Archive for December, 2009

All About Me (some things never change)

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

I wrote this in the late-80′s or possibly very early-90′s:

All about me.

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My picture.scan0004

My favorite thing to do outdoors: jump rope & swim…scan0005

3 things I do well: get green lights, play with people, & math…scan0006

Two things I find hardest to do: fly & get A’s on tests…scan0007

If I had one wish, I would wish for: a bank of money…scan0008

I dream of being: a rock star…scan0009

Saint Jerome (Sundays)

Monday, December 21st, 2009

I got back from upstate last night, a day earlier than expected.  It was a Sunday, so naturally, I went to Saint Jerome to meet Rona.

Because of the drive, I didn’t arrive until 11:15 p.m.  Usually, we meet there around 8:45.  At this hour, the bar is not often busy.  Life and love is discussed in both general and specific terms.  Our glasses of Jameson never go dry.  (The Jameson tastes better at Saint Jerome.  We have theorized that it may be the temperature, or just the way Brian pours it.  In any case, it is delicious.)  Cigarettes are smoked at our leisure.

Around 11, the DJ starts.  I always want to hear “Runaround Sue”, and Rona loves “Twistin’ the Night Away”.  Ian plays them both, along with an infinite playlist of songs that we love.  The bar starts to fill up with people, but it’s rarely uncomfortably crowded.

We dance for hours.  Xxxxx xxxx xxx xxxxx xxxxxxx* on at random.  Rona and I sometimes take turns submitting song requests written on napkins.  When possible we are accommodated, and our dancing attests to our gratitude.

In the blink of an eye it’s 3 a.m., and I can’t remember a trouble in the world.  Eventually, we say goodbye to Brian and Ian, and stumble out onto Rivington Street.

It is the most amazing, wonderful time.  Every time.

“How did we find this place?” Rona asked me one Sunday.

“We got lucky,” I said.  I think that was the same night we played the “one more drink” game.  As we walked down the street afterward I mentioned that we looked disabled.  We stopped once so Rona could spit.  (It was the most ladylike spit I have ever seen.)

Last night I told Rona that because of Saint Jerome Sundays, I am changing my weekly hair washing day.  Those who know me well know that I wash my hair once a week on Sundays, but as of late our dancing at Saint Jerome has left my clean hair soaked in sweat and stuck to my neck and forehead.  Monday seems a more appropriate day to cleanse my mane.  (Although considering the warmth of working at the soup kitchen Monday nights, I may change it to Tuesdays.)

The real Saint Jerome was born around the year 342 at Stridonius, a small town at the head of the Adriatic, near the episcopal city of Aquileia.  I find our Sunday ritual somewhat related to this man.

Saint Jerome himself said, “It was my custom on Sundays to visit, with friends of my own age and tastes, the tombs of the martyrs and Apostles, going down into those subterranean galleries whose walls on both sides preserve the relics of the dead.”

Of the catacombs themselves, he wrote,

Often I would find myself entering those crypts, deep dug in the earth, with their walls on either side lined with the bodies of the dead, where everything was so dark that almost it seemed as though the Psalmist’s words were fulfilled, Let them go down quick into Hell. Here and there the light, not entering in through windows, but filtering down from above through shafts, relieved the horror of the darkness. But again, as soon as you found yourself cautiously moving forward, the black night closed around…

In this text he quotes Psalm 55:15.  “Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.” (King James Bible)

It is obviously not the message of death that I choose to relate to our Saint Jerome Sundays.  It is certain terminology: it was my custom on Sundays to visit, with friends of my own age and tastes, where everything was so dark, fulfilled, here and there the light, not entering in through windows, but filtering down from above, for wickedness is in their dwellings.

Wickedness in the sweetest sense, of course.  The precious atrocities.  The outrageous behavior.  The hedonistic overindulgence in fun.

Sometimes I don’t know if anyone gets Sundays like Rona and I do.  I am happy that we drove back from upstate earlier than I thought, so I didn’t have to miss Saint Jerome last night.

Rona and I exchanged a few drunken texts when we get home, as is custom.  Last night, Rona’s said “It’s a miracle you came out tonight.  I know it.”

I do look forward to Sundays.  They had a dark period, but again, we found a way to kick the Sunday blues.

(* This information has been removed to protect the xxx^ of someone.)
(^ This information has been removed so that no one will have a clue as to what I am talking about.  Now that’s protection.)

