Monthly Archives: February 2015

Boredom–Or things that are not boredom but feel like boredom? I don’t know. Writing title before post. Because I’m bored.

It’s not that I can’t think of things to do. It’s not that I am lazy about doing them. It’s more like I can’t let myself get into anything right now because I’m supposed to be resting. Kind of like a snow day where the snow is my own mind telling me to stay in. It’s not illogical. I’m going to start a Ph.D. program in the Fall. I wan to be rested. I am exhausted.  I feel like I need to be doing things but I feel that out of an obligation to feel like I need to do things.

For the past 5-6 years, I’ve been working non-stop. 16 hour days, 7 work days a week, very little social life, no sex, friends only in academia (and they were always dumped when they got in the way of my work)… so every thought I had was about getting from the screw up years of my early twenties to a Ph.D. program.

Now I made it. What am I supposed to do? Even my MA is done. Thesis preliminarily approved, committee happy. I’m ready for the defense, I do very little teaching very early in the day, have one class once a week, and the rest of the time is… the problem.

Logically I know there is “everything else” that is not academia. But the thing is I learned to ignore and see no relevance at all in other things. A roach problem? Ignore the roaches. Ph.D. Live in a tropical paradise? Ignore tropical paradise. Ph.D. I’m even having trouble thinking of the things themselves right now because I’m so conditioned to ignoring them. I used to have music, but then I decided to get music tangled with the Ph.D. project, and now music is not a “something else.” There is no something else that I care about. I have pets. I like them a whole lot. But they’re not everything else either. They’re there.

I have moments when I think “Ooh. Happy.” As in just being.Like the “everything else” is back. But that just lasts a few seconds.

I’m in a valley between two wonderful things. Everyone around me is in the thick of their journey, so I can’t invite them down to the valley. Not depressing. But valley.

I haven’t been drinking, I try to binge watch netflix, but I can’t focus, I don’t leave the house cuz where would I go? I don’t want to do creative things because that would be starting something. Almost like I’m scared that touching something that turns out way too special in the “everything else” might mess my narrative.

I always thought downtime would be about reading books I haven’t had time to read, or painting my house, or going to the beach everyday, or… anything else. I feel more like it’s a long flight. With no entertainment.

So what does it boil down to? Have I solved anything? I’m beginning to romanticize this, so it might be time to stop. I almost think “Virginia Woolf.” Bored white woman. Bored makes me white and makes me woman. Hmm.

This was pleasant. Back to nothing.

Strings to Reeds

I actually have things to do, but I wanna squeeze this entry in. I want to write it down while it’s fresh. I was reading Trouillot’s Silencing the Past and I went back to his preface. He says something along the lines of if he was naive he’d say his intellectual heritage was the cross of spaces between his father and his uncle’s takes on performances of history. Something like that. And I realized I too sometimes think “If I were so naive as to think…” and then go ahead and think it anyway.

In the middle of that thought, I remembered (I was listening to Morphine) this day when I was in the park watching a symphony. I remember saying to my mom “I hope they don’t have a brass session because brass spoils everything.” In the language I was speaking, “brass session” is called “metal.” So I said “I hope they don’t have metal,” and my mom understood “I hope they don’t play heavy metal songs.” She was confused. But that’s just the anecdote. Her confused face was funny and said a lot of things that I could write about, But I want to write about the feeling I had that brass would spoil the feeling symphonies were supposed to make me feel.

When I was that age–probably 13 or 14, anything that didn’t sound like strings or drums was a mood killer. There is something about the way all strings in an orchestra blend together to form a solid body that seems to correspond with my general feeling of adolescence: the idea of wanting to be something and that thing being everything that you are. It’s beyond the age of cliches. It’s the idea of being without a doubt in one direction.

I think–naively or not…screw you, smarty pants Trouillot… that the reason adolescence calls for that is because we’re finding out places in the dinner table, metaphorically and literally. Imagine little Trouillot trying to interject in those discussions between his dad and his uncle. He’d have to lounge head first, solid-bodied, unison, string session into an opinion. Any thing out of tune would have to be out of tune within the solid wall of sound. Any dissonance would be accidental and hopefully it would collapse into the unity of the string session.

Same for me. Of course. When crazy gun uncle was monologuing at the top of his lungs at the dinner table, my reaction had to be string session. It was awkward, of course. But I think it’s a better alternative than the silent mime maestro option: the idea of critiquing and gesticulating in your mind trying to coordinate what crazy gun uncle said so that it would fit as part of some internal arrangement composed of other people’s performances inside my head. I was playing and that was something.

So now I’m a grown up. I realize crazy gun uncle was a brass session. Nowadays I think I’m even more than that. I’m reed.

Reed is the adjective of independence. Reediness is this strange assertion of soloing. Even when you’re in a pit. Screw these metaphors. I’m talking about the actual sound. When I started growing up, strings remained cool, but I need the metal now.

Also, Morphine is a heck of a band.

