Category: Personal Essays


Frank

This is the newest and final version of my Frank Conroy piece. I am going to post both of them so you see my rewriting process. This version was edited with the audience in mind, as a performance piece. It was performed in front of a live and lively audience at Christine Schoenwald’s Pinata show at Bang Theater in LA.

Homage to Frank Conroy:

The Official End of the Third World Softball League

by Sea Glassman

On a scruffy softball diamond and a dusty field, the infamous yet almost secret society called the Third World Softball League played a sort of ball. Composed of reclusive Nantucket-ian saints and partying sinners, none of whom ever wore a watch, we were the artists who made stopping time our mission. The human glue that held us together was Frank Conroy, who wrote a few books, one of them called Stop-Time. He was the Director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and in 1986, won a Grammy award for his jazz piano playing. He was an upstanding guy, a writer’s writer, a man’s man, and you wouldn’t likely forget the slight bulge of gentle alarm in his eyes, the grinning, sardonic expression of having been there, done that, the hunched nod, quietly affirming friendship. You wouldn’t forget the cranky yet affable grind of his voice, or the jazzy, fluent play of his fingers across piano keys. No one knows a pitcher like his catcher, and though we each had our own claims to fame, I secretly identified myself -to myself- as Frank Conroy’s catcher.

We were a scattered, slightly skilled skid row of part and full time occupants, shabbier than the bottoms of well worn jeans. Off the elbow of Cape Cod, 30 miles out to sea on the island of Nantucket, just outside the teeny town of ‘Sconset, at the end of Milestone Road we met, camoflaged by low scrub brush so no one could really see us: actors in various stages of fame and comebackdom, local poets and printers, writers and inventors, vacationing cameramen and a few flimsy armed but spirited gals clueless about the great game, who all appeared miraculously whenever word leaked out – via the progeny of Conroy, that There Would Be A Game. The edict was handed down to Frank himself, first, whispered into his ear in fevered sleep by Something Higher. The team materialized as if by magic, a psychic hunch emerging from an unspoken but collective urge.

The Conroys were the keepers of the bats and mitts- in a ratty old bent up cardboard box that had stood for decades, changing shape. Towards our last games, bathed in the waters of thunderstorms, the box was a triangle. Somehow at the same moment of summer, everyone pulled up in their rusted jalopies, jogged onto the field in sawed off shirts, rolled in on bikes with rusty spokes or got dropped off by wives amidst hollers and door slams and rejected “Can I come?”s. The old canvas bag and beat up cardboard shape got hoisted from the back of Conroy’s wagon by his two older boys and flung to the ground to be pawed and tested in a fever of machodom. One by one, teams were chosen. Frank picked slowly, deliberately, the underdogs, as if he had a plan.

Was it weekly? Was it monthly? Was it Saturday or Sunday? How many years did it go on? Nobody knows. That cantankerous voiced and jazz fingered Conroy ran us demurely, like the benevolent Irish Kingpin of some uncivilized writing Mob, swinging big pens. Summer air hummed. Ribbing was poetic and jousty, quips thrown through bee buzzing air by people who knew each other for one or four decades. The song of “battah battah battah” was a great hymn equaling the songs of summer birds. It was a kind of bliss, that ragtag team. My tomboy streak enabled me to catch, really catch, so Frank picked me, with just enough girl streak to cover the tomboy to catch the cute boys.

Aside from the Iowa Writer, it was the usual bunch of dirty shirts and grass stained knees: Dick of Poet’s Corner Press, Tom invented the Pepper Gun, Gene of the Camera Shop, John Shea the actor, Frank’s sons Will and Dan, and the little one, Tim, me the NY actress/director, John Mitchell, a movie theatre owner and restauranteur whose restaurant we’d break into at midnight for sneaky pasta, Greg Shepherd, an art dealer from New York and my paramour, another Dick, rightly named, a playboy poet who told me I smelled of the sea, and various ex-spouses, girlfriends, children, nephews and out of town guests who could not be shaken. A proud and ramshackle bunch to be sure, speaking the unspoken language of glances and nods.

