Raining In California

It never rains in California anymore. If it does rain, as soon as you start to get comfortable- the rain stops. In my closet I have a rain coat, umbrellas and rain shoes that have not been worn or used in over two years. California is in the midst of a drought. I no longer take showers that last more than five minutes, which means that I no longer masturbate in the shower. For months now, I have been waiting for rain like one who awaits the homecoming of a long gone lover. It is the end of October, the winter chill has settled in but still the rain is absent from the fall scenery. There is still the summer sound of crickets outside. My soul is starting to ache in certain spots- because of this absence of rain.

One thing that I have never enjoyed about growing up in California is the absence of seasons. The weather never changes drastically but rather it comfortably slides through the seasons without anyone really noticing that winter, spring, summer or fall has just passed. I have noticed a slight fragrant change in the air as summer becomes fall or winter becomes spring- but this is the extent of it. I do not really need to buy new clothes to help me through the winter nor do I need to buy anything to get me through the heat of summer. The weather is pretty consistent around here and the only drastic change that a person needs to make with the seasons is buying loads of flee repellent in the summers. I often wonder if this lack of seasons has contributed to my inability to deal with the pressures of the world. I assume that living through real seasons make a person stronger…. so I attribute my lack of ambition to the lack of seasons.

The other day…I missed the rain so much that I decided to do something about it. When it rains I am at peace. I am like a child in the womb fully content with being in the moment. I will spend hours at a time not worrying about the futile stressors of my world while sitting in front of a window-watching the rain come down. Walking in the rain is one of the few mystical experiences that I can have without needing the intervention of an intoxicating substance. Rain for me is like having a lot of money, it makes me feel like everything is all right. I attribute my heightened states of anxiety not to the dwindling economy, global warming, the unjust war in Iraq or my health concerns but rather to a lack of rain. So I decided to make a concerted effort to become ambitious enough to visit a local medicine man who lives in a small apartment down the street from me.

I met Malidoma many years ago when I took a workshop on African Healing. It was coincidence that we lived in the same neighborhood so we maintained a small friendship over the years. Whenever I have health concerns or ontological questions I consult with him. His apartment is like a large shrine that decorates every wall. Malidoma has converted his one bedroom apartment in the middle of the city into an African tribal hut. Once in side you are transported in time and space. I went to Malidoma, the other day, to see if he could teach me a way to bring forth rain. He looked and me with his dark tar eyes and told me with an African accent- that I should burn sage, stretch out my arms and twirl around in as many circles as I could stand while repeating the word rain. When I was finished twirling around I should spit into the sky and allow the spit to land on my head. He laughed a bit as he told me this but he promised- “it always works.”

So for the past few days I have been doing this. I do it whenever I have a free moment. I stretch my arms out, twirl around in a circle and repeat RAIN – and then I spit into the sky. The only problem is that I have difficulty getting the spit to land on my head. When I told Malidoma about this he said “get all your students together and do it- then it will rain.”

So I did. Today with my high school English class I got all of my students to come outside. I told them about my practice and they all laughed. They called me “weird” and a “freak.” But I figured if I could get all 42 students to do this together, at least one was destined to get the spit to land on their heads. So after five minutes of persuading them we all began to twirl around under a warm fall blue sky and repeat the word RAIN. As I was twirling I could hear the kids laughter. I thought about being a kid myself. I thought about the few times I had played in the rain when I was younger. I remembered playing with my father in the rain. RAIN, RAIN, RAIN- we all repeated. I opened my dizzied eyes for a moment and noticed that we all looked liked whirling dervishes And then when I could take no more I yelled “ NOW STOP AND SPIT INTO THE SKY!!” At the same time we all spit into the sky. It was as if it was perfectly choreographed. There was laughter and lots of “eeewwws, that is disgusting!!!”- as the spit began to come down from the sky and land on our heads, but for a very brief second…. I could swear that it was raining in California.