“Thoughts right now: Am I here? I’m never here.” (Zelda, shapeshifting, Labyrinth, & upstate)

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

I was at the the duck sitting between Elliot and Andrea when someone mentioned video games.

“I’m not allowed to have video games,” I told them.  “I get addicted, and I end up playing for hours.  It was like that with the first Zelda.  I never won, and I even had the map.”

Andrea shook her head.  “See,” she said, “cheating doesn’t get you anywhere.”

I had a similar conversation on the drive upstate with Dave and Liz.  We were on our way to the house in Medusa to record Sami Akbari’s EP for Mad Hatter.

Eleven of us are here now.

Last night, we finished a bottle of Jameson 12 Year Old Special Reserve in no time. A few of us stepped outside to smoke.  There were so many stars.  We heard what we assumed to be coyotes in the distance.

“I bet they’re shapeshifters.  They’re really people who changed into coyotes,” I observed.

“I like how you think,” one of the boys said.

My favorite shapeshifting occurs in the film Labyrinth.  Jareth, the Goblin King (portrayed by David Bowie), has the ability to transform into a barn owl, as is his state the first time he appears to Sarah (portrayed by Jennifer Connelly).

Another conversation last night included me telling the group that the Goblin King was the first man I ever loved.  He offered Sarah her dreams, still she chose not to be with him.

When I was younger, I had a dream that I was falling through the Helping Hands in Labyrinth on my way to the oubliette.  Upon awakening, my arms were sore from the Hands’ grip.

Also, a night after the one that began this post, I saw Arianna at the duck.  “I read your blog,” she confessed.  “I feel like I am peeking into your consciousness, only you can’t see into mine.”

I have no qualms with this; I don’t mean to hide anything.  I am tired of hiding things.

We have been recording drums all day.  Tonight, I think I’ll hear them in my sleep.

Watch Helping Hands here.

LegendofZeldaMap

(Legend of Zelda original map, above)

The Bus (fish hearts, locked-in state, & severed heads)

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Some days when I ride the bus, I never want to get off.  Perpetually in thought while endlessly in transport, I watch the city go by.

Today was like this.

First, I thought about wanting to hold the cut-out, still-beating heart of a fish in my hand one day.  There are fish markets that will do this – cut out a fish’s heart and place it in the palm of a visitor’s hand.  I think it would be lovely to see the teeny tiny organ pumping without purpose, separate from its being.

Next, I thought about Erik Ramsey.  Erik was 16-years old in 1999 when he got in a terrible car accident.  Following the accident, a blood clot formed in the part of Erik’s brain stem called the pons, causing a stroke where the boy’s body met his mind.  As a result, Erik suffers from a permanent condition known as locked-in state.  He has no control over any of his muscles; he cannot move, he cannot speak.

In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby experienced a similar situation.  At 43-years old Bauby suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma.  When he awoke 20 days later, he was mentally aware of his surroundings but physically paralyzed with the exception of some movement in his head and eyes.  Bauby wrote his memoirs, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by blinking his left eyelid in the presence of a transcriber.  (His right eye had been sewn shut because of moisture-related issues.)  The transcriber repeatedly recited the alphabet until Bauby blinked to choose the next letter.

However, Erik Ramsey does not have the luxury of blinking.  The only muscles that Erik was left in command of were the ones that control the up and down movements of his eyes.  “Up for yes, down for no,”  his therapist told him.

Currently, Erik has bundles of hair-thin wires protruding from the back of his head.  The wires have been implanted by doctors that Erik is working with to become the first person to ever have his thoughts translated directly into speech.

Still, Erik is lucky that he isn’t Julia Tavalaro.  Per an article published in Esquire magazine in 2008,

There are stories of people being locked-in for years before anyone notices the fully conscious person hiding inside the paralyzed body. In 1966, a thirty-two-year-old woman named Julia Tavalaro became locked-in after a brain hemorrhage and was sent to Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Roosevelt Island, New York, where the staff took to calling her “the vegetable.” It wasn’t until six years later that a family member noticed Tavalaro trying to smile after she heard a dirty joke. She was immediately taught to communicate with eye blinks and became a poet and author. She died in 2003 at the age of sixty-eight, having never spoken for thirty-seven years.

