Thursday, November 22, 2012
This fall, Jessica Weinstein and Anonymous Ensemble had the pleasure of presenting LIEBE LOVE AMOUR! At the New Ohio Theater in NYC, The Schaefer Theater in North Carolina, the Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University, and the Cafe Istanbul in New Orleans. Tall Hilda managed to sneak out of the theater and look for her true love at a chapel or two as well.
Sunday, July 8, 2012
The Octopus is the most emotionally developed creature, and can take on the colors and patterns of its surroundings, not just changing as it passes over a color or texture, but actually seeing something from a distance and taking on its colors and patterns. The Octopus mind can think in the ways of the things that it sees. I have heard that if an an octopus is swimming along and on one side it sees a male octopus that it wants to fight with, and on one side a female octopus that it wants to mate with, it can turn one side of its body angry colors, and one side flirty colors.
An Octopus has three hearts. This comes in handy for loving several other spirit animals with all your heart at once. And of course with eight arms...
Octopi can fit into small crevices. Their bodies are adaptable.
Octopi squirt ink to defend themselves. Or to express themselves.
Octopi are highly intelligent.
The Octopus eats its own limbs when stressed. The octopus is trying to get better at this and preserve its lovely long fingers.
The Octopus' travel methods include crawling, walking, jet-propulsion, flying, and swimming.
Yesterday I met another octopus. I asked if it was a sextopus (hoping I was not being too forward) but it explained that no, its other two legs were just hiding behind.
If you look close at the human hand in this picture, you can see my form.
Today I met this big creature. It said it was just a baby, but it was standing on four legs. It had a big pink mouth that was very strong. At first I was afraid, but then I realized that it thought I was its mother. I think it misses its mother. I let it pretend I was its mother for a little while.
Friday, June 1, 2012
I spent some time with the cows, living in a mysterious garden shed, helping calves be born, feeding first bottles, and wrangling a cow to the ground in a headlock while the herdsman reaches the length of his arm into its vagina to remove a retained placenta. There is something so comforting about cows, and something so unbelievable about calves, so fully formed when they are born, just trying to figure out what in the world they are.
I arrive on the slow train, and on the ride to the farm, Sarah tells me about all of the things that are a part of Joel's job as a herdsman. Even though it's a dairy farm and not a meat farm it's a dirty job, sometimes you have to kill calves if they are injured, or you have to pull out rotting retained placentas from cows uteruses, or one time cut a calf's head off en utero with a chain saw. "He can't wait to show you everything!" I am led to the shed where I’ll be staying. It small and simple with a curved wooden ceiling, just big enough for a bed with a quilt on it, and a lantern for light. A couple of horse and buggies pass by in the night, and Sarah explains that it is date night for the Amish. I am awake for a while in my bed, the stars are right outside, the shed doors creak a little. A buggy passes by with a radio playing, renegades! At a certain point I drift off and only wake again when the door suddenly flies wide open. And that's all, stillness and stars, and somewhere in the close but unseen distance, a lot of cows. I leave the door open and fall back asleep, and dream, as the first signs of dawn are arriving, that there is a progression of prehistoric beasts slowly passing by the shed in the pre-dawn light, their silhouettes black against mist, rhinoceri, antelope, dinosaur-like creatures, aurochs. They are on some kind of exodus. A skinny black hyena cat-like creature jumps through the door, dives under the covers, and bites me in the ass. I wake up to bright daylight and Sarah with baby Sophia on her back in the doorway. Sarah shows me the garden, and harvests some rhubarb to cook up for breakfast. I go for a run along a stretch of tilled field that's turned over in big prehistoric clods.
