Archive for January, 2007

Star-Crossed and Omni-Present: Catching David Lynch

David Lynch is floating fifteen feet above my head, while I am sitting cross-legged between Saturn and the sun, surrounded by people who are three-feet-tall, squealing, and throwing books at me. All that’s missing are a few severed body parts, a red velvet curtain, and someone throatily murmuring “fire walk with me.” Although, with all the squealing, I think a resounding “Silencio!” would be more appropriate.

This is the second time I’ve missed a date with David Lynch. The first time was back at grad school, when Lynch appeared on stage with a neuroscientist for a conversation about quantum mechanics and Lynch’s films – a most unlikely combination of some of my favorite enigmas. Alas, something happened and I wasn’t able to attend – though I remember driving past the church where his talk was held and goggling at the people waiting in line – they stretched out the door and around the block.

Tonight, a few years later and on the other side of the continent, Lynch is appearing at a Borders Bookstore to talk about his new book Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity. Again, an impossibly clever juxtaposition of people and concepts I find fascinating. Though I planned for this lecture well in advance, I forgot that it takes an hour to drive three miles in Los Angeles – if those three miles are anywhere in the vicinity of the 405 at rush hour. And so, I arrived after the talk, but in plenty of time to witness a very strange phenomenon.

The second floor is overflowing with people. They are milling around, eating slices of cherry cheesecake while standing up, doing their homework in the café. But most of them are assembled into five distinct lines which snake all around the store. There’s a line of people in the Computer section, and another in Travel. There’s a line in Fiction and Literature, and a particularly thick cluster of people in the vicinity of JAG and The Golden Girls in the DVD section. There’s even a line by the Musicals.

I thoroughly examined each line; they all have a beginning and an end, but none of them are connected. Could it be just one line, segmented to facilitate the flow of traffic? Logical, but I never once saw a person from one line move up to join another. No, these lines are discrete, self-contained entities. And everyone is holding a copy of Lynch’s book. The only conclusion is that David Lynch is omnipresent (is anyone surprised?) and simultaneously signing books in five places at once at the Westwood Borders.

Too excited to wait, I immediately looked for a place to set up my computer so I could live Muse to you all, and share some of the excitement of being in the same place at the same time as five David Lynchs. Of course, the masses of fans who apparently rented helicopters to get over the 405 before me have already filled all vacant seats and benches. And that is how I find myself sitting downstairs, cross-legged on the floor of the children’s section.

I’m getting closer to David Lynch. Last time I missed him by a city block, this time by a storey at Borders. Next time, he’ll probably be talking about chaos theory, anti-materialism, and the pleasures of public Musing – and I think I’m destined to be in the front row. But I’m starting to wonder… will catching David Lynch be as much fun as chasing him?

Add comment January 24th, 2007

Tales From the Gym – Naked Russian Ventriloquist Mimes Invade the Sauna!!!

Have you ever wondered what a mime would look like naked? They always have white painted faces, and white gloves; but occasionally, while miming, a sleeve slips here or a collar wilts there, and you catch a glimpse of normal human-colored skin underneath. I was happily dehydrating in the sauna today, when two naked mimes walked in. Both had white-painted faces but were otherwise quite normal looking. They reclined on benches on opposite sides of the room and began speaking Russian. Now, it’s important not to stare in the sauna, but I had to cast a few furtive glances as I was gingerly picking my way down from the top bench. They were conversing… but without moving their mouths. Really – full-bodied Russian sounds were ricocheting around the room, but nary a lip moved.

Most strange.

A skeptic might point out that ladies often like to wear clay-based deep pore cleansing masks into the sauna – makes for a great do-it-yourself facial. And I suppose if I wore a wet clay mask into a 200 degree room, I too might be baked into immobility and forced to speak without moving my lips. But who amongst us wants to invoke Occam’s Razor (which posits that the simplest explanation is likely the most accurate)? Besides, even though I can’t speak Russian, I’m pretty sure they were debating the best method for feeling one’s way out of a box.

Add comment January 19th, 2007

Ripostes and Rejoinders – Speculative Readers

More mail from my engaged readership. A skeptical reader isn’t sure she believes that the sauna at my gym is a TARDIS – a time-traveling device that deposits me somewhere different and unexpected every time I leave its confines. “You know” she writes, with the faintest allusions to sarcasm, “that so called health club is really an interdementional space station in disguise.”