Frank’s pitches were even, quiet and secretive. His pop eyes rolled at me knowingly, and though he was a man of words he didn’t have much use for them come game time. He pitched so people could hit. He leaned in slow and low for the kids and the girls, dropping his head and showing me the back of his hand, like a dog giving his paw. Sometimes for show I’d drop an upside down peace sign between my knees for the crowd, as if that meant something, and he’d shake his head seriously like he’d consider it, or I’d give the I Love You sign, and he’d cock his head and sneer as if I were a fool and that was a bad choice, or I’d lower a Thumbs Up, and he’d solemnly agree with one long vertical nod. He knew how to put a little spin on it if he wanted to, but he liked to not be too fancy.

John Shea became legend one summer, when, seeing a home run to be sure, bound for right field and the highway beyond,- he ran from left field with his mitt outstretched like a frenzied cartoon, so fast and so gazelle-ian hard, yes, no, it was not his ball- flying so high over his head that he lost track of the whole world, until SMACK! – hit the chain link fence and ricocheted 5 feet off with a force; knocked the wind out of himself. There he lay face down on the ground, motionless- everyone standing in the stands and all the players doing an impression of Frank, eyes too big, mouth too open. Nothing.

And then, is it my memory or my imagination? -the ball slowly rolls from his mitt. He picks up his head and shakes it a little like a wet dog his jowls after a swim in the sea, and putting his hands- one of them gloved, beneath his shoulders, he looks around and sees all of us, and we cheer. And as he gets up slowly and dusts himself out of that dream where he is our hero, we cheer and busily envy his green knees and the winning emblem of the brown skid marks down his t-shirt front. He walks to the infield, everyone rushing him, everyone laughing and shouting and patting him on the back, while he narrates the play by play. It was our own Field of Dreams on that tortured, tufty patch of weeds, in that town, with that gang, every summer.

The whole game went on for years or decades and we couldn’t remember the beginning, but the day it stopped, we all knew, didn’t we. Frank even wrote about it in his book.

That final summer we were invited to a private field in the town of Nantucket. We should never have left ‘Sconset, because we were mostly ‘Sconset people, and ‘Sconset people are the most particular, peculiar and intimate people on earth, easily repulsed by the antics of out of towners, off the Rockers, and Americans in general. Admittedly, we were swayed by the beauty and extravagance of the rich man’s field, green and perfect, a metaphor for wealth, which was a paradox our name would not allow. Despite our poor beginnings we aquiesced with wide eyes, like starving paupers sensing cream puffs.

We showed up in good faith at the mansion and private baseball diamond of that nice rich guy, the murderer of our team. God bless him, he recognized the purity of a true American past-time, had seen us play – wanted to put his new field to use!- despite our pathetic yet endearing mess of a team.

When we got there, fumes of butter and salt issued from a shiny red and golden popcorn cart, vintage yet spankin’ new. The rag tag team sprawled toward the field, the spaces between us filled with a sort of pre-game shame. We were underdogs worried with high expectation. Our very name, The Third World Softball League- didn’t belong. Frank had his doubts. He smelled doom. You could see it in his eyes – they were hanging a little too low under the pupils – suspicious, he was. That hang dog mouth a little too open, as if he were playing dumb. They offered us t-shirts, and handed us release forms saying we wouldn’t sue the nice rich guy if we got hurt swinging our cracked bats on his fancy field, and as soon as we slapped our John Hancocks down, we all looked at each other guiltily and knew the Third World League would never survive the luxury.

I don’t even remember the game, and I don’t have the t-shirt. We knew it was the end of an era, and yet it never fully died in us. There was always the hope of a game, the hint of it whenever one of us saw an other. But when Frank Conroy died, we knew, without a doubt, that the Third World Softball League would never play again.

This past summer, some of us spoke of a reunion, still looking with such sweet longing onto the lumpy, weed bludgeoned field that lay unmowed in our memories. We could have done it- made a come back. But without Frank, it wouldn’t do.

