22 October 2009

"Pardon Me For Living, but the Graveyard is Full"

What I Learned on my Pre-Phish Vacation Vacation
By Carol Wade, Grade 8

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." -- Hunter S. Thompson

1) I love Phish. I really, REALLY love Phish. I love the music they play. I love that I didn't even know how much I loved them when I first realized I loved them. I love them as people; although I don't know them personally, it's like meeting someone you know you're going to befriend, because you just like the way they think and how they act. It's like that. Such friendship is inherently vertiginous, though, as being friends with something/someone that isn't really "there" in a corporeal sense (i.e. music, or musicians) becomes weirder the more you realize you love them.

2) That said, I'm coming to understand loving Phish is a lot like spirituality: how do you know there's an overarching force, a guiding principle? Is there one? Why must there be? Who the hell cares? Why do anything? (Big up, Opher.) It's as as simple as being alive, as feeling; either it's there or it's not, you are or you're not, and even some other times, when life, the feeling, is there (or if it's not), things become diffuse and inelegant, and not something you'd want to write home about. Love, beauty, harmony, relationships -- between notes, moments, ideas, people -- don't always conform to symmetrical concepts of order. If I find a means by which to a) relax the sphinter of my judgmental mind, and b) get safe and feel okay, grounded in my body and my world (without making things worse by, say, getting drunk and falling down a flight of stairs, metaphorically or not), then I can return to the central core.

At bottom, fundamentally, things can often be beautiful just because they *are* -- that is, they exist. Phish is beautiful because they *are* -- and keep becoming. Sure, well aren't we all "becoming"? Actually...no, we're not. That is, not everyone and everything *IS* in the way I am, and has qualities that make me more able to tolerate my reality. A lot of things (working in an office everyday, no matter how effin' cool it might be) and people (eg. Our Ex-President) make my reality feel a lot worse and harder to bear. However, things and people like Phish make my life a richer, more fascinating place, no matter how weird and uncomfortable the experience might get sometimes. It's a rare person or thing that can achieve that, for I can be one helluva sensitive, anxious, fearful fussbudget. But I've also lived through a lot of crazy-ass shit that would make a lotta people run away screaming, including dozens upon dozens of Phish shows, both sober and very well not, which also, like merely standing on a skateboard, can be too much for many people to do without immediately busting their asses.

3) I say what I do in #2 because, in my most recent plunge into the "underdeep of perceived overexposure," I became deeply self-conscious and nerve-wracked, expecting myself to be able to approach Phish Summer Tour 2009 like many of the Phish blogs I've linked to at the top right of this blog. To be honest, I don't read any of those blogs religiously; I dipped into all of them during tour, and pop in one here and another there occasionally, and will probably do so a lot more when tour begins again.

When I started this blog at the end of August, I was on PHIRE, having just started to cool off after my first out West run, the conflagatory 8/8/09 Gorge (aka: Quite Literally Best Phish Show Ever in My Biased "I Was in the Front Row" Opinion), and worse, still blazing with ire over having missed the possibly *slightly* more epic shows of the East Coast run. Then...I started a new job. I've been in technology support for the past five years, having failed in my attempts at "rock journalism" due to succumbing to the demon spirits. It takes up a LOT of my time and mindspace. It's how I've managed to survive. Frankly, I'd rather be writing about Phish. And seeing Phish. And following Phish. And if I could somehow make a living doing that, why, I sure as hell would.

So, why should I feel insecure about having a blog unlike other peoples' blogs, which is not so much a blog but a magical, ever-shifting, ever-filling trough of silliness and secret slivers of myself? Do I have a life like other peoples' lives? Hell-to-the-NO.

4) I am not a DUDE. I am not going to write about music, about Phish, about ANYTHING like a dude, or do anything else like a DUDE, unless it just kinda emerges from my "yang" side, or I force myself to do so, because...I AM NOT A DUDE. I may act like a dude sometimes -- it happens at Phish shows a lot, when I accidentally forget it's not "ladylike" to gutterally bawl "YEEAAAGGHH!" upon the first strains of, say, "David Bowie" at 8/5/09 Shoreline. I say the word DUDE, quite a lot, actually. And some say i sound like a dude on the phone, because of my sonorous voice (which is a bit more alto than your average CHICK, which I am not one of, either).

