Saturday, October 25, 2008


Like a Sienfeld episode, I have nothing to blog about, so I am going to try and create something from nothing - my improv training should come in  handy here - and I've also decided to further challenge myself by entitling this posting first with a gorgeous word that was chosen simply because it looks and sounds magnificent, and not based at all on anything going on in my life that has its elements. But by the end of this tome-ette, hopefully I will have lynch pinned my thoughts somehow to justify the post title. Perhaps the musings will concatenate in a way to suggest the German "loanword" with the bittersweet definition.

This photo was taken with my laptop internal camera. I was eavesdropping on this incredibly surreal conversation going on behind me, and even though I've always wished I had those spy glasses where you can see stuff behind you that were always advertised in the back of Mad Magazine, I usually just turn around & check it out, not having any kind of pride about those sorts of things (and because of where I am, chances are I know these conversants). So I got the clever idea of launching the camera application & pointing it in their direction (my back still to them); but I soon lost interest in the conversation as the photo became more compelling to frame (ooh - industrial, B&W, and Eraserhead-ish!), made more interesting as I'm doing it backwards, while hovering the laptop in the air. I'm sure it was obvious to the other 40 people in here with the exact same laptop what I was doing. (This could have been "schadenfreude"-ish if I would have been delighting at some talk around someone's pain or misery, but a homeless guy was asking a gal for her knit cap (it is, after all, under 85 degress here now), and it was sweet because she gave it to him, and it was safety orange, and he didn't just want any hat, he had to have hers. He said he had been looking everywhere for one. I guess when you're homeless, "looking everywhere" doesn't mean the same thing to you or me - as you can't swing a dead cat around here without finding orange beanies for sale....)

ok, next:

In 4 days I will celebrate sixteen years of abstinence from alcoholic beverages, and two weeks after that I will turn 48 years old, an age that I never would have considered would rock this goodly - and aside from how old my neck looks, everything about late forties kicks butt. I am fit and healthy and it is Autumn: my season of uber happiness. The knowledge that my life is half over is making me dig deep into my psyche to discover those one or two dreams (knocking around in there with the 50 or so others) that I want to start working on before I relax into my extended dirt nap. I just saw the film "Outsourced," and once again India is on my radar as someplace I'd like to spend several months. I also want to live in the Gaeltacht in Ireland to learn Irish. There's also a rumbling (yet disturbing to me) desire to resurrect an anciently wanted "Cinderella Dream," though before those of you who know me start laughing I have spun it into a version I can handle: think the 60's movie version with Leslie Ann Warren, but with some "Sid & Nancy" touches, the costuming and the music, not the drugs. And a with a Gripfast 8 hole steel toe instead of a "slipper." Get the picture? Though, really, if I were deeply honest, I've already gotten to live that one out...(no schadenfreude here, unless the reader is laughing at my Cinderella Dream, which I've never confessed to having as it seems super uncool, in which case, I'm laughing with you, so I'm not miserable (unless I'm laughing just to keep from crying), so it doesn't count).

Still with me...?

At some point during this time of trying to come of with something worth blogging about I read a story about some American tourists who got on a bus in Africa, and at one the stops a man got on with a rooster, didn't have bus fare, & tried to pay his fare with the rooster. The Americans bought the rooster from the man so he could pay for his trip and when they all got off at the same stop the local man invited the tourists to his home for a meal. He was a widower who lived in a small hut with his two children, was very poor, but scratched together a meal for all of them. The Americans had a wonderful time, and when they left, gave the man back his rooster (I was wondering how the hell they were holding this thing the whole time! I wouldn't have any idea how to hold a rooster - I mean, was in a sack, or were they holding it upside down by it's (what I'm assuming are) scary feet?). I heard Johnny Lydon (one of my personal heroes) tell Conan O'Brien that the Garden of Eden wasn't in the bible or in the sky but in Africa instead. I have experienced first hand the incredible graciousness of people who have very little (usually in "emerging" countries)...I don't think they sit around and wonder what to do with their months of free time like I do. The reason I tell that story is because it struck me how I used to live my life thinking there was so little for me (which wasn't true) and I had to hold on tightly to whatever stuff, money, love (insert...anything) I thought I had - and this story shows a generosity without clinging - a way of living I aspire to, and have moved slightly closer to in my 16 years of not trying to change the way I feel with chemicals, which was based in a feeling of never having "enough" (which was false). But I don't have to travel around the world to see this sort of non-clinging to stuff - I just talked to the gal who gave her beanie to the homeless guy - she is homeless too. She is singing loudly while listening to music on her laptop. Homeless people with cell phones and laptops...what a crazy place.

I have run out of finger power & have not justified the title of the post so I'll just pull something from the random stack of topics in my brain, in a "use this word in a sentence" style: "the last time I experienced schadenfreude was was seeing the governor of Alaska being interviewed by Charles Gibson. I enjoyed her discomfort & awkwardness." I'm sure my karma is coming soon.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Limbo Beyond Limbo