The farm is actually the second biggest organic dairy farm on the East Coast. The calves are separated from their mothers an hour after birth, partly because on larger farms, there is a particular kind of disease that mothers can pass on to their babies. Sarah and I and baby Sophia on piggyback walk through the fields, opening and closing electric fences behind us, you have to make sure to hold on to the plastic handles. We go down to the cow pens, first passing by the maternity pens, and then up a hill to the hutches, where the calves are. They are each chained to their own little hutch. A lot of them buck around nervously as we approach, but one of them wags its tail like dog as we come up, and sucks on our fingers, they've named this calf Happy, it is strangely calm and content and full of joy, basking in the sun, with none of the startled sudden jerkiness of the other calves. At the next pen, there are heifers, and they all come over when we shovel feed up to the edge of the their pen, their heads and orange numbered earrings sticking out through the bars. We go down to a field of big cows. Sarah says she might not usually go in alone with Sophia on her back in case they all charge, but she trusts that I will be able to protect her. "What do we do if they charge?" "Just be firm with them", she says...We go through the fence, and walk across the field toward a pack of cows. And they start to walk towards us. Why are they doing that? I ask. Sarah says it's okay, they're herding animals. A big brown cow with horns is leading the progression, which is slow and steady, but gaining speed. We stop where we are, then start backing up as they come closer, and as they get very close, and we are backed up against the electric fence, we stop. I stretch out my arms and say "Hello cows." The cows stop. I lower my voice," We are very powerful." I am not quite sure of this, but I think it's best to pretend. They seem skeptical, but we each stand our ground, and then a brown and white cow named Ash, who is Sarah's favorite comes forward to greet her, it seems a peace has been made, we are all friends.
We take the four wheeler up into the high pastures. Once we pass any electric fence, there is the initial wariness of whether there might be a bull in the field, because you never know what they might do. The sun is setting, and we stop in the middle of a field. Gradually the cows come and surround us, dipping their big swinging heads towards us. It feels like we are a small boat that has come to rest in some underwater world, with ancient sea creatures slowly circling around nudging close with their curious muzzles and big patient eyes.
When I am not working creatively I sometimes have the feeling that I am in exile. Everything seems to be at a surreal distance, until I lock into something concrete, a particular personal means of interaction, which I slip into and remember myself, and then slip out of and forget, and on and on it goes. I remember someone quoting the cabala as saying the human condition is to live in moments of either great joy or great uncertainty. Today I saw a baby cow being born. Pulled by two straining men out of its heaving mother. Three calves were born today, all bulls. The bulls that are born are brought to temporary hutches, because only the female calves are kept at the farm to become milk cows. The bull calves will be shipped off in a day or two. I sat in a little hutch with a day old calf and got it to drink from a milk bottle with a big red nipple. You have to start by getting them to suck on your fingers to get the hang of it, and then transfer over to the bottle. Meanwhile the calf doesn't even know who he is, or what his movement is, and begins half standing and sliding around the hutch in jerks and starts. When he's settled in one place, I somehow or other manage to get him sucking, interspersed with a couple jerky moments of his head to the side and milk splattering all over all of us, I'm on my knees, I don't know anything either, I'm holding his chin, and we're both covered in milk but he's drinking, it ends up being intuitive, the two of us in a pile of milk and mud and slobber, these calves are unbelievable, so fully formed when they are born, and just trying to figure out what in the world they are. I practice chewing like a cow, lower lip slowly moving side to side, and cocking a single ear from time to time in rhythm with the chewing.
Usually the calves get the hang of the bottle after a few tries, but today I fed a calf who was different. I would get the bottle to her mouth, and she would lunge for it and then as soon as she got it she would jump backwards crashing into the back of the hutch. She did it over and over again, going for the bottle and then careening back in the opposite direction as soon as she touched what she was reaching for. I could relate.
Today I helped Joel in his rounds of removing retained placentas in the maternity pen. We went into the pen, rubber boots deep in sloshing manure. I held a stack of arm length plastic gloves and some large bolus pills. Joel would go through, identifying the cows with retained placentas mostly from the rotting stench, and then he would wrangle them into a position where they were ideally head first in one of the rows of pens, with a railing on either side so they couldn’t really go anywhere. Then I would hand him a plastic glove, and he would insert the entire length of his arm into the cow’s vagina and scoop out the remaining placenta. Once that was out I would hand him a bolus to insert. On one of our final cows, he couldn’t angle her into a pen, so he decided to go for it in the center aisle between rows of other cows. He put the cow in a side headlock, a position that makes them be still. He transferred her head to me, and then went around behind. I held her steady with all my strength, her big brown eye inches from my face. As he reached his arm in, she started and pitched forward. I managed to somehow maintain my hold as she and both came down onto our knees. I continued to hold her steady, in the muck, as Joel pulled his arm out. I realized my position had landed me directly under the ass of another cow. As Joel reached inside again to insert the bolus, the cow I was under raised its tail and shot out a shower of liquid manure that missed my face by inches.
