Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bass aka "Feel the Vibration"

I tend to fall for bass players. The precedent was set in high school by a boy I was madly love with but was not in love with me. I didn’t know what the bass was until I stalked the poor guy and learned everything about him. Once I figured out what bass was I realized that, “oh that’s the part of the song I like.” So began my love affair of the bass and the men who play them.

When I was 19 I dated another bass player who told me that, “girls can’t play bass.” To which a resounding “oh hells no!” rose from the depths of my soul. It took a relationship with another bass player to crash and burn, graduating from college, and having a decent job to get myself a bass. I had no idea what to do with it. I’ve never had any musical training nor tried playing an instrument on my own. (Well if you don’t count the six months of electric organ lessons once a week during seventh grade. Quick story: My aunt gave us her old organ, mom thought we should know how to play it, we took lessons, but no one played it for years. Now we have a piano no one plays.) And for the next five years I would pick it up, learn something, drama would ensue in my life, I put the bass down and react to aforementioned drama.

Recently it hit me that rather than dating bass players I could be one, maybe not a good one but one nonetheless. So I’ve picked it up again and it’s a different experience. It makes more sense to me now. I have a friend teaching me and we recently “jammed” (I feel like a fraud using that word) with some other folks. This was the first time playing with other people and although I was awful it was awesome. And to be honest I used to be reluctant to keep playing bass because I thought I would have to cut my nails really short and would develop man hands. (Yes I’m that vain.) But it is not so – I still got my girly hands but they are just a hell of a lot stronger. (All I can say is that my next love it going to be a very lucky man. Very. Lucky. )

Since playing with other people I’ve been listening to music differently and thinking about why I love the bass. Some think that playing bass is boring, that it is repetitive or unimaginative and that playing guitar is more interesting. I beg to differ. Guitar players have to sprint about the track, jump hurdles and do back flips. Guitars just aren’t consistent. They get you used to a nice rhythm and once you get into it – bam! They are off and running over here and over there, sometimes stopping for another instrument or playing something new altogether. Guitar has to be the center of attention. It’s always screaming, “Listen to me! Listen to me!”

But the bass players tend to lay low, keep a steady pace and go the distance without a lot of fanfare. Bass never loses that mellow tone, the bass line is always the unconscious part of the song. Sometimes if you are not listening for it you don’t seem to hear it with your ears; but it’s always there driving your soul along the path of the song. Playing bass is all about being a team player. I much rather be a team player or be played by a team player. I’ll take a strong and steady bass rhythm over an intricate and racing guitar any day. I understand that they work together, but it’s the bass that calls me. Essentially for me the difference between guitar and bass is that a good guitarist can entice the wild horse in your soul to break free but a good bassist frees the whole fucking herd to stampede.

Now lets discuss the men who play bass (this is not an attack on the lady bass players – I’ve just never dated one). For me it’s about the hands. To play bass your hands have to be strong, flexible and able to keep rhythm. Now I know some guitar players may object. It takes a lot of dexterity and skill to hop between all those little strings and even closer frets but bass requires * both * hands to be stronger so has to hold down and pluck those thick strings. But most importantly, playing bass requires stronger * finger tips* for plucking and/or slapping out the bass line; all while playing in a consistent rhythm that a woman can count on. I’ve found that in general it’s nice when your man comes to you with pre-trained hands, but especially when he touches you with hands and a soul trained to play bass.

Drums make me want to move my hips, guitars make me want to sing or jump but the vibration of the bass changes my heartbeat to beat in time with its own sound design. Bass seeps in through my ears, flows down my chest and touches that place that neither I nor plastic can get too; the place that can only throb from some good bass playing or from some good lovin.’ And that is why I love the bass.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Daily Tao

Written 12.27.05

“If you see the world in terms of difference,” replied Confucius, “there is liver and gallbladder, there are Ch’u lands and Yueh lands. But seen in terms of sameness, the ten thousand things are one. If you understand this, you forget how eye and ear could love this and hate that. Then the mind wanders the accord of Integrity. And if you see the identity of things, you see there can be no loss.’” -- Chuang Tzu

I have been getting back into my Taoist texts again. I tend to pick them up and put them back down again. I guess this week I really need them. I enjoy this book and the Tao Te Ching because they are riddles and often are really funny – my kind of funny. Like when someone is professing their humility as they talk over everyone else sitting at the table.