Then, my mind wandered to French physician Dr. Gabriel Beaurieux’s investigations concerning the life span and consciousness of the human head immediately after it is severed from the body.  On June 28, 1905, Dr. Beaurieux experimented with the head of condemned prisoner Henri Languille.  The doctor’s observations began the instant after the guillotine blade dropped.  Below is his report.

The head fell on the severed surface of the neck and I did not therefor have to take it up in my hands, as all the newspapers have vied with each other in repeating; I was not obliged even to touch it in order to set it upright. Chance served me well for the observation, which I wished to make.

Here, then, is what I was able to note immediately after the decapitation: the eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds. This phenomenon has been remarked by all those finding themselves in the same conditions as myself for observing what happens after the severing of the neck…

I waited for several seconds. The spasmodic movements ceased. The face relaxed, the lids half closed on the eyeballs, leaving only the white of the conjunctiva visible, exactly as in the dying whom we have occasion to see every day in the exercise of our profession, or as in those just dead. It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: “Languille!” I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions – I insist advisedly on this peculiarity – but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.

Next Languille’s eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves. I was not, then, dealing with the sort of vague dull look without any expression, that can be observed any day in dying people to whom one speaks: I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me.

After several seconds, the eyelids closed again, slowly and evenly, and the head took on the same appearance as it had had before I called out.

It was at that point that I called out again and, once more, without any spasm, slowly, the eyelids lifted and undeniably living eyes fixed themselves on mine with perhaps even more penetration than the first time. The there was a further closing of the eyelids, but now less complete. I attempted the effect of a third call; there was no further movement – and the eyes took on the glazed look which they have in the dead.

I have just recounted to you with rigorous exactness what I was able to observe. The whole thing had lasted twenty-five to thirty seconds.

Whether it’s possible for someone to remain conscious after being beheaded is debatable.  Most modern physicians believe that reactions like those noted by Dr. Beaurieux are actually reflexive twitching of muscles, rather than conscious, deliberate movement.

Nearing my destination, I thought about falling asleep and waking up with amnesia.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, to forget everything.  It would be like renewed innocence.

Also, I thought about romance in relation to a card house or Wataru Ito’s origami city, but I thought it best to leave that to a later entry.  (My musing did not reach a conclusion on this journey.  It was still just a seed.)

At 23rd Street and Third Avenue, I disembarked to take my first final of the semester.  On my way into Baruch’s vertical campus, I stopped for a pumpernickel bagel.  I was thinking that my life is a mess, and I love it.

When I have the month off in January, maybe I’ll ride the bus without reason.  And I’ll stay on forever.

Dinner With Tim

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Today was the last day of classes.

Also, on Wednesday night I had dinner with Tim at Dumont. We hadn’t seen each other in a while.

“So, have you ruined that girl’s life yet?” I asked him. A while back we had a conversation in which Tim told me I was going through a phase (referring to my sadness and confusion about a boy). He told me his girlfriend is not so damaged. I told him he was her phase.

He laughed and confirmed that everything was going well between them.

“When you texted me the other day, I went to your blog to catch up on your life-” he started.

I cut him off. “Oh no! Was it the depressed self-hatred one?”

“Yup,” he said. “I stopped reading after the first paragraph. Same old Ashleigh.”

I feigned hurt. “Tim! You should have kept reading. I made up a disease. It was funny.”

He rolled his eyes. “Look, you know I think you’re a great writer.” (Tim has been very supportive and encouraging since I started my blog.) “I just think your best stuff if when you write about what you observe and things you have learned.”

Conversation eventually shifted to work…

“Some actors just don’t get it,” he said. “When you’re trying to get a job and someone asks if you can do something, you just say yes. Can you ride a horse? Yes. Can you play the trumpet? Yes. Can you speak French? Yes. Then you go and learn whatever it is you need to learn.”

I told him about my job at Mad Hatter. “We’re going to upstate to record an artist next weekend. Her name is Sami Akbari.”

“I’m going to Florida for a few months at the end of January for Shear Madness,” he informed me. “I’m playing the main part this time.”

“Tim that’s awesome! Congratulations!” I commended him.

He smiled. “Yeah, I guess it’s like a promotion.”

…Life….

“We need to do another photo shoot before you leave. I have nothing going on in January,” I told him.

He agreed. He mentioned how much he liked Tova and Rona and asked how they were.