I think we make sense of the world by becoming a character in a book or a movie of our own invention. But the tricky thing is, due to the shifting nature of what is usually thought of as the real world, the book or the movie changes. Not only does it change, but there are gaps of time between the changes, in which we are lost, floundering, trying to find a way into the next narrative. Sometimes we stumble into the next story, and are in it before we even realize; and sometimes it is as graceful as stepping out of the bath and into a new robe. Sometimes, it takes an impossibly huge leap onto a moving train, whose direction we don't even know, whose nature we don't even know, all we know is that the ground beneath us is quicksand, or an earthquake, and we have to jump or die. No past shift between stories can tell us about the next one, except to remind us that another one is coming, and that at the moment we are walking around in the dark, feeling for the light switch. In our own lives we can only be the writer in retrospect, once a kiss is a kiss it is too late. Its meaning is sealed, it is a sad kiss or a happy kiss, it is a beginning or an end.
On the day I was leaving the cows, Sarah woke me up and said, quick come, there’s a cow being born. She woke me up from a dream in which the lyrics and melody of a cheesy country song were playing in my head fully formed:
“My love is a symphony that no one ever heard
My love is a work of art that no one ever saw
My love is a stillborn calf that never saw the sun.”We ran up to the maternity pen, and saw that the calf was breach, it was coming out backwards, in a dangerous position. I prayed for the cow to come out alive. And I prayed for it to be a girl, so it would stay on the farm. Just before I had to run for the train, the calf was finally pulled out steaming and alive and female, and in an act of sappiness and divine inspiration I named her Symphony.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
This week HERE Arts Center chose LIEBE LOVE AMOUR! to be part of its Spring Artist Lodge! We also reached our kickstarting goal, and had a rocking Valentine's day showing tonight of the beginnings of the piece. You will experience the full Liebe Love Amour at the end of March!
Monday, February 6, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
January 17, 2012, Morning
I wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I knew I had to get my double on the road, see her on a greyhound bus, on an amtrak train. The double was constructed by the sassy and talented Jessica Scott for the play Sex in a Coma, but the play was over and the double had plans of her own.
At the moment she was in one of my favorite places, the red-velvet lined soundproof recording box in my rehearsal space. I went in to pick her up, to see if she could fold in half and fit in a large army bag. I had my arms around her, and then just ended up laying there on top of her for a little while, the solid weight of myself on the solid weight of myself. It was comforting, it felt like any trip with her wouldn't feel lonely, considering I was bringing myself along. When I carried the bag with her, I thought how I had been carrying this bag for years, it was my stilt bag, but my stilts were metal and had sharp bolts jutting out at all angles, the were always bruising my hips and legs, and were no comfort on a deserted subway platform at three in the morning. My double on the other hand, feels soft and comfortable, important and solid, like someone who needs my protection.
The train was announced, and I shouldered the bulk of the army bag that held my double, padded with some pillows and sweatshirts, with a pillowcase to protect her face. The straps cut into my shoulders and neck, and as I go down the escalator to the platform, one of my arms starts to go numb, but I know this is the only way I'll make it with my wheely suitcase and pocketbook and computer and camera in tow. They shuffled the passengers going all the way to miami to the very last car. I pump my hand in and out of a fist to keep the blood flowing. As the final amtrak woman checks my ticket before the step of loading everything on board, I see a pale red haired woman who looks like she has been crying, with a child and several large bags. She has a bottle, a jacket, a blanket, that she is trying to maneuver along with all the suitcases, and is saying, "Mommy told you it was going to take a little while longer. " My hands are full, I get on board. I sit next to a woman with a great rugged smile. People walking up and down the aisle seem to be in on the secret. The 26 hour train ride.
