. Neil says we can do whatever we like, as long as we vanish a lady out of a box onstage. I'm thrilled.

Amanda's shows are astonishing. She walks onstage, in her silk kimono and crazy makeup, and the audience throws their arms into the air. They love her. Truly and absolutely. She sings, and they nod their heads and mouth the words and the whole room bends toward her. They don't watch passively. They feel. They link arms and shuffle-dance. Around the edges, there are those stoic people holding drinks in their hands and watching with their backs against the wall and expressions of tame amusement, but they're very few. Mostly, people are on fire with how much they're enjoying themselves and enjoying her. Their masks slide off their faces and it's a humbling pleasure to watch them watch her.

Spectacle #2:

On Thursday, very early in the morning, I drove over to Oakland to meet my friend, the fantastic Harry Bolles. We drove out to Clayton and spent an hour or so pretending to be a trapeze artist (me) and a ringmaster (Harry) for a short film called Emily and Billy. It's directed by the wonderful Ari Sigal and is about a girl who can't recognize faces and a boy who has no facial features. Harry and I were part of the circus that tries to recruit Billy for the sideshow. I wore sparkles and held my leg in the air and Harry did a magic trick. It was fun.

When I was a kid, I fantasized about (1) being an orca trainer at Sea World, (2) riding in steeplechase races, and (3) running away to join the circus.

Spectacle #3:

This afternoon, I saw a performance of Malinda LaVelle's Urge. I'm still chewing through the piece in my head, but I have to say that I admire, so very much, the honesty and humor with which Malinda and her dancers put awkward, uncomfortable, unsettling things on stage and make them both compelling to watch and completely true. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

comfort and ambition

I sometimes wonder how heartbreak feels to other people. Not in general, blunt terms because those are easy to guess. Terrible. Miserable. Astonishment that you, and you alone, have stripped down the walls that hold you and your world and let someone else in to play bandit with that so tender and elusive figurative organ that is your heart.

Heartbreak, to me, feels like I'm full, past brimming, past bursting, like every small part of me, down to the indivisible bits and pieces, has drifted apart to make room for something so large and achingly felt that if I move too quickly, my entire body will shudder and blow away. Time bends, grows hazy and staggers, drunk. I want everything and nothing at the same time.

It is, now that I think about it, exactly the way I feel when I'm first in love, only tipped on its head. I'm prone to fainting, it seems. To eating too little and feeling too much. My equilibrium is off and I cling to it as it swings from its course, threatening to capsize for one wild moment, and then, in minute increments, setting itself right again.

It makes me curious. Will the feeling that inspired all this, the right-side-up version with the goofy smile, survive the return to normal? I feel it so honestly and vividly. It makes sense. It seems true. But time heals everything, those platitudes and cliches all say, and they are so often correct, as sad as it makes me to think about a cure for love. Though they can't always be right. That would be so boring. Poorly written. Humorless and devoid of surprise.

I like my stories either funny or sad. I stay curious.

My sister gave me a card the other day. It says, "LET'S TAKE OVER THE WORLD, YOU AND ME." I think that might be our saving grace. Slightly mad, pure-hearted ambition. We want to be, as Shan puts it, pony-up cowboy champions. Not because we want the shine of it all, necessarily, or any glory, but because there are so many things we want so very badly to do. Our crazy schemes are all in service of making something we love either exist in the world or explode spectacularly on the way there.

Ambition keeps me sane. It gives those aforementioned, sloppily metaphorical boats of equilibrium something to navigate by.

Once, when I was a kid, I went to a Renaissance Fair(e) and watched a man give a lecture about the invention and use of the sextant. I was disappointed. In my storybook-addled brain, sailors of long ago just looked up at the sky and knew.

Maybe ambition is the wrong word. Ambition sounds like it could trample you in the dust. Like it might require a rodeo clown.

Enthusiasm to steer by? Pony up, cowboy.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Things discovered in notebooks while looking for something else:

From a letter, written for a birthday and left unfinished. Not mailed.

Once upon a time, there was a man who was walking along and singing. He had gone quite far, both on the road and in the song, before he realized that he had no idea what he was singing. The tune evaporated from his mouth as soon as he turned his thoughts on it. He stopped walking and his jaw twitched. His tongue hit the back of his teeth.

He tried a note, and then another one, and then he strung a bunch of sounds together and threw them at the air in the hope that he might recognize where they landed.

It had been a pleasant tune, something sweet and bold, and it had lifted his feet along as he walked, high and light and almost as if he were dancing. He tried this, marching back and forth across the road like a man whose joints had all been switched for springs.

The song continued to vanish.

It slipped from his ears and his head, fading from...