Homage to Frank:
The Official End of the Third World Softball League
by Sea Glassman
Nantucket Island, Mass.There’s alot to remember when you think of Frank Conroy. The
slight bulge of gentle alarm in his eyes, the grinning, sardonic expression of having been there, done that, the hunched nod, quietly affirming friendship. You wouldn’t likely forget the cranky yet affable grind of his voice, or the jazzy, fluent play of his hands across piano keys. Everyone knew Frank Conroy in this or that a way but no one knows a pitcher like his catcher, and though we each had our own claims to fame, I secretly identified myself to myself as Frank Conroy’s catcher.
On a scruffy softball diamond and dusty field, the infamous yet almost secret society called the Third World League Softball team played ball.
We were a scattered, slightly skilled skid row of famous occupants, shabbier than the bottoms of well worn jeans. Off the elbow of Cape Cod on the island of Nantucket, just outside the teeny town of ‘Sconset, and at the end of Milestone Road we met, camoflaged by low scrub brush so no one could really see us: actors in various stages of fame and comebackdom, local poets and printers, writers and inventors (Tom invented the Pepper Gun), vacationing cameramen and a few flimsy armed but spirited gals clueless about the great game, all appeared miraculously whenever the word leaked out – via the progeny of Conroy, that there would be a game. The edict was handed down by Frank himself and whispered in fevered sleep to him by Someone Higher.
The Conroys were the keepers of the bats and mitts, which were in a ratty old bent up cardboard box that somehow stood up for decades, changing shape. Towards our last games, it became a triangle. Frank was the silent boss of us all. Mostly, whenever we felt the need to convene, the team materialized as if by magic, a psychic hunch emerging from an unspoken but collective urge.
Somehow at the same moment of summer, everyone would either pull up in their rusted summer jalopies, jog onto the field in sawed off shirts, roll in on bikes with rusty spokes or get dropped off by wives amidst hollers and door slams and rejected “Can I come?”s. The old canvas bag and beat up cardboard box of mitts and bats would be pulled from the back of Conroy’s wagon by his two older boys and flung to the ground to be pawed and tested by regular vultures who ate up the game. One by one, teams were chosen. Frank picked slowly, deliberately, the underdogs,as if he had a plan.
Was it weekly? Was it monthly? Was it Saturday or Sunday? How many years did it go on? Nobody knows. It was always somehow run by that cantankerous voiced and jazz fingered Frank Conroy, quietly and demurely, kind of like the benevolent Irish Kingpin of some civilized writing Mob. The ribbing was poetic and jousty, quips were thrown through bee buzzing air by people who knew each other over the course of one or four decades. The song of “battah battah battah” was a great hymn equaling the songs of summer birds. It was a kind of bliss, that ragtag team.
There was Dick of Poet’s Corner Press, Tom the Pepper Gun guy, Gene Mahon of the Camera Shop, John Shea the actor, Conroy the Iowa writer, his sons Will and Dan, me the NY actress/director, a movie theatre owner, a chef and restauranteur, various ex-spouses, wives, girlfriends, children, nieces, nephews and out of town guests who could not be shaken. John Shea became legend the summer he ricocheted with force off the back chain link fence in a failed attempt to catch a high ball to center field. It flew so high over his head he lost track of the world and hit the fence, knocked the wind out of himself. There he lay on the ground, motionless- high drama.
We all had dirt on our shirt fronts, some more than others. There were grass stains on our bare knees. A proud and ramshackle bunch to be sure, speaking the unspoken language of eyes. Frank’s pitches were even, quiet and secretive. His pop eyes rolled at me knowingly, a man of words not needing words. He pitched so people could hit, he leaned in slow and low for the kids and the girls, dropping his head and showing me the back of his hand, like a dog giving his paw. Sometimes I’d drop an upside down peace sign between my knees for the crowd, as if that meant something, and he’d shake his head seriously as if he’d consider it or cock it and sneer as if I were a fool. He knew how to put a little spin on it if he wanted to, but he liked to not be too fancy.
The whole game went on for years or for decades – I’d swear it, but the day it stopped, we all knew, didn’t we. Frank even wrote about it in his book.
That final summer we were invited to a private field in the town of Nantucket. We should never have left ‘Sconset, because we were mostly ‘Sconset people, and ‘Sconset people are the most particular, peculiar and intimate people on earth, easily repulsed by the antics of out of towners, off the Rockers (Nantucket is known as “The Rock” to on-islanders), and Americans in general. Admittedly, we were swayed by the beauty and extravagance of the field, green and perfect, a metaphor for wealth, which was a paradox our name would not allow. Despite our poor beginnings we aquiesced and showed up in good faith at the mansion and private baseball diamond of that nice rich guy, the murderer of our team. God bless him, he recognized the purity of a true American past-time, even if it was tainted by the bunch of artistic hoodlums that made up our pathetic yet endearing mess of a team. I think they offered us t-shirts.
When we got there, fumes of butter and salt issued from a shiny red and golden popcorn cart. The rag tag team sprawled toward the field, worried with high expectation. Frank had his doubts, I remember. He smelled doom. You could see it in his eyes – they were hanging a little too low under the pupils – suspicious, he was. We signed the possibility of the Third World away when they handed us release forms saying we wouldn’t sue the nice rich guy if we got hurt swinging our cracked bats on his fancy field, and as soon as we slapped our John Hancocks down, we all looked at each other guiltily and knew the Third World League would never survive the luxury. It was over. I don’t even remember the game, and I don’t have the t-shirt. We knew it was the end of an era, and yet it never fully died in us. There was always the hope of a game, the hint of it whenever one of us saw each other. But four days ago, when Frank Conroy died, we knew, without a doubt, that the Third World Softball League will never play again. It’s over.
This past summer, some of us spoke of a reunion, still looking with such sweet longing onto the lumpy, weed bludgeoned field that lay unmowed in our memories. We could have done it- made a come back. But without Frank, it wouldn’t do.