I couldn’t help but be struck by the clever reappropriation of spelling rules. Maybe “interdementional” is a typo. Or maybe my reader believes that rather than dimension-hopping, I am actually dementia-hopping – hence the interdementional space station.

Oh, clever reader!

Add comment January 16th, 2007

Tales From the Gym – Cause and Effect

Loitering in the sauna the other day, I overheard two thought-provoking conversations that I am convinced are somehow intertwined. Two women were sitting at the end of the lower bench (vertical placement is important in the sauna as each bleacher-style bench inhabits a different climactic stratum; people on the upper benches don’t talk much and when they do you can’t really trust them as they might be having heat stroke). The subject was entrepreneurialism. An older woman in her 50’s was distilling some of the wisdom she’d gleaned along the way to financial success and sharing it with her 20-something companion. “The key” she explained, “is to identify who among your inner-circle has a poverty mindset – and stay away from them. You know the type; they’re the ones who always talk about what they can’t afford instead of how they’re going to afford it. When you tell them you want to buy in an exclusive neighborhood, they’re the ones that’ll tell you you’re dreaming. You can’t be too careful when it comes to choosing your company. What your mind hears as truth is what it produces as truth.”

Over the next few minutes the sauna cleared out and a new group gradually filtered in. Eyes closed, I heard an enthusiastic squeal: “You! You have lost some weight!” A second voice responded in mellow and appreciative tones: “Well… maybe a few pounds. But how did you know?” The first voice rejoined: “because you’re shorter! Don’t you know? When you loose weight, you shrink!” Second voice was thoughtful: “Really? How does that work, exactly?” First voice expounded. “Well, your height is made up of everything, right? Skin, bones, muscle, blood, and fat. So when you loose fat, you loose a bit of your height. You know how I figured that out? Whenever I’m fat, my pants don’t touch the ground. But when I loose weight, they go all the way down. It’s the only explanation – when you loose weight you get shorter. And I noticed it in you right away. You’re shorter! You’re loosing weight big time!”

If the mind produces as truth what it hears as truth… I wonder how many people walked out of the gym that day a little bit shorter than when they walked in?

Add comment January 15th, 2007

Ripostes & Rejoinders – Concerned Reader

A concerned reader wrote to recently, asking if I could clarify what – exactly – transpired during Tales From the Gym - The Case of the Sinister Steam-Bath… Alas, dear reader, I wish I could tell you. I wish I could have seen through the fog! I’m haunted by the crunch-rustle-rustle crunch-rustle-rustle of a thousand plastic grocery bags moving in enigmatic concert.

I can postulate though.

Now that I’m becoming familiar with my gym, I can report that plastic is used in all sorts of surprising and inventive ways. It is often, for example, wrapped around the head in order to protect hair from the capricious effects of steam, showers, sweat, etc. It appears in the form of oversized trousers, shirts, or cinching waist-bands which are worn into the sauna – the better to elicit massive water loss, I believe. People bring “welcome mats” or bath mats into the sauna – the kind you’d expect to see in front of a door or a shower – and use them as seat cushions. They protect from the previous occupants sweat – and prevent the current user from contributing their own to the bench. And oh the delightful noise they make when the suction cups are detached at the end of a session! My favorite though is when the gym-denizens lie down on a large sheet of plastic and roll themselves up like little burritos – only a head and a set of toes left protruding on either end like weird garnish. Sometimes they lie prone, and panting. But sometimes they do sit-ups and/or leg lifts while swaddled in plastic. You can imagine, I’m sure, what that must sound like… a giant, slightly transparent, heaving burrito trying to genuflect its way to freedom… So, while I have yet to see anyone enter the sauna wearing a thousand inflated grocery sacks like so many water-wings, and start somersaulting down one of the benches (which is what I suspect the protagonist in The Case of the Sinister Steam-Bath was up to), I am sure it is only a matter of time. And believe me, when I see it, you will be the first to know!

Add comment January 12th, 2007

Adventures in Anti-Materialism III – The Curious Case of the Anti-Materialist Animist

The last time we dismantled the physical elements of our life, Sam observed that I was quite possibly the world’s only living example of an anti-materialist animist – I compulsively get rid of stuff, yet worry all the while that my things will take their rejection personally.  Sam’s observation, characteristically, was both funny and insightful and I’ve been mulling it over ever since.   

