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|Everything that rises must converge
March/April 2003, New York
Only reason I think it may have happened is the small piece of ticket which remains, which I find in my wallet the next day. Next morning there is only a quiet space where that lithe beauty of a voice (pulled, stretched taut), of a straightened hand flattened, fanned out against shoulder.
Where that voice was, is.
Wondrous that anyone comes to sing to us (us?) here (here?) on eve, on eves, of madness. So strange and mesmerizing a space, that after a time you do not fathom the distance from seat in balcony to stage, so remote and slightly unpredictable, rising half a note, rising, expanding volume, expanding chest. Expanding. Something actually moved, moves. Untensed, unraised, sixteen black suits and sixteen white button-down shirts. Fifteen-piece orchestra, to varied effect; it goes without saying that sixteen visas to U.S., in these times, are impressive. Stiff white collar against neck, sleek against hair close and tight as a minx, weaving among music stands, among instruments, among musicians. Prancing. Directing, fingers outstretched.
In same trance sailed onto subway platform and onto train and even sight of Empire State building, sight of lights lit up in green and red and white floating and settling into mind, mind unblinkingly mis-associating such lights with Iraqi flag. In haze of pending doom, thought it was show of solidarity with people I had just left, with people of country I had just left in theater. Sight effortlessly filtered by reception of music to reflect will, desire and fantasy. If individual blanket of fear and division at this personal level is liftable, if momentarily, as you sail above street, subliminally defining the inflection of the things you see, at odds with the things you know. You know that lights on such buildings never reflect the will of the people of such cities. And you know what gross hypocrisy such lights would be, symbolic decoration before deliberate destruction.
Exercise on subway when bored, when train moves too slowly or stops between stations, when there is a red signal, when inhabitants get cagey and paranoid, get stuck in dark tunnel, when any interaction with object (reaching inside jacket, opening briefcase) can be suspect, any look an affront, an instigation. In such times find some kind of love for everyone on train, separately, in the car you're in. Try. Some are harder than others.
8 pm and most famous local NYC East Indian female DJ is playing ballroom of Warsaw, national Polish home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, warming up crowd. In room to side of stage with folding card tables and chairs, bleached-blonde woman in her 50s, in tight jeans and leopard print low-cut blouse serves styrofoam plates of kielbasa and potatoes, or sandwiches with fake yellow cheese and mayonnaise, flirting with hip young guys, making each one lean over table toward her and properly pronounce name of polish beer they buy from her for two dollars a bottle. Through doorway, younger plainer woman with long light brown hair in ponytail, with watery grey eyes and plastic clogs, brings full plates of food from kitchen. Cinderella and wicked stepmother.
DJ Rekha who spins and spins, and crowd who stands and smokes and talks and onstage a lot of coming and going from stage left, seems one act has not shown up. She is mixing classic anti-establishment rap and hip hop and bhangra and songs for peace and finally takes off headphones taps the mic and tells us band is coming, raises mix and walks off stage, some minutes later walks back on stage, taps mic and turns down mix. Tells us that at 9:18 pm the U.S. has started bombing Iraq. Besides booing and shifting and nervousness there is quiet, there is sick feeling in stomach, sicker than can be assuaged, sick like dread against which we have been marching and yelling, talking and hoping and reading and finally having felt, just four days before, having felt hopeful at seeing thousands in our angry New York, tens of thousands demonstrating against this action.
Sick like dread. If British band does comes on, are we forgetting and pretending, or are we insisting to be in the presence of those capable of committing creative acts?
And that we should, and will, take our insistence higher.
Voice on phone, out of silence, asking how it all is, and how is it all, how is it? Cannot really tell a well-meaning, light-hearted friend just back from a trip that when snow was falling yesterday I imagined each flake a bomb, and abstractly calculated, looking out my window, how many squares of sidewalk in a row it would take to receive number of bombs dropped since March 19, including those still falling in Afghanistan, for which I used a square of sidewalk half a block away, across 1st Avenue.
