Friday, November 27, 2015

The Riot GRRRL Show: Running with Scissors


True Warrior.

Money where her mouth is.

DIY: Do It Yourself

This is a description of a RIOT GRRRL, it's also a description of local radical feminist, Michelle Wyssmann.

Michelle ran the punk-bar-home-community-center called Vandals for the last couple years, and the reason so many of us Midtown Misfits felt like we were meant to be there is because Michelle creates an environment where individuality and creativity is encouraged and ENFORCED. The Riot GRRRL movement is a large part of what shaped Michelle's ethic and business sense, so it was no surprise that she has been endeavoring to bring the Riot GRRRL scene kicking and screaming to KC.

Her first show was a great time and a full house, but Michelle felt that the message behind the movement was not represented well to the community who may not know the history of 3rd wave feminism and Riot GRRRL culture. Chatting over coffee, I begged her to let me MC the next show and bring that narrative to the stage.

{{{{{An Alien's Brief History of RIOT GRRRL Ethics:

It was the 90's and we were wearing flannel and nobody knew we were new wave. Alternative wasn't a word to describe music yet. The punk movement was alive and well, and grunge was a thing that only existed in garages on the west coast. A bunch of smart and talented women were in the wake of 2nd wave feminism which loosely translated to "middle class white ladies fighting for placement in upper corporate management." Which is needed, but left out so much of the female identifying person's needs, especially for poor women and women of color.

The original Riot GRRRLs studied 3rd wave feminism which addressed exactly those needs, and came to realize that they, as artists, were putting themselves second, making themselves accessories to their punk-band-boyfriends by not creating and making for themselves. So the ladies began community activist programs for women's education and opportunity creation, the ladies began writing essays and self-publishing them in the growing Zine scene, most notably, the ladies started putting together their own bands and playing tons of shows.

The name Riot GRRRL grew organically through the diverse happenings, and the ethic was DIY. These women didn't feel the need to be offered an opportunity, they went out and created them. In this way, I want to encourage you to DIY educate yourself on this rich recent history of women's issues, agendas and actions.

Pro-tip: Start by watching Lydia Lunch videos "How do you make a living?" I DON'T! --LL
Listen to Bikini Kill, and find Kathleen Hannah. "Popularity is totally overrated." -KH
Read "Words Will Break Cement" by Masha Gessen.

Now back to KC today.}}}}}

Michelle is the picture of feminist activism in action and this Riot GRRRL show on October 15, 2015 shows just how much. She booked, produced, stage managed and promoted four bands, one MC, a host of vendors and also created a zine, ROAR, for the show.

Stellar New York indie wild child, Nan Turner and her band, Schwervon, opened the show. Nan is as for-real a radical performance artist as I've come across in a long time; every time I've seen her perform it is a unique and visceral performance. On this night she and partner, Matt Roth, interjected between songs a poem accompanied by Nan's interpretive dance:

Babehammer played next, an all lady grunge trio, and their first outing as a band. The staple of KC genderqueer everything interesting, Wick Thomas, threw down with Wick & the Tricks. (They want to make out with you!) Blondie Brunetti, Rita Brinkerhoff's eclectic act, rounded out the show with their aloof edginess and thumb in the eye to top 40 conformity.

For myself, I create performance art pieces when I MC. I like the interstitials to have integrity and create a cohesive and pointed show. To do this for a Riot GRRRL show, I was beyond excited. This is a space I can get as gritty and angry as I dream. Michelle and I met a couple times to talk about the message she wanted to get across and I developed my piece. I know I'm going to do a version of Write Up, a type of performance piece I often do which centers on dressing like a slut and asking people to write answers to vulnerable questions on my bare skin. These pieces are rarely recorded in any way.

Sharp Scissors

I already know this is going to be a whole day process to get into performance mode. I put on a hoodie that proclaims my biggest fear. I took a relic, okok, a selfie. I'm tryin a elevate my shit. I knew this would be the last day of my river blond hair.

I check my email to see if my zine is printed at the big mega corporate box paper store. No email. The order is for a single double sided page with the text of two of my poems, one on each side, in a tri-fold pamphlet design. The zine features two feminist poems; Girl, Girl, GRRRL and Breaking Plates. It looks like this:

I call the store. Hi, blah blah blah, is my order ready?

Um, no. We can't print that order. What? Why not?

Because ... it's ... um ... vulgar. What? Ohhhhhhh. because it says GET FUCKED repeatedly in huge letters all over it?

Yes. It's against corporate policy to print vulgar orders. Well, did you read the poem?

Oh yes! We all read the poem! What the everloving patricarchy!

Here's what's vulgar to me.

Corporations institute policies their low wage workers are expected to enforce. Policies which, in this situation, are operating against the worker's own self interest. Corporations regularly insist we hurt ourselves to better their bottom line, that we act as agents in our own self-destruction.

Let's meet down at the docks after midnight for the secret meeting ...

As you can see, it was printed anyway. Ask me in person for what's off the record.

I get home, kiss and fold each zine and get dressed for the show. I get barely dressed. Lingerie and shorts so short my pink lace panties are falling out the bottom. My best stomping heels. I start at the bar and saunter in with tears painted on my face and my tits hanging out of my underwear. Blue x's are visible under the lace, just in case a nipple should wiggle too obviously.

I barely dress because I'm going to ask people to interact with me all night, and tell me some thoughtful truths about themselves. We're going to share more than the weather. I am the image of vulnerability dressed like this. I am the essence of asking for it, but I find people don't take advantage of me, instead they are curious, helpful and instantly protective.

I barely dress when I want to feel strong. I imagine lingerie not as an invitation but as a threat. I imagine it as my warrior clothes, minimal and fierce.

I take one of the permanent markers I have in my pocket out and ask the bartender to write on me. The performance begins.

She writes across my left shoulder A feminist is a ... I take the sewing scissors out of my other pocket, and ask her to cut the first lock of my hair. She knows what I want and takes a huge lock right out from the middle center of my forehead. There is no going back now.

Throughout the rest of the night, I ask people to complete the sentence, and then to cut some more of my hair away. 


 People write: Mother, bitch, logical choice, power, boss, lover of self.  My cousin writes WARRIOR across my neck and cutts a big chunk out of my hair.

Some people refuse to cut my hair. I'm NOT going to fuck you up!