Writing On The Body

I have been having a difficult time writing the past few months. I find that when I sit down to write not only is the page empty but so are my thoughts. Now this is an ideal state for a meditator- but for me, a man who considers himself an aspiring writer- this can be a catastrophe. I find the blank page intimidating, as if it is awaiting for me to say something profound. Nothing profound comes to my mind and my inspiration to write dwindles away like water down the drain. I am left feeling hopeless and despairing because for most of my life it has been my dream to write a large collection of novels, short stories and plays but I feel incapable of getting an interesting word upon the page. This is not a case of writer’s block that I am suffering from- instead it is something much more physical or physiological. When I sit down to write my body feels impatient, like it has more important things to take care of. This causes my mind to loose concentration and interest in the multiplicity of story ideas that I cart around in my head from day to day. Last week, when I told my therapist about my problem- he recommended that I write on the body.

The older I get the further away I feel like I am getting from literary success. By now I thought I would have had at least a novel or two published and be making a moderate income as a great writer. Instead the opposite is true. I teach high school English at an inner city school. I start writing novels and never get past the third chapter. I also have composed numerous short stories that I fail to re-write and collect into a short story collection. When my therapist asked me why I do not make an effort to succeed as a writer- all I could say was “because my body will not let me.”

I have always had a body that seems to dislike stillness. It always wants to move and go do something else. It has trouble sitting still and working on one thing for an extended period of time. My body is filled with an anxiety that keeps it moving so that sickness, paralysis or death will not catch up with it. It is almost as if my minds ability to control my body is absent and I have become a victim of my own physiological processes. A French philosopher once referred to this state of anxiety as “no exit.” The mind is held prisoner in a body that is always running away from entropy, he said. However, one fundamental law that all living organisms must obey is that there is no escaping entropy….no exit.

So I have tried different modalities to control my anxious body (hoping that it would settle down and let me write my masterpiece). I have taken mindfulness seminars, done meditation workshops and taken hundreds of Yoga classes. All to no avail. In fact it seems as if these introverted exercises have made my body even more rebellious. I have grown more anxious and more impatient with my inability to sit still and be at peace. It is almost as if my body is intentionally trying sabotage the stories that my mind wants to write.  I am convinced that my body does not want my mind to become a successful writer- so it refuses to sit still for considerable length of time. Why this is- is indeed a mystery to me. However, I am learning how to embrace the mystery. Literally.

So the past two days I have taken my therapists advice. Even though what I have been doing may threaten my marriage and my job security I feel as if I am slowly beginning to make an inch of literary progress. Maybe there is the slight, very slight possibility that I will be able to write a novel or a book of short stories and live my dream. Instead of staring at a blank page or judging the nature of my thoughts- I have begun to write on my body. I use a regular Bick pen and whenever a thought comes to mind instead of facing a blank piece of paper or having to sit still- I simply write it on my flesh. I have filled up my chest and left arm with a story idea that I have been incapable of writing for months. It is the story of a man who is a nobody but he is desperately trying to become a somebody. I can write this story while I am walking. I can write when I go to the bathroom. I can write on my arm when I am driving. I can even write while doing my yoga practice. When I have filled up my entire chest, legs and arms I will photograph the writing on my body and then take a much needed shower. If I can continue to do this for the entirety of my story it is possible that in a few months I will have written a full novel upon my body. I will then take the photographs of the text to a typist and pay them to write up the manuscript. When I told my therapist about this today, he seemed perplexed. Even though he had given me the original idea- he never thought I would actually write on my body. He claimed to have meant that I should “write upon the body of the stories that you want to write- summaries, outlines- not your actual body!!” When I tried to explain to him that a writer’s need to write is stronger than any force of nature- he suggested that we start meeting twice a week.

The English Teachjer Who Kant Spell

I lack the jean that allows an individual to spell. I have read several self help spellers guides and traveled to many different language therapists to work on my spelling skills- all to no avail. It seems as if the ability to perfect my spelling skills lies somewhere beyond the material realm. I have tried ushering in spirits and blessing for assistance from spiritual realms- but not even this has helped. To add stress to the fire I make my living by pretending to be a high school english Teacher during the day. I use the word pretending because I lack the nuts and bolts that hold together an english teacher. This may be why I am beginning to fall apart.

I was hired by the prniciple of my school who was incredibly enthuisiastic about my attitude towards edjucation and learning. I decided to apply to the job on a whim- a bet with the universe. After the interviewe I had no expectations about receiving the job nor did I mention, during the interview, my various spelling and grammar handicaps. Instead, I talked about my various intellectuall preoccupations and my deep belief the reading great literature can liberate opppressed minds. To this day I believe that I got the job because the principle was so impressed by my intellectual acumen that she (inccorecctly) presumed that I must be a master of spelling and grammar. The truth you may already now at this point. I can’t identitfy a pronoun from a preposition, I cant’ conjugate to save my life and correct spelling just aint happening for me. Despite the fact that I love talking about literature, poetry and creative writing, I have accepted that I will never add up to what an english Teacher is supposed to be.