A lot of people are surprised to find out I have a filmmaking degree. I think they thought I majored in Art or English or have some random Liberal Arts degree, but I was one of a handful of kids in the early 80's doing incredibly involved technical and creative 16mm film making at the University where I am currently a wage serf - which I now would not be able to get into as the requirements are so much stricter, and the film progam is recognized as top notch, as it was even then when there were just a handful of us doing it. The technical parts were incredibly arduous, but the chaos of shooting and editing and sound synching suited my nature. I partied so much in college that it is a miracle I got through, but we all seemed to be able to do that while we were making films, which I don't think is uncommon even today. I mention me having a film degree because about two months ago I was called for an extra role in the new HBO biopic about Temple Grandin, one of my personal heroes. I had stood in a cattle call line about two years ago for a big Hollywood pic being shot here, & the local film casting folks still had my picture. The reason they called me was because I was, at that time, 118 pounds, and they wanted skinny girls to fit into the 50's & 60's clothes for the period piece. I told them I weighed more than that now, sent them a pic of me in a bikini & never heard from them figuring that extra 5 pounds knocked me out of the running. Last night they finally called (around 8:30pm), and asked if I could show up the next day for a role that was bigger than an extra, so it would be a more intimate scene, where I would actually be seen in the movie for a few minutes. I thought this was cool & said I would do it, then told them I had a recent dye job-they didn't like this & told me I'd have to dye my hair before I came in, and have it set in "hot rollers," and bring pantyhose. I said I didn't have any hot rollers or pantyhose & thought it might be too late to go buy hair dye and they started asking me if I was really "stoked" or not for this role and that "they had held it special just for me" (???). I didn't ask why, then, they were calling me the night before for this special role just for me, because I would actually like to work on a film before I croak (actually, I am quite proud of the short film Will & I made in Antarctica for the film festival). The phone call became more bizarre as I talked to three different girls & they kept telling me their names and they were different than the first time they told me, and there was lots of noise in the background and that sounded like they were calling me from a crack house. I was still planning on going to the set when I reminded them that I had some small tattoos - and the girl on the phone asked where they were & I told her & she said "sorry we won't be able to use you..." & kept apologizing & acted liked I deceived them as she said she couldn't see them in my mostly naked picture. I said that's because they are not so obvious...anyway, I got off the phone relieved not to be dealing with these bozos..until I walked over to the shoot today (they happened to be shooting near campus and I know the secret signage that indicates where a big film is being shot) and saw all the teamsters & giant generators & millions of dollars of equipment & amount of bodies needed to pull of a production. I am a big fan of HBO made programming, so was curious about the incredible unprofessionalism of the talent people I'd dealt with on the phone. Anyway, it was a micro-drama that gave me something to write about. And because writing always opens the floodgates for stacking more topics...I was thinking about conversations I'd been having recently about the state of being in limbo versus being tethered and how that means different things to different people. I, right now, am in limbo beyond limbo. I am not on the Ice, have  a job I am quitting in two weeks, am moving out of my room in early November, going to Hawaii for 3 weeks, and after that have no idea what I'm going to do. I usually "tether" myself by some non-negotiable trips I have to do during the year: Taos in March & May, San Francisco in June...and usually the Ice for half the year - but the Ice, my singleminded focus of the last four year, is not happening this year. I am so free it's ridiculous. Getting this full time job has been great for my sanity & tethered me to life somewhat, but I am only enjoying it because I know it's going to end. There's always such a relief I feel when I know something is ending or changing. So starting in May I went from having a job at the South Pole for austral summer, to not having one, to working the ski season in Jackson Hole, to not doing that, and then asking for a job at South Pole for winter, and being immediately rejected (!). The problem I'm having now is not the fear of being in utter limbo, it's not knowing what I want to do. I worked so hard to get myself into this position of not being chained to a job, city or I should just enjoy the fact that I'm in this luxury position instead of worrying about it. Sometimes I wonder if I'm squandering my creative energies, but it takes so much energy to manage this lovingly chosen limbo, that maybe that is the creative act. And nothing makes me more certain than I am living the right life for me than working at UT again, where I'm surrounded by people who don't have the choice to quit & run off like I do. It is so easy for me to see tethers as chains...

the next day...

In the airconditioned comfort of my favorite new coffee hangout in Austin, Epoch. What makes a local coffee shop great? Old blown out comfy couches, super groovy new down-tempo music played at a volume where you can still type & read, and a band of locals you eventually form a "tribe" with. This one also has excellent pizza. It's mid October & still in the 90'sF here in Central Texas, but I have made peace with my heat hating side as the mornings & evening are blissfully nice. I got an e-mail from a friend at McMurdo this morning....I worked with her in the Heavy Shop three seasons ago and though I have accepted I gave up my job on Ice this season, I was not prepared to be stricken like I was when I saw the photos of her in one of the big red South Pole Traverse tractors. My heart seized up, as if something very very important to me was no longer mine - tears streamed from my eyes as I scrolled down to the pics of the pristine mountains across from the butt-ugly but lovable station. For a variety of reasons I decided to not go back to the Ice this season, and despite my grieving not being there, I have found reasons to appreciate being stateside. But I was not prepared for how deeply the Ice is woven into my blood, body & cells: any opportunity to talk about it sparkles me. No matter how much I stand by my decision that is ok for me to take a season off, there is a hole in my soul in the shape of my friends & the lifestyle of Mactown. 

But while I sit here torturing myself, the world is unfolding around me in subtle & interesting ways...I get to be here for this incredibly bizarre & epic presidential election. I get to experience a temperature that is somewhere comfortably between 100F & not -40F (the extremes I've been in the last 4 years). I get to have deep & intimate conversations with wonderful people. I get to see tableaux like the one pictured, that someone lovingly created on the bar at Epoch, and reminds me that I could never live anywhere that did not have these sorts of fringe places peopled by fringe characters. I am so comfortable with them.