Category Archives: Writing
[read time: 5 mins, 35 sec]
A late night steady rain crept across the lake, sending me into a deep slumber, and when I woke in the bright morning, I was fine.
If one is adherant to Western horoscope, he would blame my ordeal on Taurean stubbornness. An adherant to scientific methodology would deem it a qualitative and quantitative result of an ongoing hypothesis. The thing is this: I know what I am experiencing, and I know what causes it, but to explain it to the “normals” is as fun as banging one’s head against the wall.
But, for documentation’s sake, and the fact I’ll be meeting with a state “vocational rehabilitation counselor” next Tuesday, I’ll do my best to explain the series of events leading up to incapacitation. (And yes, ‘vocational rehabilitation counselor’ sounds just as convincing as an ultra-conservative Christian anti-gay group’s ‘relationship counselor’. Like how their contingency swears there’s a way to un-gay you, seems the state has a plan to un-disable me. Hmm. Enough digressing.)
Let’s use a simple metaphor: I am a sponge. The moment I exit the Treehouse, I start to absorb my environment; children yelling as they play, chatter between neighbors, what qualifies as music from a passing car. Slightly sogged, I enter my truck and head to whatever venue or errand, and, once there, I absorb more. By the time I get back to the Treehouse, I’m so saturated I have to do things like meditate, turn off all electronics, sit in silent darkness, just to wring out. Sometimes an hour helps, sometimes, I need days. I don’t know what specifically in the environment or of society saturates me, I just know, this is a constant.
On occasion, I’ll cooperate in a local event to get my art out there, put face to written word, pal around with fellow artists. I have to be careful, because the saturation can enter hyper mode: too much face time, too much surrounding dialogue, too many new energies, then I start to feel boggy. Knowing the trend I compensate, one event a month should be enough. Of the calendar month, I need only spend four hours in extreme environmental disarray, a small torture for a fine opportunity.
But, thinking I could handle it, I booked back to back events, causing the inevitable no-one’s-fault-but-my-own consequences. By SunLit Festival’s Lucha Libro, it started: disorientation, inflammation, clammy skin, symptoms very similar to the flu. By the time my poet friend and I met at Galerie 909 the next day, I was feeling hot, dizzy, my joints, burning. That was the last day I was on my feet and lucid.
It got scary there for a bit, so I called my general practitioner, which I knew was a crap shoot. When you don’t have health insurance, doctors don’t necessary come running to assist. I waited two days for his callback, only to hear him say, “Not my area of expertise,” then advised me to call another center. There was a queue for appointments, so I followed the automated instructions, leaving the proper information in voice message form. As of this composition, no one has called to confirm.
“Von, you’re an idiot,” you’re thinking. “Take some pain medication, you’ll be right as rain!” Here’s the problem with that: You know all those side effect warnings they list during an AstraZeneca commercial? I’m the person who experiences each one, in full, vibrant, discombobulating color. Prescription pain medications cannot be an option. Alcohol has to be avoided. Anti-depressants, as I’ve chronicled in earlier posts, interfere with my well-being.
The answer is simply, balance. Do-Be-Do-Be, as Professor Amit Goswami says. The moment I get going I start doing that, “I gotta…I gotta…I gotta…” mantra which slides me way too far from serenity. Only in a serene state can I poet, can I compose, can I enjoy music. I gotta Be just as much as I gotta Do, and, as my crone advises me constantly, “You ain’t gotta Do a damn thing.”
But the normals, they don’t comprehend that. If you’re not out there, if you’re not center stage, if you’re not on the mic, if you’re not coordinating projects, then you’re not working. You’re not contributing. You’re more burden than boon.
What I’ve been trying to advocate with this website and through wordcraft is that the disabled aren’t a burden. We can produce in the capitalistic sense if we are given leeway to create constructively, and that is, in the manner we know is positive for us, as long as what we engage in does not harm others or ourselves.