I read the Tao of Pooh in college but to be honest I was doing it because I thought it was cool. I didn’t understand shit about what I was reading. But that’s ok – I had to go though a lot more shit so that it would make sense to me – which I guess is what life is all about.

These books inspire me to be a better person and to let go. I still talk and think in terms of “love / hate” but I aspire to just see things as things and accept life for what it is. I know if I could do this I would have much more peace … and my skin would look fabulous.

The use of “Integrity” gets to me in this passage. I talked with a friend about this and she pointed out that “integrity” is about integration. A person with integrity is a person whose selves are integrated hence there is no deception because the person and their actions are one.

A few years ago I took to writing words on my mirror in cool cayola makers made for writing on glass. I wrote down concepts that I wanted to work on within myself and remember throughout the day such as “compassion” or “generosity” or “integrity.” However the weeks that I had “integrity” up on my mirror shit really hit the fan. All sorts of drama and chaos occurred and I had to make some difficult choices. I choose what was right for me.

Looking back it was one of those forks in the road, like those stupid kid books that had the multiple endings depending on what path you chose to take. (I really did hate those books. Ten year old me: What do you mean there is more than one ending? A story only has one ending god damn it!) I believe that was one of the moments that you choose between life or non-life, I was going to say good or evil but it’s a bit simplistic. For me those moments are about what kind of person I want to be to both others and to myself – do I want to contribute (life) or do I want to take (non-life). I think that was my first adult step on the path of integration

I was listening to the Dali Lama’s “Zen and the Art of Happiness” last month and the author was commenting on how people flocked to him and how they got brighter and lighter. That’s the kind of person I want to be. I want to be a person that people feel good being around, not necessarily that they “like” me but that maybe my light helps to fan their light.

I feel like I’m in a bit of a crossroads with my writing too. It’s so easy to go negative and use sesationalism. I find my self drifting that way – it’s familiar and I know how to do it. I want to write about the ridiculous without being mean to myself or to others. I guess I’m not so much concerned with negative as I am concerned about being mean - basically because I don’t feel good when I do it.

I don’t write on my mirror anymore but I tend to reflect on things in my life that I want to get better at and sure enough the universe dishes up a situation for me to try it out. Right now I have a lot of letting go to do, especially of old ways, old behaviors and of fear. Fear is so addicting – it solves so many problems. If you are afraid you don’t have to do anything - you can just sit here and react. You don’t have to risk, you don’t have to open up, you don’t have to care about other people, and you don’t have to care about yourself. You just keep throwing boulders into the lake of your soul to keep the waters churning.

On that note here is a closing quote:

“People can’t see themselves in rushing water,” began Confucius. “They can see themselves in still water, for only stillness can still stillness.” -- Chuang Tzu

Monday, December 19, 2005

Boobs, Ironing & Corporate Irvine

Man I have a million things to write but I’ve been waiting for the “perfect” moment but there is no such thing. So here it goes: I redeemed my temp self last week at a job in Irvine. Unlike the previous one I didn’t:
- Cry
- Have a breakdown
- Go to the bathroom every hour
- Call in or leave early because I was "sick" (I swear that job did make me sick)
- Or be late

But Corporate Irvine always gets to me. For the most part I am pretty happy with myself, where my life is, and how I feel in my skin. However Corporate Irvine brings out every one of my self doubts. Not skinny enough, not rich enough, not put together enough, and really just not WASP enough or at least pretending like I am really into being a corporate conformist. (Yes I am prejudiced and making general statements about an entire group of people but it's my blog so I can write what I want. So there.)

