Exploring my own “Berlin”. Wish you were here. Will call when I return.
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What happens when you spend every waking moment waiting for the moment when your life is about to change? That was the random thought that awoke me from my sleep this morning. These are just the types of ridiculously clever words that usually creep into a person subconscious only after spending a lifetime watching and absorbing the language of too many “hipster” indie flicks. The ones that explain a lifetime of circumstance in 20 words or less.
I went to bed watching Me and You and Everyone We Know. Almost every word in that film oozes clever.
This past year, among other things, I have been searching for clever: clever words and clever images; clever words and clever subtext; clever words and clever meaning; Clever words in order to figure myself out, and more immediately, cleverness in order to write this blog. Things, events and moments keep coming full circle, however fast and furious. My indie upbringing has left me with clever and for me, clever equals clarity.
A few weeks ago, I attended on of my favorite Aunt’s funeral. She was just shy of 101 years old when she passed. When I think of my Aunt Rose, the first thing that always comes to my mind is her voice. It was a very unique in tone and sound, almost too difficult to describe. I always thought it sounded like what an aged elf might sound like but not annoying in that helium, Wizard of Oz munchkin type way; more like a soft toned, closed throat sound, as if her vocal chords were struggling to get all the air it expelled. It had resonance but was still slightly muffled. Her laugh was similar. Both gave me comfort and made me smile. I was told that she was the only adult, other than my mother, who had the ability to quell me in her arms. I cried for almost everyone else. I suppose her amazing voice had something to do with it. I was deemed as somewhat of a “cold” baby because of my lack of calmness and inner peace.
I was compelled to write a few words in Rose’s honor due in part to this early bond. I wrote few random thoughts on some vacant scraps of paper. The pages were filled with scribbles, scratched out words and prose that, due to my penmanship, was quite indecipherable to most everyone else but me. After about 20 minutes, I was able to make my thoughts cohesive enough to complete my passage, so I folded the dog-eared, messy memoriam and placed them in my purse. The next day I walked into the viewing, said my hellos, gave my hugs, and handed the folded text to Rose’s daughter, Judy. My intention was have my words placed in the casket as a kind of silent remembrance.
“You should read these at the repass.”
Public speaking is quite daunting for me. I have done it on many occasions, but it is unnerving to say the least. I spent the whole next day thinking: people call me the Kim Reaper™, I am REALLY associated with death so I should REALLY feel more comfortable in this whole dearly departed/remembrance realm.
I am fascinated with eulogies. I am also a huge fan of pop culture. For a period of time in my youth, our household was subscribed to People magazine. I always jumped to the celebrity death/obit/remembrance section first. My two hobbies in one fell swoop. WOO HOO! It was always fascinating (and a little heartbreaking) to me how a writer, who probably did not even know the deceased, could sum up a whole lifetime of achievements in a few small paragraphs. That a lifetime of work filled with blood, sweat and tears could be condensed into a few hundred characters, in a column format right next to an ad for baby formula or shoes. It almost felt like a Greek tragedy to me. I would read and reread each death notice trying to memorize who they were and reflect on impact they left behind. I would ask my mother detailed questions about select dearly departed if it was an actor/artist from before my time or whose work I was unfamiliar with. For a time, I would even cut the notices out and save them in a folder. I don’t know why I felt so obligated, I just felt sad that after these words were printed, the forgetting would begin. I knew it wasn’t the celebrity thing that left the impact, it was the horror of forgetting or being forgotten.
These days, I no longer clip and snip obits manually, instead I inform the masses through my Facebook page, posting the death notices as I find them. I have a reputation as the “you heard it here first” merchant of death. I have been dubbed the Kim Reaper™ because of these posts. In fact, I have hopes that my “reapering” will be mention in my eulogy at least listed as one of my occupations in my obituary. How poetic?
I spent the whole night before the funeral reworking and agonizing over the honest words I had written in private for my Aunt. I was almost bastardizing the spirit in which they were written due to my insecurity over their weight. I felt that they somehow HAD to be changed, they had to be better, they had to have bells and whistles, they had to have more of an impact. I wanted people to remember. I wanted my words to almost rematerialize this person in front of the familial onlookers.