The irony of my life is that I am making my living as a high school english Teacher. I show up at seven ocklock every morning and work until bed time five days a week. On the weekends I am stuck grading a large hill of papers and dreading the week to follow. Recently I have noticed that I have been avoiding writing on the chalk board because students have been brazen enough to begin pointing out my errors. “You’re an english Teacher and you cant even spell betrayle,” they shout or “how did you get this job if you don’t’ now what a verb is???” I have been spending more all nights wide awake terrified about my bluff being called. What if I lost my job- what would I do? For hours and hours this thought plays through my mind? I can go back to waiting tables or try to publish a novel? I think of ways that I could pay my rent if indeed I was fired. I also think about the humiliation that I would suffer if several other Teachers learned of my dis-abilities. “Can you believe it, he was a high school english Teacher who could not even spell,” they would gossip for weeks after I was fired. What if this story made it onto the evening news on television. Sometimes I get so worked up about all this stuff that I have to get out of bed and drink a beer so that I can calm my racing heart.

My Teacher evaluation is coming up. Students are telling me that their parents are beginning to wonder why the comments that I write on my students papers are misspelled. I keep thinking night after night what if a parent reports my spelling errors to the principle of my schhool. Maybe they already now about my inadequate spelling abilities and are waiting to talk to me about it at my evaluation? Granted, I work at an inner sity high school and attendance and discipline are more important than the ability to spell or write a complete sentence- but I now that it is only a matter of time until word gets around about my particular ineptitude. This fear of impending doom is causing me to drink more and sleep less. I mean what kind of person drinks a bottle of red wine a night and sleeps only six hours???? This kind of person has become me and eventually I now that I will have to defend my self and reputation when the truth comes out and my job is in jeopardy. I already have a master plan all figured out, just in case. When confronted- I will blame everything on my father.

The Animal Husband. Part One.

My cat and I have been together for fourteen years now. We met by accident. A lover of mine had adopted a new dog, and the cat that she owned did not get along with the dog. Dog or cat? The decision was easy since when we slept together (my lover and I) the cat snuggled up by my side all night long. It was love at first sight for both of us. The cat was a black cat and at that time black was my favorite color. Everything I wore was black. I dyed my hair black and I even wore black eye liner. I was in love with the color black and the only thing missing from my life was a black cat. The next morning when my lover asked me if I wanted to take the cat home with me, I immediately knew my answer- “I do,” I said. And just like that- I became an animal husband.


The first few years of being an animal husband were great. I decided to make my cat an indoor cat since I was agoraphobic. I named her Monk- because obviously she would be spending the rest of her life indoors. Together we spent our days curled up on a couch reading books or staring at various black insects on the ceiling. We ate all of our meals together and even bathed together. When I would take a shower Monk would jump right in without warning and rub up against my ankles and feet as if she was trying to get the dirt out from between my toes. At night we would sleep side by side in my single bed and after her dank kitty smell started to get to me I bought her an expensive floral kitty perfume for her third birthday. Life was good the first few years of being an animal husband but like all good things- everything changed when I was forced to get a job.


Monk was in her fourth year of life when I really remember noticing the shift. I had to be gone most nights since I got a job waiting tables at a rather expensive restaurant. My shift went from five o’clock until one a.m and I would often stay late after work drinking with my co-workers. I would get home around two a.m and I noticed that Monk would be sleeping on the couch and not pay any attention to me. This was peculiar behavior since it was a routine for the majority of our relationship that whenever I came home Monk would be waiting by the door for me. Now, I would walk in without a greeting, shower alone, put on my pajamas alone, and get into bed alone. Monk refused to sleep with me and as a result I started to spend more and more nights alone- pussyless.


