Category Archives: Essay

Me, a friend & Detroit’s Dally in the Alley

Early Morning Sunlight

The alley where the Dally began 38 years ago.

It was 6:30 in the morning. The streetlights were still on. I parked my car up against a garage door in a timeworn alley paved with red brick. It was more like a small courtyard, with wooden balconies jutting out from the assortment of apartments built nearly a century ago. In the center of the space was a large, graffiti-covered dumpster. I poured myself some coffee from a thermos and awaited further instructions from a friend. I was there to vend in the annual Detroit event known as the Dally in the Alley. There was already a bustle of activity. People in pink shirts were directing vendors driving in. Tents were going up, and cars were being unloaded. Vendors are amazing people to me. They trudge to some outdoor festival with a truckload of stuff, arrange everything, and spend all day in the elements talking to all kinds of people, then teardown, re-load, and go home after a 17 hour shift. I find their commitment admirable.

I noticed a large hand-painted sign informing fairgoers that everyone in the neighborhood parks elsewhere for the day allowing the festival to completely take over. I smiled knowing the spirit of sharing still remained strong.

I knew this neighborhood well. I lived around the corner in the ‘80s. At that time it was known as the Cass Corridor. My friends were hippies and musicians. There was a co-op and a few art galleries. Not too much else. A decade ago the Corridor was renamed Midtown, and new enterprises keep popping up.

Except for an awkward, and brief, first-meet date a few years ago, I hadn’t been to the Dally since 1986. I remember the one and only stage not having speakers back then. The Jug Band was one of the featured acts, and they were acoustic. A girl named Sally played the accordion and a man named Ralph played a washboard. I remembered there were a couple of tables with goods for sale, and artists displayed their paintings. It was an event by and for the people of the neighborhood. Back then the population was rather sparse; it was an intimate affair.

All I knew about the Dally in the Alley 2015 was I had to be there at 6:30 in the morning to meet my long-time friend, Zana Smith – owner of the urban boutique Spectacles. I wondered how the day would unfold. I was curious to check it out from behind the scenes, but I knew I wouldn’t do what I was about to do for just anyone.

Zana at her store. That's my book.

Zana at her store. That’s my book.

I met Zana in 1986. I was working in an old fur-processing factory that had been converted to an indoor shopping mall connected to a newly built monorail loop. I walked to work to spend my day in what would become a failed experiment of retail stores downtown. Hudson’s was already closed and there weren’t very many businesses open. En route one day, I happened upon Zana’s store. We have remained friends ever since.

Spectacles is still located at 230 East Grand River, across from the new YMCA. Zana has kept her business going for 31 years. To me that is a feat among feats. Only a few stores, like Henry the Hatter, and Wolverine, have managed to maintain longevity in Detroit.

This year somebody bought the building in which Spectacles is housed. Eviction notices were sent out. Newspaper articles were published about the goings-on and the local community was in an uproar about the loss of a landmark business. A month later the owner requested Zana stay. After much ado, it turned out her store was just the kind they wanted in their building. But now the question was how to get the word out that Spectacles would remain.

I received a text from Zana a week before. It simply said: I’ve paid for a booth at the Dally. I knew she meant: Will you be there with me all day? I gulped. But I saw the brilliance of the PR, so I told myself if she could do it, I could do it, and volunteered. Zana scored a great spot just down from the Electronica Stage – perfect for us as we all like that music. The “us” included DJ/dancer Steve who works at Spectacles, and a new person I now call a friend- Corky. Having a booth at the Dally was his idea. He promised to help out and proved himself to be a man of his word. Three young entrepreneurs – Wink, Tracy, and Chinonye – shared Zana’s booth. Wink had photographs she had taken silkscreened onto shirts, Tracy sold purses, and Chinonye offered handmade apothecary. They exuded excitement and enticed all to share in their glee. It was a celebration of making things happen for one’s self.

