How about we thicken the line between what’s real and what’s for show

I get that this is probably the complaint of an older person. Except that, I’ve never been one for putting my body or my business out ‘there’. Everyone has the right to do with their bodies, relationships and daily lives what they will. This is just my story.

Let’s first talk about where ‘there’ is. Especially in the age of the internet, ‘there’ is multidimensional. I am fairly comfortable publishing the little bit I do online, because it feels controllable. Of course, I know that even these little musings can be misconstrued. Or, perhaps, understood all too well.

I was listening to Radiolab, the episode that dives deep into the Candid Camera phenonemon:

Smile My Ass

What a story! Now, I remember laughing with my family at Candid Camera’s antics, when I was a very small kid. Heck, I even laugh at some of these now!

But. listening to the who’s origin story, as Funt and his team took the concept through iterations that irritated the audience’s concept of the importance of privacy, one phrase kept popping up in my mind: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

With the benefit of hindsight I am not proud of enjoying the humiliation of others, even if it seemed ‘all in fun’. Then, the idea that Funt’s own twisted project made an admittedly dopey and shallow and scared group of people turn on him (you’ll have to listen to the podcast episode for the details): that seemed, in some way, payback.

There’s an idea that’s been popular for decades, that one way to assert female power is to own our bodies and do with them what we want. While I believe in that in principle, I think I’m a pedestrian thinker when it comes to the necessity for near-nudity. I am probably a victim of Black respectability politics, and I’ll own up to this distaste being driven by some of that.

But dang, there’s something so satisfying about somebody using their creativity without needing to eschew clothing. And this is coming from somebody who spends most of my non-work time at home in comfortable just-about-nothing. But that’s in the privacy of my home! Where I pay the rent and make the rules, such as they are, lol! It wouldn’t even occur to me to give the gift of my altogether to everyone all together.

This also comes, I suspect, from my memories of the long ago Rainbow Gathering at Mount Shasta, a hippie event to which I drove cross-country with my then-hubby. I adopted the community’s nudity culture for a bit. But then I felt like: what the hell? I don’t need to be nude to contribute. So I slipped back into my jeans and teeshirt and went on about my business.

Anyway, even with this sense of mild irritation at this ongoing pop culture trend, I enjoy a good bop and well-crafted video as much as the next person. I just want to elevate the folks who can radiate creativity while wearing clothing too. With that in mind, here’s an adorable video by a new artist, Sunny War: looking forward to her debut album!

Sunday morning struggle upwards

I have no idea who you are. And that’s more than fine because if you’re reading this, you’re human. That puts us in a collaboration, where I say something and ask you to respond, if only to yourself. I think that’s utterly cool. Even invisible conversations have power. 

So what I’d like to know is:

During the pandemic, has staying in bed, hiding here, sometimes reading, sometimes writing here, not wanting to get up despite various calls to action-has that been happening to you like it has to me?

The inertia is like a hard fog. The effort to move seems not just out of reach, but subtly hostile. There is a quiet rebellion in staying put. 

But, at least in my life, it’s a false rebellion. The sun beckons from my apartment’s wall of windows. I admit that I haven’t planned for fun. But at least if I’m up and moving, fun might present itself for my consideration. 

Tokyo streetflowers

So that becomes the objective: get up so fun can find me.

The first fun thing is the food framework I’m in right now, which is Intermittent Fasting(IF). I’m using the most basic version, through the app Simple: Fasting and Meal Tracker

So I got up, happy to whip up a super simple meal of eggs, tofu, avocado, veggies, spices and my favorite sesame sauce. Yummy, easy, and all the healthy food I’ll eat today.

eggie stirfry

I had ‘get ready for the work week’ on my must do list. Not fun, but necessary for a reasonably relaxed start to the work day.

In the meantime, I worked on getting more stuff outside on my balcony – wrap it up, tape it up, and get it ready for the big garbage haul at the end of April. This is decidedly not fun. The process feels never-ending. I’m in the stage where there are boxes all over the little floorspace I have. It’s easy to forget that this needs to be a one step at a time process. So yeah, not fun, but very necessary.

Back to fun, darnit! I listened, while moving through my chores, to the awesome Trymaine Lee’s podcast: ‘Into America’. His Black History Month episodes are about Black art and culture. This episode, which I’d been saving for a time I could savor it, is about one of the key places in my life growing up in NYC – The Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture. This place, and the NY Public Library, and the Cloisters and the Weusi Yuumba Ya Sanaa, were cultural touchpoints for me in those formative years.
The episode is called: Harlem On My Mind: Arturo Schomburg Part 2: How a little boy from Puerto Rico helped shape a global Black identity.

Highly recommended for the deeper dive into the wonder of art from the diaspora, and Trymaine’s obvious joy as a collector, of both the art and the stories behind it.

