The Tenth Ember

UPDATE  ::  Last month in my Home Page post I included an odd description of waking up in the middle of the night to very loud crashing sounds in my head, which most people took to be fiction but which was in fact completely true.  This prompted a friend to mention that he knew someone else who experienced the same thing, and that in fact it is a rare condition known as (no shit) Exploding Head Syndrome.   (Really, no kidding, and no we’re not talking Scanners.)  So I am proud to announce that, finally, I have an identifiable Syndrome!  And a rare one at that.  It seems the reason that it has such a wacko name, besides the fact that it’s a wacko phenomenon of itself, is because it’s so rare and random that it’s never been studied, so whereas doctors and sleepologists acknowledge its existence, they have no idea what causes it, and only know (or think they know) that it has no harmful effects beyond waking one from sleep.  Besides the Wiki page, there’s also an article about it on the website for the American Sleep Association (sharing some verbage with the Wiki), and it’s uncanny how close the description is to mine, and to my own experience.  (It’s happened to me off and on for as long as I can remember.)  So if you tend to wake up occasonally from explosions in your head, worry not, and wear your badge proudly:  you have a Syndrome!

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Fading, our lives remain aglow, and in the gloaming tall trees fall while several embers scatter in the gloom.  We prowl and loom, keeping time in dark bottles.  Whittling, fading, we wait to scent the bitter breeze for any sign of warmth, of growth, knowing we must breathe into the crouch and take a steady stance, for long it be until the storm allows the grass, the egg, the merry stream, and some of us may fall along the way.  And yet we tend the shorn, hold the post, and keep the embers close, and in the long, long night we glean a sense of turning, sense of sheen.

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REFLECT  ::  Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, I found myself at midnight on November 1 painting the wall of a trendy clothing store in San Francisco.  Would that all complaints were quite so mild – parents in NJ were evacuated, camped for several days in brother’s lightless house, while sister and husband watched their Brooklyn neighborhood flood to the gills, wrecking homes and cars by the hundreds, two weeks plus without power and heat as the winter comes on, many sick and homeless in The City that Barely Functions (case in point, Con Edison had the power on in Red Hook within a week, but neglected to tell the residents that was the case, and all they needed do was call electricians to get it up and running, oh yes, and then fill out tons of paperwork, leaving them heatless and lightless for ongoing days until they figured it out; O Con Ed, just what part of On It! don’t you understand?), not to mention thousands else who’ve lost it all, and those just the poor newsworthy Americans amidst Sandy, what of all the media-invisibles in Haiti and Burma and Guatemala (and New Orleans), standing in the wreckage of their lives?  While cakes burn and towers are built and all the seaons crush us underfoot.  All this just to say that a hurricane can flap its wings in New York and cause a butterfly to get stuck in wet paint in San Francisco.

Less cryptically, a painter friend was delayed, then delayed again flying out from NY for his opening, schedules addled, and I ended up prepping the wall.  Not much of a fate and a miniscule trial.  The opening happened and the show looked fine, and brought his mom from the morass of the East to the lovely City of Fog for a respite.  She’s battling early-onset Alzheimer’s, sweet soul, and had never been out West, so just for kicks we piled in my van and drove across the state to Yosemite (yes 3+ hours each way) for a picnic lunch and a walk.  There’s nothing like the glee of watching someone see a beauty for the first time, wonder in the eyes and sparkle in the stride.  She left the next morning with trees in her hair and sky in her smile, both still a bit tangled in mine.

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Laven sus manos – and what do we wash?  Do we lavish?  Do we watch?  Hard to think of attackers, sentient or microbial, on a 70° day in November, at least above the Equatorial.  Beseiged on all sides – laven sus manos! – and we have but our hands to thank.  Chains in the fingers opposable thumbs make what we call progress and a prison rut.  Opposable!  Opposable.  Ley des estados – opposable!  Yet so well shaped by fingers and the awl.  Thumbs in the air, rumps for sale, and manos to be lavened if we want to face the ever-piled steel.  The attack is real, but so are hands that sever cords so that the future fjords may flow.  Caress them so.