Sea Glassman is a filmmaker, writer, painter and poet who lives and works in LA.
Her first film, stacey steals flowers, was shot and debuted in Nantucket at the Nantucket Film Festival. She was Frank Conroy’s catcher, Third World Softball League, Siasconset, Nantucket Island, Mass.

AUTO AWAKENING: ON SPEED

light at road's endI am bombing and careening down the mountain side. I am plunging like a pelican, eyeballing through the misty sky his underwater prey. My face is fraught with the force of gees, pulled upwards in a ghastly clown like smile as I catapult down the roaded ravine: Divine Intervention keeps me from plunging over the side and disappearing into the crack of this world. Part exaltation, part terror; it is my daily dose of Speed.

I try to awaken within this conundrum: Is my life too slow? Am I going too fast? It’s a race no one will win.

Why do we speed? If I were Woody Allen, I’d say “To escape death.” Why, on the other hand, do we sometimes not move at all? “To escape death,” Woody might say again. I wax quixotic. I will try to solve the puzzle.

Speeders, runners, race car drivers, skaters, boarders, bicyclists, bungee jumpers, downhill skiers, parachutists, cigarette boaters, water skiers, wing suiters, – all are lovers of speed. Speed is a drug they say, an adrenaline rush through the unknown quantum, a measure of motion not acceptably taken. I do not use drugs. Perhaps I should. The whole drug thing flew by me when, at twelve, I opened the medicine cabinet in my parents’ bathroom, surveyed the goodies, and told myself “Nah. I’d never get off that road, so I better not go down it,” and closed it up again.

Only to see myself in the mirror – aye, there’s the rub. We speed to avoid our own reflection, we speed to leave our bodies and faces behind, we speed to unwind, to be free, to be wind, to release ourselves from the double whammy that is the lock down of our embodied spirits, ramming down the highways with millions of other embodied spirits wrapped in these grosser metallic overcoats, perched on rubber matter wheels. One metal coat and one flesh coat, we speed double wrapped and we will die anyway, trying to shed the covers. Ah, to speed is to feel the spirit in the flesh release, to speed is to be beside ourselves. Because frankly, who wants to be within us?

Well, we would, wouldn’t we? Isn’t that why we planted our spirit selves onto earthly ground and donned these outer trappings? Isn’t that why we latched onto that speck with a tail, crawled into the egg, and made our way through the first dark passage? But births have changed now, haven’t they? Little by little, the idea of birth through the actual canal is being slowly eradicated. C-sections are all the rage – “it’s easier on the baby,” they say, and the mother and everyone else. And it’s faster.