But this time I really studied why I felt that way – I know most of it is in my head and if someone really thinks that about me it’s not going to be the end of my world (this is growth for me). Anyway most of it has to do with presentation of self.

Corporate woman wear is so baffling. You have to show that you are a woman by wearing a skirt or nice trousers, heels, blouse and a jacket. But everything has to be covered and contained – no V necks (especially if you have big boobs), no short skirts, no open toe shoes, etc. It’s a fine line – you can’t wear anything too tight or sexually suggestive but you can’t be frumpy either.

I’m not messy. I’m not forgetful. I’m just a woman with ADHD. I’m much better than I used to be but I still am what I am. It’s the little things that add up for me like:
flyway hair; forgetting to take the price tag off the bottom of my shoes; wrinkled clothes; clothes with snags or small stains; clothes that don’t fit me; shirt tag and or underwear tag hanging out; shirts on inside out; sweater not buttoned correctly; nylons with snags in them; purse always open with the “secret” pocket of tampons unzipped and visible; bra showing through clothing (as in not a smooth seamless line over my bosom); cat hair and my hair on my coat; chipped manicure or nail polish on my cuticles; and no eye makeup because it always ends up under my eyes - things like that.

I don’t do this all at once but it’s always a given that my hair never looks corporate polished and I’m doing at least one thing from the above list. I’m sure a lot of my insecurity is simply due to not being comfortable in this type of work wear - and it shows. (Aside: I really hate button down shirts.)

The other thing I noticed is that my boobs are unprofessional. (Yes, I'm talking about my boobs again. Yes, I'm more obsessed with them more than any previous boyfriend has been. Yes this is a shameless invitation to all ex-loves to email me a personal message about how their lives have never been the same since we have parted ways. Something along the lines of, “Elizabeth, the thought of your voluptuousness haunts my dreams and all my waking moments. I can’t go on anymore. Oh woe! Oh woe is me!” And no, if you have not had the good fortunate of an up close personal experience with me and my girls I DO NOT want to hear from you. But I digress).

Professional boobage has nothing to do with size but has everything to do with a smooth line and the jiggle factor. As mine are real, they jiggle and move which is not a very corporate thing. And if my button down shirt doesn’t fit right there is a huge gap and my boobs show. (This was a last week realization - how is that for a first impression?) Or if I wear a sweater the upper swell of my boob sorta bubbles over thereby creating an unprofessional looking bosom; plus the jiggle factor is much more evident.
I realized that fake boobs are perfect for professional sweaters and shirts because they are hard and stay still. This lack of jiggle somehow negates the earthy sensuality of naturally large breasts. Fake boobs are controlled. They are corporate. Mine are not.

Despite my lack of polish it was a good assignment and the people were really nice and welcoming. And I found out that I have an “A+” at this new agency so I’m trying to keep it. Consequently this weekend I made one change – I asked my mother to show me how to iron. It was awesome! She showed me how to get the crease on your pant leg and how to iron the back of the shirt – even that little spot under the collar at the top of your shoulder.

And today at my new assignment the trainer did make a remark about my shirt. She asked if was from Banana Republic. I replied that I just picked it up somewhere. (I got it at Kohl’s) See what ironing will do? It upgrades your cheap shirt made by sweat shop labor into looking like it is an expensive shirt made by sweat shop labor. Ah the joys of office life.

But I still had a run in my nylons.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Hulk & The Elizabeth Cave

I have completely underestimated the influence of the Hulk it in my life and specifically the ending theme song. It’s the most melancholy / you’re always going to be alone / yearning / bittersweet experience of having true love and then having your love ripped away from you for eternity - kind of song. David/Hulk is always on the run, a misunderstood hero, never meant to settle, always restless, always a freak without a home and always an outcast who has to keep himself from society in order to protect it. The fucked up part being that it’s not his fault that he’s that way and all he really wants is meaningful contact with other people. Oh the pain! I love it.