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REFLECT  ::  Spent half of November on a West Coast reading tour with great weather for MEDIA, seven shows in ten days from L.A. to Portland, then an extra week in P-land to check out the rain.  I’m NOT gonna pour a thorough travelog in your lap, nor recount every show (see Events page for the list), but I will give a few seminal impressions.  Here’s the synop:  vast ancient bookstore in L.A., serious hippie art gallery in Berkeley, fancy-shmancy restaurant literary series in Santa Cruz, amazing underground speakeasy performance space in SF, rockin’ reading + music house party in Portland, and finally a sweet little strip-mall used bookstore and a froofy wine bar in Vancouver, Washington.  All steeped in life and then some.

L.A. was a labyrinth of diners with money flowing in one end and gravy pouring out the other, glitter in the eyes, deep scent of mirrors, a seabreeze, a street brawl, drinks on the house.  Norms, Astro, Canters pulse their glory from the beating hearts of harried waitresses, fill the blood of SoCal with their life-sustaining joe.  Found myself careening through the late-night streets with fashion designer Craig Spring on frantic tours of cryptic alleyways and carnival facades; reconnecting with wildman performer Rich Ferguson, endless cat-catcher and collusionator; catching up over burgers with old pal Lew Bolf, keeper of many secrets, who filled me in on destinies and crime statistics; processing life-trials and spaghetti and playing kids’ games with fab painter Matt Cramer; mental dervishing and driving over cliffs with ultimate codecranker and psychedelic guru Tom Jennings, cheater of many chides…altogether a deep swim in the dark day of bright souls.  Now that On the Road has finally been “adapted for film,” it’s time to start rewriting it from the ground up, and what better place to start than this melee of human cataracts and symphonies…

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Some bourgie place with cute everyones at midnight on a Tuesday in downtown L.A., Doors blasting and Obama is back, smiles and hope all around again FOR A MOMENT.  Still homeless line the streets, whole cities of cardboard boxes – as if there’s anything NOT normal about that – a billion humans living in heaps, soon to be tenfold, dung and webs and mud-caked walls, as it was now it shall be.  And here the sorbet flows amidst intelligence and speech, and we ask:  Where are the angels?  Do they come from muck or form the luck of ages?  Crawled forth from worms, we wander into doorways, and what we find determines how we shine.  Please meander, and as you do, ask yourself where your shoes came from.  Then run.

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REFLECT  ::  The tour turned my normally halcyon Bay Area into a whipwind of words, with voices soaring from Berkeley to Santa Cruz to SF and back in a Garuda Triangle of sorts.  Spent the week ushering battalions of poets into ideocombat, leapt from cliff to cliff at the Point of Pleasure with a Jane and a Joan and a julienned sun, and broke my mind ceremonying an epic underground salon.  Played host to madman trueheart theaterhawk Christian Georgescu as he hovered over the Bay taloning tongues, and gained a long-sought draught of metamuse Daniel Yaryan, channeling time and Antoninus in a gust.  Such joy leavened with flesh and flame, and to keep it real amidst the fray the Universe presented me an unexpected adversary in the form of the Rudest, Most Self-Involved Poetry Host I’ve Ever Met, with whom I did battle dutifully and ragefully until burning ribbons drifted in the streets.  This was not someone associated with any of the readings mentioned here, and was a wonderous spectre of delusion and indifference.  I won’t disparage said person openly in these pages, but if you want to know who to avoid as a host of anything, just ask.

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We sing what we are and are what we glean, and while we shine we can’t help but spree all over everything.  So best perhaps to find a kind of sheen that nurtures us, so when we spray at least the sprayed upon might gather from the drench.  The question is of course what nurture is, or what nurtures, since as they say one person’s peat is another’s sure miasma.  Yet even toxic meat is known to satisfy the proper appetite, and as the hungry storm is satiated, sucking up the sea, so the hanging mass may batter all the coast and villages be lost.  So frail the living stream, and so we glean the batter with the shine – and as we sing, and singing be, perhaps it’s best to while we sing become, and shine the be that we would have, would gather in the spree.

