Thursday, October 27, 2011

Haunted Houses

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o'er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O'er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, October 10, 2011

News from the Front

Kiva's report from Occupy Portland:

We had a spontaneous march from the village yesterday. As we walked and chanted, I found myself calling to people on the street: "Come join us! We love you! Come join us, friends! You're part of the 99%, too! It's your money, your government, and your liberties, too! Come join the revolution, friends!" Not many people joined, but some did. Others leaned out their car windows and called support and promised to be there as soon as they got off work. By the time we got back to camp, Lapis and I were both frog-voiced from screaming.

I brought down my laptop with a sign hanging from it that read: "NEED INTERNET? JUST ASK." I ran mobile support for various booths. Info used my computer to communicate with other groups for a few hours. Library used it to pull information for the sign makers. Media didn't need it. Media tent is pretty well set up. I stopped by info to offer services again, and realized there was a camera pointed towards the booth, so I stepped out of the way.

"Wait," the news reporter called, "can we get a shot of your sign?" Feeling absurdly embarrassed, I turned my hip and showed them the bag. "How are you offering internet?" she asked.

"There's wifi hotspots all over the place," I pointed out. "The courthouse has free wifi. Basically, I'm just here to help out however I can." I began to feel uncomfortable with the camera on me, made a joke about iPhones, and wandered away.

The Community Village is beautiful. There's bureaucratic organization for people who need that. You can go to info and tell them you would like to help out and they will set you up with a committee. I did not do that. At one point, I looked into the kitchen and saw two people scrubbing dishes in a three-sink set-up out of bus tubs. When I looked back, there was only one and the other had gone on break, I just handed my backpack to Lapis, walked back and put on an apron.

I didn't ask anyone, I just started washing dishes. I've worked three-sinks out-of-doors before. Shit, that was all we did at Youth Corps. It was easy to figure out where food donations went, where other things were needed. After about fifteen minutes (Maybe fifteen minutes? I'm guessing there.) I had the kitchen figured out, knew the names of the Sani Boys and Girls, and was basically happy as a pig in shit. It was very organic. Help was needed there and I'm kitchen. That's what everyone was doing all day, just helping where they knew how to help.

There are so many donations of food that we are now looking for off-site storage. There are sleeping bags, coats, sweaters, mittens, scarves, piled up. They are building a bicycle-powered power generator van. There were things yesterday that impressed me, things that touched me, things that inspired me, and things that made me smile. Kids with red-tape crosses on their shirt working for medical handing out cough drops, hand warmers, and vitamin C to everyone. A young woman with an unstoppable smile doing an amazing hula hoop number to a Wu Tang song. The 'mic check' method at Soapbox is an incredible idea. Whenever someone speaks at General Assembly, they speak slowly and clearly, and the crowd repeats back what they say. We all speak together with one voice, and then vote.

Every now and then someone would come up and ask me if I wanted a break, and I kept saying, "I'm good, ask me in about thirty minutes." I was stuck in The Game, the one where I try to "Beat the Dishes" and get ahead of them. People kept dropping off their plates, and so I started scrubbing faster and faster. Finally, I got ahead of the pile, cheered for myself, and looked up. It had grown dark.

I had been washing dishes, according to Lapis, for two hours. I found that out after I reconnected with her over at the Soapbox where the General Assembly was taking place. We walked back through the village, said hello to some of the wonderful marathon organizers, and then walked down to join the signs on the road.

I felt strangely high on all the elation that hovered over the camp. But there weren't any drugs or alcohol involved. It's weird. It was like being on acid because it was so surreal and perfect and peaceful. Suddenly, Lapis and I (who had both screamed ourselves hoarse earlier) started bellowing, "Show me what democracy looks like!" while the crowd chanted back, "This is what democracy looks like!" It got louder and louder and louder. Every car that passed us had a fist raised out the window, horns blaring.

No violence. No tension. It works in Portland. It's so incredible down there.

That doesn't mean that it's not also, in some ways, frustrating. The ninety-nine is a lot of people, a lot of different kinds of people. As the evening wore on, I had an odd moment. Soapbox, located in Chapman Park, was the site of the GA. They were trying to vote on how to vote. They were trying to decide how to vote on how to vote. It was a little too surreal for me and I walked away.