Despite knowing my limitations, I pushed myself too far, resulting in a very excruciating physical ordeal. A concerned friend sent a text, “Is it depression?” to which I responded, “Depression can’t find a seat at the table right now.” So if anything, let’s post that as a win! I didn’t let my incapacitation drive me into melancholy. I fought, silently, by resting. When my eyes worked, I read. When I could move, I sat in the sunlight. The irony of this beastly affliction: occurring during the first full sunny warm week of Spring in Florida.
I missed listening to the talented David Warner reading, “A Tale of Two Brians” at SunLit Festival’s Fiction Live! I’m so sad about that still, that story, so important and personal to me. But the reactions have been positive, and maybe, crossing fingers, someone liked it so much it’ll be commissioned for further production.
Absurd, isn’t it? I want my art to get out there, but in order for that to happen, I gotta get out there, but my sponginess makes it hard to stay out there, makes it difficult to share my craft.
Let’s see what these rehab folks gotta say about it.
Now this was a cool event. This unique pub crawl, arranged by Wordier Than Thou, a local literary organization, and hosted by businesses in downtown St Pete’s Grand Central District, featured published writers reading from diverse works as the audience enjoyed drink specials and grub! As the night grew later, our presence on the mics were a bit confusing to the normal barflies. I personally found our district occupation revolutionary!
My contribution was a challenge because the cafe did not have a working sound system, so I stage projected my voice for a full 15 minutes! Going from rarely speaking to performance delivery hurt like a muthafucka, but love is pain, and I love to share from my novel, I Blew Up Juarez. :)
Some photos and videos; more can be found on Facebook and at Wordier Than Thou’s YouTube page.
Do not drink kratom right before a performance:
Keeping St Pete Literary:
Wanna play the I Blew Up Juarez Drinking Game? The 12 minute interactive video is posted on the Facebook Page. Go Like and enjoy (alcohol not necessary but highly recommended)
Continuing this week’s exploration of the artistic struggle, I thought it’d be fun to dig through the crates, find a composition about “struggling,” and explore the emotions and events which evoked the piece. I shall take the phenomenological approach and react first, then reflect.
How old was I when I composed this? 2006…it’s 2015 now…that puts me at 29 years of age. Ooh! What a particularly conflicting year. End of February-beginning of March-ish, I had received an acceptance letter from The Graduate School at Penn State University. I was absolutely stoked, so stoked that I jumped onto my motorcycle, burned it to the job site, found my co-worker/secret lover, pulled him aside, and whispered, “I’ve got some big news!” expecting him to be proud of what I was about to relay.
Oh gosh, I remember being filled with excitement, wide eyed and eager to announce this achievement. Emotionally, I was still in that phase of thinking guys I’m fucking care about me as a person, so of course, when he interpreted my excitement as something regarding him and his mediocre achievements in the workplace, I was stunned! Clearly it had to do with me, how is he making it about him??
Dumb silly cunt I was.
The acceptance letter meant two things: one, despite being away from academia for seven years, my past academic achievements coupled with my professional achievements validated a Masters candidacy at one of the top three research facilities in the country, possible PhD if I was so emboldened. Second, my professional achievements since high school had risen me to executive leadership qualification, and all I needed was a Master in something to FINALLY break through The Glass Ceiling.
But again… dumb silly cunt I was.
Instead of taking his lack of care as a cue to tell him to fuck off, I collapsed into a depression. I recall taking a day off to make a three day weekend (I would fake physical illnesses because I was too embarrassed to admit my mental disorder then) and I sat there, a pajama pity party in full swing, writing sad, woe-is-me, nobody-loves-me poetry.
Thank the Universe for Penn State! And thanks to Spirit for trumping Ego, because I’m certain if Ego wrote back to Penn State, Ego would’ve said, “Thanks but I need to work on my career/desperate need for male affection right now.”
Spirit wrote an enthusiastic confirmation letter back, and in August 2006, I moved to State College, PA and became a Nittany Lion.
Reflecting on this poem now, I’m glad I kept it. It demonstrates the inner turmoil of the futility of trying to please Society. I did everything right, I followed all the rules, I followed all definitions of “success,” and despite all my sacrifices, I was not worthy of unconditional love.