Do you have to have good hair? Really? Am I defined completely and confined to being fucked up if my hairs aren't arranged in a Dr. Magazine Adman prescribed fashion?

I recite my poems between bands, talk about Hannah and Feminism and Activism and how to get involved; but I also get to hear so many stories of people's gender, sexual, non-consentual, deviant, fluid, diverse experiences. I offer my body into people's hands, they offer their hearts into mine. Together, we create stories. 

And an infinity of thanks to that biggest of hearts, Michelle Wyssmann, for making space for all of us to fucking rock out!

and to Jess Morman for many of these photos!


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The River: part 3

This is the Kaw River.

The current has microcurrents which go willy nilly every way, sometimes when the paddle pushes forward it's resisting instead of adding. You can sense the bottom based on how the surface yields and swirls. I've never seen so many whirlpools. Porter teaches me how to find the current. This is the part of the river that is deepest, and so fastest. It's running near the steeper bank, always. Between the current and the bank, the deepest whirlpools turn, carving out the top of the water. One day my kayak will get sucked into one, but today I steer clear into the safer, deeper waters.

I'm learning to read the surface of the water, I'm teaching my paddle to work with the force of the river. The birds dip and swoon: eagles, hawks, finches, more than I know names for. The rest of the Kaw is quiet. We are far enough away from civilization that there is no evidence of man's footprint on the world, only push of current and push of paddle.

There is no hurry here, there are no phones, no traffic, no transactions, no interruptions. My mind is effortless in a way I've never known before. I know I belong here, it's like you can't choose who you fall in love with, and I can't help that this is my unexpected home. There are no invasive thoughts, no keeping up with mental to do lists. There is no worry of where is he and what is she and how are they and when will I. There is no worry.

There is a sandbar. The river is low.

Porter and I get out to explore and eat. He has hunks of beef rib, I have bananas and apples. We bank our boats and step onto the temporary island, still against the water's ceaseless drive. We walk out together, sand in toes. The quiet is extraordinary. Porter and I fit as river companions, both appreciating the river for itself. We have no need to impose narratives on the moment.

Suddenly, behind us, is a tremendous burst of noise. Both of us pivot simultaneously and become the centerpiece of a rush of Barn Swallows in a ballet of flight. They swoop down and around us, circle the sandbar, dozens of wings in furious and gentle synchronized, chaotic motion. No birds crash or fall, they have that sense of surroundings and fearless movement that is the heart of why I love the river. This is what I am here to learn.

There are shallow rivulets running through the sandbar, the water is cold cold and powerful even in the crosscurrent shallows. Porter says

Lay at the foot of the rivulet. Feel the river run over you.

This is the heart of the day. As I lay in the shallow delta, the river pushes, the wind caresses, the mind succumbs to peacefulness. I evaporate, my body feels the pull of gravity. I have this feeling I call ocean size. It is when my mind stops the monkey business and I feel fully part of the world, fully connected, as all oceans are really one ocean, as sky seeps the ocean from its surface and drops it as rain, as the water connects every part of the world: necessary, dangerous, impenetrable, penetrating. In this micro-delta, I am beyond ocean size, I am planetary: dissolved and complete. Porter takes my photo, sensing the importance of this moment for me.

We continue. There is sun and bird. There is current and push. I see some strange creature swimming across the river. Porter says

I don't know what that is. Never seen anything like it. Don't think I can catch it, though.

I say: I can!

I paddle upriver, I'm pushing with all my might. I'm swinging left and right of this strange little animal who is bobbing its head up and down, but never coming up for air. I can't make heads or tails of it. It looks like a stick, maybe its a snake. It's heading for the opposite bank relentlessly but it doesn't seem to be making any progress. Porter is hollering for me to give up and come on down the river.

Some things are meant to be left to the imagination. He says.

(On the drive home I realize this event is the equivalent of snipe hunting in the suburbs. It really was a stick the whole time. Sticks get stuck in the river and create the craziest illusions of life. Porter let me fall for it hook, line and sinker, the stinker! I hope he had a good laugh and that someone had done the same to him long ago!)

We continue along, the sun continues along, the five mile stretch is closing.

We stop at another sandbar. Eat more. Mostly just biding time, not wanting to be done with the day. We treasure hunt, I find a bird leg bone, a turtle shell. We walk the edge of the islet and talk about how the water cuts the sand in different ways. We watch the tracks of the birds. As we walk back to the boats, there are coyote tracks running perpendicular to the way we'd walked down the sandbar.

There's no way we missed these tracks on the way down. I say.

Let's follow back to our first tracks. He says.

Sure enough, the coyote has passed silently behind us at some point in our leisure. We find his tracks over ours.

We follow the coyote tracks along their length. Its clear where he sees a bird and begins chasing it down, the tracks weave in and out of the water in it's fowl chase until there's a chaotic whirlwind of wing edges and close paw prints where the bird met its demise. The coyote tracks head back into the water completely then. Porter and I continue back to the boats, about to meet our own end of the day.

I have a feeling I'm about to find something cool.

He says. We both snicker a little, knowing these are generally famous last words. And at that moment, Porter looks down and finds the jaw bone of a deer. This is an old deer, long in the tooth is not a metaphor. You can see years of wear and exposed gums. This is an animal that ruled and lived. Lived hard and learned to survive. This is what I want to learn from the wild.

Our jump off spot approaches. We swing into the eddy of the crush of the creek into the Kaw and begin the struggle up current. There have been tremendous storms in the past few weeks, and while we didn't see evidence of that on the river, the creek is totally blocked up by fallen trees. I take the lead into the creek and begin navigating the detritus. The creek is faster than it would otherwise be, rapids created around the fallen trunks and leaves-laden branches.

There comes a point where I choose to climb on the bank and walk over land, dragging my kayak for about 10 feet to avoid a rapid spot. I climb out of the kayak onto a rock and grab the paddle and step confident as you please



what I now know is


I sink to my knees instantly. Two things also instantly cross my mind:

The mythbusters said to fall and distribute your weight evenly.

So I fall.

My shoes are gonna get sucked off by the mud.