I plan to find some more fun with my short stint on the treadmill. Very slowly and deliberately building up to 45 minutes a day. While I walk, I’ll watch some Youtube videos I set aside for the purpose:

Get Cute while Quarantined with Felicia Leatherwood, Teyonah Parris and Sandra Nakawunde
Beau of the Fifth Column on Cancel Culture

茂木健一郎Ken Mogi this is the brain scientist who wrote ‘The Little Book Of Ikigai‘: I’m forcing myself to listen to him in Japanese, as part of learning, which is decidedly not fun, but feels like an accomplishment if I get even a little bit of meaning within the incomprehensible:

I also remind myself to smile. I find my smile is missing a lot of the time these days, and even a fake smile can help lift my mood. Such a small simple thing! I recommend it.

part 2: Tracking life changes, one apartment at a time

continued from:

I missed a couple of spots! Or possibly a few: this ‘apartment memory’ thing is confusing when your memory is as unbothered as mine is. Somewhere along the way, I was living, I think, in a small place in the East Village, with a bunkbed and pretty much no space at all. And I had decided I wanted to be an audio engineer, music being as essential as breath to me at that time.

I went to a kind of adhoc engineering school run by a studio owned by a guy named Moogy. While I was hopeless at signal flow, I ended up falling in lust, and then love, with my instructure, the long lanky and delightful Tim. We moved into an amazing space (or was it his already? don’t remember) in Washington Heights. Tall ceilings, pretty good amount of space. Merge that with youngish love and it was sublime. Later, we moved to Park Slope, in Brooklyn, where we were loved by and loved two of the worlds most ineffeable cats, a Maine Coon named Langston Hughes and Tuxedo named Joyce Katchaturian.

We had this wobbly notion of getting married, sort of. Tim wasn’t super decisive, and I had had a sneaking suspicion that I just wasn’t someone who would be comfortable being married. Not that I was interested in any of the current sets of pairings that seem to be popular now. I just have severe hermit tendencies, and do best if I can spend the majority of my time alone.

Anyway, on the basis of this wobbly notion, we bought an apartment in Clinton Hills. it was a lovely place and a great neighborhood, near the food co-op, etc. But I still wasn’t settled, and neither was he. We gave up the space – to this day I’m not sure how the mortgage got handled. I was super neglectful of any of that stuff, and I’m grateful that Tim was such a mensch that there wasn’t negative fall out.

Here’s me on our bed with Joyce.

We had lost Langston in the awful way of probably him being poisoned-found his earthly body on the sidewalk after coming back from a movie or something. That was super awful. We lost Joyce a few years later – also bad news in every way. I decided to add no pets to my no kids inner mandate, and have never regretted either decision. It helps that my chosen family here in Tokyo have a dog I consider a part of the family, who I sometimes take care of, and who is willing to allow that I’m part of the pack. So doggie kisses are available – or will be when the pandemic…moves into history.

Lets see…at some point along the stretch, I had a lovely narrow brownstone apartment in Chelsea. One room after another. Not huge, but nice ceilings. I indulged my decorator gene and put up photos, my own art, found stuff…it was delightful! Not enough sun, though, Had some difficult family situations there. But overally, I think it’s my favorite place to look back on from a ‘I really made it my own’ point of view. Fresh flowers, great take out – there was an Indian restaurant that delivered and made delicious dinners. Interestingly, I didn’t create much there – not much writing or art. In the more constrained places, where I wasn’t on my own, I found time to write wretched poetry and song lyrics. Most of disappeared, thank goodness. But, I think the apartment itself was my art.

And that’s the last place I had before I loaded up 13 cartons, including a bicycle, and moved myself to Tokyo.


Oh! I forgot one more out of the timeline: the tiny space on 7th St in the East Village where I did some very ill-advised comestibles to distract from the pain of finding out that John Lennon was dead.

Here’s how I was the night after:

Tracking life changes, one apartment at a time

everything needs to be done at once! but, I know minimizing my little apartment doesn't work that way.

I wish I had pictures, but they’ll all in my mind. My apartments over the years represent the many lives I’ve led. And, in this introspective time while there’s a pandemic and I’m working on overhauling my current, it helps to reflect on how many lives I’ve already led.

Let me admit up front that I don’t like reflection. I’m an intuitive, impulsive doer. But hey, even 63 is not too late to start adding a bit of thoughtful slow-downism, if only for balance.

So, the picture above is a stylized version of my current place. Stylized to make it cute, because it is a stone cold mess, and must be dealt with.

Anyway, prior apartments. Let’s see. There was the derelict ‘artist’s garret’ I somehow managed to rent with my first real boyfriend, Jonanthony Williams, he of the voluminious afro, gorgeous face, and cheating ways. It was somewhere in the Bronx, and I still don’t know quite how we managed to hold onto with our tiny teenage salaries. We filled it with easels and paintings. It offered us rats (maybe they were contributing to the rent? they were big enough), a surprising lack of filth, broken pieces of furniture, and so on. That place could only be illuminated by the power of utterly dopey teenage hormones. I don’t think any significant art was produced, and have no idea whether my delicious, treacherous paramour is still in the land of the living or not. So I can’t even ask. He was the guy who introduced me the features of my face, and bade me fall in love with my perfect nose. He was the leader, and I was the rapturously led. But even in the throes of this craziness, the nascent critical me was still judging every interaction, sure it would make for good fodder down the road.

