Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day Seventeen--Losing





A SPIRITUAL HISTORY OF WESTERN WASHINGTON


The Love Family sprang directly
from the moist soil of Washington state
during the 60's—a quirky combo
of Jesus-freak idealism
mixed with anti-materialistic fervor.
They did more than straddle the fence
of lunacy, they just hopped right over
and made themselves at home in western Washington--
eschewing their birth names
and taking on new ones
that espoused their most evident virtues,
names such as “Patience” and “Serious.”
Their leader was a charismatic spirituality salesman
named Paul, who changed his name to “Love”
and the family adopted the surname of “Israel.”
They settled together, began breeding in earnest
and spread from a house in Queen Anne
to the surrounding neighborhood,
assimilating properties at a speed that was astonishing
for a cult which once swore it wouldn't touch money.
The Love Family grew larger
and Love himself more powerful,
while happily exercising the most important privileges
of a male cult leader--
bedding the family women,
and keeping the money for himself.
Eventually, Steve Allen's son, “Logic” Israel
used his most potent virtue to figure
that he was being screwed out of his inheritance
and led a revolt, in which the main financial backer,
a man whom Love had affectionately named “Richness”
abruptly demanded most of his money back.
The coke-addled Love was unable to defend himself,
and lost a large portion of his money,
a commodity he had once despised so much
that he wouldn't even handle it with gloves--
but he just bounced back up
like a child's clown-faced punching bag
and declared to the remaining members
that they were through with the city,
and would move to a large compound in the woods
north of Seattle, near the town of Arlington.
The group bought acreage and built several homes
with Love's mansion as the centerpiece
and began producing events,
the hallmark of which was the Garlic Festival,
an annual August celebration of beer, sex and garlic,
inexplicably mixed with Christian music
played on string instruments by white-clad women
who never smiled.
There were rock bands, as well,
and sensitive singer-songwriters,
hoping for a piece of the action,
and usually receiving it with no questions asked, nor quarter given.
The official statement from the cult was
“The Love Family can really throw a party.”
Unfortunately,the one thing they could not do
was pay taxes on their property,
and as the debts mounted, the festivals disappeared,
except for the Garlic one, which continued
until they were hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
Two months before the county took the property
the Love family held the last festival,
They pathetically attempted to raise money
in whatever manner they possibly could--
charging three dollars to tour their wildflower gardens
while regaling contributors with an edited version
of the Love Family Story--
an offer that netted them about a hundred dollars.
Meanwhile, the female cult members
made a lot of the vendors very happy,
wandering freely through the booths
buying expensive handmade guitars and velvet dresses,
spending as if price was no object--
and it occurred to me that they still
felt guilty about handling money
and secretly wanted to fail
to punish themselves for their wanton materialism;
they were just a bunch of Jesus freak hippies, after all.
And fail they did,
the county took the land on Halloween,
and the few remaining family members
moved into tents on the bank of a nearby river.
Love was in his early sixties by then,
a time when most people are desirous of more comfort,
rather than being suddenly stripped of all material security,
but he merely said, “well, it's interesting,
I guess we've just gone back to our roots.”
It's hard not to admire such grace,
even from a man who had been the duplicitous leader
of what was once dubbed “the Teflon cult”
because no matter what he did, he never got into trouble.
He just settled back into his tent on a rainy November day
as if it was the natural order of things--
inwardly thumbing his nose at all his detractors
and silently proving to every person
who had ever challenged him over the years
that losing is a matter of perspective,
just a temporary way station until you can swing a new deal.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day Sixteen: Virginity





SEVEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT VIRGINITY

1). A glass of milk sits on the table, untouched. Nobody wants to be the first to claim it, though everyone is thirsty. The milk is a big deal, but no one can explain why.

2). The young woman walks down the street a couple of blocks from her home,clutching books to her chest. A carload of men drives by and honks. She is ashamed of herself, even though they are the ones who are behaving like louts. She keeps her eyes on the road ahead of her, but she knows they'll just drive around the block and return. Next time, they'll be more insistent.

3). I always thought the whole concept of virginity was devoted to penis-worship. If you never had a penis inserted in your vagina, you were a virgin, even if you'd had orgasms from oral sex, even if someone had inserted his finger in there numerous times, even if you had rubbed against someone so hard that your entire body convulsed. But stick a penis in a vagina, suddenly it was a major deal.

4). The man moves towards the woman. She opens instantly. It's one of those rare moments when both people want the same thing, and aren't afraid to show it. Then they both wake up.

5). I have a dream in which I am a virgin again. I decide I don't need sex to be happy, and that I will go through life as an artist who lives alone, My only contact with men will be through postal letters. I will have an endless parade of postal lovers, who will regale me with propositions that I will never accept, and this will secretly be a relief for them. I keep the letters in a box in the closet.

6). A man went searching in the forest for his virginity. It had been eaten by animals a long time beforehand. One of the lions told him it was delicious. The man smiled, since he had been unaware of this.

7). I didn't lose my virginity. I gave it up voluntarily, and I don't want it back. If you try to return it to me, not only will there not be a reward, but I'll never speak to you again. Go find someone else's virginity. They've probably been searching for it since they were born, or they never lost it in the first place.