My only concrete memory of this show was when I was four or five. My cousin Karen was coming out from Pennsylvania to visit. I was totally excited but while waiting up for her I fell asleep in my parent’s room with the TV on. I remember waking up disorientated and alone. I could hear Karen’s and my parent’s voices in the kitchen. Although it was a small house the voices sounded so far away. I remember feeling distance from both their physical location but also distance from warmth and love. I felt alone. And what song was playing on the TV? The Hulk song. Since that moment I’ve associated the feeling of being left out and cut off from people with this song. (I also associate burnt orange and gold sunsets on the beach with the Hulk song. They just go hand and hand for me.)

Ok I’m going to be truthful here: when something is really bittersweet, which usually involves some kind of great love story that is not to be or a mother whose child has been taken away – I feel it in my womb. It’s hard to explain but I swear my uterus clenches and not because I feel pain but more like I feel loss. It’s the overwhelming feeling of intense yearning. I guess the closest word would be a “pang” as in a “pang of love.” It’s a sharp feeling, it doesn’t stay long. Very few things affect me this way; it’s usually books or instrumental songs. The Hulk song is one of them.

The Hulk song also takes me back to the pain of depression and that ain’t no “pang.” When I hear the song I remember how hopeless I used to feel. But at the same time I am also relieved that there was something other than words that expresses those feelings raging inside of me. I’m not the only one.

Some classical music pieces draw the same emotions out of me. When I was nineteen and depressed out of my mind I would hole up in the Elizabeth Cave, my room, and listen to loud classical music on my CD player. No whiny sallow British boy playing the guitar for me. It was all about Tchaikovsky, Chopin and I think Wagner. I can’t tell you the names of all the pieces but I could tell you how they made me feel.

I would lie in bed with the lights off and my door closed. I’d would have probably been there since morning and heard the roommates come and go. I liked it when my roommates didn’t think I was home. I would listen to them as they moved about the apartment unaware of my presence. Mostly I spent the whole day in bed trying to sleep my life away. I might have gotten up to go to the bathroom but it was too much effort to go downstairs to get food and forget making it to my classes.

I remember one night hearing my roommates downstairs in the kitchen laughing and I would be upstairs crying, holding my Spyderco knife, and listening to Swan Lake. I remember the weight of the cool metal in my hand. I’d run my thumb across the blade and feel the sharp catch of it against my skin. Lightly running the pad of my thumb up and down the blade and asking myself did I want too or did I not. I must have found something to stay for because I’m still here.

That’s how it was for me then. And very few songs touched that deep sense of despair in me: that there is no hope for love, no hope for connection, basically no hope at all. The reason why I loved/love these pieces of music is that although they express the absolute misery of being disconnected from meaningful human contact; at the same time I knew/know I am not alone because someone wrote it and many people had to play it in order for me to hear it. Someone else has felt the same way and we can share the pain together. And now when I hear these songs I’m no longer consumed by them. It’s more like the mourning of a past pain and in many ways a past life. I can smile at and for my nineteen year old self. When I feel the swell of music in my soul instead of holding on to it I let it go. Yes, I even let go of the Hulk.

Well, most of the time.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Chasing the Kiss

Ramona the Pest got me through elementary school. It was from her that I learned about chasing boys around the playground. I mainly chased Josh. He was tall (for a 6 year old), blond, blue-eyed and the principal’s son (I swear it had nothing to do with social climbing). He was the fastest runner and the best speller of the first grade – it was love.

For three years I would chase him around the playground. I would chase, chase, chase. Around the trees, through the jungle gym, and in-between the teather ball courts. I remember the thrill of running hard, knees kicking up high, and the smell of crushed grass under my pounding feet. The exhilaration of the wind blowing back my bowl cut off my forehead. I remember the shrieks of the kids we almost bowled over, the sun hot on my arms and the blinding blue/white of the sky.