I was recently sitting in a visual tone meeting on a Hollywood TV set, where the creative think tank on the show ran movie clips to determine how they wanted that episode, which included a birth, to look. The clip featured a brutal C-section in progress. The doctor made the cut, scooped the mother-to-be’s innards into a large plastic condom and with one hand hauled the baby out by the neck and bottom, out of the cut in the belly and womb. A collective “yoh-oooh!” rose in the room. Everyone rattled and yammered over the clip, vocally speeding past a fresh and bloody road wreck playing out in fast-mo. One woman said “I had a C-section”, another said “So did my wife,” and another jokingly offered “I sat in the C-section of the Greek Theater, and I thought that was bad!” It was so gory that everyone asked the clip runner to fast forward through the birth, and then, yes, we sped through as if the baby being brutally born were chasing us, all gooey and gore, down the mountain to our deaths. The mother’s guts were shoveled back in, the baby cleaned off in a flash, and finally, wrapped and swaddled and delivered all perfect to the mother’s breast, they speed-stitched her back up. Speed reading, speed skating, speed dating, fast food, faster cars. When are we supposed to, when are we allowed to – slow down? And why does this question remind me of my niece, now almost 13.

Years ago on a summer in Nantucket, my family was dining all together at a little Cafe. I asked my then same 6 year old niece if she remembered where she was before she was born. She told me she was up in heaven with God and one other little girl spirit who was waiting to get onto Earth. God, a kind of Monty Hall in “Let’s Make A Deal,” gave her a few choices as to what she could become, as apparently Earth was a big masquerade party, and you could choose your own costume. Before she entered and signed in, my niece was a pink light, and this other spirit friend was a yellow light. God showed them their options: she could be a bird, and enter Earth through that magic door, or a kitty, and go through that door, or she could be the little girl she was now, or another little girl, who would have different parents and live in a different place, through Door Number 4. No sooner had she chosen Door Number Three, she flew through it to become that which she had chosen to be, my niece. This little pink spirit came hoping for the best, and I think we pulled the rug out from under her.

Twelve years ago, when I first took her into my arms, she was three hours old. This infant stared at me for a solid seven minute eternity. I remember saying “Is she staring at me?” and my sister in law at the time (she is no longer my sister-in-law) said “I do believe she is.”

For years this little person and I were best friends. She would meet me at the door screaming with glee, she dangled from me like the shiniest and happiest ball on a lit up Christmas tree. She got my jokes and had my sense of humor, and looked a little like me. We had Art Days and made art and wrote books. My favorite was called “How To Name A Flea,” authored solely by her, with me as lowly stenographer. I solved my niece and nephew’s teary run ins, taught them how to make pop noises with their mouths and negotiated their tiffs. But with the divorce, all that ended. My niece was to me as Alec Baldwin’s Ireland was to him leading up to, during and after the dreaded phone tape. My whole family was villified while this poor child was manipulated into thinking her own family were the enemy. She went from an hilarious and happy child who impersonated chickens crossing the road – and who knew the truth within her heart- to a mean and frightened tattle tale who twisted spy reports to satiate her mother’s egoistic desire to eradicate her father’s family from the face of the earth, or at least, to wrench us from her child’s heart.

I may speed because I lost my niece, because when I sit still, it breaks my heart. This divorce thing- It’s like someone hijacks your car and speeds away with you standing there at the gas tank, pulled up to the pump with the nozzle in your hand. Suddenly someone you once knew and loved gets into your car and speeds away, taking the thing you love most in the world. I never fought so hard to keep something, to no avail.

Wikipedia says “Speed is the rate of motion, or equivalently the rate of change of distance … measured in the same physical units of measurement as velocity, but does not contain the element of direction that velocity has…” Which introduces the idea of direction in speed. If we speed in a particular direction, towards a certain valid destination, if we speed for a purpose, are we off the hook? When is it okay to speed? That question begs another: “Where are you speeding from?” and “Where are you speeding to?” Cosmically speaking, I’d ask “Who are you in between?”

I’d like to solve the puzzle, but after a while, all I see when I look at the word Speed is the letter S and the word PEED, which seems kind of accusatory, like I shouldn’t have done what all of us do at least four times a day. Or Speed looks like the name of one of those British barristers in the Law Firm of B. Badd, U. Horrid, and S. Peed, D.L.L., the U. standing for Uriah. Peed which reminds me of pissed, which is mad, or peeved, or crazy.