The double has been brought out of the bag. She sits at the window. The woman with the rugged smile is Claudine, she is a French chef, who is moving back to Miami. She came to New York with all of her belongings five months ago, and now is taking everything back. It was too hard to find work. She is a great sport, helped pull the double out of the bag, and then filmed me sleeping next to her. Some other people come over and meet her. I tell them I am taking her on a trip. A man comes over to take the seat that she is sitting in. The amtrak workers agree cheerfully to me laying her down in the luggage rack. Two older women have been chatting in spanish behind me the whole time, one is a native speaker, and the other speaks fluently but with an american accent. The american suggests I should take her to the beach, and set up drinks for both of us. "You're going to have a lot of fun with her", she says, "the possibilities are endless."
I ask Claudine why people take the train, is it just because it's cheaper? Yes and because you can transport so much stuff. She had the attendants load all her stuff on, everything that she moved to New York with five months ago when she thought she was moving for good. It is true, the trains are a place of people whose lives are in true transition.
We all go outside for some fresh air when we get to Washington DC. The pale redhead is there smoking a cigarette, with her kid on her hip. She rotates in the wind, trying not to get the smoke in the kid's face. She is heading south to her mother to get her life together because her boyfriend is abusive. She says she has gone from a size 5 to a size zero. She says if she doesn't take zanex she cries all the time. Her mother has never met her two year old, they're going to her now. I notice we have the same piercing on our upper ear, and she tells me she has done all of her piercings herself. "With a needle?" "No just with the earring. I just push it through. I can't stand needles. I don't have a problem with pain, I just can't deal with needles." An older man comes out of the train, does a double take and says, "Hey, I saw you sleeping in there." I explain to the redhead whose name is Theresa, that I have a double. She says she would like to see it, so I show her when we go back inside. I think it is overwhelming to her, trying to wrap her mind around the reason that this double of me would be here.
The lady behind us who has been speaking Spanish is named Marie, and explains to us that she may talk and scream and move around when she sleeps. She has been known to do that. The other lady, the native speaker, Amalia, has white hair and dark rimmed glasses, patterned scarves, jewelry and a cane. She sways with a solid and precarious weight when she moves around the train, and goes up and down the stairs for a cigarette like a loosely moored boat. I don't think her eyesight is very good, because she has been standing next to the double a lot without registering anything, but she nods approvingly when I stretch outside the train, "Very good, I used to do that."
12:49pm, January 18th, Day 2.
Some sleep during the night. A little girl coughs all night long. The big jolly face of Marie behind me is perched in a blow-up leopard print travel pillow. She makes amazing laughing moaning noises and facial acrobatics in her sleep and I get out my camera, but after a few moments of filming I start to feel unethical. In the morning some people asks if the double has slept well. I say I hope so, but it looks like she still needs rest. I take her down, figuring I should get some footage with passing landscapes before all the seats are full again. A guy with dreads down to his waist and an oscar the grouch t-shirt that says I LOVE TRASH, in the seat behind slips a pillow between the seats to behind her head. The man next to him asks, "What are you doing with that girl?" I say she wanted to see the country. Though right now she seems to be sleeping through it.
I go to the bathroom and when I come back to my seat, everyone is cracking up. Someone called security and told them someone was sleeping in the overhead luggage compartment. He came over and was saying, "Ma'am, Ma'am, excuse me you're not allowed to sleep up there." Finally he tried to shake her awake, and thought she was dead. "We like her a lot", the amtrak people tell me, "She got us awake this morning, got all of our blood flowing."
I go get lunch in the cafe car. A heavy girl with a scrunched up face, bleached blond hair in her eyes, and glasses, stumbles through the car and sits down across from me. "They really got me, giving me an epidural before this train ride." Her speech is slurred, she has MS, she explains, and the medication is making her talk a lot. She asks if this is the kind of place where they go through your bags, because she has some medication in there that she doesn't think she would be able to explain. As I eat my veggie burger, she explains that she started being bolemic when she was about nine or ten, "But it wasn't the way you think, it was because I wanted to keep eating, if there was food around, I wanted to eat it, you know, there wasn't a lot of food around when I was growing up. "
At the other end of the car, two women in their sixties sitting across from one another have discovered that they went to high school together.