…Love…

“All of those 80’s movies just made me believe that there’s that moment, and a bolt comes down from the sky and hits you and you’re like, ‘She’s the one for me, she’s it.’ But I’m starting to think that just never happens,’” Tim said. “What about you?” he continued. “Are you one of those people that needs to be with someone?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Is it on your checklist in life? To complete you? To be happy? Do you need to find that person, or can you be alone?” he challenged me.

“Look, you met me at a weird time,” I answered. “I’ve always been alone. I don’t mind it, I’m happy. But I suppose it would be nice to have someone and them have you. To be in love.”

I thought more about my response than I spoke aloud, like how I am very happy for people that are in love. I think that it must be a very pleasurable thing to be, especially in the winter time, to have someone to keep you warm. It’s a winsome state, I suppose. I imagine it a thrill to be special to someone, and that person to you. I know I don’t need any of that, still it seems quite nice.

It was good to see Tim.

Jimmies

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

“I wrote something today, but I can’t post it yet,” I told Mitchell.  We were on the L train heading back to Brooklyn after seeing Tori Amos perform at the Grand Ballroom.  “It contains information about someone, and I asked them if I could post it, but they want me to wait until they have a chance to tell more people.  So now I have to write about something else.  What should I write about?”

“Jimmies,” he said matter-of-factly.

Immediately following the Tori Amos show, we went to a bar with Priscilla and David.  Somehow, jimmies came up.

“Why are they called that anyway?” Priscilla asked.

“It’s totally a New England thing,” answered David.

“I have no clue,” I said honestly.  “My iPhone is dying.  Look it up on yours.”

As it turns out, the name is accredited to a man named Jimmy Bartholomew.  Supposedly, in 1930 Jimmy started working for the company that invented the confection.  His job there was manning the machine that produced the sugary treat.  (Another interesting fact that Wikipedia taught us about jimmies: in the Netherlands and Belgium, they are know as hagelslag and are used as a sandwich topping.)

When I was younger, I used to put jimmies, commonly know as chocolate sprinkles, on vanilla ice cream.  More accurately, I used to put vanilla ice cream on jimmies.

My mother had little glass bowls that I loved to use for this tiny meal.  Imagine a cup of chocolate sprinkles topped with a scoop of ice cream.  Often the ice cream would melt before I finished eating it, transforming my dessert into a sort of sprinkle-soup.  It was glorious.

I would hold the glass bowl up and look at all of the cylindrical delicacies drowning at the bottom, awaiting their annihilation by way of my spoon.  Once I was finished, the brown sugary bits would be stuck between my teeth, a rather unattractive sight.  However, this prolonged my snack.  As the jimmies dissolved from my teeth and onto my taste buds, I enjoyed the delicious saccharine aftermath.

These days, when my mother drives up from Virginia, she brings containers of jimmies for me.  I think that she still deems me capable of eating snacks like those that I constructed in the little glass bowls.  Don’t be mistaken – I love dessert, but currently I find it difficult to exhaust a giant tub of chocolate sprinkles.

Or maybe I’m just not trying hard enough.

just born

Jimmies Then (above), and Now (below)

carvel.0521

Self-ignominy Neurosis

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Yesterday was not a good day.

I know why, but I’m not going to write about the specifics.  Not because I’m censoring myself, but because I don’t want to talk about it right now.  I will say that I felt something bad around me and inside of me.  It was all over me, everywhere I went.  Stupid worthless undeserving foolish fuck fuck fuck. That was the gist of my inner monologue.  It was a very consuming self-hatred that lingered throughout today.

So, yesterday and today I found myself cringing on the subway and cursing myself on the streets.  Attempts to will death were half-hearted.  I’m still waiting for something amazing to happen, I suppose.

The thoughts haunted me as I tried to fall asleep last night.  My lack of ability to control the awkward and insecure person inside of me is disappointing.  This enormous lack of normalcy is present in my actions and audible in my voice.  It is an impediment; an obstacle.

I’ve been experiencing spurts of insomnia.  Supposedly, insomnia itself is not a disease, but actually a symptom of another disorder.  Maybe being a blundering idiot at random points in time for no legitimate reason is my disorder, and insomnia is therefore a symptom.  I am far from a medical profession, but it seems plausible.  Self-ignominy neurosis. Has a nice ring to it, no?

