In this media frenzied, money grubbing, kiss ass world, the ultimate chic is to remain unknown…..and courageous enough to cultivate the condition. It is a sacred place where the freedom to be authentic can still be exercised. Under the radar. Nobody’s watching too closely, so you can really blast off. I would love to open an Unknown art gallery, an Unknown theater, an Unknown Jazz Club. You must be unknown to participate. If you have a list of accolades you don’t get through the velvet ropes. I guarantee you’d see some phenomenal talents evolve. Everybody was famous for 15 minutes, then everybody was famous for 15 years, and now everybody is famous all the time. The only thing left is being not famous and it’s so much easier.
I had a baby in my lap yesterday. I was sitting in the beauty parlor and the mom/stylist put the baby in my lap and the baby was sweet, and of course, a genius, like they all are, and movie-star gorgeous, of course, like they ALL are, and I thought about the baby, and how it could be my grandchild, and what it would feel like to have a grandchild, and then a sick thought came into my head: Irrelevant. The baby felt irrelevant. An outdated idea, a museum curiosity, an object d’art from the past-no longer critical to the survival of the species as the world reels and weeps from over-population. Was I so much of a monster as to rethink my desire to continue my genetic blueprint in a grandchild? To refrain from encouraging my beloved daughter to partake in the joys of motherhood? After all, I just love being a mom, loved it from the beginning, can’t imagine the alternative. The world was a rough place 31 years ago, when I made the decision to bring forth a member of the Y Generation. Is it worse now? Aren’t a few good years on the planet, before the shit hits the fan, better than no years? I believe so, and yet the baby in my lap- the precious, sacred life and hope of tomorrow, did not seem like the answer to anything.
Another beautiful evening at the lake watching the Turkey Buzzards tear apart an enormous dead carp on the beach. The largest Buzzard stands on top of the carp and doesn’t let the other buzzards have a bite. They attempt to sneak a piece, but he screams and flaps his wings in warning. They back off. They wait. It’s a very big carp, certainly that one Buzzard can’t eat the whole thing, so I watch to see how and when the rest of the pack will have a turn. The one buzzard fills up and can’t eat anymore. He flies off. Second Buzzard jumps on the carp, again he fights off his buddies, and won’t share. He fills up and flies off. Third Buzzard, still left with a decent amount of dead fish, starts in. He takes on the tail end, and allows two other Buzzards to join him. All except one little Buzzard. He still sits to the side biding his time. I feel so sad for him. A distant boat roars its motor and all the buzzards fly off, all except the rejected one. He is clueless- I guess he doesn’t hear the boat, or maybe he hears the boat but is so interested in the fish that he takes his chances. He is the courageous buzzard. He now has the entire fish to himself. The boat makes more noise. The little buzzard glaces up, but continues his nibbling. He is eating a huge fish without interference. I consider that he is so hungry that he is going to chance it, but he takes his time, eats and eats- must be filling up, but still, new noises and threats do not deter him. Yes, he is not a stupid buzzard or a particularly starved buzzard. He is the Brave Buzzard! He ends up with the most fish, and eats without angst. Of course, he could be a she, I can’t concern myself with sex as I watch this sweet buzzard, the most rejected buzzard, lowest rung on the ladder, bottom of the pecking order buzzard, enjoy his/her exquisite beach front dining experience. In this case, courage trumped brawn. The big wig buzzard had flown off with the others. Big wig or not, he still left the dinner table in fright. It is possible that the “courageous” buzzard who stayed on was simply slow, maybe deaf- or understood on some level that the boat noise was not an safety issue. I choose to believe that I was able to witness the beauty of a brave buzzard receiving his due! Sweetly, a couple of his friends returned to the scene and my brave buzzard shared his bounty graciously. Oh, I see…he/she was more than brave or dumb-(often the same thing?) – no, my new buzzard hero was an Advanced Buzzard- an enlightened, compassionate, generous buzzard. Let me ponder this lesson.