The problem being that I am better at Breaking or Making the Law, but not so much at Obeying It. I am rebellious by nature, a black thread that has run through my core since I was a wee girl, shedding my blouse and running through the Connecticut woods as deer munched grass and watched bemusedly. I’m a bit of a Russell Brand that way, without all the fluffy, sexy bits, and less mascara. So when I hear the word “Limit,” as in speed, I get a little frothy at the mouth. A little ravenously Bad, and desirous of committing an Unlimited or Radical Act, one that proves I am No Man’s Servant. Good behavior bores me, sometimes downright scares me. It reminds me of my ex-family member’s favorite word, “APPROPRIATE,” which makes me want very badly to be just as inappropriate as I can manage to be. It reminds me of what Hamlet says in the play of his own name, that “one may smile and smile, and be a villian.” Which is how I think of nice, appropriate people. I’d rather be around someone who bares his teeth and lurches like Richard the Third, growling and drooling, than go shoulder to shoulder with someone who nods and smiles like a ’50’s housefrau in a plaid apron, brandishing a featherduster. That’s my idea of a horror movie, the Stepford Wives. Everybody all behaving and cleaned up like that. All that smiling throws me off. I need a bit of law breaking.

That’s why when I speed I think of my ex sister-in-law, whom I refer to as my XSIL, reminding me of an ex-shill, someone who used to be “an accomplice of a hawker, gambler or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice or encourage others” – which sounds exactly like me, or shrill- “high pitched or piercing”, the tone employed by such goodie two shoeses to keep their children from crossing the street without looking both ways. Or, more precisely, eggshells, which is what I walk on (quickly) when I am near a flawlessly law abiding person who uses words like “appropriate,” causing side effects such as cringing, shivering, dry mouth and constipation.

Which may be why I speed: to escape the Law, or law abiding persons. I believe that the abiding of laws in general should be self referential. Inotherwords, we all have an inherent sense of what’s right and wrong, for crying out loud. We can deliberate internally, weigh the possible outcomes, and decide if what we are doing will cause harm to ourselves or others, then opt to squelch our impulses. Mistakes will be made, like when I took my fancy shoes off to walk across the street and got a wee glass splinter in the bottom of my foot. A punishment that needed no scolding, ticket, or imprisonment. I may not take my shoes off next time, or maybe I will. My choice, but walking on eggshells is not an option.

Cultivating one’s sense of justice and good behavior could be an entirely self motivating task. In my eyes, it should be. Sometimes the gut knows better. We had my niece’s name day at an old Unitarian church in Nantucket that I knew to be haunted, as I had written and performed a play there under the auspices of a ghost astronomer named Maria Mitchell. My niece, at that point, was about one and a half, my nephew was three. Eyes stared at us from the portraits of old Nantucketers, following us around the little chapel. When we sat down and the Rabbi started to speak the ritual of the name day, my nephew threw his leg over the pew and started climbing. “I wanna to get outta hewe,” he stated, repeatedly, while starting to flee. Sometimes decorum is simply NA. There may be invisible factors that only the soul can reference.

Which reminds me of something my brother, who is my nephew’s father, said when we were little kids and my mother told him to behave. He said “I’m Being Hayve!” and that was that. He was being hayve and he knew it. The internal mechanism was intact so far as he was concerned. Maybe it runs in the family.

But what of my otherwise darling and golden hearted friend (who I shall call) Pablo, who got caught speeding three times and has to give up his license, swapping his car for a bicycle? A fabulous writer, yogi and person, quite spiritual, but hasty on his wheels? Are some of us not suited to self reflection of this nature and need to have tickets and signage in place to be reminded of how to behave? Or is all law an arbitrary rendering of first come first served, and whoever gets caught first gets served. It’s all so random anyway, isn’t it? Today you might be serving meals to the homeless and tomorrow you get caught doing what millions of people do everyday, S. Peeding. In Faulkner’s book As I Lay Dying, his protagonist says something along the lines of “It’s not so much what you’re doing as how people look at you while you’re doing it.” Crazy being in the mind of the beholder. If a bear speeds in the woods, should he get a ticket?

Although Beckett wrote “Waiting for Godot,” I am thinking of doing a rewrite called “Speeding to Godot,” just to get the damn play over with. But the point Beckett was trying to make is that in all that waiting (aka Life) that Didi and Gogo do, lots happens. There is joking and philosophizing, processing and fulminating, figuring and negotiating. There is fighting and forgiveness, surprise entrances and dramatic exits. A lot happens in the Waiting Room. The waiting is a grand period of fecund gestation. Seeds grow at infinitesimal speeds (oo- that word), Time Lapse photography a beacon of hope revealing the real mojo in a seemingly slo-mo world.