I don’t know if Monk was becoming jealous because I was spending more time away from home or if she was really hurt because she felt neglected. Our ability to communicate was stuck in a quagmire and I often times felt like she was blaming me for things and emotions that were her own damn fault! In those days the only way that I could get her to forgive me was by bringing home a can of her favorite salmon and turkey soft food. The moment she heard the can being cracked she would jump out of her self imposed depression like cannonball- and run up against my ankles purring and meowing like a cat who had fully forgiven. We would spend the rest of the night together reading poetry out loud and petting and then go to sleep like an animal and a human who were newly in love. It was that easy then.


But like all relationships, it gets harder the longer you do it. It has only been during the course of the past two or three years that being an animal husband has been like suffering through a sentence in hell. Monk and I have been through a lot together (she has had to deal with my chronic anxiety and agoraphobia and I have had to spend tons of money dealing with her gum disease and chronic itch obsession), but it seems as if the past two or three years all we do is fight. Fight, fight, fight, fight. Whenever we are together something will happen that will cause us to hate each other. I don’t really know what the cause of all this anger and resentment is (other than a lack of communication) but I have a hunch that it has to do with her low self confidence. For a long time I have noticed that Monk lacks the familiar confidence that most other cats have. She gets scared easily and often sits on the couch in a state of depression without doing anything about it. She sulks and pities herself like a child. I know that Monk is getting older- but I have become frustrated with my cat because I don’t see her doing anything to change her negative behaviors. It is almost as if she has no control over her feline emotions. And because of this psychological disorder the man who has been nothing but a good husband to her, who has cleaned her kitty liter daily and never bought any other cat a can of soft food for the entire duration of our fourteen year relationship- is suffering.


Living day in and day out with the tension and constriction that is created from being involved in an unhealthy relationship is becoming too much. I have noticed that I have been drinking a lot more and I am starting to get chronic chest pains and palpitations. I also have breathing difficulties and have been contemplating suicide as a means of escape from our fucked up relationship. Every time we fight it is as if a heavy weight is being placed upon my chest and I am being suffocated from the inside out. I have dreams about taking Monk by her tail and repeatedly slamming her against the wall like my friends would do to cats in junior high. Sometimes when we fight I get so angry that I refuse to feed her. I will starve her for days and right when it seems as if she is to weak to even meow- guilt will overcome me and I will go out and buy her a large sized can of her favorite soft food. Our differences will be reconciled but the next day something else will come up and we will be back in the shit that we had barely climbed out of. I am at a point where I do not know what to do.


There are not a lot of resources available to an animal husband. It is not like there are marriage and family counselors that work with couples in which one partner is a human and the other is a cat. I have thought about taking Monk to the pound. I have also considered turning Monk into an outdoor cat which would give us a little more time apart. I know that one of thee most healing things in all relationships is space. I love my sweet cat- I desperately do, but for some odd reason we just do not get a long anymore. The way she scratches, itches, licks, meows and breaths bugs me. She has bad breath and vomits on my carpet and now in her older age she is beginning to become incontinent. She has peed upon one of my favorite jackets and on the leather couch that I spent two years saving up for. Our relationship is just no longer the ecstasy of what it was the first few years that we were together. Things are getting out of control and the stress has become intolerable for the both of us. I am afraid that if steps are not soon taken to rectify the problems in our relationship one of us will end up killing the other. I don’t want it to get that bad- so I just got to figure out what the hell I am going to do.

The Catastrophe Thinker

I realize that I always think in catastrophic terms. Whether I am thinking about my health, my marriage, the environment or my job- I think about these things in terms of catastrophe. But recently I have learned something very strange. Where once I thought that I was one of the most catastrophic thinkers around- I know can not keep up with the catastrophe that is taking place all around me. My mind is not agile enough to register the current political, economic and personal crisis that seems to be becoming more malignant with each passing day. I am trying hard, using all my might- to keep up intellectually with this growing nightmare but I am afraid to say that I do not think that even my pessimistic and catastrophic mind could of conjured up the current prevailing reality.


I have tried to learn about why the current economic crisis is taking place. I have listened to pod-casts, read a book and listened to numerous radio shows. I have gone and listened to various political theorists speak and even had a conversation with the radical cultural and feminist theorist Naomi Wolf. But still I do not get it. It is almost like finding out that you have a disease in a certain part of your body that you have never heard of or thought about before. The reality of the current economic collapse is that it is a result of microcosmic events that ordinary people have never heard of before. Things like corporate papers, which are the cause of this crisis have never before took residence in my mind. The only way that I can understand this current catastrophe is in terms of one word- greed. A small amount of people made much more money than they should have and everybody else turned their head. Whether this is a planned catastrophe on the part of the Republican party so that they can maintain control of the government and nationalize all the banks and citizens or it is just a coincidence that this catastrophe is taking place right around the time of an election, is for each individual to decide. But what I know for certain is that I am currently witnessing and experiencing one of the largest breakdowns or deconstructions of the American society, in which I live.