So I clench up my toes to hang onto my shoes. There is no way I'd make it the rest of the way without shoes. You may not know that when you pull out of quickmud, it doesn't give up on you. I now have an inch of mud clinging to my legs, and to the left half of my body where I fell. I also have the ability to visually tell the difference between quickmud and regular mud. Which means I see I have 10 more feet of quickmud to get through. So I commando crawl my way across, dragging paddle and kayak and tits and loose shoes and elbows and knees through more more more quickmud. I am covered in mud goober, I'm taking part of this river home with me.

At the end of the crawl, I jump back in the boat and push to the loading dock where we exit the river. Standing in the calm of the dock, it takes a long time to wipe all the mud off. Look at those shoes!

The sun is setting. Porter and I share a nip of spiced rum in celebration and for warmth. Parting ways and returning to the fast, worrisome world is what must be done. We will pay bills, raise children, run errands, chase dreams.

We will keep the river within.


 (happy me!)


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The River: part 2

It began with a joy and breakfast at YJ's with the Goddess of the Furrowed Brow.

It's a bright morning of my 39th birthday. I'm bikini clad with tight yoga pants over and my denim Bill Hicks jacket. It's just a ride. There's an energy in the air I can feel already. This day is bustling. There's a foot race for some cause blocking half the city with little busy running runners and clapping cheerers and police officers and road blocks. Just the kind of thing I want nothing to do with. I want less. I want the minimum, just what's necessary.

I eat my breakfast sandwich with habanero sauce and drink my drip coffee. I talk to two traveling retirees who are in love with KC and keep coming back. This is my city. I gather my life jacket, my bananas and granola bars, real food for the trip I'm about to take which is so much dream food.

Porter is calling me on the drive out to the Kansas River, roads are closed to construction and to motorcycle tours. Getting where I'm going won't be trivial. It seldom is. I navigate the concrete connections, sneak in to slow spots between masses of bikers and make it to the drop off point where we'll leave my car.

I pull up to see Porter, one can hear two roars: the immensity of motorcycles, I mean thousands of them riding for a cause; and the slower, deeper roar of the river. I can't see it yet, we're too far up the embankment. This is the moment, I'm close to this moving, snaking powerhouse that I've been longing for. I walk over to the long concrete boat drop that meets the creek which feeds the river. It's bursting with energy, too. It's like the entire world has decided this is a day for frenetic and intense dedication to something: endurance, bravery, a cause.

I don't touch the river yet. It's noon.

Porter has gifts for me on this my first trip down the river. First, a knife.

He drawls: the man who taught me how to live on the river made me promise that I would always have a knife whenever I was on the river. Now you have to promise me, too.
It's so if you get trapped in some fallen brush in a heavy current, you can cut yourself free. I know this, and many other potential dangers, without Porter having to tell me because many people I've told of this journey have painted so many negative pictures. I've been told not to do it, that it's not safe, that I'm crazy, that it's unreasonable and even stupid. I've been told of countless stories of near death and traumatic almosts, and told how I should learn from this and not do that: how I should not go on the river.
I'm amazed how much everyone lives in fear. Porter's first question to me when he offered to take me out was: Are you afraid?
I paused on the moment. Maybe he wants to hear me say yes, to show that I'm respectful and aware of the potential dangers. Maybe I should say no, but I understand the potential dangers. I decided just to actually trust him and tell him the truth.
I'm not afraid.
Porter just says good. And we start talking about plans. Porter doesn't live in fear. He's raised a family, loved and been scared, he's built homes and fixed homes. He's traveled across half the country on his bicycle with nothing but his wits. He's known loneliness and alienation, like me, like all of us.
Both of us know the secret: you can never be fully prepared for anything, your best hope is developing a sense of pause during crisis. So when the adrenaline dumps from the imminent danger, you can have a space to choose your course of action, rather than flail in fear blindness. The only thing that has actual value in a critical situation are facts and training together with calm awareness.
So anyways, he gives me this knife. He gives me this dry bag for my phone and keys. We drag my kayak and his 12 foot aluminum long boat with oars down to the bank of the Kaw river at the Gardner Road drop in point. Porter tells me to be sure everything you bring is tied down, at least, he says, everything you want to keep. He puts the weight in the back of his boat, he carries all my things for me.
This is my moment, I'm about to drop in. Then I stare into the sun to take my Strong as fuck. selfie for social media.
Funny thing, I think. Some eyes now roll, it's trendy to hate selfies. But suddenly I'm totally aware that I have no hat to shade my face, which is essential. By taking pause, I gave myself room to remember what all I need. Making a record of what you have accomplished is a good thing. I'm always saying to keep have-done lists along with your to-do lists.
Porter has a hat for me in the truck, so I run up, retrieve and off we go.
This is the part of the story I don't know how to write. There was surface of water, there was push/pull of current and wind, there was sunlight. Boundary, action, a way you could be moved without self-direction, a way you could move yourself. A point of no return.
Porter is speaking to me about how to boat the river, about needs and goals. I'm listening. Always bring enough water. There is nothing worse than being trapped without water. Eat before you realize you are hungry. Flip the boat into the still of the eddy like this. When you are exhausted, or when you need to wait for other travelers to catch up, you will need this space to rest. The boat rests in the head of the eddy. The river keeps rushing, but you pause.
I'm listening, but I'm also utterly absent. I'm the paddle in the river, I'm the moving edge which exerts pressure and changes course. I'm the current of the river, pressing on with every bit of available energy in use. All potential is kinetic. I am the ears of the heron and the passive lilt of the leaves in the wind. The wind is reaction of the temperature changes of the water/soil/air boundaries of the world. It all culminated here. I alone block this sunlight's photon and cease it's traveling. I am the coriolis, I am the void, I am the sun.
onto The River: part 3


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The River: part 1

It began that I had a sadness and decided to swim more.

First, I went to public pools. You paid, there were always a bunch of rules and creepers and sneering eyes at a tattooed fat girl in a bikini. The children set themselves up as the guardians of the rules. I rarely had a guard whistle at me for infractions because some pussy-fruit-micro-pool-crossing-guard was already saying: you can't swim there, then; you can't throw him in the air; you can't carry her on your back in the water, you can't bring your ball and pool noodles in.
public pools = distorted reality. subtle?

This is what I'm paying for?

So, I started sneaking into hotel pools. Well, there wasn't much difference except I didn't have to pay.