One day I cornered him against the fence. Our eyes locked together and he waited - for nothing. Nothing. I did nothing. The moment passed and he left. I had never planned on catching him. What do you do once you got them? I have spent the last 20 years reliving that moment with different people but with the same result – what the hell do I do once I reach the goal? I only know the chase.

Perhaps it’s time to change the narrative. I’m tired of the chase. The chase of boys, of money (well I haven’t chased this one too hard), of success, of security and well-being. I want to run now because I want to run for the pleasure of it and not the imaged pleasure of what I’m chasing in front of me. Even if I do somehow corner it – it’s never what I think it will be. It’s never enough.

Intellectuality I know why – I’m chasing myself. I’m the cat chasing its tail. Instead of recognizing that my six year old has always been integrated into my current self, I’m trying to grab on to her and feel like I did as a kid - the complete abandonment to my senses. I haven’t seen her as a part of me. I’ve only seen her ahead of me – out of reach. I see bits of her, the self I want to be, in others or in accomplishments; but it’s not what I’m truly searching for so it rarely ends well.

It’s so hard to just stop running. It becomes a way of life. Standing still is uncomfortable. It’s painful to accept that I’ve wasted all these years chasing the very thing I’ve always had. But that’s the negative interpretation, the old way. Now I have a new way. There is no waste. The purpose of the chase was/is to learn that I have all that I need. I am all that I need. There is no need to chase the kiss … it will come to me if it is supposed too.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Coconut Queen

In the beginning of my sister's freshman year of college she went to a party put on by one of the Latino groups. Some guy asked her what she identified as and she said, "Hispanic." He didn't take kindly to this and he called her a coconut. She was pretty much over Latino Unity at that point. My experiences weren't quite as cut and dried but they were similar.

Since Jr. High I've always volunteered my time, but for the last 6 months or so I haven't. I usually gravitate to some sort of activism but I have never found it in Orange County (or I haven't been looking in the right places). I heard about a group of Latinas/os active in the local community were meeting on Saturday so I decided to check it out. The first meeting was a journalism workshop and the second was some kick-ass Latinas working on community projects. It was wonderful. It seems like they are the kind of people who get shit done rather than just sitting around talking about it - which is pretty awesome.

However, in the writing workshop the facilitator choose the Minute Men Project as the topic. My first thoughts were, "FUCK! I'll just turn in my Chicana card now. Who has the 'null and void' stamp?" I've made a conscious choice not to talk about this issue with my family (mostly for it) and my friends (mostly against it). It's been my experience that most people don't want to listen or have a discussion - they just want a confirmation of their party line. I haven't wanted to go there but I wrote and shared; it didn't seem to be a big deal.

But this incident made me aware of a teeny tiny little issue of mine: I have a HUGE MOTHER FUCKING chip on my shoulder. When I'm around Latinos I am waiting for the "Are You Chicano Enough?" test. I always fail: I have the wrong last name, I don't speak Spanish, and I'm from Huntington Beach (which I think is an automatic disqualification). I thought I was over this. In college I did a lot of exploration of being what I called a Multi-racial Chicana. And the further college was behind me the further I thought that issue was. But it's not. I just haven't put myself around Latina/o activists and poof! - problem solved.

It's unfair of me to assume that people are going to "test" me on my ethnicity credibility. Then I'm doing what I'm afraid they are doing - I'm judging before I get to know them. Even if someone does, who cares? All that matters is that I'm kind, keep my word and do my work. I need to stop reacting to stuff that's in my head that's not even happening. (Aside: Hey do want to go on a date? Anyone? Anyone? Come on - let me be the mother of your children. HA!!!!!)

Everyday I gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of how deep my feelings of isolation run/ran. It's when I'm in a situation like this that I feel lost the most. I hate that I can't claim white or brown. I hate that at heart I'm ashamed for being both.

Most groups have an unspoken "us" vs. "them" mentality. At some point it's an accepted practice to demonize the other side. As a kid I didn't say much when people said shit about Latinos but as I got older I ripped some heads off. During college and after college I didn't say much about people lumping together all white people, in fact I've sold my own down the river many times. But I can't do that anymore - its just too easy to lump everyone who is different in one category.