The day was mellow for me. Most of the time I sat in a chair on the sidewalk behind our booth, drinking coffee, and eating my snacks. A constant stream of people walked down the street. Some came in to shop, say hello, or give a hug – old friends and new ones. At one point it looked like rain, but it passed.

SuperDre in the basement of the Detroit Historical Museum.

Sometime in the afternoon a DJ took the stage and I couldn’t help but stand up, grooving to the beats. I shouted to Corky: Who is this spinning? It’s great! He shouted back: Come on, let’s go! We ran to the stage. As we came up on it I saw a familiar ‘fro. It was SuperDre! I was so excited! I had met her the previous winter. She was spinning at a fundraiser in the basement of the Historical Museum, but her volume was turned way down. She and I connected both having lived on the West Coast and sharing the astrological sign of Taurus. Her live mix was kicking – seriously fabulous layers of rhythms.

When twilight came I moved to the front of the booth to sit on a stool and watch the ever-growing crowd walk by. A good friend of Zana’s stopped and offered to buy us dinner. I went with him to help bring it back. I was happy to be moving as it was a little chilly. At this point I had only ventured as far as the original location of the Dally in the Alley. The food stalls and the third stage beyond that were new to me. Then it was decided we would walk to Cass Café to get food instead. On the way over I was completely blown away by how big the Dally actually is. There were two more stages and what looked to be thousands of people who had come down for it. There was performance art, sculptures being created, and lots of goodies for sale. For blocks and blocks. I had no idea all this had been going on all day.

The Dally in the Alley is special, from its humble beginning literally in an alley to what I witnessed this past weekend. It is an event that has been put on for 38 years by an all-volunteer staff, from the planning to the garbage clean-up. Everyone does it because they want to. It is well-organized and has a great vibe. And whenever so many people from all walks of life, maneuver around each other, elbow-to-elbow, and everyone gets along and has fun, well, that is a beautiful thing to me.

Elizabeth Pilar is an awarding-winning short story writer from Detroit. Her debut book, A Blue Moon in China, was just published. It is the memoir of the two months she traveled through China in 1988 when she was 21 years old. Her editor is Christopher Ross.

You can buy my book here.

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A Spontaneous Travel Decision – A city so nice I went thrice, then I went again.

NYC graffitti covered van

A few weeks ago I was on the Amtrak with a Rail Pass for an eight-city book tour promoting my travel memoir, A Blue Moon in China, about the two months I traveled through China in 1988 when I was 21 years old.

My last scheduled author talk was in St. Paul on July 13, and my next event wasn’t until July 26 in Ann Arbor. That left 12 days for a wild card adventure. I could go anywhere in the USA for free. My mind opened up to the plethora of possibilities.

I considered going back to Santa Fe where I started my book tour at the Summer Solstice. I have good friends there and could visit more of my old stomping grounds from the decade I called New Mexico home.

Los Angeles was inviting, too. I love the city, and had even been contemplating relocating there from Detroit once my tour was completed. The cool thing about that idea was the full circle synchronicity of it, for I had moved from LA back to the Motor City eight years before to write the memoir that I was now promoting. But even though I have friends and family in Los Angeles, it would be a three-day train trip from St. Paul, and I would have to rent a car again, further taxing my limited funds.

The idea of New York City popped into my mind. I hadn’t been there is over a decade.

I contacted a friend to stay with, and the decision was made: I was going to go, I really was. I was so excited.

IMG_2309The first time I went to NYC was in 1986 when I was 19 years old. It was the 100-year anniversary of the Statue of Liberty and a big celebration was planned. I was supposed to meet a friend who flew in from Detroit ahead of me, but we didn’t connect. There I was, alone at the airport, without a place to stay. Luckily my mom had given me my cousin’s phone number, “just in case.” I put a coin in the payphone and crossed my fingers he was home. He was. I got on a graffiti covered subway car, then transferred to another one just as gritty, and climbed a set of stairs out into the lower eastside of Manhattan.

