Sunday, August 16, 2009

Returning from Elsewhere: Sidebars

Still finding it difficult to re-engage, or to want to re-engage. Still listening to silences found. Yesterday, the day after returning from the woods, I spent the afternoon at Madison Pride, which was entirely too loud by comparison. Today I'm being forced by inner forces to Do Nothing, take a day off, whatever. I'm just a little numb.

After arriving back home near midnight, the next day was spent driving again up to Madison, to spend the afternoon at Madison Pride, a late entry in the annual Pride season. Arriving on a dust-swept island next to the convention center, covered with colored tents and rainbow flag banners, not too many people about, my first feeling was, It's good to see Madison doing a Pride again, but it's so tiny next to the last few Prides I've attended, notably San Francisco's. Matters of scale, location, and economics. One thing noticed: fewer LGBTs here advertise themselves loudly. Perhaps it's a local cultural effect on branding, to make it more discreet. Nonetheless, the rainbow or HRC bumper stickers are more discreet, less noticeable. You only realize you're parking in the right space after seeing a small, almost hidden rainbow flag on a parked SUV, so you park next to it.

My purpose for going to Pride at all was to sing with Perfect Harmony, a short Pride concert of an hour's duration, excerpts from our last two shows. Think of it as a summer pops concert. Mostly our lighter material. Perfect Harmony is Madison's gay men's chorus (and gay-affirming, which means we've had non-gay members before), and so has a bit of an ambassadorial function. So it's good to sing at Pride events, or Pride-like events.

I drove up from Smalltown after shopping at the downtown farmer's market, then going home to make a real meal. The sweet corn is starting to be sold. This year has been a good one for corn, with early rains, then lots of heat and humidity in July. The fields of corn as you drive by on the country roads are deep grain, without that yellow fringe at the edges early in the season that indicates underwatering: signs of drought that have been present for over a decade, banished these past two or three years of high rains. We've had flooding at times, especially along the Rock River, but the high rains have also been replenishing our aquifer, so the groundwater reserves are back to full strength.

I wandered around Pride for awhile, visiting each of the booths, overly aware of the loud music coming from the main stage and the tent with a partial dancefloor, gritty with dust and grains of dirt, which was starting up an hour of country music line-dancing. Social dancing is big in some zones of the LGBT subculture: line-dancing, square dance, waltzing, swing, all these living archaic social dance styles. I grew up with isolate solitaire dance styles being the cultural avant-grade: punk mosh pits, rock & roll mutual touchless grooving. Being touch-starved, I always appreciated social dancing. When I was a shy boy, I was actually good at square-dancing. I remember going to some barns in small town Michigan for square dances, with some friends and co-workers, pre- and post-college. It was good fun, but it didn't set deeply into my soma. Contact improv and contemporary modern classes, which came later in my life, left deeper marks.

I shopped a little at a couple of the storefront booths. I bought two or three new LGBT lapel pins. I collect and wear lapel pins. Except for some necklaces, some of which I make myself, which are more tied to neo-pagan urges, I wear no jewelry except pins I can attach to clothing. No tattoos, no piercings, no jewelry, no rings, nothing. Wearing gold makes me crazy after a few days. I only wear silver or pewter, or non-conductive materials. It's something energetic. I found a few rainbow-patterned LGBT pins that I liked, including one that's a Taoist yin-yang, only the white side of the evolving spiral is rainbow-patterned. It's all branding, it's all advertising. We use these logs and markers to broadcast who we are, ever so subtly. How often do you find an Eastern religion icon being combined with LGBT patterning? It's very rare. I may have to design a Buddhist eight-spoked wheel with rainbow insets. The yin-yang-rainbow is unusual enough in context. You can find rainbow crosses, fishes, and other Christian icons all too readily. As usual, very little is available for us non-mainstream religious types, unless we make it ourselves. Actually, I'll have to make a rainbow medicine wheel, a rainbow pentagram, and other icons, to fully express my own inner spiritual diversity. I found at one store a pewter raven icon, which I gave to my Radical Faerie friend named SilverRaven; I gifted him with that name, and now with an iconic calling-card raven emblem: pattern recognition.

I had a snack of Jamiacan jerk chicken, and a bottle of water, from a food stand. I chatted with friends for awhile. I walked around some more. I took some candid photos of the crowd, and attractive bodies within the crowd. It was a hot day, and shirts were often off. Soon it was time to perform. we gathered near the stage, listening to a loud queer rock band doing mostly 70s rock covers. Why is it that so many lead singers in such bands play bass? Bass players seem more grounded than guitarists, and often compose and sing. At least four or five great singer-songwriters in pop music are bassists. (I admit to bias, being a bassist myself.) They were a loud band, but a good one. Rings of tough-looking women were in front of the stage, some dancing. A pair of gender-indeterminate swing dancers circled near the mixing board. We did our hour-long set, and several times made the crowd laugh, or nod and sing along with the music. We pulled them in, and joined all of us in the music.

When we were done, and offstage, I was so tired I could barely walk back to the truck. After a week of camping in the Northwoods, and the long drive home the day before (300 miles from campsite to front door), I found this entire Pride festival entirely too loud. It was great fun, and too loud for me. I love that Pride is a celebration; I don't always like that it's a party, and not always very political anymore. Our set onstage reminded us all of some of the politics, with songs about rights, about being who we are, about requiring more than mere tolerance from our culture.

I drove home in silence.

I have spent all day today collapsed and exhausted. The days have been tiring. I've needed the downtime. Tomorrow is soon enough to listen to voicemails, to answer emails, to re-engage with those aspects of modern life I feel no desire to engage with today. Perhaps not even tomorrow, but the next day. After a long time camping in the relative quiet of the distant wilds, I'm reluctant to re-engage at all. Time changes: it slows down. Time becomes a daily cycle rather than clock-driven demand. Time stretches. When time changes, so does space, because they're inextricably linked. You can change one by changing the other: and their effects on you. Today, mostly tired, mostly silent, not even wanting to read very much, having reached the end of words, the limits of words, I find myself wanting to do no more now than watch the lingering dusk, listen to the small frogs and crickets out the window, and feel the cool breeze after another hot, dusty day. There is no need to fill this silence with noise; no need for any rush back to the Usual Stuff. Why rush? It will eventually catch you up. The trick is to make it work for it, to make it work hard to get you back, to postpone the inevitable re-engagement as long as possible.

And that is what vacation means.

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