So to recap, I'm not a DUDE, I'm not a CHICK...I'm a WOMAN. I do things differently than men, boys, girls and dudes. I can often move close to doing things dudettes do (especially when I'm riding my longboard). But these days, I mostly just try to live like an ADULT WOMAN. The Phish scene (I dunno if you've -- *snrrk* -- noticed) is full of DUDES. They're everywhere. The band (as evidenced in the infamous "Chicks in the Front Row / Page's New Shirt" sequence from the band's energetic 2000 roadumentary,
Bittersweet Motel, 45:46) is not fond of their preponderance in the front row...speaking of Gorge II, one of them actually stampeded his way into my space in the front row, because he simply had to warm the rail, worshipping at Mike's silver-sneakered feet. In my infinite generosity, I imagined either he's a CHICK, or he has seen way less Phish shows than I have, and though it was the closest I'd ever been to them, it is my spiritual imperative to sacrifice whenever possible (except if I'm, like, shooting myself in the eye).

It's sorta like how no one in Phish dresses like a w00k, but somehow a good 70% of their fans do...Phish are not prototypical DUDES; in fact, they seem pretty far from being dudes, to me, anyway, insofar as a DUDE (Phishhead) could be defined as a male entity who endlessly dissects Phish's
music with formulaic intellectualism until its holistic meaning is pulverized into senselessness. I really wanted to do that, because I can (and do) obviously enjoy that level of statistical and logical analysis of Phish (Big Up, Mr. Steinberg.). But there's also a huge part of me that must weave the experience of phandom into my existence as a writer, as someone who simply cannot NOT jive with Phish. This was evidenced in a little experiment I did this week, after being flicked last Sunday from the nose of my soaring rocketship of adoration.

When Day 1, Set I of the Clifford Ball (8/16/96) DVD showed up from Netflix on Tuesday, I was freaked out, raw from twisting myself into pretzel shapes, trying to figure out how to lightly trample through a linear assessment of Phish's now passed Summer Reunion Tour. I had ordered the DVD on Netflix before I hit the brick wall I was smashed up against, with this blog shuttered via password-protection (which, FYI, is what I do when I doubt the efficacy and sanity of having my "relationship" with Phish visible to humankind...color me extreme!). But I was forced to watch the damn thing, because of the big love I mentioned above. It beckoned from the kitchen table like a flat, forbidden ruby lozenge...

I had also, by then, taken to silencing the notes and words in my head, placed there by endless days of listening to shows, over and over again (joyfully, but with all the rapture of a demented maniac), by concentrating on street sounds, and attempting to assume a posture of complete neutrality in mind, body and spirit. So, I decided to take the same tack with the Clifford Ball DVD. Mind you, I was at The Ball, but I barely remember any of it, go fig, even though I do believe I might have been trying to stay sober at the time. Did I mention that Phish, in itself, is an intoxicant? Hmmm, tricky....

Anyway, in my bizarre Live Phish Meditation Experiment, I got my mind quiet, my body still and upright, my breathing steady, my ears heavy, and my nose light. When settled enough, I fired up the DVD player and watched, and listened. I listened, and watched, breathed, not singing, tapping my feet, judging, even thinking of lyrics or notes, not smiling, not laughing...believe you me, it's not until you try NOT laughing at "AC/DC Bag," that you realize what a frickin' hilarious song it is.

What came out of me was pure heat, my temperature rising and my heart rate quickening. My body turned into my heart, my torso and lower back beating, my brain vibrating, the floor of my soul trembling, my mind and organs oscillating microscopically in the dance I was stepping back from. I saw the force with which Page pounds his keys, the speed of Trey's fingers and the way he sings into the crowd, surveying the thousands, unblinking, the look of blank, intense, knowing focus on Mike's face, how every person in the audience has that central point of clear light and heat dancing at their core, and how Phish just illuminates it such that their bodies can't help but mobilize...and I saw the way Fishman's body is like a thick tree trunk equipped with subtly-oiled mechanical arms and feet, rooted solid into the earth, hands as quick as rain, a waterfall, a monsoon, cold water to the face, and his face...puckering, as he swims through the sea of sound before him.

"It can be scary to feel so connected to something," my friend James said the other night, when I shared my meditative Phish experiment. Indeed, I thought. To the original premise, this brand of "analysis," in my book, cannot be termed "analysis" but "witnessing" -- at its best (as I experienced it) it is the dispassionate, damp, slow, immovable presence of the feminine
yin principle, to the opposing pointed, forceful, aggressive, masculine yang. Phish's entire arrangement and cosmic construction makes for the constant swapping of these energies "interamongst" (Big up, Cactus.) each other, the "bowl" of sorts that Page and Fish form, earthy solidity and fertilizing fluidity, in which Trey and Mike swirl and boil, the forceful, direct convection currents of air and fire.

