Monday, January 25, 2010

Rambling, caffeine-induced thoughts on the wild west and the nature of art

‘Rough town, good coffee’ reads the sign (complete with a picture of a bucking wild horse) in the Durango Coffee Company. It seems a relic of a distant past – yes, once this was a rough town. Early Colorado – miners shared the streets with prostitutes and gamblers. I’m sure there was some ‘respectable society’ here too, but this place was very much a part of the Wild West. In order to get here, a long journey had to be made, some pretty big mountains had to be crossed. And if you know any history, you know that the Rockies were brutal to the early pioneers. You had to be half crazy to get here.
These days, the town is safe, a lot of people never lock their doors, and leave keys in their cars. People raise families here, eat certified organic food, and pay ridiculous amounts of money to go skiing in the wintertime. The Wild West is but a memory, a way to sell tourist packages for horseback rides and fake cowboy shows. I enjoy the benefits, although it feels a little strange, a little false somehow. I can walk home at night without really worrying, aside from the possible encounter with a rogue bear digging through garbage cans. Maybe that’s why – we are nestled here in the beginnings of the Rockies, there is wildness in every direction outside of town. Within that, there is a desire for a certain kind of control, of safety here.
Sometimes in the summertime I see a handful of drunk Indians hanging out in the park by the river. That’s about as wild as it gets here. And even that’s swept under the rug. There’s this old dude in a little golf cart who rides around and enforces some sort of selective ‘no loitering’ policy, telling them that they have to leave as he eyes everybody else suspiciously. I’m not sure where they go, but I suspect they hang out in the hills, with the rabbits and the coyotes.
This past week we got a pretty big snowstorm here. Our courtyard was filled with waist high snow, and the snow was still falling. Over the fence, our neighbor was shoveling snow in his backyard. What was strange about it was that rather than shoveling a functional path, he was actually shoveling his whole backyard, a yard measuring roughly 5,000 square feet. He was out there all day, just shoveling. A pointless, thankless task, I’m sure he’ll ache for days, but there was this inherent desire for control in that act, like somehow he could carve out a controlled space for himself. Nevermind that you couldn’t really drive anywhere, or that the grocery trucks couldn’t get into town to deliver food or that just north of town the avalanche danger was blinking bright red on the map. People are funny that way.
This same neighbor, when the weather is good, he likes to pace around in his backyard, shirt off, talking on his cell phone, dispensing advice. You could almost make a drinking game out of how many times he says ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you...’ or ‘I recommend…’ or ‘Here’s what you need to do…’ He’s the constant expert, on everything, it seems. The big secret is that experts are usually pretty freaked out by anything not safe or controlled.
So there I sat, yesterday at the Durango Coffee Company. The place is a yuppie haven if I ever saw one. I enjoy coffee culture very much, the endless variety of ways you can take your espresso, the sweet pretty treats on little white plates that wait behind the glass dessert case for anybody, like myself, with a decent sweet tooth. The truth is, yuppies have good taste. They have money, they know what money can buy and they demand quality. I happen to like quality too, but I don’t like yuppies. They’re the kind of people that demanded a certain level of ‘safety’ in this town, a certain degree of homogeneity – yes ‘quirky’ homogeneity (houses are painted in funky shades of dark purple, blue and green), but nonetheless… So it’s a little ironic, because I chose this place in part to enjoy some good coffee, but also because it has this really great view of the Strater.
To me, the Strater Hotel may be one of the last standing relics of the Wild West here and Durango. Last weekend, my sweetheart and I wanted to go on a little adventure, and so we decided to explore the insides of this still functional hotel. So we climbed the red velvet stairs, up, up beyond the Victorian glamour of the lobby, the sepia photographs on the walls, until we got to the fourth floor. We weren’t positive, but we were pretty sure the fourth floor was where Durango’s most notorious ‘ladies of ill repute’ dwelled. It had just the right amount of seediness, of haunted-ness about it. I loved it, although I would be hesitant to spend the night there by myself.
It’s funny this play of wildness isn’t it? It’s a little scary. It’s supposed to be. The uncontrolled always is. And that’s exactly what I like and simultaneously fear about it – the inherently unpredictable nature of it, the realness of it.
So I’m sitting there in this coffee shop, drinking my Americano, trying to write and I can’t help but eavesdrop on the man sitting at the table next to me. How could I not? The tables are wedged in so close that you are on such intimate terms with everybody there you can almost feel their body heat. And the man was talking so loudly. This guy who’s talking, he could be a stand in for my neighbor, except that I suspect my neighbor is a nicer person. This one, he’s got more of a pseudo intellectual coffeehouse flavor about him. And he’s talking about John Lennon, so of course I’m interested.
‘John Lennon was as blind as a bat,’ he’s saying, ‘he could hardly walk down the street.’ Apparently, the man goes on, young Lennon’s aunt used to force him to wear his glasses, but as soon as he had left the house, he would take them off. And those glasses, the ones he ended up wearing and popularizing later were the same ones his aunt used to make him wear. Those Lennon round glasses - the man was saying - they were actually standard issue glasses, the cheapest you could get.
I was enjoying this new little factoid, as the man paused after finishing his story, when he added, ‘But like most artists, I wasn’t very impressed with him as a person.’