I have, at least since adolescence, had a terrifically obdurate anti-materialist streak.  I probably accumulate things at a slower rate than most people; but what really sets me apart is the regularity with which I have complete purging sessions – going through my clothes, books, music, papers, research, household items and ruthlessly gutting my collections down to a minimum – or sometimes into oblivion.  I used to think that I did it to be organized.  Later, I thought that I did it to avoid having physical “anchors” that tied me to one place, and prevented me from, say, moving to another country at the drop of a hat.  Over the past few years, however, I’ve experienced a truly remarkable rash of nearly annual material guttings of my life, followed by violent and radical relocations.  In the last ten years I’ve moved half-way across the country three times, moved to different countries and back three times, and moved from one US coast to the other three times.  I’m starting to think that maybe on some subconscious level I orchestrate these violent and radical relocations as an excuse to have an anti-materialistic purging session.  I guess time will tell – right now I’m doing everything I can to stay put in California, though in a wry and not surprising twist of fate, all of the people who are interested in advancing my career are on the East Coast.

Lately, I’ve been very into practicing non-judgmental observation of my own personality – thinking in terms of personality type rather than in terms of strengths and weaknesses.  Along these lines, I’m inclined to just accept that I’m sort of a materialistic nihilist – I strive to consume less and less, and I periodically create reasons to whittle myself down to the bare minimum.  But the last several times I’ve gotten rid of everything that didn’t fit in my car, the experience was deeply emotional and left me feeling raw, vulnerable, and sometimes grief-stricken.  The problem is that I can’t shake the feeling that objects have some kind of consciousness – that they know whether I’m a respectful inhabitant of the earth and user of it’s resources; they know whether I’ve used them well, whether I’ve done my best to find good homes for them when I no longer need them.  But as anyone who has whittled a two-bedroom three-story townhouse down to what will fit into a Toyota Echo on a strict time-budget will tell you, you can’t always find good homes for everything.  Piles of things inevitably get left in front of the Salvation Army at 2:00 AM.  Good, useful, hard-working things get thrown into dumpsters – soon to spend the rest of their good, useful, hard-working potential languishing for eternity in a municipal garbage dump.  Furniture is left on the curb, under threatening clouds that could instantly turn a perfectly usable couch into a water-logged waste.  Hand-made hand-me-downs with uncertain provenances are abandoned to make their own way in the world. 

Once, when I was about five, my family packed a picnic lunch and went for a long car drive.  I remember doing my best to hold all the parts of my sandwich together and eat it at the same time – no small feat for small fingers.  Inevitably, some little bits of cheese crumbled away and fell onto the green carpeted floor of the car.  I watched them rolling around down there, far below my swinging feet, and was overwhelmed with grief.  It was bad enough for the little crumbles to be separated from the rest of the cheese… but then, oh horror… to be ground into disgrace and useless oblivion on the floor?  All of that life-giving potential wasted?  I haven’t changed too much – if the same thing happened as an adult, I’d find a way to discreetly pluck the cheese crumbles from the floor and toss them out the window into some grass – to be eaten by animals or find some other more direct way to return to the cycles of nature.  And so, just as I am compelled by circumstances and internal directives to leave a nearly-new much loved and still shiny dustpan propped up against our apartment complex dumpster with a “free to good home” post-it note, so too will my heart break as I watch it disappear in the rearview mirror.  I am convinced that it is feeling forlorn and abandoned, that it can’t understand why it worked so hard for me only to be cast aside when it became inconvenient. 

Now, I don’t actually believe that either the cheese crumbles or the dustpan were crying inside.  I think, instead, that I experienced a kind of momentary hyper-awareness of all the energy that went into producing those objects and bringing them into my home:   extracting the raw materials from the animals or the earth, transforming them into food or plastic, stamping them into forms, packaging them, shipping them to stores, selling them to customers…   Abandoning even the simplest of items begins to seem like a monumental act of disrespect. 

Sam wonders why I insist on projecting “souls” onto pieces of plastic, only to torture myself.  I wonder how it’s possible to be respectful of energy in all its forms, and live in a capitalistic world.

Add comment January 12th, 2007

Previous Posts