Day Fifteen: Taxes




TAX DAY

I don't want to live off the grid
with a bunch of livestock
in a tar paper shack with solar panels
and so I pay the price.
I wish there was a place I loved
so much that cost was no object,
but all of it is just drudgery,
receiving with one hand,
and then giving everything away
willingly, like a good citizen.
Anger is useless,
anger is being their bitch
sickening yourself
so you end up having to ask them for help--
but they'll find you eventually
even if you hide on a dirt road in the woods,
and they'll only work you over harder
if you protest.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day Fourteen: Giving Birth





GROWNUPS


Giving birth
was much more difficult for me
than pregnancy, because
it meant I would actually have to care for a human
who was separate from myself.
My first pregnancy was easy because
I was young and underweight,
but my second was so difficult that
I collapsed in line at a drug store
on a hot August afternoon
while buying vitamins.
An aged woman in front of me
was counting out pennies for the cashier
in that laborious way that the elderly have,
and I grew dizzy, then finally
my legs gave way like soggy matchsticks.
Since I weighed 225 pounds by then
and was eight months pregnant,
this created a sensation,
even though I merely sat down suddenly
and with a decided lack of grace,
and then landed on my well-padded ass.
I've never in my life, before or since
received faster service than I did that afternoon.
The manager brought me a cup of water
and asked if I had been receiving prenatal care.
I assured her that I would call my doctor,
and that I was fine to walk home
and they watched me leave with skepticism
and concern, mixed with an odd hostility,
as if they resented me for not being helpless.
That labor was only twenty-four hours long,
half the time I spent giving birth to my son
who I swear was holding on to my intestines
to keep from emerging into a world
that was dry and unforgiving--
but my daughter was backwards
and rubbing against my spine like the edge of a comb,
wanting to leave, but going about it the wrong way.
I'd planned for natural childbirth, but
in both cases, medical science intervened
and provided me with drugs, to which I surrendered
gratefully, thinking to myself
that drugs had helped me
through so many other periods of my life,
and why should childbirth be any different?
In the end, the method was secondary
to the result, and I have two children
who have miraculously grown tall
and have learned not to ask me for help--
but in my dreams, they are still young
and need my guidance--
I guess that part of me wishes
they depended on me as much as they used to-
but the other, larger part is glad
to be able to open the door
and go outside
without wondering if it's safe to leave them for a moment.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day Thirteen: Heartbreak




 SEPTEMBER

We sit at a table in the Midwestern sun
ninety degrees at two in the afternoon
prolonging my drive back to Illinois.
In two hours, you will be a blur
on the sidewalk, standing exactly where I left you,
but everything else will be moving,
and we'll both be swallowed up by bodies.
The desperate sex of the previous evening
still lies on the table before us,
and we stare at it as if it were a patient.
I can no longer touch you,
I can only run in the opposite direction--
and so I rise from the table,
tell you that it's time for me to go.
We walk to my car,
I hug you tight underneath the trees
while a sleeping bum snores in the weeds nearby.
We break apart eventually
and stare directly at each other
and I say “I love you”
but I am already starting not to mean it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day Twelve Theme: Eating Out








A SANDWICH I COULDN'T REFUSE



When I was a teenager in Tuscola, Illinois
eating out meant getting Italian beef sandwiches
from Liga's, a garish restaurant
on Route 36 at the edge of town.
It was one of those places with cherry red booths
and checkered tablecloths,
and a large neon sign featuring the Leaning Tower,
but my mother refused to eat there.
She claimed this was because the one time we did,
we were surrounded by ominous clusters of men
in shiny, expensive suits,
talking furtively amongst themselves,
which meant that Liga's was a front for the Mafia.
I never noticed, since I was
eagerly masticating shredded beef and soggy French bread
as I clutched a plastic glass filled with icy Coca Cola,
as close to nirvana as I ever got in those terrible days.
My mother's principles
were not sufficient enough for her to stop patronizing Liga's,
they only extended to her refusal to actually dine there,
and were probably influenced by her parsimony
her extreme reluctance to leave a tip.
Instead, she sent my stepfather to drive the five blocks,
and he always returned a few minutes later
with a bulging, greasy shopping bag
filled with sandwiches wrapped in shiny foil.
This continued for years, until one day
I bit into a piece of ground glass.
That unnerving crunch
was one of the most terrifying sounds of my adolescence.
A trip to the doctor met with scorn--
the doctor said, “there isn't anything wrong with her stomach”
after placing a stethoscope on it in a bored manner.
I was instructed to go home,
and only call him again if my stomach began to hurt
or I started to pee blood.
Nothing happened,
but I never ate a sandwich from Liga's again.
I wonder sometimes what happened to their family,
if they stayed in downstate Illinois,
or had an offer somewhere else they couldn't refuse—
the restaurant closed some time during the 80's,
and hasn't re-opened in another location, as far as I know.
I'm still sad about those sandwiches,
they proved to me
that you don't need many options to be happy,
just one thing that you like enough to have over and over.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Day Eleven Theme: Swimming





DISCOUNT LOVE

the
heartbreak
hotel
is
available
on
priceline.com
for
forty
bucks
a
night.
I
hope
it
has
a
pool
and
hot
tub.