Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Cosmic Chord

Driving home long after midnight, a great meteorite rumbled into view and across the sky. Long and slow, its path could be timed in full seconds. It looked more like a burning bus than a shooting star. Sick, sore, but sated, I followed it home.

Sometime during the second set last night, the afterburners kicked in. My throat was shot but I latched onto Joe's energized tempo and sang my way up and over the tightness. I am voiceless today, spent, but last night was well worth it.

Who would I be if I lost my voice? If I lost my ability to speak, to sing, could I cope? I genuinely don't know. I saw Pete Seeger on TV not long ago. This man who inspired so many with his clear, powerful voice could barely whisper. He managed to croak out a few words before raising his hands like a conductor and urging his audience to sing for him. Of course they did, with nary a dry eye in the house. He can get away with that; he's Pete Seeger for god's sake. 

The time will come when I am reduced to a croak and I fear it will happen long before I'm 90. If I raise my hands, who will sing for me?

Losing my voice would not necessarily mean losing my words. I could still think, write, communicate.  But words aren't nearly enough. Singing transcends simple communication. It is deeper than sex, purer than love, mystical in its ability to align body, mind and spirit with the great harmony of the cosmos. It's as close as I come to the divine.

When I sing with someone else, when I find someone who can match his voice with mine, it is such a profound feeling that it's easy to mistake it for something else. It feels like holy communion, but it's not. It's just harmony. It doesn't have a deeper meaning than that.

Perhaps there is no deeper meaning. When I sing in harmony, I am aligned with the universal order. I channel the great cosmic chord. It is profound. It is enough.

My body will fail, my voice will fail, my words will slip away on the wind leaving no trace. But, the great harmony abides. It transcends me, enlarges me, connects me with something greater.

According ot the second law of thermodynamics, energy cannot be created or destroyed, just converted from one form to another.  When I die, I hope my life force is coverted to a clear note within the cosmic chord and I spend eternity vibrating with the music of the spheres.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Sometimes all you can do is wait. And breathe. And trust.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Heaven and Hell

I think it was when I saw the toddler dancing in the dive bar that I began to fear we were all going to burn in hell.

I’m not a fire and brimstone kind of a gal, perhaps because I am incredibly privileged, ridiculously blessed. My petty problems are not dire enough to instill fear of a wrathful creator, but that doesn't mean I haven't heard the rumors.  The Christian God will be here any minute now to rapture the righteous up to heaven, leaving trembling, empty sneakers in his wake.  The rest of us get to suffer through seven years of tribulation before our fiery demise, or something like that.  It sounds more like the plot of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie than a concrete possibility, but far be it from me to judge another's spiritual belief system. Live and let live, says I.

So, I was surprised at feeling a definite heaven v. hell vibe during my recent weekend in Cripple Creek Colorado, where I attended an old friend’s wedding.  The vast majority of the weekend was downright divine.  Friends and family traveled from all over the country to bask in the glow of the couple’s radiant love. A beautiful altar was built and consecrated on a pristine mountaintop under a crystal blue sky.  Heartfelt words were spoken, hands were fasted, songs were sung, feasts were served. Both sets of parents were genuinely overjoyed at the union and the guests were lovely, funny and kind.  Cripple Creek is located at about 9,500 feet elevation, so we were all intoxicated on oxygen deprivation and, after partying till 3:00 every night, stoned on sleep deprivation.  Moved and delighted, I laughed, wept, sang, danced.  It was remarkable.

But there was this other vibe, too.  The wedding party took over a hotel converted from a former Catholic hospital. Originally built in the 1890s, this maze-like, towering pile sits atop a ridiculously steep hill crowned with a large cross. Heavily wallpapered and furnished with faux antiques, one of the guest rooms was a former operating theater rumored to be populated by the ghosts of 19th century surgeries.  The whole place was bit creepy. 
Creepy is cool; I love a little creepy. But the wedding reception bordered on something almost diabolical.  Cripple Creek, a charming old mining-town straight out of central casting, legalized gambling about 20 years ago.  The beautiful brick buildings lining the main street house Reno-style casinos with flashing slot machines and baize card tables.  The reception was held in the only bar in town that is not a casino tourist trap, the place where the locals go to unwind.  Ritzy it is not; in fact, it is a genuine dive.  Furnished with shuffleboard tables, air hockey tables, pool tables and blinking neon signs, it smelled strongly of beer. The floor was sticky. Rickety table legs were shimmed with match books.  It was a dump.

The regulars were an eclectic, front-teeth optional lot. Sobriety was non-existent. Apparently, young people are allowed in bars in Colorado as long as they don’t drink. (Yeah, right.)  There were any number of teenagers wandering in packs. One young mother brought her tow-headed toddler, a kid named Thomas, who may be the biggest Hamfist-fan ever.  He stood in front of the makeshift stage bobbing and weaving like Ali in the ring.  His rhythm and tempo were impeccable.  The groom began to dance with him and threw in a little kick move.  The kid picked right up on it and threw in his own. He was adorable. You know me, there’s nothing in the world I love more than a toddler, so I reached across the mic stands and brought him up onstage with us. He really got the crowd moving. 

But, ultimately, he was a toddler rolling around on the filthy floor of a dive bar late on a Saturday night.  Lord knows, I dragged my kids to some questionable places. They went to plenty Dead shows and stayed up late at camping parties.  But, I don’t think I ever took them out dancing in dive bars.
Well, maybe I did and have blocked it.  I was a pretty irresponsible parent.

Meanwhile, several of the local mountain men were making comments about one of the bridesmaids, a tall, black, flamboyantly gay man named Tariq. Not that Tariq gave a shit; he let his freak flag fly with grace and beauty.  After the band finished playing, he plugged in his IPhone and started dancing to Beyonce. One of the drunkest, most dentally-challenged locals was smitten.  He began to dance, moving nearer and nearer to Tariq. As his dance became more of a grind, Tariq egged him on without letting him make contact, causing shrieks of laughter from the bride and her maids. At that, the locals poured out onto the dance floor, Thomas rolling among their feet. 
Taking a break at the bar, I watched a local news report on a large sinkhole that had opened up on the only highway out of town, cutting us off from the rest of the world. 

Outside the  front window, emergency lights were flashing.  I stepped out and caught a whiff of something sulphuric.  A couple of firemen walked up and down the street, sniffing the air.  I gave one a raised eyebrow and asked, "is everything alright?" but he didn't reply.

A large crowd of people stood smoking on the sidewalk, seemingly oblivious to the  scent of hell. I kept expecting to see tails and cloven hooves. Inside, Beyonce exhorted all the single ladies to put your hands up. Thomas rolled on the floor.

Later that night we laid in the driveway outside the haunted hospital on the hill and watched the Perseid meteor shower send burning strings down from the sky, as if to incinerate us where we lay.

Shall we call it a weekend of extremes? 

And, I haven't even written about my encounter with my own ghost of Colorado Springs.  But, that's a story for another time, campers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It's too late for me, save yourself!

 I have this overwhelming, unnatural urge and, for once in my life, it's not illegal, immoral or fattening.