Friday, September 17, 2010

Theme for an Imaginary Western - Part 4

Part 4 - Fitting in and the temple pilgrimage - take 1

Well - I am working....trying to flourish in this new world. As I mentioned, it is hard for me to just sashay right into someone's camp I don't know and say hello (yeah I know, just like the 'default' world) -- but it's the only way for me to make friends because I have no prior relationships to build on. Other people seem to have no problem...even thrive. I try to say hello to people on the street, especially women, but it's not natural for me.

It is easier than in New York, though.

'NoBooty' tells me I have to just stroll into 10 strange camps a day and start up a conversation. I start doing that, but they always seem stilted and contrived. I don't know how more normal people do it! I was with a friend walking down the street about a year ago, and we - really he - struck up a conversation with these two women we just happened to walk past, and five minutes later we were all sitting down having drinks. To this day I don't understand how that happened...I mean, at the time I saw nothing particularly notable about that interaction: It must all be body language or something...


Anyway, I am being far friendlier than I am in the normal world, I'll give myself that.

It feels like everyone here either has shapely beautiful curves, or 6 pack abs - or both, and that's even the older people. Yeah, I know that's not totally true, but still...On the plus side, age doesn't feel like as much of a factor here, which is really freeing for me. Like my father before me, I'm freaked out about my age - I think it's genetic. Of course, when you look what happened to him (he ended up dead) you realize he had a point. One day, I see my shirtless reflection while walking in a car's window and I cringe. YIKES!

Counter to that though, I do realize that my favorite aspect of the women's bodies are their imperfections. How about that? I've only seen a couple of women's bodies that weren't - in some way - beautiful to me the whole time here, big or small, young or old. It's a petite epiphany for me.

Of course, having just been through Western Nevada, I'm well aware these folks are not a representative cross section of the general population.

I'm having similar insights through sharing my music. I brought my guitar, and have also been playing pianos located throughout the city here (believe it or not, people bring actual pianos out to the desert here). In addition, I have been going into center camp every day where they have 24 hour a day performances by burners, and have come to find a very interesting thing:

Prowess is not the coin of the realm here.

Yes, I know, that mirrors that pesky 'default' world too -- but for some reason I'm far more present to it here....and yet it's less insidious, because it doesn't feel so unfair, it just is what it is. Maybe the stakes don't feel so high - I don't know. Maybe I like these people, but don't particularly like Justin Beiber.

I was at 'More Fun, Less Suck' one day, and I played all my best stuff. I was on fire musically, but a little subdued in terms of 'stage presence' ... maybe somewhat...let's say sonically apologetic, kind of waiting for people to be drawn in so I could then come out.

Later a drummer comes by - yeah, he's good I guess - but not amazing. However...He's just putting it all out there from his first downbeat, and he soon has the whole camp dancing in the streets.

Similarly, some of the performers at Center Camp really aren't that good technically, but the level of their connection comes from somewhere else entirely. I find myself sitting there thinking "I'm so much better than that" but of course I'm never there trying to get a slot, so that means absolutely nothing.

I only saw one act that sucked at Center Camp, and they sucked because they didn't connect, not because they didn't know the chords. They seemed uh, clueless...Hmmm, did I just use that word earlier?

Anyway, there were two times when I felt like I was really connecting musically. One day I took a stroll down the esplanade (the 'oceanfront' street as it were), playing my guitar, and I had a German camera crew come up and film me...

After initially hearing me play, they seemed pretty excited, making sure to get a view of me under the distant man (seen over my shoulder in the above picture). I told them the could film me if they also snapped a couple of pictures on my little camera for me to have.

Later, I was playing piano, doing a pretty good blues (just improvising it), and a guy was filming me on his camcorder with an obvious sense of delight. I really think that delight was because of the situation. It was during a full whiteout sandstorm, so I had on my hat, green colored goggles and particle mask, and dust was flying by as I was sitting and playing - and I think he thought that was cool.

Actually it was a pretty cool scene. new gimmick is performing in inclement weather!!

Very instructive.

Inauthenticity alert: suspect spotted hiding behind technical prowess to avoid vulnerablility.

Translation: It's nice to be good, but it means nothing if you got no heart.

I've lots of work to do on that one. I'm realizing it not only affects my music, but shows up in my personal relationships -- that's onerous…a catch 22 if ever there was one, since my technique obviously needs work there.

The temple has been fascinating me, ever since I read about it long ago....

As I mentioned, people write things on the temple walls, and then at the end of the week they burn the temple. I'm told the ceremony has a sacred air to it, and some people that are at the temple burn have very emotional reactions, and it uplifts them in some way.

So early in the week I went out to the temple when all was quiet. I wanted to get my little bit in. I thought about the reasons that I had for coming out to the desert this summer, and what I'm trying to accomplish in my own little journey. Here's how I explained my temple visit to my friends on facebook one cold dawn from center camp:

Yesterday I took the journey out, meandering about a mile by foot with no particular mission.....

....and out of dumb luck, ended up there. When I realized I was at the Temple, I asked to borrow a woman's marker, and on an almost blank wall, I wrote the following: "Fuck Fear, Fuck Loneliness (in a box crossed out), Music!! (in a heart) ...and in another place (not pictured) -- Fuck Repression."....

When I came out of my focused moment, I could see the woman was obviously having a very tearful, emotional moment after what she had written, and I said, "Could I hug you?", and we hugged. I could tell she appreciated it. I think it helped her feel connected and comforted.

It's a very powerful place.

...broad strokes for sure, and - in retrospect - kind of angry ones, don't you agree? It's funny how anger can seep out of my pores without being directly detectable to me in the moment...

Later as I was walking back to camp, I was thinking about how angry and reactionary that seemed, and how I should send something out in the burn that was more about gratitude.

I stopped past 'More Fun Less Suck', as I often would on the way back to my modest digs, and Reklaw was there. Reklaw is a beautiful young woman with an interesting accent. She has a Meg Tilly vibe (sort of a Marilyn Monroe, breathy voice quality) but with very focused intelligent content in her words. More on this later....

Reklaw: "Would you like a fortune cookie?"

"Sure". (I brought - like - 12 cans of tuna and a chunk of cheese, so that's a real treat)

When I opened up the cookie and read the fortune, I knew I had unfinished business at the Temple…


John Watts said...

can't wait for the next installment. This is a real cliff-hanger. way to go, bro!

Robert Weinstein said...

Reed, you are so perfectly yourself! Thanks for that! This is another great and sincere sharing in your inimitable style. Please sir may I have some more...