Back in the passenger car. Someone smells swampy. They have since the beginning of the trip. In front of me an older Italian man talks to a middle-aged woman. He throws in a smattering of Italian. I am not sure if she speaks Italian, but they have been talking since New York. The friendly older lady behind me grew up speaking Spanish in New Jersey, her parents were from Spain. Two seats up, one amtrak worker is trying to explain to a woman, "Miami is the last stop, last stop, you won't miss your stop. Last stop." He summons a Spanish speaking amtrak worker, but it turns out the woman is Hungarian. I am having fun overhearing the spanish behind me, the french next to me, and the italian in front of me, but the only thing I know how to say in Hungarian is malocz vouyouk, ruf ruf, which means "I am a pig, oink, oink."
There is a group of Amish people on the train, parents and a group of men and women in their early twenties. The women are in dresses and bonnets, the older man has a beard, and the young men have dress shirts and suspenders. One of the young men is missing a hand, and has a hook. He walks up and down the aisle fairly often.
Outside the trees get more and more jungly, with stretches of dry sandy soil, mobile homes, and now suddenly orange trees.
The man with the hook hand is Paul, he is old order Amish. He and his wife and family are on the train from Indiana to Florida, 48 hours, to go on a cruise for several days. He has never been on a plane or seen the ocean. He says he might be afraid to fly and also it is not really done, they do not use electricity, and ride horse and buggies. His hook hand is actually two opposable hooks, one of which is attached to a cable which wraps around to his opposite shoulder, so, he can open and close the hooks to grasp things by moving his shoulders back and forth in opposition. He lost his arm when he was four years old. He asks what I do and well right now I am traveling with her, pointing up to the luggage rack. He is uncomprehending for several moments as he looks up. Then processes and says, I saw that earlier, and I thought it was a good idea and was thinking of doing it myself. He asks me with an intense look if I am familiar with the laws of attraction. I'm not sure. He explains that it is the idea of being the cause of events, or situations, as opposed to just being affected by events or situations. Basically the difference between making things happen and having things happen to you.
In the cafe car, I talk to Brandon, who does not like to be anywhere for more than two months. He was recently in LA where he was in a movie. He has an inheritance and so is able to travel. This is his first time traveling by train. HE is 25, and has tattood names of of his seven year old daughter, and his other daughter who he lost, and his grandmother who passed away. He brings his daughter in Ohio peanuts from airplanes whenever he visits. She likes that, and his grandfather used to also do that. He is always alone he says, or always with new people, so each person he talks to is like everyone else. He says he is the kind of person who might feel like Bufallo wings, and so he would decide to go to Bufallo and try the wings. He loves Vegas, and the last time he was there he woke up on top of the Plaza hotel in his underwear. He then gambled with the last of his gas money, but luckily got it back. He is of Italian descent, he asks me what about me, and he says he can tell about the Russian part, that he noticed me, that he thought I was not from here. He says he looks young because he just shaved, he says he looks better when he showers. He is handsome and has a playboy belt buckle, and looks a little bit emotionally damaged.
Dennis is from Jamaica, and manages property in Florida, and has a five bedroom house to himself and all the time in the world, which he does not seem happy about. He wants a body double of his own.
Towards the end of the ride, a newcomer to the train got on board and asked if we are a group traveling together. Then I get off, and it's just the two of us again. I sit with myself in the empty terminal of the Miami Amtrak station for a little while, until Kevin arrives to pick me up in an enormous red chrome pickup truck.
We went to the beach and had some beers.
We took in the sun.
We stayed in a RV with a small team of independent film makers.
Everyone made us feel at home.
At one point a repair man came to work on the RV, and Kevin was the only one there. As well as a body in bed. The repair man thought it was a dead body. Kevin uncovered her face, to clarify the situation. The repair man's face changed, and he backed off. Clearly this was just a man in his RV with...
You can take yourself anywhere.