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REFLECT  ::  Portland pounds with the thrum of rock through brick, through bones, through beating hearts.  Such cheer there in the beat, beat of words, of moon, of drums, of flesh.  Zigzagged through the gushing streets with music and the natural sounds of folk, enjoyed dozens of new brains and bodies, shunned by some, embraced by others, almost like the real world.  Über-generously hosted for ten freakin days by giant striveheart Tom Cirillo, who despite a frenzybusy week ope’d his hearth with utmost warmth (thank you, thank you sweet one!).  From that stolid base I priused through the town like a Tesla-bolt (love this city of 5 quadrants), seeking corners, scents, and tumblings.  Cavorted severally with keen ideowright and fervent liver and breather Mae Saslaw, who proffered the yumsiest, flakesiest tart apple pies this side of creation; played a few rounds of wordminton with local poets Dan Raphael and Christopher Luna, keepers of the secret hearts of rivers; and colluded with old pal and fulcrum John Brennan, recently in news for his righteous protest of TSA harrassment (rock it, sister!), and who, like the Cylons, has a Plan.  And most of all was filled with the happiness of rain, my favorite state, which pounded the house, the car, the town for much of the week, and left me grinned with clean, soaking soil, drinking clouds.

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Tendrils digging in the dead of night grip the stony stave and pray for respite from the wind.  Do we rescind or do we merely press ourselves against the wall?  Rain whips, and pours, and whips again, cold sky greeting us with hope of when.  The politics of seasons are intractable, and probably insane – or we’d be so to magine rationality of wind.  What calls to us is only us, and recourse of our forebears – furry pups, valves, and muck – and yet we’re grateful when the sunlight seems to answer with a beam.  We seem, and grip, and let the rain remain.  And sift the grain.

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REVIEW  ::  Portland Baroque Orchestra, Italy. c1600-1760, November 23, 2012

Had the singular treat of attending the Portland Baroque Orchestra’s opening concert for the holiday season, and was not surprisingly swept away, as I am so easily by well-played music.  This particular recital focused on both celebrated and obscure Italian composers from the 15th and 16th Centuries.  The orchestra for this set was composed of fourteen musicians, directed by violinist Carla Moore and including guest cellist Joanna Blendulf and bassoonist Nate Helgeson.  Due to Helgson’s expertise on the dulcian, a pre-baroque instrument still in use early in the genre, Moore and co-director Tanya Tomkins decided to present a feast which included somewhat underheard work from the earlier period.

The first half of the show featured the later 16th Century work with its more familiar structures and tropes, though not all of the pieces and composers were familiar to my novice ear.  The set began with Pietro Antonio Locatelli‘s Concerto Grosso in E flat Major, Il Pianto d’Arianna, which has an unusual and swiftly changing structure, almost industrial in its frequent timing and rhythmic shifts, yet capable of being both gleeful and lilting throughout.  Another unusual high Baroque piece was Concerto Gross in D Major by Giovanni Lorenzo Gregori, remarkably compact and fiery; and the set was rounded out by two pieces by Antonio Vivaldi, Concerto in D Minor for Bassoon and Concerto in E Minor for Violoncello with Bassoon obbligato, both replete with his gorgeous mathematical and introspective flow.

But the real treat was the second half, which showered us in the earlier work.  I really am a neophyte in this, really not so familiar, but was nonetheless thrilled with what seemed to be much less structured (thus less predictable and more surprising) pieces.  The initial two sonatas by Dario Castello were particularly flowing, wandering, and markedly more lyrical than the high Baroque.  Andrea Falconieri‘s Folias echa para mi Senora Dona Tarolilla de Carallenos purveyed an evocative weave of syncopation and juxtaposition, with organ, violone, and a rather Spanish-rhythmed baroque guitar providing undertext for what seemed a love dance of two violins, really an exquisite piece.  Several selections by Bartolome de Selma y Salaverde seemed chosen to really showcase the period instruments (especially dulcian and theorbo), and the concert concluded with the masterful Concerto Grosso in D Minor, No. 12, La Follia by Francesco Geminiani, an alternately flowing and contrapuntal piece that led us back to Baroque as we know it.

I’m no expert on Baroque or even Classical, but I sure know when music takes me somewhere and brings me back, and really there’s just nothing else like sitting in front of folks making luscious sounds from ancient wood, and strings, and reeds, sounds that let you breathe and bring you home to the mind, sounds that reverberate long after they’ve left the ear.

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Home is where and home is who, home is what and home is woo, home speaks softly, home lies down, home is peace and home is ground.  Home is locus, home tracks the tender time, home is imagined, vital, needn’t be place, has presence, appears, abides, welcomes tides, shuts against the obdurate.  Home speaks.  Home is workshop.  Home is the river of tithe.  Home is how we invest in the world.  Home is where we go when the journey leaves us.

Happy December,
Richard

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