Woman in Straight-jacket:
I popped a couple of Wellbutrin last night to kick start a mania. Off all drugs for a few months and making a dive, it’s worth a try. If that doesn’t work, I’ll add the Adderol. Thankfully, my manias are controllable. I don’t think I’m Jesus. I don’t fly to Greece to rebuild the Pantheon. I just get through the day without the stabbing physical pain of consciousness. Some depressives describe depression as an all-over body ache, an anvil pressing against their heart, the tightening of a sieve around their head, a first-degree burn behind their eyes. Wretched thoughts are the least of it. Any idiot can control negative thoughts with simple cognitive exercises found in an Oprah reviewed self-help book. I am worthy. I deserve to exist. Everything is okay. I am not to blame, but after practicing the positive thinking techniques, and quieting the mind, the body has it’s own mind and it doesn’t respond to the bullshit as easily. The body is a third consciousness that picks up cues far beyond the reach of rationalization. It doesn’t give a shit if I’m worthy and deserve to exist. It doesn’t care if everything is okay.
A drug, in this case, Wellbutrin, even as a placebo, can stop the physical pain of sadness. In fact, it can calm the body even if the mind continues to insist that life is not worth living. If your body feels good you don’t care if life is worth living or not. You can go out for a pizza, take a bath, read a magazine, without the burning coals of
Hells kitchen under your feet.
No, I do not work for a pharmaceutical company. I just believe that the body-mind connection, though real, is not dependable. I know that the mind controls the body, alters the chemical cocktails and adjusts the hormonal thermostat. But if somebody takes an iron frying pan and slams you over the head, the mind can’t stop the bleeding. Depression is a well aimed frying pan.
If you don’t have a job you can’t take a vacation. I don’t work so I can’t take any time off. I am constantly not working, day in and day out, year in and year out and the monotony of it wears on me. If you don’t work a job you are usually working in other ways that are much more exhausting. Not only that, you don’t get paid. If you think that not working is easy, give it a try. The mind and body were not built for leisure, and they rebel against it. You will fidget and worry and piddle-diddle around with various projects and find yourself neck deep in half-assed projects that need to be finished. You don’t have time to finish them because you don’t have a job and you don’t need to be anywhere in the morning, so you can sleep in or get up and lounge around procrastinating, and soon it’s 5pm and all you’ve done is create another half-assed project that you can’t finish because you aren’t working. A job brings numerous benefits, the least being the paycheck, the best being a structure, scaffolding for your life from which you offshoot. Without a foundation, a building falters, and in this case the building is your life, the foundation your job, whether you hate or love it, plan to quit or climb the ladder. Lousy or good job- both potential springboards.
Artists speak of their “work” – and work it is, but work is not considered work without a paycheck. Cash doesn’t count either. There must be a paycheck and a pay stub and an acknowledgement from the government, as they garnish your wages, that your work is valued monetarily. Manual labor is sometimes immune to this rule. Digging a ditch is work, paycheck or not. Digging your own grave is the ultimate expression of meaningful work. You are attending to the inevitable, the place you will go when you are, finally, on vacation.
My friends think I’m a bum because I don’t get a paycheck. Well, not exactly. I get a check from the government because I am disabled. I am disabled because I cannot work. I cannot work because I cannot wear pantyhose. I cannot wear pantyhose because it makes me insane. I am insane therefore I am unemployable. I am unemployable because I am disabled. I cannot work because I am too busy working. I cannot work because my number one life priority is freedom. Freedom is Uncle Sam’s middle name, so he on some level understands which is why he pacifies people like me with 700 bucks a month. Otherwise we would take to the streets and rob the drugstores blind.
My psychiatrist suggested Social Security Income, i.e. disability, because he considered my depression disabling on a global scale. I questioned my ability, as a white, educated woman, to pay inspection. The disability interview that applicants of SSI are required to endure. My psychiatrist said, don’t worry. With the letter I write for you, they’ll take heed.
I went to the interview dressed in skirt, blouse and pantyhose. I walked into government office in the pantyhose and sat down regally, with purse set primly on my starched and ironed polyester lap. When they called my number, I stood tall and waltzed with confidence and elegance to the desk of a government employee whose job it was to decide whether I was insane.
I don’t remember the questions I was asked. The female government employee, wearing the same blouse and skirt, looked over my psychiatrist’s letter and said, “Looks like you’ve had a difficult time.” She expected me to extrapolate. I did not.