It occurred to me that there were lots of lakes I could just go jump into for free! This is a fundamentally better experience. Imagine having actual nature surrounding your swimming experience rather than concrete and major thoroughfares and snot-nosed-unpaid-security-guards. (Is it good for the children?) I drove to any ole spot along a lake I could walk up on, I walked right in. Easiest thing in the world. I swam with bald eagles, hawks, owls, herons, a shit-ton of shit-making Canadian Geese, feet hitting fish, muskrats, snakes and frogs and turtles and wind, natural wind shaking the trees, sunlight visible on the lake water. The peacefulness I was chasing was finally settling in.

At the nudie lake (please be at a nudist lake or beach at some point in your life, it is amazing to be unshorn under the sun), they had a canoe you could use for free.
The minute I got in that canoe, something changed. Looking back, it's like I'd never known happiness before. Which is completely ridiculous, but the experience of floating and rowing, the impetus of nothing, the rush of water, the control of the boat, the chaos of the boat, balance, purpose, awareness, rocking, being, it was a next level feeling. It was like instant meditation, total immersion in the present.
I kept going back to that canoe as much as I could, including the night of the Perseid meteor shower in August. It just so happens the nudie lake is in the middle of one of the nearest "no-light-zones" to Kansas City. So Mateo and I go out there with sandwiches and wine and climb into the canoe. Above us is straight-up the Milky Way. Our galaxy above us stretches from horizon to horizon, wrapping us completely around, it's no wonder the ancients thought we were the center of everything, because I have never felt so held as in that moment with the stars and my love. Billions of stars, the planets wandering at their speeds, the satellites faster, and the airplanes fastest. But closest, and wonky and seemingly drunk flying, the bats! An entire environment of air beings I never get to see. What was most unexpected though, was the reflection of the stars on the mirror of the lake. With the exception of a small band of trees on the circle of the horizon, it seemed as if I were floating in the center of an egg of stars, and being so small but so part, I felt a very rare but unbelievably honest feeling: I belong. 
Oh yeah, and the meteorites were cool, too.
Now, I've always been fascinated with the ocean, and so I started thinking about how all rivers lead to the ocean. I started thinking about our river: The Missouri goes all the way to the delta of the Gulf Coast. Delta, the ultimate boundary condition: fresh to salt, feeder of the original womb, turbulent, great and terrible. I already spend a good amount of time down on the river walk, but this time when I go, the feeling is different.
Suddenly, there was longing. How much have I really longed for ? I've wanted and loved and worked for, but this sense of longing was new, it felt as if a part of me bundled its energy and reached out a cord which grabbed a fistful of water and took me away: took me to the delta. I can feel it this minute as I type, it's a calling. It's like I'm the weird alien water tentacle from The Abyss.
So, I got my own boat, an 8 foot Pelican feet-in kayak. I kept going to my lakes and learning the relationship between the paddle and the water, the boat and my balance, my arms and their push/pull, the stability of feet and rapid movement of waist. What is most surprising is the agility of the boat in the water, you can turn more quickly than I thought.
I started trying to get myself in the river, this was complete madness and some real shark behavior. Shark Behavior in my lexicon of private metaphors is when you are moving to stay moving and not really thinking out how to do a thing, or more importantly, if you really want it. It's a coping mechanism I've developed to avoid the hard work of outwitting one's own depression, anxiety, and for me, especially, panic. After the second failed attempt to get in the river, I said I need help.
Within the next couple of days, I pull up in my truck to the bookstore (duh, Prospero's = the bookstore, always and forever) with the kayak on top and my buddy Porter, in his happy drawl goes:
you floatin?
yeah! I been in some lakes, but what I want is to get in the river.
I've been on the river my whole life, I'll take you.
are you fucking kidding? hell, yes. what are you doing on Sunday?
nothing, let's go!
done, son!
Then, Rando-Sully goes: do you guys have life-jackets?
Porter and I look at each other with this, um, do I want to admit right now that I don't practice safe boating practices? We both go: no.
Rando-Sully shakes his head and says: I have a couple in my car you two can have.
Are you fucking kidding me right now? This is fucking real. And Sunday is my birthday.
It's enough to make a man cry, but I don't cry, do you?
(photo credit: ROBERT GANO!)
on to part 2: THE RIVER.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

LLAMA CUFF: a message of love from the Get Fucked Girl


that's right, I said it.

llama like the animal
and cuff like hand-cuffs

is fuck 'em all

hey yo, everybody: FUCK 'EM ALL.


It's about social change and activist anger, it's about not having to keep up with the Jones', it's about realizing that for maybe everything you think you need, you were sold that need by someone with an agenda, by someone with power. It's realizing that you have no idea what you need or where you stand on anything because all you've ever actually done is what you are told. I asked myself, what do I really long for, what is really going to make me happy, how do I find it, and who am I?

I started giving up on things after Albuquerque. I decided to find out what I really need, and I made RADICAL CHANGE. I stopped drinking, I broke up with my boyfriend, I began eating only food that I bought from the person who farmed it, I cut my hair, started working out and getting more tattoos. I went far into what meager wilds we have left within an hour of KC. I started exploring my land, both within and without.

What happened there is worth it's own blog, so I'm saving it.

But, I tell you all to LLAMA CUFF today, because forgetting to need so many basic things has opened my eyes to the deeper level of unnecessary rules and conditions in life we pretty much self-enforce.

Listen to how many times in the next 24 hours you say, "I can't do that because ..."
Listen to how many times you say to some dreamy plan, "You shouldn't do that because ..."

FUCK painting negative pictures.

Feel how many anxiety attacks you have every day. Some of those are because the world doesn't accept the you you are and you feel it, but some of them are because you are afraid to grow into the great stunning world, which is waiting for you with open arms. 

FUCK the self-abusing voices in your head.

We are doomed with fears and self-imposed limitations by trying to force our naturally creative and industrious beings into pre-conceived power-structure boxes and agendas. We are told what to buy, where to go to school, what is style, what is important, we are told even how to spend our free time: TVTVTVTVTVTV.

FUCK being told what to do.

I am daunted, but fortunate in that I'm also not conditioned to be afraid of radical change. Being raised feral by wild horses, race-cars and rottweilers is not something that surprises you about me.

This blog is to announce my next stage of LLAMA CUFF is to move to Pink Pony Farms. I'm abandoning taking up LAND that has no creative purpose. I'm getting closer to my food, and to the chickens and ducks and maybe we can get a goat?