I've brought this up before and have had people say "it's no big deal" or "you're making too much out of it." But I say fuck you. I remember as kid resenting god because he didn't make my skin white like my dad's or at least make my eyes blue. I hated/envied Barbies, blonds and people with white skin; which was almost everyone in my school and my own family.

But in college I wished I looked browner - or at least had a Latino last name. A feel part of an older generation of Latinos - like pre-Chicano movement when it was shameful to be brown and I'm just got stuck there. There was no 60's in my psyche. I can't even understand or relate to the idea of being proud of where you came from, of what people you come from and not having much conflict about it or even thinking about it as an issue. It's unfathomable to me to be that people are born with that pride and sense of belonging. For me it's like no place is safe, no gathering is safe.

I never can just go along with the dominate dialogue because at some point every group starts to put down other people based on culture / race / ethnicity - which usually turns out to be some group I'm genetically related too. But more important than genetics, it's my family- people who love me and whom I love. Like my fair skinned, blue eyed, white haired grandma who didn't have much of an education or access to other cultures outside of Mundy's Corner Pennsylvania but who is loving, generous, grateful and who makes kick ass blueberry pies. Or my Tia in El Paso who too has had a hard life but still is happy and active. Both women are different colors/ cultures/ ethnicities but both are wonderful people and my blood - how could I make / condone negative generalizations about either of them?

It could just be I'm hanging out the wrong people, but I think it's a human nature thing. I'm seeing it in the context of race/ethnicity and in many ways it's not. People put down other people for many reasons - usually to protect their resources or just out of fear. And the easiest way is to dehumanize them - you stop seeing a grandma but see a right-wing racist or an illegal wetback. And its not that I've hated myself for being both that it's been because I'm not one or the other. Basically I'm mad that I can't hate and judge people automatically just by looking at them and at the same time have my ethnic / racial group condone and help me justify my hate. And I don't care what color you are - everyone does it - I've heard you. I'm kind of joking about it but it crazy to see how many layers of self hate I have to peel off and how deep I've internalized it all.

But the difference this time is how I'm dealing with it. Yes I'm writing about it on this blog, but right before I feel asleep yesterday I asked myself not "how can I tell this?" but "how can I show this?" And today I got my vision. It's going to be in stills. I have to learn some fundamentals about photography and I need to find the models and a space; but I can show it now. After all these fucking years I think I'll be able to purge it, move on and continue on my quest ...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Kissing & Tori Amos

I’m listening to Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos. I found my old cd from way back. I think it’s been a good five years since I’ve listened to it and I’m hearing so many things that I didn’t hear before. I guess as you get older and go through more shit music becomes more meaningful.

Listening to this also takes me back to high school and my only boyfriend. He played this album on our first date. He also gave me my first “real” kiss when I was 16. It was awful. We were drowning in each other’s spit. We broke up soon after that and I didn’t kiss anyone for another two years.

He was a year older than me and when he went to college he came out (Um, Tori Amos). I was the last girl he dated and people went around saying that I turned him gay. (This was great for my self-esteem.) But what can I say – I have strange and wondrous powers (watch out boys!). I was pretty bitter about the experience for awhile but it’s really funny now. I’ve accepted and now love my magnet rays that attract all things fabulous, especially gay boys.

Oh my god! I don’t think any of my first kisses with a new love were sober after that - nope, none of them. That was my last and only sober first kiss. Oh good god! I’m noticing some patterns here. Something like, “Intimacy? And/or possible rejection … RUN!!!!!” To the bottle or under my bed – it’s hiding either way. (Ouch.)

However just like every sport I’ve ever tried, I worked hard for my “Most Improved” award. And through much practice and dedication I redeemed my kissing prowess in college. I earned the highest honor - the gay boy stamp of approval. And let me tell you, those grrls don’t lie.