Symptoms include but are not limited to: insomnia, forgetting to breathe, degrading one’s quality out-loud to oneself, having out-loud in-depth conversations with animals, back pain, extreme cynicism when faced with something wholesome, a fondness for major holidays with a related utmost affection for The Muppet Christmas Carol, untenable infatuations with specific members of the opposite sex (or same, depending on preference), glossophobia that is destructive in terms of personal and professional relationships, the inability to watch only one episode of LOST if there is the option of watching more, and the purchasing of chocolate-covered brownies at the bakery (yes, I did this today).

Treatments for temporary relief: Friends.  Music.  Drinking.  Dancing.  Tomorrow.

Currently, there is no known cure for self-ignominy neurosis.

I’m not overly concerned, just often agitated with my made-up disability.  I find comfort in something my mother once told me.  “You take the good with the bad,” she said.  “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Mom is a huge John Lennon fan.  I think he summed up the best self-ignominy neurosis treatment in a song lyric: “There’s nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.  It’s easy.  All you need is love.”

Déjà Vu & Sugar Packets

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

We were at a bar following Michelle’s performance in Cyrano de Bergerac at the Secret Theater in Long Island City.  I was done complaining about the bartender pouring my Jameson neat into a shot glass, and I’d moved on to using sugar packets to demonstrate my thoughts on déjà vu to Elliot, Becky, and Michelle.

“I can take these two sugar packets and drop them on the table,” I said, “and they will land a certain way.  Now, if I repeat this process and drop them again, because there are so many possibilities, it is unlikely that they will land in the exact same way.  But, assuming that everything is exactly the same – the setting, the position in which I hold them, the way the wind is blowing – if everything is exactly the same, why wouldn’t they land the same way?”

There are many theories concerning déjà vu.  These arguments include, but are not limited to:

  • One eye recording what is seen fractionally faster than the other. However, this fails to explain the experience when other sensory inputs are involved.
  • Temporal lobe epilepsy. People with TLE may experience simple partial seizures, or SPS, which do not alter consciousness and usually only cause sensations, e.g. déjà vu.
  • Cryptamnesia. This is when information is learned and forgotten but stored in the brain, so when something similar occurs it evokes the sense of déjà vu.
  • Or simply an abnormality in memory causing the brain to mistake the present for the past.

Parapsychologists believe it is related to a past-life experience.  I somewhat agree, and this is where the sugar packets come in.

So, assume that the universe is going to end one day.  Everything we know to exist – matter, energy, space, and time – will collapse in on itself or be swallowed up by a black hole more massive than we could ever imagine.  How it ends is not important, but rather what is significant is that when this happens, a new universe will slowly begin.  In my theory, this has happened and will happen again and again over an infinite number of years.

The sugar packets are the matter that starts the universe each time.  If the universe ends and becomes some sort of nothingness, I think that the nothingness would be exactly the same at each end/beginning.  Identical. The sugar packets would drop under the same conditions and land in the same way.  Therefore, a duplicate universe would be formed.

Déjà vu is French for “already seen”.  It is an overwhelming sense of familiarity with something that shouldn’t be familiar at all.  But maybe a conversation or an action feels like it’s happening again because it did happen, some trillions or zillions of years ago.  Humanity and everything before and after is on an extremely long loop.

This could also explain precognitive dreams (sometimes called psychic dreams).  For example, Sally hasn’t seen Bob in years.  One night, for no reason that Sally can find, she has a dream in which Bob appears.  The next day, she runs into Bob on the street.  This chance meeting could also be a phone call/email from Bob, or maybe just a mention of his name by a mutual friend.  Some would call this coincidence, and others would say that it happens too often to be so easily defined.

We have been here before, and our subconscious minds know what is on its way.

My supposition is not meant to discount free will, and it is not intended to recognize fate.  We simply make the same decisions each time around because along with our surroundings, we are unchanged.  We are captive in something miraculous.  Our bodies are bound to the same steps, and our minds bent on the same thoughts.  Whatever souls we have are committed to making the same mistakes over and over again.

I don’t often speculate about what our energy does in between each go-around.  Any amount of consciousness is debatable.  Maybe we all drink tea in the clouds with our dead loved ones, or maybe we lay dormant.  RLD and I spoke about it once.

“It’s like 1942,” he said.

I was confused.  “What do you mean?  I wasn’t around in 1942.  I don’t know what 1942 was like.  I don’t remember 1942.”

“Exactly,” he told me.

Still, I can’t change the fact that I often feel like I’ve been here before; I often experience déjà vu.