I am creating my space instead of renting or mortgaging my space. I'm building instead of biding time. I'm making authentic commitments to the things I really need.

I don't care if you do this or not, only you know your needs.

I hope you get fucked.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Albuquerque 4

In August 2014 I hauled myself out to Oakland on a whim and a spare dime to see National Poetry Slam. It was astonishing. I hadn't been so inspired in years. I felt for the first time that I found a place I belonged. People talking to themselves and gesticulating, faces contorted into the practice performance's total emotional content, friendly faces who had all worked their asses off to get where they were at that moment. Shows and competitions and so many poems. I cried a thundercloud's worth of tears, I laughed and met so many stellar people. I had the best time and came back to KC completely determined to make our city's team.

I wrote wrote wrote, memorized, practiced practiced practiced and made the team. Then I was sent on behalf of our team to Albuquerque to compete in Women of the World Poetry Slam, my first national stage. I was beyond excited and prepared. But, I immediately saw that my poetry was ... different ... from most of the rest of what was being performed. The event's feel was very much a beautiful, healing, safe space for the expression of life's unfairness and pain. The poets felt like healers, I imagined them as nurse and wounded cleaning and sewing each other up from the battles of life.

That is not my poetry. I am a covered in blood, battle axe wielding warrior poet. My poems are sarcastic, bombastic, accusatory, snide and unapologetic. My performances are over the top, my voice is big and my movements are bigger. I am a walking trigger warning. I am not preaching to the choir, I'm setting the church on fire.

My first WoWps poem is a boxing metaphor with a message of toughen up called "The Idea Is." I had to get up and recite this poem after a woman did a poem about surviving domestic violence. I was horrified with the idea of following her. I have survived a husband's violence. That's not what I meant by my boxing metaphor, I'm thinking Rocky and I'm mortified that my poem might be taken as marginalizing abuse. I still did the poem.

Round two is for 4 minute poem. I do my rape poem, Breadbox. I've been sexually abused. I've struggled with this my whole life. Thank you Melanie, for being the first person I told. Thank you Andy, for telling me to confront my abuser, an act which changed my life. Thank you Dr. Kennedy for telling my mother and having social services force him out of our house. What lingers most, these many years later is that that man was never held responsible. So my rape poem is not about the incident, it's about the stifling rage that he was let go free. It's knowing that he married another woman with a pre-teen in the house. It's knowing he probably did it to that child, too.

It's a horrifying poem. I'm horrified. I'm crying as I type this. I don't want to live in a world that needs this poem. It's true no cousin/sibling babies died in my family of sexual abuse, it's true that I feel an intimate kinship with every person who has suffered sexual abuse. I hate reciting this poem. I won't stop reciting this poem until it's true that rapists don't go free anymore.
I watched people walk out on my poem. Important people. My gut twisted. There was little applause. There shouldn't be.

I don't write poems that make you want to clap or holler. They don't end on an I survived note, they end on a pointed finger. 

The next day was the second bout. I began with my White Guilt poem. It's sort of a joke among my friends that when I get too drunk I start in with the crying about how the blood of my ancestors is the blood of imperialists and rapists. How the legacy of white culture is so much FUCKING OVER of everything else, people, earth, everything. I finally wrote that poem. It's directed to the white community and it's mean, it's also true. I'm totally filled with rage, vile, sickened, overwhelmed, I want to lash out at my own. I want them to open their eyes and take responsibility.

I want change.

At the very start of the poem, I saw the MC of the bout turn and stare daggers at me. Her glare was exactly how I felt my lineage should be seen. I hoped she would listen to the whole poem, listen to how I'm holding the white community responsible, or how I'm trying to provoke them. I know she did not. I could tell many people did not. It was a chilly room walking off that stage.

I knew I was going to have to get up and do my feminist poem next, the chorus of which is GET FUCKED. I'm literally sick to my stomach. None of this WoWps experience has mirrored how I felt at Nationals.

There is this thing in the poetry world where the MC has everyone clap all the way to the stage. They keep the audience clapping for the poet. When I was called to do my final poem, the MC didn't encourage this, the audience barely clapped. I walked the long walk in silence to do what is easily my most bombastic poem. My heart faltered. I knew my impact was already not what my intention had been. And now I have to yell get fucked a bunch on stage.

So I did. It was definitely the worst performance I'd ever done of that poem, but I got through it. The scores were fine but the feel was fucked. I left the stage and took my guts with me. I was fallen apart. I knew that how I had presented my ideas had failed. That my intent was fundamentally not understood.

I am absolutely deliberately trying to trigger people, I believe in exposure therapy. I believe we should be uncomfortable in the world and face what makes us feel that way. I use inflammatory language to do that. I definitely pantomime sex acts in some of my poems as part of the performance. I've faced disdain over many of my performances, and had many interesting and enlightening conversations about the ideas and approach. I'm still friends with those people and we still work together.

I believe this is how real change happens in the world. I am fucking pissed. I want to rage and I want to be violently destructive. 

Instead I write poetry.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Panic Disorder

I like to say my brain broke.

I couldn't leave the house, I couldn't walk on stairs ... or grass ... or wet anything, or street grates, or over trash, or in heels. I couldn't be in a car without having panic attacks, or around drunk people, or children, especially not drunks or children while on stairs. I couldn't watch movies where people might fall. I couldn't watch people on swing sets, because what if they jumped or fell.

At the height, I'd have over a hundred panic attacks a day. Mine take the form of hyperventilations, phantom pains, intrusive thoughts and at worst, total retreat into a cornered weeping ball of frenetic energy. I spiraled out of control, desperately trying both to control this automatic response to stimuli and to HIDE IT from everyone. I would lash out, make snap "run-away" decisions, be irrational and often just plain mean. If anyone saw me in this state, it would send me down a horrifying rabbit-hole of shame and self-hate.

I don't like to say my diagnosis. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and hyper-vigilance. I like to say my brain broke.

March 2nd, 2014, me and two friends were getting ready to go to brunch.

(just knowing I'm about to tell the story I start to feel triggered)

My cat, Super Bon Bon, ran out from under the bed where I was sitting. (now come the tears) She's cute, I went to chase her. I stood up, my feet stayed on the carpet and I twisted my hips to begin to chase her. This torsion (now my hands are spasming as I type) caused my lower right leg to break in four places, most notably the big bone was straight broken all the way through. I fell to the ground and looked up at my two friends and said "I think I just broke my leg." (<~ typing that is about where the video starts).

