Speak into the Mike

I still remember one chorus from that night:

 

Got a slow car and I’m outta gas

tryin’ to bum from bums on the way to class

Going to make a way to a better life

 

These rappers were fantastic. And it didn’t stop there. The slam poetry with the visceral sensational performances, the sensitive ponytail boys with their guitar ballads and the taut women ready to be angry and transgress, handwritten papers clutched as they

enunciated

into the

microphone

 

Poetry, baby. Open mike night at the local coffee shops with something to say. My first real world-class coffee shop was in my belated senior year of college, 2001. Good times in that dangerous downtown two blocks from campus.

 

These eclectic people, ready to give their dramatic best and say what moved them, what made them laugh or what made them dance. Don’t come too late or the signup sheet will be full.

 

Anybody could have a chance. Showing up counted more than anything else.

 

So we sat with our coffees, and let the amateur variety show play out. We had come, a composition of amateurs, to get up and speak our piece. Back at the college it was local and pure. I loved it.

 

Then I moved to Hollywood. Then it took on teeth and desperation. The now defunct Babble Cabaret was the world-class open mike night that can never be repeated. That’s how I feel it. It was something really really special. Six to eight minutes of anything and everything. Censorship? Hell, no. Originality was the only rule.

 

And the quality was wide ranging. Some jaw-dropping performances that stick with me to this day. Some performances whose main redeeming quality was unswerving self-confidence in the face of complete lack of quality.

 

In Hollywood, see, there is a chance. Some people do make a living off this stuff. And some of the people went on to do just that. Others hoped and fizzled.

 

Then there was me. Like a magpie drawn to the shiny bits.

 

You can do this?

There is a place to try that?

The people will clap?

 

So I sat and listened, always with a notebook. Even sitting listening to the other performers, I was inspired to right my next piece.

 

All week I would know that I’d have a change, a forum, to be expressive and creative. I’d scribble down possibilities between meetings at work, knowing I could make them really happen.

 

It’s part of a well-balanced life, I think.. A place to feed that fire. I know in New Orleans, the musicians know that they have a big parade to march in at least once a year on Mardi Gras. Gives a reason to keep practicing the trombone.

 

I liked who I got to be in those performance spaces. And I really liked the company. We were all ready to appreciate one another and appreciate creative expression.

 

Six to eight minutes on a clipboard handed around is not that much, but it colored my whole life.

Smart Abides


So I know this girl–woman, really–who is staggeringly beautiful. Blessed by God.

It must be nice.

I’m not really friends with her. She’s friendly enough. But I’ve never pursued it.

A new friend and I were having brunch last week. Of course we had to start telling the story, the beginning and the middle of how we both got to here. She was talking about some great people who had helped her with her career. Some great people had given her chances and good training.

She’s an accountant.

“That’s so interesting. I had the same experience with my career, but I was in IT. So so many great guys gave me their time and answered my questions. I owe my whole career to people who were willing to help me. I thought that was just a computer nerd thing.”

Earlier this year, another friend was venting about her frustration with IT people and how they were so supercilious and unhelpful. Of course I felt it personally, and said, “I know what you mean. Some IT people are like that, but there are also these fantastic people who love to share what they know.”

“I have never met someone like that. I think they are more rare than you think. You should appreciate them more.”

Hmm. So many teachers and mentors have shown up in my life reliably when I needed them. I rely on it like gravity.

But my new friend had found the same thing in a totally different field. “I wonder if it’s because you were an eager young woman. That can be very appealing.”

Pretty matters. Especially pretty smart.

We are both grateful to the people that helped us. And if my mentors think of me at all, I suspect they are glad they lent a hand.

I think about my super-beautiful acquaintance. And I know why I haven’t pursued friendship. My accountant friend and me are mortal women. Some part pretty, some part brains, knowing we’ve got a long road ahead and heavy load to push up a hill.

Ms. Staggeringly, blessed by God, has quite apparently had someone come along to push the load. Just as regular and reliable as I’ve found teacher, she’s found people who show up to carry it.

It is the gravitation field around her.

Me? I ask questions of those around me like they for sure know the answers. If I keep asking I will find the person who does. And I’m super confident that someone does.

Except…

I’m not young and eager anymore. I’m also less ignorant than I used to be. In my last job I had some trouble finding people eager to share what they knew. I wondered what was wrong. Of course I blamed myself.

Then again as time has gone by, I’m asking tougher questions I’ve picked up the easy stuff, so know my questions require answers from more elevated experts. When I was having trouble finding people to answer my questions at my last gig, they just plain didn’t know.

It wasn’t just the fact that the bloom is fading. This is a new phase.