In the end, I found there were no better words than the ones I wrote for my Aunt the night before. The simplicity of them made sense. Relationships should be simple, honest, quiet and meaningful. The bells and whistles usually lack substance.
I read my words as my voice crackled and stammered and stumbled. My throat tightened as the prose spilled out. I spoke of endurance and perseverance. I spoke of family devotion and togetherness. I thought of how she called me “my Kimmy” every time she hugged me. Were these the right words? They lacked chutzpah, they lacked the cleverness-clarity. My aunt and I had not seen much of each other over the last few years. I said to my sister that something to the effect of, “there are so many more people here today WAY more qualified to honor her.”
The room was silent when I exited the stage. As I made it back to my seat, my sister hugged me with tears in her eyes. They meant something to her.
Despite the tears, I still debated in my mind whether my words were an adequate enough memoriam or even if I had the right to be on that stage at all. We began to say our goodbyes. The last hug I gave that day was to a woman, a distant cousin, someone who I had not seen in years. She grabbed my hands and uttered the phrase, “How beautiful.” I smiled. I think her words were one final gesture of love from my dear Aunt, spoken through my cousin.
I spent the rest of the day remembering. Scattered, lovely, sad, happy thoughts swirled around as I drove home:
We had to be in bed by 8 or so my mother and Judy could enjoy their nightly telephone ritual… Rose was widowed so early in life… There were no pensions in those days… She cleaned the neighborhood church to make ends meet because that is “just what you did”… The doctors feared Judy and Bob’s daughter’s leukemia may have been a result of the Agent Orange used in Vietnam… What would it be like to be drafted… Duquesne Rummy nights in our house were legendary… They always smiled. I knew all their laughs very well… I need to listen to the Rainbow Connection again… My niece called Rose her Uncle Rose. “If that’s what she wants to call me then I am ok with that”… They watched a lot of M*A*S*H … Bob, Judy and Rose lived in that tiny house in Duquesne for as long as I can remember. It smelled like cookies and a department store. That smell always reminds me of family.
I ended my remembrance with two statements I felt appropriate. This was the first:
At the end of Rose’s life, when she could no longer get around, my Uncle Bob had to carry her from room to room. Aunt Judy was worried that Rose was far too heavy for him to carry. To this Uncle Bob replied, “I will let you know when it’s too heavy.” I thought to myself, “How beautiful.” That phrase sums up everything you ever needed to know about Rose, Judy and Bob.
I realized on that car ride home that is was not important whether my words were significant or not. The significance lies in a life well lived. And my words, however unpoetical or unclever, couldn’t give or take away from any of the italics.
The second statement was this: I could not get the words of Robert Frost out of my head throughout most of the funeral service, so I decided to end my eulogy the same way I am ending this blog. These perfect, simple words that seemed to make all the sense in the world. The universe had been giving me cues all day, so I figured it was best for me to oblige.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down today.
Nothing gold can stay.
FAMILY PHOTOS, Courtesy of my cousin, Donna
My dream poem (as promised from last week) followed by a request.
THE DREAM POEM
A traveller sat down on my solitary dream bench and told me this story. I am not quite sure where these words came from, but I woke up on my birthday morning with this poem in my head.
i dont want to turn 40 one day.
there are checks to cash and bills to pay.
i need to catch a plane today.
i need to find a lover to play.
and then the rhyming stopped
i knew i should have left this shore ages ago.
what i needed was never here,
it was out there,
somewhere in berlin.
in the night,
with rocking hips and sailing ships,
and in the oohs and ahs of peircing midnights and mountains of regrets,
that at the time seemed like a good idea.
i need a voice to make a movement,
the movement i sidestepped,
the movement i stood still for.
i need to seize now, the voices are quieting.
it is amazing how your voice have moved the words,
the words inside i never could pronounce.
i need you to take me to chelsea, to lodger, to low,
you need a janitor a maid and a housekeeper.
i need to take myself.
i am drawn to your dark place, your weird space,
your lies, your backhanded neglect,
your gravelly voice,
your unfiltered cigarettes
are we always all born restless?
or is it only me?
i spent 10,000 days alone,
spent 10 years getting famous,
10 years getting rich,
then 10 years getting forgotten (by the time i’m 66)
will i get what i need by the time i’m 66?…
It was a very weird, very visceral dream. He was a silhouetted traveler adorned in a fedora and trench coat. His outline looked like the love child of William Burroughs and Leonard Cohen. He smelled of lucky strikes. He told me this “story.”