It is true that I have always been worried about my health, wealth and material situation. I would not be a true American if this was not the case. Is not that what America is all about- the freedom to have the time (leisure) and lifestyle that allows you to worry about things that have nothing to do with necessity and survival? Is not this the psychology behind the massive force that keeps all Americans moving towards this unattainable dream of prosperity? America produces and exports catastrophe thinkers like myself because capitalism has given us the time to worry, to see psychologists and pick apart all our self centered failures. Is this not the American way? Am I so unusual? Granted, in certain other countries where the focus is simply upon survival- there is not enough leisure time to worry and I am willing to bet that psychologists do not make a very good living in these societies. But in America, survival has always been something that can be purchased as long as you have a job. Now the catastrophe that most Americans are still unable to fathom is taking place. Leisure is crashing down, imploding upon itself and the lifestyle that so many Americans have indulged is being pulled out from under their feet so that a few greedy juggernauts can control the world. This is what happens in a democracy that has been privatized.


I am contemplating taking my wife to Arkansas and living in a trailer in the woods with two friends of ours. They were a successful young couple who lived in Washington D.C. As a result of this economic crash they lost almost everything and had to move out to a trailer in Arkansas that is owned by one of their fathers. What once was the fulfillment of the American dream (they lived in a beautiful condo and she taught Yoga while he worked as an Architect) has become the epitome of an Aristotelian tragedy. I get emails from them that are filled with laments but they are also filled with frightening warnings. My wife and I are now thinking that before the soldiers occupy the streets- surround and lock down the working class neighborhood in which we live (to prevent mass riots)- that we should make a run for it before it is to late.


Now, maybe I am being to much of a catastrophe thinker. But, everyone I talk to tells me that something huge is just out beyond the horizon. My father has lost millions in the stock market crash, several of my students at the high school where I teach have had to leave school because their homes have been foreclosed, my friend’s mother has had to move in with him because she has lost all her money, there is not as much food on the shelves at the market and businesses seem to be shutting down all around. Granted I am a pessimist and seem to be the first person to loose hope- but I would have to be blind to delude myself into thinking that there is not a very large monsoon heading right towards me. I seem to believe that it is now time to board up the windows, sand bag the cracks in the doors, buy stock piles of food and head to a land that is higher up and less populated.


I wish that I could be more positive. I always think of the words of Henry Miller who said “I am poor, homeless and hungry, but I am the happiest man alive.” I try to tell myself this when I am overwhelmed with the catastrophe that is occurring all around me. Despite the fact that martial law, government takeover, nationalization, depression, and economic collapse seem to be manifesting itself into an American nightmare- I am still waging a vigilant effort to tame my demons and quiet the catastrophe thinker within my head. This catastrophe thinker wants to panic, he wants to scream out, get people to awaken out of their sleep and start a revolution- do something to stop the massive amounts of injustice, corruption and greed. But I am still capable of hushing him, keeping him quiet by drinking beer, watching movies, going to museums, reading novels, writing this blog and working on some unfinished paintings. I try to keep myself busy, pacify myself- so that I do not focus too much on this horrifying collapse and end up getting myself stuck in a Detention Center (which are being set up all over America). I take myself and my wife out to dinner, I work long hours, I go to bed earlier, I do yoga and I try to glue back together pieces of that American dream that once seemed so true. I even try and tell myself every minute of every day “I am poor, homeless and hungry, but I am the happiest man alive,” even though it might not be true.

Cutting Finger Nails.

There are few unedited stories

beneath my finger nails that I

filed down

onto

a

piece

of

paper.

One story is about death and

all the multifaceted ways

I die

every

day.

Another is about love

and the many  different forms

this verb takes

every

day

I

live.

Fear, hate and desire all

make their way on the

page

unknown

yet

calcified

and

tough.

The final story (filed down from

beneath my finger nails)

is one that is yet to be told

a future yet done

incomplete

waiting

to

be.