The Road to Naropa

July 5, 2009

Last spring, I was despondent after recieving rejections from all five of my PhD program applications. I hate feeling sorry for myself, so I hit upon the idea of applying for a summer writing workshop instead. After doing a little research, I discovered Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program. Now,  I’ve long dreamed of attending Naropa, but I always put it out of my mind as being too expensive, too exclusive, too impractical. Still,  it called to me.  I applied, and miraculously, I got it! Then I worried about money, until I discovered I had been chucking away money in an employee stock purchase account for just the same amount of money as my tuition. The way opened before me.

I am in Boulder at the moment, waiting to check in the dorms this afternoon. I am too excited to get into the day to write now, but I will post more later.


Memory’s Failures

February 12, 2009

Any discussion of memory is also a discussion of forgetting, what moments of our lives to we hold onto, which facts, which skills, and which disappear as if they were never there. Recently on Facebook (our modern-day agora), a friend of mine complimented me on a show I had set up in Detroit many years before, and he said it was one of the best he had seen. This was an event I had set up to introduce my favorite Lansing bands to the Detroit scene. I had set up the venue, picked the bands, made arrangements for overnight stays, put up fliers. Or at least I must have, because I don’t remember a thing about this incident. I believe it because music was such a big part of my life then, and I had just moved from one town to the other and missed my old friends. It’s not that I set up that many shows. How could it be that an event that was probably quite important to my consciousness at the time have been erased from it so completely? How could another person who was a listener, and somebody who went to a lot of shows, remember it so clearly?

Perhaps it’s because this memory doesn’t fit with my current identity, or the story I live. I’m not an anarchist punk-rocker anymore. I’m a long way from Detroit. But I remember other things that are completely irrelevant to my current life. I still have my grade school best friend’s telephone number available for immediate recall;  never mind that I haven’t called her in over twenty years.

Even stranger, the things I mis-remember and latch onto. A few years ago I attended a weekly meeting with a group of women. One of the women I liked a lot, but I kept calling her by the wrong name. Every Monday night I would come up to her and say, hi Jackie! And she would brightly reply, no it’s ____. This went on for months. Somehow, I finally dislodged the old incorrect informaiton with then new. Miraculously, we are still friends. She’s a patient soul.

Another instance, I have a friend I see in person about once a month. Every single time I see him, I am surprised how tall he is, not that he’s that tall, but when I picture him I think he’s much closer to my 5’4″ height.

In the first case, this friend “looked like a Jackie” whatever that means. I did have a friend named Jackie in college, who looked completely different from my new friend. Yet, they both have the same bright, capable, unflappable energy that must be labeled Jackie somewhere in my stubborn brain.

The second case, may be colored by the fact that I hadn’t much occasion to stand next to this friend or I usually wear high heels, except I’ve never experienced this phenomena with another person. In my better moments, I  think it means this person is “on my level” and we “see eye to eye” when I’m feeling more suspicious of my motives, I wonder if I’m seeing him at all, or simply a reflection of myself.

Ultimately, memory is edited and stored perception, but what gets stored and why is sometimes a mystery. I’m not surprised that my brain makes errors, but rather that it makes so few.

Captain Hook

January 28, 2009

When I told my ex-husband about my last entry’s topic he said,  “I’m really more Captain Hook.” I can’t argue with that one.

I suspect I’m more Tinkerbell than Wendy. I may disappear if you stop believing in me…

Lost Boys

January 27, 2009

In a crowded room, we inevitably find each other. The ever-young, restless, misunderstood, sometimes homeless young men.  Sometimes not so young. It’s not always a sexual thing. Sometimes I meet them in bars or libraries, but most often they appear in my classroom. . The kids who hung out in my classroom during lunch were not the smart kids, or the good girls, or the poetry nerds, but these scruffy, awkward juvenile delinquent boys. Almost constantly in trouble, but yet not bad kids. They came in to gab a bit, or to work through an inches thick stack of make-up work. They would love to go out and bang my erasers during passing time but then force me to send them out for shooting paper wads across the room during the grammar lesson. They often wore the same clothes day after day. Sometimes they would show up bruised or bandaged. One boy, Danny, came into freshman English one morning holding his bruised hand. “I hurt it on my stepdad,” he explained. “He was beating on my mom. I hate that guy, the next time I’ll f—ing kill him.”

After the reports, the paper work, did anything happen? I don’t think so. I left that school after the spring term, so who knows if Danny even graduated.

Most of them weren’t violent at all. In fact, Danny was a rare exception.  Mostly they were sweet, hapless seemingly lost in the world. Some of them were smart, some barely literate. Every now and then one would find a project he could direct all of his confused energy and create something incredible, but that was rare too. Mostly they just sat there,  twiddling with their pens and staring into space, or drawing pictures of cars on their notebooks.

Often I fell in love with the slightly more grown up version of these boys. I didn’t notice it until recently, but most of my ex-boyfriends have fit the same description. Dreamy outsiders who can’t seem to make it in the world for whatever reason. Usually wildly intelligent and creative, but masters of self-sabotage. I don’t know why they were drawn to me. Maybe they thought I could provide the loving discipline they lacked elsewhere?  How unfortunate, because I’m just as confused and undisciplined as anyone.

Chris Temple wasn’t really a friend of mine, but I can’t seem to forget him. He disappeared when he was about fifteen years old, and I was probably nineteen or twenty and a student at Michigan State. He was a sweet kid, very gentle and quiet.  I knew him because he came to the house where I lived to buy pot.  While his friends were upstairs negotiating, he would sit in the smoking lounge with me. I don’t remember talking to him, but I remembered I liked him.

Then he disappeared. Last anyone saw him, he was at a two-track party out at Rose Lake.  At one point, he left the bonfire, walked in to the woods, and was never seen again. His parents made flyers with his yearbook photo and plastered them all over town. For a couple of years he went missing his mild gaze stared from under his shaggy bangs from every shop window on Grand River. Some say he ran away, but his parents were nice folks, they owned the shoe store. That seemed unlikely. Perhaps he had been kidnapped, or hitchhiked with the wrong person. Most likely, the culprit was Rose Lake itself. Michigan is full of wetlands, or what would be called swamps further south. The ground is soft and spongy, and has patches of quicksand. Maybe the earth itself took him. I’ve walked over the  marshes of Rose Lake since, looking for Chris’s pale and peaceful face floating just under the reeds.

Begin here.

January 12, 2009

So I start here with a new year, a fresh page, and another new beginning. I live in Las Vegas,the land of second-chances. I’ve seen people come here for all sorts of reasons, to get over a nasty divorce, to finally kick drugs/booze/sex, or to start a career as a post-op male to female exotic dancer. One friend of mine came out of a blackout in McCarran Airport, unaware that he had taken a flight from Cleveland the night before.

Unfortunately for me, the freshness has long gone from this town. Everywhere I go, I meet my past, both sweet and sad. Most of my old friends have left town, and the new ones don’t really understand what was. I don’t have much use for nostalgia, my past wasn’t that romantic. Still, the past is a part of me, and my memories make me who I am today. So I look to the future and looking backward at the same time. It feels good. What I have found looking backward is not romance, but forgiveness, and healing. I have re-met old friends and buried old grievances. Some ghosts still float on the periphery of my consciousness, but their presence feels more comfortable than poignant after all these years. Memory. What does it mean to you?