I worked against type, as I had learned in my Sanford Meisner acting classes.
“Well, no not really” I answered. “I think my psychiatrist is prone to exaggeration.”
“In what way?” She was now in confrontational mode. I was not following protocol. I was, I expect, supposed to blubber and start speaking in tongues.
“I think, actually, that I am merely misunderstood. I feel I am perfectly able to work if given the right opportunity.”
“What opportunity might that be?” she asked.
I smiled demurely and took a Kleenex out of my pocketbook. I held the Kleenex to an eye.
“If only I could give as I want to give, to the people who are truly disabled? Who truly need guidance. I am very good with children, for example, and also very good with older people. Do you offer any employment placement services here?”
That was it. She circled something at the bottom of the form. Stapled it to the psychiatrist’s letter, threw it into her outbox and leaned towards me.
“Thank you for coming in. We’ll be in touch.”
A few weeks later I received a check for 723 dollars. I am still receiving checks for 723 dollars each month under the stipulation that I remain too insane to work, too insane to improve, to insane to rebel, but not too insane to need more than 723 dollars a month to live on.
Man in a suit:
My law practice, specializing in marital divorce, doesn’t bring in the kind of income I had hoped for. People who want a divorce, at least in Milwaukee, are hiding their money from their spouses and themselves. They are money-poor, money desperate, money motivated. They’ve lost the love they thought would save them, and although they profess relief, it’s an enormous loss to them on a deep level. The deepest level. I get the brunt of that deep level anxiety in that they don’t want to fork over any dough in the process. They just want out. Out, but with some money left over.
They all cry poverty, and being that I’ve been divorced a couple of times, I feel their pain. I take them on, hoping they’ll pay me after the settlement, but that rarely happens. I can’t turn people away. I wasn’t raised that way, neither were my brother and sister, and that’s probably part of the reason we struggle through life like salmon swimming upstream during a severe drought. It’s like this: We don’t like to fuck people over and we don’t like to see people suffer. We don’t like to go to bed at night thinking that we made a buck due to someone’s vulnerability, fear, gullibility or just plain stupidity. The universal stupidity that suggests an old-fashioned trust based on business ethic principals to which every suited ape, you assume, is attuned.
For whatever reason, we Casey’s, with the exception of my sister, would rather be duped than dupe others. It’s not that we’re necessarily fans of Buddhist or Christ like principals, we just don’t want the hassle that being an asshole eventually brings to the fore. It’s selfish, really, and lazy. The ya-da-ya-da sucker-born-every-minute mind-set is a low life attitude and becomes it’s own punishment.
Woman on a hotel stool with Martini:
Sitting at the Taj Hotel bar in Boston with two men and a woman. I’m there on a whim, meeting an old friend for a beer, choosing the hotel because it’s an easy landmark. Martini doused, the two men, one puffy and white, the other thin and Indian, roll through polite conversation towards the subject of profitability.
“I got out of Harvard and hell, I was just a kid, and the opportunity came along, porn films, and I made a shit load of money, but that was a long time ago.”
“Hey, man, I know” says the Indian. “Did the same thing. Still going on. Did you work with Mac Burgess?”
“Well, sure, I guess, think so.”
“Mac’s still with it.”
“I would like to say I’m out of the game. As I said, made shitloads of money. But money runs out.”
I was waiting for a friend that never came. Before I knew it, I was drunk and the Indian was propositioning me.
“You’re a good looking broad. I’ve got some work for you. Want to make a lot of money in one day? “ He put his purple shining mouth next to my ear. “I say, you’re a fine bitch. Wanna make some quick dough?”
The white, puffy Harvard man stirred his martini with his finger and stuck it in his mouth. His eyes were dull and drifting.
“I can’t really say.” he said to himself. “what happened….. I was at Harvard. Not a great student, but not at the bottom. It was different back then, not an issue. Kind of innocent. I was just a kid. I went to L.A. and people gave me a shit-load of money.”
“What do you do now?” I asked, because I wanted to know. I wanted to know how this white, puffy man could afford his Rolex, his alligator shoes, a martini bill in a five star hotel. He looked like an insurance agent.