Ms. Staggeringly isn’t dumb. She’s hitting the same wall I’m sure. That load is one only she can carry. So even if some swain happens by and he is willing to help, he can’t move it. It’s hers to carry.

When I have a question, my first response is to ask everyone I know. And I”m finding more and more that everyone doesn’t know. It’s up to me to figure it out.

I just better hope that the answers I did get are solid foundation to support me. Thanks guys. I suppose I have to take it from here.

Only natural

So we went to the beach this weekend. What is more natural than the ocean?

I extracted a promise from Daddy to take daughter to the beach this summer. She loves the waves. Daddy worries that it’s dangerous and we must keep our eyes o daughter

At last we were at the ocean. Feet planted firmly on the shore to be safe.

I quickly realized that feet do not plant firmly on sand. It’s part of the magic of the waves. Naked feet burrow into soft sand and my solid foundation isn’t.

For months I have felt a hypersensitivity to slight angles in the floor or even in the soles of my shoes

This perfect beach reminded me that my universe is not inflexible right angles. Repeatedly and reliably it is changing and adjusting.

I suppose that is what surrender is for.

Strategy

Now that San Diego mountain is created, Chris and I spent a lot of time talking business strategy. I realized I am always thinking and talking strategy with whatever I am working on.

SO NICE to talk it with my husband-partner

In an ironic twist, I discovered my old job that was eliminated is now reposted. I spent years talking strategy there and never ever made a dent.

SO GLAD that I can use my brain and my time to effect positive change now.

zombie mommy

It’s not easy. I wishI could be enthused and delighted by another tea party. It can be fun. Mostly, it’s monotonous.

At this point. It’s been what feels like forever of caretaking her. I suppose it is only full time week 4.

It feels like I’m missing a secret. I shouldn’t have to go numb. But I do.

I am wondering if I can imagine another way of spending two hours alone with her.

One where I’m pleased to do it. It’s worth thinking about. She deserves to have me be happy to be with her.

Hoping for Friendly

There are rules to follow with experiments. I know it as the scientific method:

 

Hypothesis “I bet this will happen if I do that”

Experiment –do that

Observe –did it happen like I thought?

 

So tidy. So trustworthy. Just follow the rules.

 

Until the rules start to change. I can’t stop thinking about Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolution. He’s talking about the rules of science, and how they change. The world isn’t flat. And if it’s not flat….what do we do now? It used to be flat. Or at least we thought it was. We have to ask different questions now.

 

There are only certain sorts of questions the scientists ask, though. Stray off the study map, and “that’s not a question for science.”

 

Faith in science is it’s own sort of belief.¬† Big trust that if we hang on it will lead us through. Never lets us down.

 

I’m a fan of Steven Pressfield. He’s not a scientist, he’s an author and a champion of all things creative. Here is an excerpt from his book DO THE WORK:

 

Imagine a box with a lid. Hold the box in your hand. Now open it.

 

What’s inside?

 

It might be a frog, a silk scarf, a gold coin of Persia. But here’s the trick: no matter how many times you open the box, there is always something in it.

 

Ask me my religion. That’s it.

 

I believe with unshakeable faith that there will always be something in the box.”

 

Pressfield  shares this faith with scientists. The scientists believe that the science box will always have something in it.

 

Pressfield’s faith in the box is a faith in imagination.

 

I like to think it’s even bigger.

 

Someone on the Internet quoted Einstein saying, “I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.”

 

For me, the something in that box is a combination of my imagination and the forces of the universe. I could try to put something in that box, but if the universe is not friendly that day that marvelous object could fail to appear.

 

 

As terrifying as it might be for a scientist to come to the conclusion that his experiments no longer result in any useful knowledge all experiments are forever proven useless.

 

There would be no more reason to be.

 

It seemed an extraordinary thing for Einstein to say, far outside the usual realm of scientific inquiry. And on further research, it is highly doubtful he said it.

 

But whoever said it has a point.

 

It’s a most rational sort of faith. This universe, this system we all must live in and cooperate with, must be trusted. Deeply, thoughtlessly trusted. Trusted like sunrise and gravity.

 

I have dark nights when I don’t trust. I hate those nights. Who am I kidding? Daytimes can be doubtful too.

 

I wonder if a scientist sometimes doubts. If he thinks, “That’s it. This will never work and the universe does not follow any pattern at all.”

 

I would hope they avoid that sorrow. I hope I can learn to avoid it too.

 

I reach in my heart for the box, and I open it slowly.

 

If I try I could find evidence that the universe is out to get me. And if I try I could find evidence that it’s on my side. Bad things happen. Good things happen.

 

What will I see when I open the box?

 

I will likely find what I am looking for. I want to find friendly cooperation. I will try to look for it.