I walked a downward sloping path to the street where the sign-wavers were getting the support of pretty much the entire city of Portland. A gaggle of tipsy, preppy college girls came skittering out of a bar on a scream of giggles and someone called to them to come join us. And they did. They were handed signs while they laughed without comprehending, which was weird. I was standing next to them when one squawked, "Oh-my-gawd, what are we doing?" With genuine confusion. Another was gesturing for her to hold up her sign while pointing a little camera at her.

"We're in a protest now!" she squealed.

"What is it about?" Another wailed in confusion.

One was thoughtfully reading the sign she'd been handed. I think I saw her lips moving.

It was a little too surreal for me. This was their revolution, too. They weren't billionaires. They had been marginalized, forgotten, and abused by corporations as well. Still, there was a seed of unease in my stomach.

I started to walk back up to the GA, dreading what I would find, but halfway along the path bumped into a girl with some chalk drawing on the ground. Some squares she filled with designs. Other designs and phrases she laid down without paying attention to the lines between the bricks of the path. I sat on the bench and watched her draw and write messages. I felt much calmer.

Still, it was one of those moments in my life where the world was playing itself out in metaphor for me. I'm bringing my sketchbook today and will try to use some of what I've learned in my drawing class to accurately draw the camp. The sea of tents, the instruments, the kitchen, the projects they are already setting up, these are all amazing things. Lapis is bringing her camera, but last night showed me that I am happiest working with art. I need to chronicle this revolution in my own way.

You guys should come down. It reminds me a lot of early childhood, that feeling of community that was there with the GDF and the Rainbow Family. But it's not just, y'know, hippies. It's everyone, and they're all being conscious of one another, respectful to one another, and kind to one another. It's a natural community.

The complete lack of violence and the cooperation between the mayor's office, the marathon runners, and the protesters has been utterly mind-blowing. In Seattle, security guards are using pepper spray, in New York there is video of them swinging batons at people's heads, but in Portland everything is peaceful and supportive. Maybe as time wears on, tensions will grow, but so far it's been off to a fantastic start.


Saturday, October 8, 2011


Our vocabulary word for today, boys and girls, is Desuetude:

des·ue·tude   /ˈdɛswɪˌtud, -ˌtyud/. Noun. The state of disuse or inactivity. That which is no longer used.

My body has been in a state of desuetude for the last four days. I spent last weekend soaking up music and sun and ocean breezes during our annual sojourn at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park. I estimate that I put about 5-10 miles on these old bones each day, easily. On top of that, I spent a good portion of each day shaking my bones to the likes of Irma Thomas, Ruthe Foster, Del McCoury and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Robert Plant for crissakes; how can a girl not shake her ass to Robert Plant? I don't care how old he is, that voice penetrates me to my core. Sunday was the capper. I danced like a dervish to Devil Makes Three at Arrow Stage and practically ran to the Star Stage to catch Dr. John and the Lower 911. A bunch of little hippie girls and I danced a second line in the late summer dust and I led the parade; those little girls couldn't keep up. It's been a long times since I've danced up a dust cloud and left blisters on my bare feet. This old girl has a few steps left in her soles. I was twirling in the dirt, shaking my skirt, sweaty, caked, sated. Took me way back to the old days campers; it felt good.

Blistered and sun burned, we drove the 300 mile trip home on Monday. I went to work first thing Tuesday morning and walked into a veritable shit storm at the office. Worked like a field hand until 5 pm, left the office and ran straight across the street to sound check for Jesse's "Covers for a Cause" Green Show. Jesse, Bob Hackett and I tore the place down with a medley of mountain tunes. I played till 7:30 and by the time I got home, I had a runny nose. Clearly, my body had had enough.

My immune system called a general strike. I woke up Wednesday morning sick as a dog. I'm talking dizzy, sneezy, sniffly, feverish, completely unable to function sick. I haven't been that sick in years. I missed work for the rest of the week. I very rarely take sick leave, but I could barely make it down the stairs, much less drive to town. For the first time in my musical career, I had to back out of a gig on Friday. I was laid low.

I'm finally upright again, functioning at about 60%. I guess I found my limit. But, if that's the price of dancing like a wild woman in the dust like I'm 22 again, I'll pay it and gladly.