I was a reckless sort, wanting to experience the lives my religious folks tried to shield me from.

Apartment two was a shared communal space in the East Village, filled with countercultural folks and the acoutrements thereof. I got into the group with my contribution to bail for one of our number, a very hairy guy who had decided to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and had been persuaded against the idea by New York’s – well, not finest, but that’s what we had at the time. So Jim sat in jail, and we banded together to get him out and bring him back home. A huge pot of meat and potato and vegetable stew was waiting for him, and us, when he came back. We were an apartment-renovating collective and that part of the East Village needed us desperately. I learned about putting up sheetrock, helping someone come down when they had gotten entirely too high, the various lore of the various folks I lived with, how to navigate counterculture evenings and weekends with my day job at as a music contract administrator if you can believe it.

That apartment comes back to mind as smells, intense visuals, like the found art piece above the fireplace, all of us freaks flying our flags high as we ventured out to see the Allman Brothers, rescuing young teens who were trying to survive over on the west side, cleaning them up and getting some of the ubiquitous stew down their throats.

The next apartment was close to the first one, my hubby – from the group – and I moved across from Thompkins Square park, where we proceeded to go through a long, long, break up, although we didn’t know it. There was a tiny place in the same area where I kind of tried to recover with other friends who were exploring lots of different ways to alter minds.

That whole time was, a lot.

Hmph. I got kind of emotional working through these memories. I have a bunch more apartments, but I’ll stop here for now, and pick up the ball tomorrow.


Sometimes a little help is all you need

I have been feeling like a writer’s block on 2 legs. For months. It’s not only because of the pandemic. It’s because I don’t know who I’m writing for, and I don’t value my creativity enough to do it just for me. Ugh. The imposter syndrome is completely understandable when you don’t know what you could even teach and for what tiny group of people! I thought perhaps I could write guides and helpful suggestions for folks who are older and have trouble grokking the internet. Shock your sarcastic kids with your solid knowledge of stuff like domains, and how to get support, yaknow. But it feels like there’s not a real need for that, I just made it up because I feel comfortable with all things internet.

Then, being a lifelong learner with a ton of courses I haven’t finished and would love to organize, I thought of a lifelong learner’s courselet. Take a quiz, work with me for a week, and emerge knowing the courses you have, and being able to prioritize which ones to take. But I’m not a course expert – I’m just a person who has this issue. I started to doubt anyone else did.

Then I thought about teaching something related to Tokyo/Japan. But what in the world would that be? I don’t speak the language well enough and hardly read at all, although I’m trying to learn again. I don’t have that much innate interest in Japanese culture – I mean, my family here are serious foodies and I know what that kind of focus looks like. I might as well be living back in one of my NYC apartments in the East Village, back in the 80s, for all the cultural specificity I live with when I get home. That doesn’t say anything good about me, but the point of starting to write again is to be honest. It’s not that I don’t love aspects of being here. But not enough to consider myself an expert in any of it.

Then I thought about chronicling my creative/better health journey. And I laughed at myself: dude, you can barely record your food in MyFitnessPal after eating it. Please.
I thought about chronicling my attempts at photography. I thought about focusing on music again and reconnecting with my beloved but currently kind of estranged band family (not their fault, was too depressed to deal).

Then I happened to stumble on a Facebook post (on one of my rare forays on that platform), and I saw that a beloved was sharing being a creative coach. And it hit me: I need to put some skin in the game. I had actually been looking for a coach for a while, but expense and just feeling stuck wouldn’t allow me to make any actual moves. Yet this felt right.

We had our first session last night and it was like gentle lightning. She’s about small steps. I hate small steps. I despise process. I want to be instantly ‘there’ and perfect, and my habit is to beat myself up when that, inevitably, doesn’t happen. Her firm and gentle tone gave me a hand to step over the block, at least part way.

In part of my ‘lightness’ after the session, I wrote a song called Bucket of Clay. I’m going to sing it for real, to the simplest of backing tracks, and post it when it’s done.

So far, so much better than good. Sometimes a little bit of help that cuts through the fog of self-centeredness, is the antidote.

The frantic search to uncover our power in a time of dodging the banality of evil

So this has been a very funky tragic strange set of arbitrary time slices.
that’s all a year is-we’ve decided with our human head that it’s more convenient to divide the invisible stream of time into countable bits.

Take March. I remember a pervasive sense of ill shit rolling down a hill towards me and mine and yours and just about everyone’s I already operate under a cloud of stress.I’m a Black American woman, older, working class, with every bit of the sublime and ridiculous that entails.

Plus I live in Japan, with language skills that leave tons to be desired.
I’m probably going to stay here, since the US health system isn’t made for folks like me. And even with that, I’m trying to work on my health myself, because, of course.

So here’s all of us navigating through the arbitrariness of death, pain, politics, racial reckoning and its pushback, and we somehow believe getting up in the morning and moving forward is mandatory.

It’s not.

Our reactions to the powerlessness of this time is to search, frantically, for places where we can assert our own power.

What would it feel like to just step back, like some Star Wars hero at the tip of a cliff who steps back, holds hands up in surrender, and lets whatever is next simply…happen?