“I sell insurance.” he answered emotionless. “Easy money.” He added.
The Indian took affront.
“Not as easy as porn, not as much fun” he challenged. “It’s fun, admit it.”
“It was a long time ago” said the Harvard man. “I was a kid.”
I tried an experiment this past week. I decided to not do anything that I didn’t want to do. I found that I wanted to floss my teeth and vacuum out my car, do laundry, go to the library, read Charles Dickens, have my dog tested for Lyme Disease, go for long walks, write a piece for my blog, talk to renters about the house in Vermont, deposit rent checks, attend weight lifting and yoga classes, have a friend over for dinner, move furniture, and doodle around with my oil paints. I did not listen to music, rehearse, learn new songs, call club owners for gigs. I did not return 80 percent of my phone calls. I did not listen to the frenetic clicking in my head, I did not worry. I did not watch the news or listen to the radio. I mostly doodled around. I loved the doodling most of all. Have you doodled lately? Doodling can be painting, writing, sewing, climbing a mountain. It is doodling because it is done only for the sake of itself, to kill time, really. Nothing comes of doodling, except more doodling and a calming of your mind. Your mind, released from the practical, pragmatic schedule of your life. Nothing to do and nowhere to go. The places to go, the things to do, can wait, at least a week. Even if you work at a job you detest, you can doodle at work. The boss doesn’t have to know it. If you are working on a project of no importance which includes filing, typing, copying and conference calls, just doodle your way through it. Typing, just watch your fingers move and press against the keys as though you are massaging the tips of your fingers. Filing, the file cabinet is a Top Secret Department of Wonders, between A and Z – there’s a message and while you’re filing, try to figure it out. If your copying you can always cut and fold some reports so that they look like clouds with words in them. Conference calls, — doodle through them — speak in different accents, or try remaining silence when the other party or parties assume you will speak. Lower the bar. Raise the bar. There IS no bar, so you can doodle with it. Better yet, quit your job and join a tent city. Responsibilities? If you die tomorrow, everybody you are responsible for will make out just fine. Let them start making out just fine now, while you’re still alive. My doodling makes me remember that everything I do is basically insignifigant, so why not doodle instead? What’s the difference between doodling and singing in a gay bar for 100 dollars? Doodling is more productive in that it is effortless, relaxing, immediate, Doodling allows your inner true self to emerge — to swim up through the muck of who you think you are, want to be, were, or never were and never will be, but who cares? Nobody. Nobody cares. That is their gift to you. Take it.
Very simple. Expensive wine, for the most part, tastes better than cheap wine. Same goes with cheese, olives, steak, vegetables, dog food, crackers. The economic crisis came about because greedy people made a rational decision to eat Brie instead of Velvetta. When you see an opportunity to make enough money to buy as much brie and good champagne as you desire, there is no logical reason to ignore that opportunity. Hot tubs, massages, trips to Singapore, first-class leg room, egyptian cotton sheets, a smooth ride, safe tires, a crackling fireplace, pain-killers when you have a backache, soft cashmere against your winter worn skin. Who among us would not choose comfort over discomfort if we had the chance?
Lots of people had the chance and they took it. Some, like Madoff, went nuts, obsessing about the End Game, when the lush towels and ocean front mansions would be forfeited, All the more reason to live large and hoard the universal goodies before the curtain came down. Others danced on the border of greed, me included. Although I live on less than 15,000 a year, I felt the pull of indulgence and the joy of quality. Instead of giving 20 dollars a month to the ASPCA, I chose to waste that money on a pair of designer tights one month, two bunches of tulips another month. I am no different, really, than Madoff. And neither are you. If we think we can get away with something, we take advantage, unless our moral instincts kick in.
Our moral instincts shift to support our ever-changing desires and rationalizations. We hardly notice it. We want to live and live well, keep discomfort at bay, and consider ourselves good people at every turn. I believe that we are good but I know that good cheese tastes better than cheap cheese. This is why I believe in Obama’s governmental intervention strategy. This is why I am not a Republican. We need Daddy to help us do the right thing. I, for one, won’t do it by myself.