It’s what comics fondly call “IGDI Girl.” I had Daddy Issues, but not with my father; it was the macro issue of having excelled in traditionally masculine roles as a woman. At the time, I was the only female salaried employee in the entire division. I ran a crew of twelve, all men. They took orders from me, orders I relayed straight from the executive director, whose weekly meetings I attended and contributed to. The acceptance letter was another stroke on the masculine tally board: I was going for a Master of Science in an economics concentration, not the stuff for girls.
I was 29, single, well-paid, no babies, I owned a sedan and a motorcycle, and I lived in an exclusive condominium. I was living the life!
A man’s life.
Critiquing this poem, I realize in bright technicolor the why of the matter…what man would want a woman who’s better at being a man than he is?
No wonder I was lonely…
I was raised an American.
I physically developed, formulated a personality, practiced social graces, and made friends living abroad, almost entirely outside of the United States of America.
Beyond America, as an American, no one gave a shit if your father was this race, your mother was that ethnicity, and certainly, without a hometown to tout, nobody cared which city/town/state in America your people came from. The determinant of a shared drink at the bierstübe or an all-out beat down was simple: conciliatory manners, meaning, demonstrating respect towards the culture one is ensconced in, for the sake of peace. This is how I came to understand “relationship building.”
Thus, my confusion when I arrived on these shores to find the Americans acting rather…feral…towards each other. As soon as I smiled hello, the marginalization began: What are you? What are your parents? Where do they come from? What neighborhood do you live in? Marginalizing box after box after box instead of just a, ‘nice to meet you’ in response. I thought it was a phase, but, twenty-three years later, that fervent need to make a person fit in a narrow-minded box is still definitive Americana.
Artistically, my race/sex/ethnicity/nationality/sexuality/etc does not matter. I have voiced men, I have voiced South Asians, I have voiced transsexuals through my artistry. It’s because I allow myself to be infused by these cultures that these stories and poems manifest, and manifest with respect to the attributes of the culture.
As an independent author, I had to manage my own marketing, so I tried assimilating into the literary world fold without utilizing Americanism, because it belittles me. If I’m only an [adjective] author, then I’m saying my art is only valuable to [adjective] people, which would be me belittling my target audience, the global community!
The last two months During the summer of 2014, I did decent with general sales but abysmal in representing my work without getting forced into a social cubby-hole. I incurred derogatory statements regarding my sex, my race, my ethnicity, and those statements then erroneously defined the quality of my novel.
While I try to respect the perspective of those who protect their “-ness,” I won’t allow my principles to be subjugated to the -ness. Does that make sense? That’s not my crutch; that’s that person’s crutch, and I needn’t lean on it. Here’s a sample of that:
There was an opportunity for I Blew Up Juarez to be featured in one of Tampa Bay’s [adjective] bookstores. This [adjective] bookstore, according to its owner, is the signature bookstore for the area’s [adjective] community. As well, the owner was a contributing committee member for a major area festival celebrating the [adjective] community, and she was THE person to talk to in order to be a featured artist in that festival. Struck gold, right?
The bookstore owner felt her endorsement of my work would be integral to achieving success in the Greater Tampa Bay reading community. It was here in the conversation I started to experience trepidation, as I observed her mentally pushing four boards together around me in the middle of her shop.
A bystander to our conversation felt compelled to declare, “We need to support all [adjective] authors!” He nodded heavily, proud of this statement. He supplemented his declaration by talking about inspiring the future generation of [adjectives], and the struggles of being [adjective].
Very rah-rah-rah this guy! I saw an opportunity and replied, “Thank you for that! I have copies in my car, would you like to purchase one?”
He blinked at me.
He looked at the bookstore owner.
The bookstore owner burned eyes into him.
He looked back to me and declared, “I wasn’t going to buy a book today.”
I retrieved my review copy of I Blew Up Juarez from her weeks later, as it became more evident her intentions were to puppet my [adjective] self, not my artist self. Even if she was a fellow [adjective] person in the literary community, she behaved like a complete asshole.
Unfortunately, it is socially expected to accept marginalization and profitable to -ness it up.
It’s disparaging, but…I suppose I’m the only one who sees it that way.
*: original post 06.24.2014 – edited content and toned down cynicism