Keep It Moving / It Will Keep Moving
On honoring gifts through your imperfections, the word motherfucker as a form of self care (this title is leaning into clickbait territory), among other reflections-of-the-week.
I keep noticing that my friends who lean deeply into their particular and specific gifts are less concerned with being perfect and more at ease with the value they already hold and can purposefully cultivate within themselves. The imperfections are a matchbox if you’re brave enough to light up against them.
No one is perfect but some of us are imperfect AND keep a small vase of flowers in the car.
Some of us are imperfect AND have an iconic record shelf snapped up from the offices of the legendary Wax Poetics magazine.
Some of us are imperfect AND make gluten free chocolate chip bread loaves for our friends to give them at figure drawing along with palo santo and tea.
Man, I really missed being in a room of illustrators making unique windows into/stories up about the nude human we are all drawing through pastels and colored pencils and charcoal to the tune of a live jazz band. I missed this perfect New York, so vibrant and full of other people who spend their free time making things.
Though I love people more than the average joe, solitude is also where it’s at for me, like true solitude, not tv watching, though I indulge that too (speaking of, the new Michael Che stand up on Netflix is pretty good). Take it where you can get it, and try to expand it — my mantra lately.
On the way to visit friends in Western Mass, I appreciated the so-much time in the car — no ability to be distracted by my phone!
I gave my gaze over to the blue coated mountains with their collars of autumn foliage: so many shades of orange.
Sometimes I made up words to the instrumental songs, practiced hearing my voice try on the air. I can only truly freestyle, in the most expansive and pure sense of the word, in complete solitude because I’m so poor at it.
Give me a room of one’s own and I will fill the space with color and light and bad raps, I can promise you that.
I admit I’ve been more frazzled than I’d like to be lately. It shows up everywhere in my life when I’m not tending to myself as well as I should. For example: the excessive amount of times I arranged and emptied the vases to figure out how to work with the flower shop’s slim pickings.
That day I was really, really worn out. I had this fantasy that the flowers would serve as a kind of magic pill that would whisk away my exhaustion. On the way there, I willed myself to appreciate that familiarity has bred good vibes between me and the flower shop clerks, which makes my day better, but let’s be real, they are also the good vibes generated by the promise of a wallet that is about to open. Which is an interesting set of feelings to square, when you really think about it. I guess you could also consider that abundance with another twist of metaphor? A precious twist, but I think it deserves a fighting chance at an argument.
What I’m trying to say is that my ability to see the cup half full was a little compromised, you know what I mean?
On my way home with an armload of flowers, an opportunity I would normally relish put itself right in my path: an elder on the street complimented my choices, (she practices ikebana herself), and though I mustered up a laugh, I knew if I was feeling myself, I would have insisted she whip out her phone and show those arrangements off!
At home I got lost in the maze of my head for awhile, too.
But, cool thing, this time, my brain kept tugging at me to try again. Take the flowers out. Rethink this. Just slow down, girl. Be present.
I had to try this command a few times, and then I was.
I admit there were other “signs” that were getting into my psyche this week. A plant shelf fell when I was out of town. I don’t know how but pots were shattered, a few of our green buddies were clear goners. A big leaf of a plant I had thriving — with two recent flowers! — was injured in the slide. For a moment I lost my cool, what kind of a message is this? I was sure it was a bad omen coming to tell me I do not have my life together and who am I kidding? I wanted to let it all fall to shit.
After a moment of panic, I quickly reassessed the gravity of this experience and what was behind it. Was I disappointed? Yes. Was I even emotional? Yes. Did I cry? I did. But I apologized to the plants. I swept the floor. I gave extra attention to the many plants that survived. And, they seemed to tell me, yes, we are shaken up, but we won’t lie for the sake of our fear: life goes on.
(Some of us are learning to listen with more than our ears.)
…a spiritual teacher told a close friend that she would be doing what she’s supposed to be doing in life if she just took breath and went with the story of her life. I’ve thought about that often — We have tests and trials. We tend to fight them, pity ourselves, blame others. If we do just breathe, write, drum, blow horn…love…it will keep moving, and the gifts can emerge easier than when there is resistance.
— Joy Harjo, from her blog
Some of us pull a guitar from thin air.
A friend comes by and says he knew there was a guitar in the apartment— he can always tell. Makes sense, I thought, lotta art in this crib. The guitar was hiding in its case out of sight and he, like, mystically magnetized it to his hands.
When he packs the guitar away, I say, wish you left it out — maybe I’d actually play it, so he unpacks it again and now I pick it up and try my hand. I am sloppy but he’s right, this guitar has a personality, a nice full body sound. I record a little snippet of a song I wrote when I was 15 and send it as a voice memo to say thank you.
On second thought, it may have been a bit of torture: HERE listen to like a whole ass minute of my 15 year old ditty layered with lots of laughs. Oh, man. Apologies, my friend.
That same night, while smoking, a young man in a very flamboyant and fashionable floral blazer approached me. Had I seen someone dumping anything? Phone tracking led him to my block. His bag was just stolen. The ear-pod case was the biggest loss because it was homemade.
But it only cost $9!
Josh is new to New York City. He is an aspiring writer. He tells me another story of fantastical New York kismet that included his own living room guitar playing alongside Philharmonic musicians — the kind of good luck/a portal to a whole other world opens that only appears when you’re curious enough to follow its yellow brick road.
Josh, I tell him before I know he’s a writer, you’ll be telling this story for years! You’ll get a new ear-pod case. You’ll get a new license. This right here is the real riches: your New York City initiation tale.
Josh is wearing a mask that has a photorealistic image of a dog’s mouth “smiling” with its tongue out, which only got really exciting when Josh the human smiled with his eyes.
Josh has new-New York eyes.
That’s what performing at hyper-local venues feels like, I told my friend the now pretty famous poet who was doing some humble gigs while in town: those underground spots, you know, are often where the new talent gathers. It’s where we once gathered, a long time ago. For this reason, there is hunger in the air. You can remember your teeth in a room like that if you can recognize the gift of the novice and how it’s all in of us (is it our essence?)
A few of my friends, like me, use “motherfucker” (see: mufukka see: mothafucka) as a wide ranging descriptor for all spectrums of human beings and their various moral codes and levels of cheese and/or brilliance, and I happened to spend good time with two of these friends back to back, so I spent some time being mirrored by one of my own favorite words.
This train of thought makes me think of someone else I know who uses fatherfucker because he feels the need to even out gender allotments for who is getting fucked and being fucked and it still remains provocative.
But it doesn’t roll off the tongue, I’m afraid. The word motherfucker still has bounce AND electricity, you have to admit it. Even though I say it all the time, when I hear other people say it, I pay attention.
Hip hop has always been so gloriously free with its fucks. I like it when it hangs off the lip like a cigarette, but also, when used sparingly it just does something else. If you want to know when I mean, listen to this, but pay close attention to the first verse, and if you do it, don’t do it half assed. You have to really listen. Here’s why:
When I heard the Rick Ruben interview with Andre 3000, it hurt to see a genius like that close the door on music. But when Malik played me the leaked Kanye track (I know but wait a minute let me finish) with a recent Andre 3000 verse that stopped my heart, I thought: that’s how hip hop ages beautifully, gracefully, takes it to a new level. It is truly literary in quality. It is vulnerable, it is wise, it is skilled. It hurts my heart so my heart can open, that’s what I feel it does when I listen. I can’t just listen I have to experience it, I have to allow myself to get pulled in.
I hope people are listening.