One says, "no way." Because the movement was so small, impossible. The other has a total look of horror, he says, "no, I heard it." They carry me to the car. At the emergency room, I was under a big doctor's care within 3 minutes of entrance. They thought I'd been in a car wreck.

The break was so clearly (typing that is where the hyper-ventilations start in the video) bad they admitted me right away. LONG story short, the doctors couldn't operate for over 3 days. Wednesday afternoon I went into surgery. They had to wait because I was at risk for compartment syndrome. Which (thank you McDreamy) I know means that if I'm not in surgery real quick when the swelling cuts off circulation then it's amputation.

Pictures: me in hospital March 2, 2014, a drawing of the 4 breaks from the cat chase.

No drugs touched the pain. That little jerk that happens when you first doze off kept me from sleeping for nearly the entire time. There were endless tests because finally in my life some doctor asked why on earth I had 16 broken bones over my life, each of them happening after what is medically called "minor traumas."

Apparently my body doesn't absorb vitamin D. All my panels came back normal/healthy except for that I had ZERO vitamin D in my system. It's not osteoporosis, it's not anything they could tell me. The doctor said the only thing I can do is take supplements and start lifting weights.

I had surgery, they kept me 6 days total for observation. Over a leg break. Then home to a month of required bed rest. NO WEIGHT on the leg. A powered ice pack (so it never loses its cool) on the leg for 24 hours a day. No coffee, no ibuprofin, I quit smoking. In bed for FOUR weeks.

When the time came to start crutching around, I walked out of my house and confronted the ONE tiny step down from my front porch to the walkway.

You know how you get that funny feeling when you are standing at the edge of a long drop off, and you think I could jump and feel all weird, but you also know that you are never really going to jump?

That's what that step was like for me. There was no fucking way I was actually going to step down that step. (typing this starts hand spasms up again) I've later thought that the amount of effort that square foot of step took me is equivalent to the amount of effort I put into getting my college diploma.

I was terrified. Because I'm imbalanced, on crutches, and it's guaranteed in my life that I will continue breaking bones. Hello, Ms. Glass, right? The hyperventilations began. I forced myself ... well, I take that back ... Mateo forced me to walk down that stair.

Mateo forced me very gently and with tremendous love to leave the house. He didn't know anything about ptsd or therapy, I was undiagnosed at this point, he is like a giant wonderful helpful puppy who just wants to go for a walk and have fun. Mateo suffered immensely at my hand when I was in the first stages of my panic disorder. I treated him terribly (tears now), and he just kept (mostly) happily after me. He was determined to give me my fun, daring, big and happy life back. He wouldn't let me give it up, he carried me when I couldn't bring myself to walk, he waited for me when I walked at approximately a mile/ a million years. He held me while I cried all night, inexplicably. He suffered and had bad days, too, but Mateo gave me a stunning gift with his love and help. He carried me through the dark.

Imagine if everyday, everytime you said to yourself "I'm not doing that" ... you knew that meant you had to do that thing. That's what the next few months were made of. It felt I couldn't do anything. I once collapsed because I needed to get to work and there was a mopped floor between me and my spot. I couldn't jump off that ledge. A co-worker had to carry me across while I wept uncontrollably.

One day a masseuse came into my work to offer free massages. She accidentally dropped her portable massage table on my right leg (I almost called it my broken leg, it's not, it's healed). I leaped out of the way and it barely grazed my foot, but set off a tremendous panic attack. Top level hyperventilations, total hand spasming, sobbing, backing into the nearest corner with that crazy wild eyed look of a trapped and injured mother possum, my head jerking to the spastic movement of my eyes, searching searching for an exit. The massage lady sees this and comes toward me (it's hard to not say at me) and grabs a hold of both my shoulders, asking (demanding) "are you ok?" This perceived aggression pushed my broken brain to the very edge.  I threw her arms off of me and literally ran out of the building, hid in an unused, outside stairwell and wept uncontrollably while shaking and holding myself and just saying "it's ok" over and over. I was completely deranged in that moment.

So here comes the shame and embarrassment of being caught in the complete control of my irrational mind. These people saw me in a state of utter weakness. Disempowered, out of control, incapable. As a person who loves solutions, I know there is no pat solution to this. I'm smart. I know that it is irrational and that I'm reacting to what might be and not what is. I even know that the more nervous I am, the higher the chances of actually hurting myself. I'm in love with logic, and there was absolutely no logic behind this panic disorder. It is beneath my logical brain. (ha! I mean that both ways). And then, having people see me be victim to myself was (is) mortifying.

I forced myself everyday to leave the house, to walk up and down stairs, to get in people's cars, to be around children, dogs, so many things. But most, the wet floor thing kept persisting. The first time I got in a bath (shower was a whole other challenge) was probably a month after I got home. Mateo had to put me in, stay with me and bathe me while I just openly wept and sobbed with both relief and terror. I slept for over a day after that. Summer was sliding by and you know ... winter's coming. At this point I had entered therapy for the first time in my adult life. The irrational and (shame) abusive behavior I inflicted on Mateo along with my total inability to take step on a wet surface prompted my to start seeing a professional.

Then came the first rain after a long summer drought. I'd been waiting for this day, and I'd promised myself that when that first rain fell, I'd go out and walk around in it. I've danced and played so joyfully in the rain in my previous life, and I would have this back. This broken brain was not going to keep me from joy.

I watch the rain fall over the bleeding hot day, the temperature breaks, falls ... I'm feeling brave and utterly determined. Mateo is with me and knows exactly that I've been waiting for this day. We walk outside together. It's funny to think of a 1/4 mile of Broadway Boulevard speckled with sprinkles as being the gateway to freedom. But, the aversion finally ebbed. I walked it, dotted with rain. I was back in the world.

There is so much to this story. Let's backtrack a bit to bring in the invasive thoughts. They are all centered around breaking more bones. When I couldn't leave the house it was because my brain kept saying "crush injury" over and over. The act of leaving the house would make me feel like every bone in my body would be crushed by the weight of the atmosphere. My body would not be able to withstand the pressure of going outside.