To quell my Speed Habit, I have set myself to the task of Auto Awakening by establishing the following guidelines for myself, though you are welcome to join me in the New Triple A, the Auto Awakening Association:

1) I say to myself “By Jove, I am speeding!” Or my favorite “I am careening and bombilating!” Failing any embellishments or being in a bad mood, I simply state “I am mindful of my speeding.”

2) I say “please” and “thank you” to my fellow roadies whenever I drive. I actively look for such opportunities as letting someone go before I do. I am unnecessarily generous. Finding these opportunities, I then…

3) … gesticulate and employ the use of my human appendages to remind myself and others that there is a human in the vehicle and that they are human too. I drive with my hands and arms dangling and flaying out the window in a perpetual state of ‘how do you do’: displaying peace signs, waves, openings, ‘after yous,’ and ‘here you gos’ with Vanna-like aplomb, slowing and stopping even when I don’t want to. I am magnanimous and overly polite to reverse my bad speeding karma.

I think it’s working.

And I meditate, to slow my mind. I am able to get it to stop completely and in that stoppage, off I go, Speeding to Godot. A magnificent, fun filled, blissed out Carnival, all the rides suspended in mid-air. But is the stillness that we sit in when we are in meditation really still? The macro structure of Oneness is teeming with vitality, just as silence is rife with sound; the dull roar of AUM, the sound of the whirring world whizzing by at a cataclysmic rate, our particular Earth God like a kid spinning a globe in his Universal Daddy’s office. The trajectery of Stillness catapults beyond its first impulse, like our Universe, attaching and connecting and increasing beyond itself. Is anything still, or is it all speeding? The Earth itself, so they say, is rounding the Universe’s bend in the Milky Way at a breezy 66,700 miles per hour or so. Somebody give that planet a ticket!

Be Here Now, they say, but if one is here now, can one speed? I could have asked the perfect person that question, had I thought of it, but I missed my chance.

Next door to my brother, when my niece and nephew were born, lived Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. I was at a party there and Timothy Leary and I were sitting on the porch of a hazy, wheezy summer dusk. He was in his last years then, skinny and wee and radiating a kind of whirling light, though he was sitting there on a deck chair. At first, he was gesticulating wildly with his right arm, then as he narrated the wonders of the world, he went stark still. He was talking about life and its purpose and incandescence and though I don’t remember the words, I do remember that everything started to slow down until it came to a complete stop. The wine in its glass rose and sloshed its redness in a tinted film against the goblet’s side, the bees hung spinning in mid-air like teeny blimps with invisible sayings flagging behind them, hummingbirds sucked the straws of orange fluted flower petals and Timothy’s grainy, smoke washed voice wove a spell through the summer breeze. Oneness presented itself like a Grand Fried Magician tired of his own tricks, tired of trying to get his complacent audience’s attention. The Magician of Business and Speed dropped his arms, heaved a sigh, let go his bag of tricks, and gave up. As he did so, tree branches sprouted from the ends of his arms, birds flew from his hair and his monkey played a sprightly accordian jig in the treasured calliope of his surrendered thumper bumper. The Earth’s inhabitants beat as one heart. Speed and stillness became the same. The party morphed into a painting called “Still Life on Earth” and we hadn’t even dropped any acid. In its No Speed, all the color and sound and texture and wisdom and love pulsed and presented, rendering motion unnecessary; insignificant, overrated.

Is anybody going anywhere, anyway?

Sea Glassman is a writer, director, painter and filmmaker whose addiction to writing caused her to create Omvelope, an invisible online Ragazine devoted to the Arts and Spirituality.