THE REQUEST: A CALL FOR ARTISTS
This poem isn’t Shakespeare or some brilliant lost beat poem, but my head was whispering to me that day so I thought a response was warranted. To that end, I began to realize that it might be kind of cool to use this dream poem in a type of artistic exercise, or as some sort of art collaborative. I am reaching out to the masses to find a way to illustrate these random words in a way that makes sense using film, dance, music, illustrations, comics, graphics, design, etc. in order to make a fantastic blog/Flickr/etc. online art show. Here is where you come in. Read the poem, examine the words, come up with something brilliant or brilliantly mediocre. Deadline for submission is October 9, 2011. Send me a link to your work in the comment section of this blog post (whether it be through Flickr, Vimeo or what have you) and I will post and promote your works in an online gallery on or shortly after the deadline.
I look forward to seeing your dreams.
I woke up with the words of a poem in my head.
It was spoken to me in my dreams by a silhouetted traveler adorning a fedora and trench coat. His outline looked like the love child of William Burroughs and Leonard Cohen. He smelled of lucky strikes. They weren’t my words (although my brain dreamt them up). I will share the poem in its entirety next time, but here is the ending:
are we always all born restless?
or is it only me…
i spent 10,000 days alone
spend 10 years getting famous
10 years getting rich
then 10 years getting forgotten (by the time i’m 66)
will i get what i need by the time i’m 66?
The words made me think. They made me make promises to myself:
• I was going to enjoy this birthday. I was going to recognize through my lens the little moments.
• I was going to wear a dress everydayof this birthday weekend. I was going to accept that side of my femininity that isn’t related to motherhood, combine it with my other selves and make it more apparent.
In the spirit of the Birthday Art Project, and as a present to myself, I was going to attempt to make some sort of statement about who I am. (However narcissistic that may or may not seem). So within the tiny quiet moments of my solace and reflection, and within my (sometimes) loud, boisterous, self-imposed attention grabbing, antics, I let myself experience moments this year, moments through myself and through others. I captured them. I documented them. Each photo took a nanosecond to take, but it painted the story I wanted to tell. This weekend was my art. It was the first birthday over I decade where I took time and experienced the moments. So here is my birthday, my weekend, my moments, my art, my dresses, party feet, other people’s feet, my feet and my birthday dancing, my laughter, my images without words.
EXCERPTS: MY FRIDAY
EXCERPTS: MY SATURDAY
EXCERPTS: MY SUNDAY BIRTHDAY
I like the wisdom that comes with getting older, but not the aging process itself. Both my parents died way before their due, so I feel like I am constantly traversing through time and space on moments that are borrowed. September 4th brings me both reflection and melancholy in a way the rest of the 364 don’t. So last year on my birthday I decided to make an event (albeit a small one) on my “special” day. Using social media to connect to others, I made a public declaration (in my Facebook status) for whomever was online, right at that moment, to make homemade art by the stroke of midnight on September 4th. I was half kidding and I was not sure if anyone was awake or even around, but I put my words out there. I thought that it might be neat to see what people came up with on a moments notice and who might actually respond. I love art and have a lot of talented and creative friends and colleagues. I gave the participants little parameters, the only stipulation was a 4 minute time frame to complete the work. The person didn’t have to be an artist by trade or hobby, just passionate about absolutely anything. I wanted to see something; a simple statement on the day; a nice love letter to September 4th: A very ordinary day. I closed by asking them to post a pic of their homemade art on their FB walls (before midnight) and tag me in the post.
Last year’s experiment heeded some brilliant results — FB BIRTHDAY ART, 2010 — so I decided that this year I would make homemade, spontaneous art an annual event. I cheated a bit and made my declaration a few days prior. I wanted to make a few more folks aware of the impromptu art gallery. In doing that, I don’t think many stayed within the 4 minute parameter but some brilliant art was to be had.
Here are this year’s results — FB BIRTHDAY ART, 2011.
And here are the two songs that were written in my honor:
Tomorrow I will reveal the art I created for this project. Stay tuned!!!!!!!