I Might Not Be the Sharpest Tool, But I’m the Brightest Bulb.

10 Feb

Given the succession of blizzards currently savaging DC, I’m stranded in Minnesota for the next couple of days. It’s a good chance to catch up on these entries, yes?

I’ve been thinking a lot about light as a metaphor. Enlightenment, the light of religion, the light at the end of the tunnel, light as the opposite of heavy. Light as a synonym for grace, for what humans emit when we do good. I talk to my friends these days and I hear the burden of winter on their voices. It’s an especially stark contrast when I’m calling the East Coast from, say, sunny California. Plus I’m on the road, traveling as lightly as possible, living without the same burdens of ownership and responsibility (that, for many, have only gained weight with the current recession). But we on the road are vulnerable to every shift in the wind. That’s why it matters so much to find real havens along the way.

Two descriptions of the Foxy House, from those who’ve been:

1. A sort of psychic rehab where people wander when they need their hearts sewn back together. A spiritual halfway house, if you like.

2. “Anything you want it to be, anything you need it to be.”

These are, essentially, the same answer. Over the course of my Foxy week, I saw Jess and the others play therapist, nutritionist, stylist, and clown for the most random array of humankind. What I wanted and needed while I was there was a slightly insane but genuinely loving surrogate family that relished art and laughter as much as I did, a home with doors always open, where folks wouldn’t try to control or judge me, but who would allow my light to breathe. That’s exactly what I got. I didn’t mention some of the best moments – talking about being bicultural with Nora, talking anime with Keith, and more, because they’re too many to count, and I’ve gushed a lot as it is. Just go to Vancouver, go see for yourself.

***

INTERLUDE: My Favorite Animated Series

Everybody needs downtime. We creative types love self-flagellation (because it’s just another excuse to touch ourselves), and not working hard or often enough is our favorite reason for it. Yes, it’s important to be committed and as disciplined as possible, but part of the creative process is passive. So don’t forget to take time off to let your brain work properly. Go for a walk or a swim or a drive, sew something, volunteer somewhere, go out to trivia night, read, look at art books. It’s okay. Really.

My favorite new downtime activity is watching anime, and I do it whenever I get a chance. I like space cowboys, samurai, and ninja mostly, but I’m open to strong adult series of any caliber. If you’re interested, you can find a lot of them online for free, or check out a good video store. Netflix has some as well. Here are my favorite series to date, in no particular order. Pay attention, Keith!

* Cowboy Bebop: The penultimate space cowboy experience. Christian and I tore through these DVDs back when we were still in college. I’d count this as the first real seed of my love for anime (yeah I was late, you wanna fight about it?), and it remains one of the most elegant series I’ve seen in the years since.

* Samurai Champloo: Panama Soweto recommended this series, and I can never thank him enough for putting me onto it. It’s a super smart, sexy story set in feudal Japan with classic characters, compelling plot, a solid hip hop aesthetic, an abiding respect for Japanese history and traditions, and incredible fight scenes.

* Full Metal Alchemist: I watch the Japanese-language version. Jack Thompson’s obsessed with the English sub. Tomato, tomato. Incredible stuff. Intricate, compelling storyline and characters, good veins of the lighthearted and sinister running concurrently. I can’t recommend this too highly. Ask Jack.

* Black Lagoon: This was Krystal Asche’s suggestion (she has a lot of good ones in the “Boxes” section on her FB page). I simply love it. It breaks away from most conventions of anime, but it’s totally badass and really ballsy outlaw-tastic – and as Krystal herself points out, it features one of the most fearsome, awesome, compelling female leads you’ll find in any series. Yum.

* FLCL: I might lose you here. FLCL gets seriously kooky at points, and there’s a pretty strong sexual undercurrent that might make some folks uncomfortable. The story is short but well-crafted, full of hidden rooms and sudden sunlight. Love it.

* Paranoia Agent: Just finished watching this one, so I might be jumping the gun a little. Since I’m familiar with the mind behind it, though (I watched the feature Perfect Blue at Cooter’s house maybe a year ago), I feel confident recommending this. Hir-ö Hall suggested I try this one on, and it fits, for sure. This is a series done mostly in a realistic style, with brilliant little fissures in the norm as the episodes carry on. I described the PA world as a “subtle dystopia” to a friend a few minutes ago, so that’s what that is.

* Aeon Flux: Broadcast on MTV back before The Real World ruined everything. Terribly sexy, metaphysical, philosophical, creepy, in its short run, Aeon Flux hit just about every psychological pitch possible. Damn, I still miss that show.

* The Maxx: See above, word for word.

***

I took the bus from Vancouver to Seattle where I met up with one of my favorite light knights (as opposed to night lights), Daemond Arrindell.

Daemond.

Daemond would be quick to point out that the legendary Seattle scene doesn’t have a leader. As he told me, it’s a conglomeration of dynamic and creative adults who cooperate to make things happen. He thinks of himself pretty much as a facilitator, I believe. But I think it’s fair to call Daemond the keystone of the Seattle scene. He’s the rock, and he gives love and care to anyone who needs it.

Daemond drove me to his old neighborhood and showed me the Bohemian Gypsy Sky Palace, where he and Gabrielle used to live.

Bohemian Gypsy Sky Palace.

Artists’ houses are sacred places to me, no matter their character, and hearing Daemond reminisce about that place made me smile. I wish I could have seen it. But I know that yesterday’s Bohemian Gypsy Sky Palace is today’s Foxy House, Vox Ferus, or Worcester House. We’re still doing it, people.

We went out for pho, which I hadn’t eaten in years. As usual, I heaped way too much of that luscious chili paste into my bowl, and watched little beads of hot oil slither all over the surface of the soup. I also ordered a Vietnamese coffee, which I promptly overturned on the paper tablecloth (to Daemond’s delight). Our food came with cream puffs! I find it neat that Vietnamese cuisine has elements of both East Asian and Western European culture, epitomized in the popular Vietnamese sandwiches served on baguettes. Sure, we’ve got slavery, genocide, rape, destruction of families and tradition – but who doesn’t love the blues? 😛

WWBD?

Back at Daemond and Inti’s, Karen Finneyfrock joined us for drink and conversation. Karen talked a bit about the strain of putting her manuscript together for Write Bloody. Her pet peeve at that moment was seeing the same metaphor reappear like a poltergeist in poem after poem. That’s certainly another level of professionalism. Meticulous scrutiny of a poem is one thing, but taking stock of one’s body of work in full? *shakes head* You’ve got to be steadfast as Atreyu passing the gates to reach the Southern Oracle. Props to all my peers who’ve put themselves through that process.

Great sleep that night, at home in a Washington far away from the Washington I call home. Damn, it’s too late for a BC/DC joke, innit? hmph.

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