Then, one day, laying in my bed, I thought, "hmmnn, I feel that a bone just broke in my body." At this point I was undiagnosed and hadn't really put together the extent of my brain's suffering. I couldn't really move my leg at all yet, it was in air cast, so there was no way to test it by putting weight on it or testing movement. And of course I thought that I was crazy. It is insane that a bone would break spontaneously. I had a doctor's appointment in a week, so I put the thought out of my head, not being willing to entertain that irrational thought.

I got my x-rays taken, and the nurse pulled them up on the monitor in the room where we were waiting for the doctor. I could see clear as day that the little bone on the lower right leg was actually broken in a spot it was not before. Now, I'm up to 17! I immediately began having a low level panic attack. I held off on thinking until the doctor arrived. I recited poems to myself and did deep breathing and pretended I hadn't seen what I saw. You can see in this pic the brace they put on in surgery and if you look closely at the top inside little bone, you can see the new break.

The doctor came in and confirmed that I had a new bone splinter. He also didn't seem to think it was any sort of big deal and said it happens when the bones grow back together sometimes. My brain didn't care about that detail, though, because I KNEW when that bone broke. I felt it. And then the intrusive thoughts had a fact to work with, which gave them a whole new level of power and control.

A new sort of anxiety emerged, in addition to crush injury was joined there's a bone broken in my body. Most often, it's that little right leg bone, sometimes it's my left pinky. Frequently it's one of the other many broken bones of my life. Rarely, but in the absolute worst situations, it's the big bone in the lower right leg. I began doing checks to reassure myself that whichever bone wasn't really broken. I began fantasizing about full body x-rays. I actually have phantom pains. No more bones have been broken, but its like since I know it is inevitable, it already is.

At some point, I realized the checks were compulsions. That if I reached down and checked on the bone, I'd keep doing it. No amount of checking would totally convince me, so now on my list of "things I don't want to do" is not allow checks. That's a lot of double negatives, but I want to really highlight how much negativity and fear is embedded in the panic disorder. It is a rotting fruit, a malignant tumor, a growing sickness. I have to do the things I don't want to do and I didn't want to NOT check. So, no checking allowed.

At some point, having a panic disorder feels like you are completely out of control of yourself, and simultaneously you feel like you have to over-control every situation. There is no overstating how exhausting, futile and degrading the disorder made me feel. For months, I felt that I had in fact, died. The beautiful, charming, wonderful, together person I was had died. This shell of a woman was some damaged, irrational monster who was haunting my old body. I grieved for myself every day. I lost myself, I lost 37 years of growing and learning. I was nothing.

Still, like my love Sisyphus, I kept exposing myself, doing the things I didn't want to do. And I made a lot of progress, I mean a lot. I decided to make myself anew, to just keep pushing the rock. I've gotten to the point that I pretty much only have a real panic attack if I trigger myself on a big aversion, maybe once a week or so I'll do that. Little organic panic attacks happen about once a week, too. I recently moved in with some folks who have a pit bull, and the idea of taking this sweet and powerful girl for a walk gave me a tiny panic. So now that's on my list of things I have to do which I don't want to do.

Right now, I'm working on skipping. I can walk in the park grass, climb trees, swing, play in the rain, I walked on snow and ice over the winter. I have so much of life back. The leg is long healed, and I believe that the brain will heal too.

And I found out that I didn't die after all.
I'm so happy to still be here.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

On Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Dear Witty,

Well, it's high noon at the center of town and me and you got a show-down. I've got advantage on being the faster draw, being still living ... but you put up a good fight for being long dead in your grave. Your Tractatus sent chills down my spine when I opened the slim volume and saw that it was an axiomatization.

Who else does this, who else cares? O Witty, so systematic, so ordered, so aware of the nuances of logic. No one was surprised I slept with you on the first night. I wasn't surprised when we began to fight. And I'm telling long-dead-you that I am here to redeem our mutual father figure's hope for life, When Bert said in the introduction, "Yet I do not see how any easier hypothesis can escape from Mr Wittgenstein's conclusions," I knew my path was righteous and good, and ...

I will destroy you, Witty.

all my love,

On Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Witty wants simplicity and systematization, if you are axiomatizing, this is the only start. He discusses the problems with language and notation. He understands the gap between logic and ethics, he favors approaching the inductive from a base in physics. He asserts that philosophy is an activity, a critique on "the limits on meaningful language." He claims that inference is inherently a priori (5.133).

What's useful about Witty?

To axiomatize is to attempt to reduce a thing to essential components. Without this understanding and tool in your thinking arsenal, one cannot fully understand any thing.

He gives limited tools: true and false. Contradiction (  => <=  ): This is a blog. This is not a blog; and Tautology (  <= =>   ): I know this is either a blog or not a blog. Sense and nonsense.

He claims all axioms are inherently tautologies, which is what causes such things to be transendental. He is unwittingly asserting an absurd universe whenever he transcends ... for instance, the most profound moment of his thinking is when he is asked why one should practice philosophy under these circumstances, he claims that one does so in order to "throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it."  This is a stunning claim for a person who also claims no absolutes and no ought. The logician tells us we ought to abandon logic. This is an essential moment.

He also encourages destabilization, breaking illusions of the mind, destroying paradigms and rebuilding them based on observation and with conscious choice. He does this at an axiomatic level, but later these same ideas will make excellent  elements for the set of ethics.

Wittgenstein understands the difference between a model and physical reality. This conversation is glossed over frequently, and is as important as the solipsistic paradox. Are maths invented or discovered? He neatly skirts this with a statement of fact: "4.01: The proposition is a model of the reality as we think it is."

What is important to note about models is that they take a chosen set of elements and name those legos axioms of the set. 

Now we get to enter the world of meta-logic. The logic of logic. Observations of models reveals the nature, structure, proposition, function, equation; in short, the relationship, of things. It is a very useful practice to unearth the commonalities between modes of "truth-finding." Popularly, Zen and Quantum Mechanics are grouped in just this sort of meta-logic.

We are searching for isomorphisms. This is what we have in lieu of proof at the axiomatic level.

He has a great definition for logic: "logic is the theory of forms and of inference." And if, as I compel in the next section, the forms of the universe include the random and chaotic, our humble charge is to order disorder.

We will infer a form which allows logically for self-destruction, obviation, meaninglessness.