What the hell? You prick, I thought to myself. The personality of John Lennon, that’s like part of the package, that’s the whole deal – how can you separate art from the artist like that? Like, I’ll take the song ‘Imagine’ or ‘Revolution’ but forget who the author was as a human being, it has nothing to do with anything. Seriously.
It’s clear where I’m going with this isn’t it? How can you separate the West from Wild West? Art from artist?
I really, really hate it when boring square people sit around and talk about eccentric artists, denigrating their personalities. This may have changed recently due to his death, but the same kind of thing happened all the time when people talked about Michael Jackson. Yeah, the man was fucked up, there’s no doubt about that, but at the same time, it’s the way that people used to talk about him, make fun of him. I’m of the opinion that everything, sooner or later needs to be made fun of, that’s just life, that’s not taking things too seriously, but this was different. It felt absolutely malicious.
I remember one day in the park awhile back how I overheard this fat guy in a grey sweat-suit saying, ‘I hear Michael Jackson’s gonna make a comeback.’
‘Yeah,’ says the woman race-walking behind him, also sporting a sweat-suit, ‘he’s gonna try.’
Like what have you ever done, ever contributed to society? We’re talking here about a man who revolutionized music, dance, fashion and the art of performance.
Yoko Ono would be another case in point. I mean, she isn’t afraid to be controversial, to push boundaries in art, to be a strong woman, strong enough to match the personality of John Lennon no less. And to a lot of middle America, she’s become fodder for a lot of stale, stupid and outright sexist jokes.

I find myself thinking about these two subjects a lot – the death of the Wild West, and the way people in this culture talk about artists. They’re both a kind of policing, a way of making people feel safe in an unsafe world. Everything in the natural world, and every human, possesses an inherent wildness about them. Van Gough’s paintings are beautiful because you can see the way the wildness comes out in his brushstrokes. Rock and Roll moves people because of this inherent ferocity that it possesses – this rebellion, this frustration with the status quo. That’s why the music of the new generation always upsets the previous generation. It’s supposed to. Art on the vanguard shocks and surprises like a howl coming out of the woods, it shakes and changes culture. And that’s extremely threatening to people who like things ‘just the way they are thank you very much’. It always has been that way. People seem to forget that, once it’s been integrated into the popular culture. Eventually, Bill Clinton’s taking his octegenarian mother-in-law to see the Rolling Stones, and they’re all shaking hands. And it’s like – remember when Mick Jagger’s overt sexuality was in everybody’s faces and parents everywhere were up in arms about it?
Meanwhile, here in Durango, actors playing cowboys stage shoot outs on the hour every summer for tourists who stand clapping outside the Strater Hotel. And I drink fancy coffee and wax nostalgic for something I never got to see.
Of course it’s not as dire as that, it never is.
There are other ways to live in the Wild West.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Witch of the Week: She's a Rich Girl, but She's Gone Too Far

Check her out in this AMAZING video by Stefan Nadelman, not to mention a gorgeous song by Ramona Falls...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wish Technology.

The other day I was looking at a book of Raymond Pettibon's artwork and I saw this one that was just a box and in it it said
" I see them complete, color, texture. everything." So rad and inspiring to be reminded that we can just be a channel for awesome creation, that if we can imagine something, want something, we can have anything. Some people may argue this and I think its because they aren't really clear on what they want. They don't look deep enough or don't listen to their emotions enough and when they don't wake up with a shit ton of cash in the bank they get all bummed. Get specific, and get honest with yourself.
I want to share a spell I do for "wishes" I guess would be the best word. You don't need anything to do it if you memorize it but I still like to write it out cause it helps me think.

The first thing you do is wish for something.

The second thing you do is say why you want the thing you are wishing for. This is very important because it will clarify what you really want. Like if you wish for money and then you start figuring out what you want money for you might realize its not the money its the vacation or the new shoes or the house. It might even be emotional like you want to feel more stable or calm.

Then think or write down what the wish will achieve. Such as if you wish for a vacation you might say it would help me relax, it would inspire me, it would give me some solitude or maybe quality time with someone.

Then restate the wish with more accuracy. In this situation instead of money I would say "I wish for new shoes with good style and dry feet!" or " I wish for a vacation so I can travel somewhere inspirational!"

The fifth thing ya do is think or write down all the things you will do as this person with airplane tickets or new clothes or emotional freedom. Example- I am gonna fly to Indonesia and eat pancakes on the river and sit with the monkeys and get rad.

Now restate your wish with intention. "I have new shoes!"

Then and most importantly feel the gratitude as if those shoes were already on your feet. As if you were stepping off the plane in your favorite city. Be stoked!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Witch of the Week: Hail to the Male Receiver

Jim Morrison was my first idol. One day when I was fourteen, I found myself in the most random, most miraculous of situations: looking through a record store with my mother. It shouldn't be a strange and random occurrence for a fourteen-year-old to be found in a record store, but it most definitely was for me. For seven years previous and for many years following, I lived a satellite life, revolving around a community wrought of Christian fundamentalism. Rock n roll-- and anything with a beat for that matter-- NOT ALLOWED. No foot-stomping, folks. No fun, folks. Just God. And God is a man. And God is an asshole.

And then, suddenly, I was partially alone in the back of a record store, looking through a big rack of posters. And there it was, a poster with the words, "There are things known, and there are things unknown, and in between are The Doors".



I'm still alive in here. In this fucking mess of do's and don'ts and hell-fire fears and hypocrisy. I've got something to look forward to. So I bought tapes of The Doors secretly and had my own solitary solitude listening parties.

"The Doors constantly courted their muse... Jim believed one cannot simply will the muse; the writer or artist's power lies in his ability to receive, as well as invent, and it was the artist's duty to do everything possible to increase his powers of reception." --From the biography of Jim Morrison "No One Here Gets Out Alive"--

And so I say, HAIL THE RECEIVERS, wherever we may find each other!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year WEEAATCHES!

Start it off right, by watching this dude tell it like it is... I felt like he magically made me a better person and a better artist in the span of 30 minutes...