Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Magic of Massage

I had a massage today. I love massage, and it's something I rarely indulge in, but we had a Groupon, so I tried a new place. It was great. A one-woman show. She had small but strong, blunt hands.

Normally, when I'm getting a massage I think a whole list of I should statements. I should go to bed earlier. I should drink less. I should get up earlier. I should eat more yogurt. I should do more yoga. It's a litany in my head.

I did that today, but I also had a very specific thought about what I actually need from a massage therapist. I need a witchy woman.

Massage therapy has been sanitized, made clinical by spa culture in the United States. I'm not saying I want a dirty massage. But the decor is pretty standard: light blues, grey and taupes. Soft piano music or something that sounds like waterfalls. Zen looking gardens. Rocks. No smell stronger than lavender or maybe vanilla.

I would love to walk into a dark red or purple room. With things like gold elephants and stars. Wtih a moon hanging from the ceiling. I want sage sticks or patchouli or amber, rising in actual smoke.

I want a woman draped in weird fabric, with wild hair and big hands. I want her to be older than me. I want her to spend a long time on each limb, and to notice what's there, but never tell me. To know that I work with my hands.

I want exotic music. Indian or African, nothing sterile and relaxing. NO YANNI, OK? I want to feel entranced, enchanted, and when she's done, I want her to tuck me in, like I'm a kid going to bed.

She'd make us tea afterward, and read my fortune. Not my real fortune, and nothing like You will meet a tall dark stranger, or You will travel faraway. More like, she sits me down and tell me what to do with my life. When we sit, I notice that she has little stars and apples woven into her hair and they are silver. She never doubts me and she doesn't take any shit from me. She has a scar through her lip. Her tea is wicked strong and black and when I leave there, I feel soft and altered, but charged up for something else.

That's what I want. Monthly if I can get it. If you know where, message me. I think she probably doesn't exist.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Going about My Father's Work

When I began homeschooling Kieran in January, one of the things he said to me was, "You should start your own school."

It had never seriously occurred to me. His point was that many of his friends were envious of his new venture, learning at home. They liked the idea of gathering around a table, talking, moving at their own pace and led by their own curiosity. Or maybe they just think I'm cool. Or lenient.

Then Kieran said, "Grandpa had his own school. You should do that. It's probably like, your thing."

My dad, on the left, with his brother, Johnny on CBS radio.
At its height in the 1960s, my dad's school -- The Joe Stanley Accordion Studio -- had more than 125 students. He made his whole living between that and performing. He had his own office downtown, saw students in music rooms there, and then eventually saw some students at home too. He was at heart, both an artist and a teacher. (For a poignant piece about what it was like to be my dad's student, check out Dennis Page's piece, The Accordion and a Boy.)

Armed with this in my blood, this week, I launched a new effort. We've been, as I told Liam yesterday -- hustling: hanging flyers, making contacts, handing out business cards, building a new blog.

So I'm excited to announce the launch of SHIFT Writing: Creative Writing Workshops & Tutorials. 

You can find out more here about summer sessions, private tutorials and editing.

Recently, out of nowhere, Liam said to me, "When you lose someone, you become a different person." Probably, that's just the thing I needed to step out. I'm going to try this thing on my own. If I'm lucky, I'll live up to a small part of my dad's legacy.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Secret Code Only Visible in Certain Lights

June is national LGBTQ Pride Month. If you know anything at all about me, you'll know that I'm always hesitant to reveal anything about myself. I'm like a slow leak, hoping no one will notice. But here, in honor of Pride Month, I'm listing the books helped shaped my queer identity, that kept me queer company, so to speak, since I was a young teenager.

Mapplethorpe's Warhol
The Andy Warhol Diaries. No shit. I read these when I was fifteen, and I fucking loved them. I liked, too, that they were not really written as diaries, but spoken, publicly into the phone, meant to be recorded and shared, meant for public consumption -- like all of Andy's work. I like the telling, about other celebrities -- John Travolta: hello. And the pictures of Andy's boyfriend, Jed, who was a twin, and who was beautiful.

Less than Zero. I read this at fourteen. If anyone had paid attention, I probably shouldn't have, but I did. I loved the bleakness of this book. The language, the despair, the cocaine. It was confirmation of what I thought might be true about LA. That it was sunshine on the outside, and something dark and damp right under the surface, black and bottomless. I had been to southern California,  had been to Hollywood even as a little girl, and felt it then, the pull of something terrible. There was the repetition of the phrase Disappear Here. The cars and pools and repeated TV screens. And tragic, doomed Julian.

Possession. I first read this at eighteen, and then a few times since, and it changes for me every time. It's probably not traditionally considered a queer book, but it's queer all over the place. Not just in the relationship between the two women, the poet and the painter living quietly together. The painter's sharp neuroses, but even the straight relationships are queered a little. The way they finally come together, the images of the empty white bed. Beautiful, cold Maud. It's a book extraordinarily aware of the body, and the body as separate, as closed off from other bodies, the body alone. So much so that the collisions are finally shattering.

Written on the Body. So sly and so beautiful. I think I read this at about nineteen, some summer in between college semesters. This book made me want to write. It made me want to write about love, and about the body, in small, beautiful, crushing ways.

Really, every book shapes you. Every book becomes what you want it to be for you. The magic of these books was the language, the emotion, the revelation, finally, of what it means to be, not just human, but a separate bubble, colliding, like Pynchon's kiss of cosmic pool balls.

The beauty of queer to me is that it's complicated. It's not either / or. It's both / and. It all those letters before and then some. It shifts beneath your feet. So if you were expecting a blanket coming out statement somewhere in this post, there it is. It's more complicated than one sentence. It's a fragment and a run-on. It breaks all the rules, of grammar, and logic, and otherwise. Like love.