The Origin, the Soundscape, and the Broken Crybox

Since I started blogging, I’ve been repeating something to myself in a corner of my brain: don’t write about the Holocaust yet. From day 1 I wanted to write about the broken swastika in front of the D.C. museum…how I felt when I saw it….the strange sense of loving the artistic impact and being repulsed by it (because it worked so well, I suppose)… also about how much the tour guide’s explanation “it represents how the children’s lives were broken by the Holocaust” seemed so dissonant with what the piece was doing.

But now that I want to sit down and write about the Holocaust, I want to talk about something else. This morning, scrolling through facebook on my phone trying to wake up, my eyes stopped at some random post about the 70th year commemoration of the liberation (of Auschwitz). I say random because it was one of those cheap click-bait stories and not an actual piece of substance. For some reason, in my half-asleep brain, I started flashing back to this day about 3 years ago when I watched Ballet Austin’s Light/ The Holocaust performance. And that’s what I want to write about.

So there I was… PR intern, sitting on a dress rehearsal for the ballet next to my boss, the VP of PR. Every other seat on the concert hall was empty (about 2500 red velvet seats, balconies, etc) except for the first row where the production crew was (about 10 people). We were seating about halfway between the back of the house and the stage. A few rows ahead of me was the sound/ light control area: lots of computers, soundboards, a couple of technicians with headsets and mics (like the airplane pilots kind of headset with mic). The sound/ light area was dimly illuminated for the technicians to work, but everything else was pitch black.

The stage was a wash of gray light that somehow managed to be kind of warm. The only physical object on the stage was a tree (no leaves, just branches, trunks, roots sticking out) that stretched by cable all the way up to the ceiling. It was brown or black and it looked like a million things at the same time. But whatever. I’m not here to talk about the tree. The tree is cool. That’s all there is to it.

Before I talk about what I want to talk about, I want you to know the soundtrack was Philip Glass, air raid sirens extended into a single continuous sound harmonizing with more air raid sirens, Steven Reich (those I could identify), and by those I had to look up: Evelyn Glennie and Arvo Part. If you wanna knwo what the main theme sounded like:  And that’s not even the air raid sirens bit.

Alright. We’re ready. I want to talk about how I reacted. In retrospect, I’ve dubbed the incident “the day I broke my cry box.” But that’s lazy naming. Something really fucked up fucked me up that day. Here we go:

About 5 minutes into the performance I wanted to cry, of course. But because I considered myself to be on the clock and I was sitting next to my boss, I kept telling myself: don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. My body started tensing to keep a hold of itself. My fists were squeezing harder, my shoulders shrinking, my feet pushing against the ground, my eyes were probably bugged out starting, almost not blinking, while the dancers danced on, and the goddamn modern music and the goddamn air raid sirens, and the goddamn tree did their fucking thing. Some gradual metamorphosis must have happened, but the actual conscious thought hit me in one single flash of extreme present tense awareness: I can’t cry. I don’t deserve it. For them, I must keep my eyes dry. They are suffering. I don’t deserve to cry.

Bam.

When we left the concert hall, the VP of PR asked me what I had thought of my first dress rehearsal. Then the Marketing person (forgot her title) crossed the street from the office building carrying a box full of glittery things. Actually, I don’t think she actually was carrying that box. I think my brain just put it there as I typed this…probably to match the way I remember her general person, or the tone of the greeting, or something. So I started talking about my work with exile studies, and how my professor was a child of survivors, and how I was writing about the Holocaust, and how… Suddenly they were hit too. I don’t think I broke their cry boxes, but something happened. The air changed. It was me, of course. I wasn’t me anymore. I was an origin or a disturbance in time and space… just enough to get the soundwave traveling. You know the soundwave. The soundwave that carries the memories. Like when the past breaks the present’s back, or its thin membrane. The ripples, cabron.

So really, I didn’t break my crybox (btw, I say that because it took me almost a whole year, or maybe it was more, to cry again after that year, and to this day, i don’t cry the same). What happened is that I became the dumb dull origin. It was me and the memory, baby. Right in the same spot. When you’re suspended like that, you don’t cry.

Textures of Home

Home was red-brown, clumpy, smooth earth. There is a taste to the air that blends with the way the walls look on the house fronts. Since I was rarely on foot, the smell-sight memory texture also has a layer of vibration: the car going up and down soft slopes over cobble-stone past street-crossings. Since it was always hot and always almost about to rain even though the sky was clear, there is a sensation to the memory: a soft sting to my flesh inside the car. And that’s just what the smell felt like.

Then there is thick black and smooth. No smell. Wavy, uniform, and perfect. A certain movement to the head it belonged to… a certain snapping of the neck. Downward. Sideways. Very quick. With a smirk to her face. ..ready to start something…her whole body ready to do something…following her head. Maybe a clap of the hands. Striding. Onward. The hall from the living room to the kitchen… completely detached from point a and point b. That’s my grandmother.Her face is everywhere in my face because that’s where I keep her. She is the deepest recesses of home. Her bathroom: mint tooth paste, that brown transparent soap, the white light , cuckoo clock behind me, hair growth oil: grandpa. Shaving: uncle.Grandpa and uncle went in there for hours. She called it their apartment.

That’s my most intimate: a collection of other people. No revolution. A matted glory bundle of matriarchs. What about the men? The men are my currency.