Such a thing, as an answer in polite conversation, sounds unbalanced.
Germans, especially of the former east, do have a saying for every occasion, but often these come only after the fact, when they are no longer helpful as anything other than an admonition. She writes from Chemnitz to say that whatever you dream the first night in a new apartment is important, will come true. Had I known this before I went to sleep I would have drank a chamomile or called my lover to talk in bed as I fell asleep, or not gone to sleep at all.
Tune radio to your public station and listen to follow-up from debates about budget cuts in U.S. congress, tax cuts for upper-percentage income-earning population, proposed cuts to benefits to war veterans. Some days before, in first days of invasion, Bush is televised in white house, speaking to group of veterans, aged veterans decorated with pins and medals and caps sitting uncomfortably in folding chairs, invited as desperate remedy for public relations reports reflecting shaky support for his unilateral action, even among U.S. military veterans. With first words, Bush shiftily corrects himself after welcoming them to the white house. With characteristic forced smile and vapid intonation, saying "Welcome to the people's house".
Woke up some nights ago with a nightmare that I was running in the streets of that place, that there was nowhere safe to go. If these are the dreams one can have here.
Started going to theater, going, anything with voices, with breathing. Anything suggesting the possibility of exertions by people, without this alienated disregard and boundless arrogance, and without elevating or disturbing false hopes. In a single day the voice can say many things, can utter a stream, a string, can direct movements of hands richly with rhythm, with clicking, with fingers snapping or hand waving, rotating in circles around wrist. Slenderest wrists can speak volumes, can raise eyebrows, can uncross legs, can force or inspire a shift in weight.
Breath jagged or gulped or let out slowly as round thin stream through pursed lips, through breath keeping lips open, proposing silent exchange. And peeking, and writing, and leaving, muscles taut, pulled round or in or held slightly apart, lucky to mouth long words, meant in syllables, meant piece by phrase by line by page. And unmeasured, unreserved, unsaved, given freely. Not prepared and coached along. Not reserving rights, consolidating, licensing, withdrawing or withholding.
Stay close to such efforts, to such people. Do not be disheartened that actors and film-makers and film industry professionals of the Academy have been efficiently cowed into silence, confused by methodically-placed propagandistic pleas to vanity and unchecked individualism.
In the midst of independent reports of organs and fluids which are not contained, in this period it would seem that very little is in fact contained. It would seem that almost nothing is considered too dirty or too self-interested to do, with no regret or shame. Shame would be shameful, would be weak and apologetic, would not be supportive. Broadcasting feigned surprise at immediate consequences only as further proof of legitimacy of action. They are to do as they will; here we are not allowed to so much as watch. No access to the carnage that we are making possible with the numb and dumb dollars that we pool, that we pay day by day.
Driving in Elizabeth seaport, only car on muddy broken roads with massive horn-blaring trucks running up behind and next to you, to prepare for negotiation as only woman not behind protective glass in warehouse. Make eye contact and smile, make joke and look away, avoid looking uncomfortable or too friendly. Who here is to say that this is not what you do for a living, who here is to say that if you were not silent that you would not be speaking Spanish or Hindi, laughing and gesturing, with people you know from other such times and situations, waiting on similar lines in other cities. Just a matter of time before you have to speak and betray from manner or lack of inflection that you have not understood a word spoken in the room.
Back in car, in rain, we are two artists living in New York with no health insurance (one a 2nd generation U.S.-born citizen, and the other a married resident with green card, one employed and the other recently fired from job), driving back through industrial Jersey swamp and maze of highway ramps toward Lincoln tunnel. The other says, "even in ____, I went to doctor whenever I wanted, imagine, even during siege of my own fucking city I still went to the doctor."
Weekly newspaper comic printed episode about Bush's outrage that Saddam Hussein is denying access to health care from women and girls in Iraq, or that taliban is denying health care to women and girls in Afghanistan, interchangeable interpretation depending on date. One character says, "So do you think that Bush might give women and girls in the U.S. access to health care just to really piss Saddam off?"
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