000_0018The King of DogFarts, or, An Artist’s Decree

I am the king of dogfarts. Queens are ladylike and do not fart – I’ll have to change my sex to be this dogfarter; and so, I am a He-Man dogfarter drinking from a flagon, lifting my great rump off the back of the chair and edging it up towards the Heavenly Face (perhaps that’s why He frowns, – or does He laugh?) and trumpeting my stinky song skyward. It is a cavernous, hollow, bamboozled sound: clown-like, pronouncing.
I will never be married. In my new position, I will win the Coveted Prize of the DogFarting Championship. People will come from every land to sit in the audience and watch the spectacle of the dainty girl turned Champion DogFarter Knight Sir Fatty McAllister of the Round Table: mythic in porportion, fat as a scholarly wrestler, propitious with undergarments, rascally in pride.
Known throughout the land as a lady’s man, as a mischievous, eyenarrowed perpetrator of trumpety remarks on the King’s secret behaviors, I raise one fat finger, unfurling as if to make a vote in Parliament; ’tis I, Fatty. Even known to entertain the Queen in her quarters after hours, shall I say bedchambers, albeit at a distance- by the window if you please , with squeals of delight emanating from behind be-curtained walls ( guards with furrowed and begrudging brows bite cheek) as raucous explosions from abundant hindquarters ensue. Those squeals are from her flustery ladies in waiting , the King’s consorts and Queen’s button doers, who, behind their fluttery kerchiefs pressed amusedly to their painted lips, – are blushing for Fatty the Knight, who has no sense to be embarrassed for himself while the Queen reaches out to them all, flagging her own little hanky with one pointed finger, wagging, and saying “ Look , oh Look ! How he’s done it this time , Our Fatty ! Oh , don’t call him that , – use his Christian Name Alabaster ! HAHAHA! Alabaster McAllister ! What a Farter he is !”
In the morning after toast and jam, before the ladies line up outside the palace to sadly wave Fatty away with those same hankies, there is a ceremony in which Fatty recieves a medal and the title “Sir” for his proliferous efforts. He also gets a horse with white arthritic knees, but a good strong back. When he kneels to take the medal round his thick and trunky neck, he bows then cocks his head irreverently. When he’s sure the Queen has held her baited breath and he feels the medal slip around his neck, Fatty looses the biggest dogfart yet, and a mythic ball of smoke hangs briefly in the air. The crowd swells with approval. Knight Sir Alabaster “Fatty” McAllister never disappoints.
And so my singleness comes as no surprise. I sit here and fart out my life, inconstant. I shape shift between magician and faithless rogue. Between bag lady and mountain tamer , poet of the hills. Image mover and maker. I am certain to be hoarding bugs in my ears. They have crawled there in the night with messages of what I was supposed to be, and are now clogging my brain with unnecessary bits of paper, dust and web. The tubes are blocked and ringing, yet each day is given again, a candy wrapped like a memory.
I’d have had a better chance as Fatty, – would have had some fun , sliced off a few dragon heads, cracked a few jokes , and entertained the masses at the King’s dinners. Instead I am a women in the year 2009, single, bladder full and womb empty. An artist with no paint brushes. A singer with hundreds of songs; laryngitis. A piano tuner with two bad hands. A cook with a cold, ‘ choo.

Throw me in a prison cell. Deliver food to the rake that separates me from the public hall. Slip the soup under , watch it slosh on the tray. Still I will come up with puns and praise for the way the Master Key Jangler runs his House of Bars. Erase my glory, erase my hope, erase my chance of a future and still I will write words and hang a paper banner with the word Welcome on it. Such is the job of the poet. Plunge your fingers into his eyes, eat the eyeballs if you are so inclined, but the poet will find a way to spin that eyeless state into seeing, to sit at the bottom of the blackest well, humming a few select notes that conjure for you a crow in silent wing-stretched flight across a round and lonely lake – the poet brings us to our senses.

So why would you punish us, world? And say we do nothing for you? Why would you keep us curled in a ball , – an appetizing cheese ball covered with walnuts ; take me out, slice me up, slap me on a cracker! Let the peoples’ mouth water ! The results must be amusing, unnerving.

For we stir it up , don’t we , we stir it up and how we love the stirring. This world a seething wormbowl of lies and liars, howling and turning: throw the dirt in, mix it up, turn the bowl out and add water. Soon there will be a garden, and when you come to get me out, you will smile to me, and we will walk in it. Perhaps you’ll hold the hose for me and help me wash the dirt off, and then we’ll watch the dragon flies on tender tops of purple flowers rest, buzzing and piercing the air with their little saw voices: a trifle, a clue.