On Sunday, some of us went to see Laurie Anderson's new show "Delusion" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I first encountered her work in high school, when ou theater class was looking at artists whose performances were some mix of sound, visual art, theater and "performance art," which still has a certain dreadful ring to it, I think, for most people. We were learning about boundaries in theater, or lack of boundaries. I loved what we studied. Some day, I thought, I will see Laurie Anderson in person. She will do what she does, and I will be who I am. A lot of my thinking back then had something to do with who I would be once that person emerged. Does everyone think this way in high school? That the real you is somewhere inside waiting to get out? Perhaps this feeling never ends for some people--but I feel, at my (I know) very young age of 32, that I am finally who I am. So, with that, I saw Laurie Anderson.
I was somewhat lost for the first half of the performance--not lost in that I wasn't following the story, which is not to say that her work is a linear story--but I felt that my experience of it wasn't as rich as it could have been. I was fussing with the seat, those awful balcony stools at the Harvey Theater, which surely were put there as some hideous last resort. I was distracted by the Werther's Original hard candy that my friend Jaime brought, and which was doing this incredibly thing to my taste buds, because I hadn't tasted a Werther's Original in many many years, and it was like a supersonic journey through time to the last time I tasted one as soon as it went into my mouth.
But then, she started talking about the moon. Specifically, she was talking about NASA's plan--a very long range plan, something along the lines of 5,000 years--to move all industry and manufacturing to the moon, thus leaving the Earth to repair herself without interference. Then she talked about how the Americans and the Russians and the Chinese were arguing about who owned the moon. Everyone claimed it.
After that, and until the end of the show, I was transfixed--absorbed into the music and the emotional waves pouring out of her and over the audience. I really felt like who I am.
On Tuesday night some of us went to see James Franco play Allen Ginsburg in the new movie "Howl," which is based on the poem. I didn't know anything about the movie in advance--which is actually unlike me. Turns out, it's not the typical biopic where they show the hero going through his trials and then he finds success and becomes famous, etc. Or dies. This was something excitingly different.
At first the acting style seemed jarring--everyone seemed to be in on something, a very subtle wink at the audience, because we all know that Ginsburg was a genius and his work will probably live forever and ever and change lives of young poets and writers (and gay kids) for eternity. But eventually, between the animation and the interviews and the incredibly lucid language of Howl itself--you just get won over by the man himself...as played by James Franco. Basically, it's like 90 minutes of poet porn. Go.
After the movie, over beers and burgers and quesadillas and sweet potato fries at Trailer Park bar after the movie, Jenny Romaine and I were talking about muses. Who is yours, or what is yours? I told her I didn't believe in that kind of mysticism--that the work is just the work and I either don't know where it comes from, or don't want to know where it comes from. (I then proceeded to go on and on about Joan Didion and how everything I do is for her, or maybe because of her, I can't tell the difference...and Romaine asked me if I was sure I didn't have any muses.)
Then I thought maybe I was misunderstanding her.
So, things got late, and we kept talking, and talking, about what publishing has meant to me. (In sort: all great things you can never prepare for, and some uncomfortable things which change the relationship you have with your work...but mainly very, very good things.) And I decided that, since it was after 11:00pm, and all I wanted at that moment was to be in bed covered in cats and talk to my boyfriend about our days, I would take a cab home. And I decided that somewhere along the way, in the cab, I would figure out who or what the muse was. (If not Joan. Of course.)
Along Fourth Avenue, there was a building under construction--being built or being renovated, sometimes it's difficult to determine in this town--and it was covered by a large blue tarp, the basic blue tarp you can buy at any hardware store. The wind was blowing softly through the window of the cab when it stopped at the red light in front of the building. And this soft wind was making the tarp billow, curling out and back, brushing against the concrete, making the most delicious, satisfying, crisp, singular sound. It hit me: that's my muse. Not the building, not the tarp itself--but the sound of it.
Things can be that simple, which is what I couldn't articulate back at the Trailer Park bar. I am still learning things. It takes a long time to figure out who you are.