To be so exposed, so nude to reality, and opening that rawness up to the eyes of my phellows, for good or for bad, sometimes I just want to hide out. It's too much to let people in that much, and sometimes it's so painful, I have to shut it all down, just shut it down! But clearly, this is a part of who I am, and what I'm meant to do. So thanks to @PhishTom for revealing himself as the third fan of my rambling observations (@mdubno and...well...me, are two others), I'm gonna keep giving this yet another try.

"It becomes more cumbersome as virtuosity increases..." -- Jan-Marek Pakulski (ex-bassist of The Fleshtones)

5) I realized this week (again!) that I am not effin' perfect. I realize that about 1,590 times a day, from the minute my eyes crack open to the sound of loud NPR, to the minute I lay me dreadlocks down, and thank the invisible powers for keeping me vertical another day. I am as imperfect as 6/14/09 Bonaroo II, Set II, where, to me, it sounds like Trey had some kinda nervous break because he managed to a) stay sober long enough not to die, and, b) as a direct result of having stayed alive, ripped out a few tunes at a massive rock festival with one of his boyhood heroes. It's like...what next? Once life gets that perfect, or even seems that perfect, is it really that great, and why the hell bother? Oh! Because it's life, and it's meant to be lived, not conquered, and enjoyed, not endured. Yeah, oops. Trey played "wrong notes," "bad tempo," "off kilter" and (seemingly) almost to the edge of causing the band to grind to a halt. But instead, everyone adapted. They rolled with the tide. And it all got wrapped up in a "Tweezer Reprise." Beautiful.

To some extent, everyone alive today is spiritually sick. Too much of everything, not enough of nothing. Danger lurking at every turn, our tiny, fleshy forms but infinitely vulnerable specks of jelly hurtling through space at thousands of miles per hour. We hurt. We get hurt. Then, we hurt each other, and hurt because of it, and then we hurt ourselves. Such is life, brutal, ugly, traumatic, sketchy and often totally and completely lame. However, sitting still in a neutral space of remove, aligned with what is quiet, still, and infinitely greater, I can, and I do, come to a place of acceptance about these things in myself, and in others. And, depending on the weather, and the support and love of others who I allow in to help, to comfort, to understand...I can and DO forgive, and forge ahead.

"Just for today I will be unafraid. Especially, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me."

6) Besides loving Phish, and living in New York City (though I live poorly and never seem to do anything that interesting), and loving music, and being sober, there are lots of things I really don't like, and can't actually effin' stand. Here are a few that will sometimes intersect (and have already collided head-on) with writing this blog:

- Being seen
- Being invisible
- Pressure (internal or external)
- Aimlessness & disorganization
- Blithering
- Rigid logic
- Not knowing
- Knowing too much
- Feeling alone and misunderstood
- Feeling like another sheep in the herd
- Feeling like I know what's up
- Feeling unsafe and afraid
- Feeling out of control
- Feeling dry and brittle from overcontrol
- Feeling
- Numbness
- Confusion, and not knowing what to do
- Blinding clarity

As you can imagine, a lot of these issues come up in what I'm trying to do here. And a lot of what I'm "trying to do here" is not doing anything, but talking about my life with this band that, for years, was a central figure of my life, and now, like a pack of prodigal minstrels, have returned to sing and play 24/7, outside my bedroom window. But getting some distance from it all this week, I understand that, though it may often seem significantly and exquisitely horrible (for me; sensitive, intuitive, piquant me), it's not a "school" in the sense that I need to teach or learn anything in particular. It's "school" in the sense that the imperative is showing up for the experience, whether I learn anything or not, say anything at all useful or productive (or even comprehensible), or even talk directly about Phish.

Like it or lump it, as long as Phish are around, they'll be in my life. And with their having returned, I'll probably continue to get to know them from where I took my detour towards oblivion, in 2000. I'm coming to know them in a whole new way, and am willing (despite my fear, which was not the case in, say, 1998) to get deeper, closer, more real and meaningful. To show up. To become open.

"If you become naked..."

[pic by James Stephens; The Rhombus, aka "New Piece" by Tony Smith, Institute of Advanced Studies campus, Princeton, NJ, 1998]


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