What's outdated about Witty?

He cannot get past Descartes' existence/knowledge paradox. He claims "closed system" as a solution, which still leaves an "extant universe" problem. Hence why he dedicates any space in an axiomatization treatise to Solipsism, and both entries are extremely important to the whole of his logic.

Start with the famous 5.61: "... What we cannot think, that we cannot think: we cannot therefore say what we cannot think."

The first reference to Solipsism appears next in 5.62: "This remark provides a key to the question, to what extent solipsism is a truth. In fact what solipsism means, is quite correct, only it cannot be said, but it shows itself. That the world is my world, shows itself in the fact that the limits of the language (the language which I understand) mean the limits of  my world.

Witty dances about this paradox through the end of subsections of axiom 5, it is the conclusion of "Propositions are truth-functions of elementary propositions. (An elementary proposition is a truth-function of itself.)". Axiom 6 takes the solipsistic paradox and is chosen to be: "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."

So, to Witty, he asserts that we must logically close the system in order to put disclaimers about our inherent problem of perspective. I think he makes a small mistake in focusing so much on the nature of our language, though I'm glad he covered the ground and the rest of that species can be left as exercises for the reader. The real problem is that our perspective is limited physically and we are trapped in the senses our ACGT doled us out.

However, this is by no means a death sentence on the existence of reality or place for logic and systems. What Witty is missing is the distinction between general and specific, between axioms and emergence patterns. Language emerges from perspective, perspective from existence. We are talking existence, so it is a mistake to apply the logic of language to the logic of existence.

The logic of existence is what we are chasing.

Interestingly, Witty also mentions "a priori" in this section, something he talks rarely of considering the book is an axiomatization ostensibly. He also mentions in 5.64, "an extensionless point and ... the reality co-ordinated with it." This is one of the many points he approaches my concept of the importance of the dimension shift. (that's gonna have to be its whole own post).

2.021: Objects form the substance of the world.
Here is a good example of how Witty could be much more careful about his own language. And we don't have to have a special lexicon of unique metaperturbation language to be more precise and clear. We can just use the very loose understanding we share and have lots of meaningful discourse.

ENERGY, not objects, forms the substance of the world.
Energy forms the substance of the UNIVERSE, not of (just) the world.
Energy IS the substance of the universe. Forms might imply a "form"-er, so is unnecessary.
Energy EXISTS. Because we've assumed the substance of the universe is real.

Energy exists.
That's a mighty fine axiom.

Witty is outdated here because he frequently uses emergent things as general things: ie world instead of universe, or object instead of energy.

I assert Witty is no basic bitch,
unlike me.

A critical error of Witty is inside axiom 4.211 where he asserts, "It is a sign of an elementary proposition that no elementary proposition can contradict it."

My contention is that it is precisely paradox which is an earmark of "elementary propositions" or axioms. Just as "energy exists" is the a priori assumption based upon the solipsistic paradox. By finding paradox, we find "truth".

For one admitting he knows math language is a model, Witty is awfully dogged about his notational nuances. It seems to me that both precision and accessibility are important in a math language. He needlessly dwells on semantics due to his consistent error of treating language as elemental rather than emergent. None of his internal semantic battles are actually about the universe, but about our ability to communicate about the universe, therefore a bit misplaced in an axiomatization.

What's after Witty?

5.4541 reads: "The solution of logical problems must be neat because they set the standard of neatness. Men have always thought there must be a sphere of questions whose answers - a priori - are symmetrical and united into A CLOSED, REGULAR STRUCTURE."

There is much to unpack here.  Most important is simply that: because men think there is a grand unifying theory which implies a closed universe does not mean that is the case.

I assert the opposite. Energy exists. Infinity exists. Therefore the things of the universe have infinite potential, of which irregularity is included. I would rephrase Witty to say: The solution of logical problems is neat when there is a limited set of axioms and the model fully describes the chosen system. The analysis of closed, regular structures reveals an underlying symmetry and unity. We call this logic.

However, the universe does not care if solutions are neat, there are also random and chaotic solutions. The truth of the universe must have the characteristic of allowing for open, irregular organics as well as closed, regular structures.

Witty asserts that, on principle, nothing can be said about that which is unbounded. All advancement into the attempt of truth finding outside of the solipsistic paradox ends here. He accepts that raw information is impossible to offer.

I fundamentally disagree. The problems of philosophy do not magically disband because I assert an opinion, the canon of significant questions remain. What is interesting to me, though, is the set of questions which arise if one, as a thought experiment, just takes the assumption REALITY EXISTS and applies it to existing models and (importantly) paradoxes.

For instance, we then exist, perhaps even existence matters. Think of that: EXISTENCE MATTERS. Matter as in has inertia, takes up space, substance of which objects are composed. Matter as in to be of importance, significant.

This might be the stuff ought is made of.

Elementary Units and Emergence Patterns

Philosophy is a diverse intellectual ecosystem. People are inspired to think about just about every aspect of reality and imagination.

My focus in the sophi is nearly always what I call "axioms." These are elemental units, building blocks, basics; what I sometimes like to call "legos." A good way to think of this is to image the ACGT of DNA: from these legos are built every known instance of life. The types of life which emerge from these basics are part of what I call "emergence patterns."

=> => => => => 

It is a mistake to think that one can treat a frog in the same way as a DNA helix. It is also a mistake to try and apply the problems, systems and causalities of emergent patterns to the nature of philosophical axioms. One might also think of these two types as general (axiomatic) and specific (emergent).

These two types of thinking are often confused, and I think it's a good practice to consider the reach of any one idea. Is it a basic of something? of everything? Is it a repercussion of something?everything?

For example:
axiom: energy exists
emergent pattern: atomic bombs exist

Suppose one says, "atomic bombs are bad" and gives thoughtful reasoning as to why this should be. It would be a mistake to respond: "that's like saying energy is bad!" There exist too many interactions between e=mcand Hiroshima to apply the same conclusions to both instances.

Axioms tend to be observations, whereas emergent patterns easily run the gamut from observations (I see that butterfly), to physical interactions (that butterfly is pollinating a flower), to ethical decrees (you should not kill that butterfly).

I'm interested in axioms because the puzzle of finding the true commonalities between things is fascinating. <poet> I'm not making idle chatter, I'm chasing the truth. </poet>