It was late, but people were everywhere, many sitting on blankets on the sidewalks selling all manner of things. I’d never seen anything like it. It was a night bazaar. I quickly realized most were probably homeless and earning money so they could at least eat.

My cousin lived in a small cellar studio apartment. It was crammed full of everything, including a girlfriend. She took my surprise visit well, and we three walked to the firework mega-display together. What a blast that was.

pproseThe next time I came to NYC was 1997. I came in on the Amtrak from Lamy, New Mexico, arriving on my 30th birthday with the intention of living in the big city. A friend met me at the station and gave me the welcome gift of a taxi ride to my new digs on the upper west side. I was to stay with a friend’s grandmother, a 90-year old Hungarian Jew named Rose who would prove to be quite the hardcore character. She enjoyed her vodka and beer, and moving furniture around by herself. The pre-war apartment was spacious, and there was a doorman. The upper west side felt like a world away from where my cousin lived on the lower east side. His part of town was where the actors and artists struggling to make ends meet lived; this neighborhood was much more affluent.

New York in the mid-90s was a transformed world from the mid-80s. I remember the moment I realized this was fact. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I was walking from a friend’s house in Greenwich Village and wandered under an archway into a big public park. People were picnicking, playing Hacky Sack, and hanging out listening to the live music of a lone saxophone player. The water splashing from a large fountain reflected the bright sunlight. The sky was blue. It was an idyllic environment.

ppmanwithbananasThen it hit me: I was in Washington Square Park! Ten years prior this place had been full of drug dealers offering me every kind of substance at a good price. I couldn’t believe it! The change was astounding. I knew it was due to the new policies under the new mayor, a man called Giuliani. But where did all the homeless people go? And the drug dealers? It was like they had vanished without a trace.

The last time I had been in New York City was in 2001. I had moved there once again from New Mexico. I left on Buddha’s birthday – May 5th. From the moment I arrived I noticed the city felt different. The usual vibrancy of New York and its people seemed off, subdued somehow; a negative energy was palpable. I kept saying to a friend: It feels like the apocalypse has happened, but no one knows it yet. I wanted to leave immediately. I stayed only two months before I drove with a friend to Burning Man out in the desert of Nevada, then onward to San Francisco. It was there that I awoke to the news that the World Trade Center towers had collapsed. The horror and sadness I felt was only intensified by the fact that I had walked those streets so recently. I wondered if the unsettled feeling I had experienced in New York was some eerie premonition of 9/11.

NYC graffitiBut now it was 2015. And I wanted to go, just because I could. So I did.

To my eye, Manhattan was the same as it ever was – lots of people of every demographic and ethnicity, some in penthouses, others on the street. Though this time the homeless looked young, as I noticed they did in Chicago, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. Like always, people played chess in the parks and sold used books on the sidewalks. Drivers honked horns impatiently when traffic stopped too long, and ambulances still had to squeeze their way through the congestion. And I caught whiffs of garbage as I walked down streets. But the subways were cleaner, and there was less graffiti. When I searched out remnants of old New York I found them – old bakeries, 24-hour delis, produce stands, street musicians, repertory theatres, and museums.

Chinatown NYC

I didn’t see too many signs of what I had been reading in magazines and hearing from friends – that NYC was now more for the wealthy than for the everyday person. Maybe the change is subtle, like in the cost of living rather than an increase of blatant bling. But in Chinatown I did see the encroachment of boutique stores, and in the Bowery I found the legendary music venue CBGB’s was now a high-end men’s clothing store.

church with rainbow flagThe biggest difference I noticed between my short stint in 2001 and this one in 2015 was that people seemed more relaxed and nicer to each other. I was able to make eye contact and engage in a little conversation with strangers on the subway, merchants in stores, and lovers of music hanging out in parks. I had the sense that a lingering residue of 9/11 hung in the air, reminding people that life is precious. I felt more a part of the big family of humanity living together in the Big Apple than I ever had before.

My spur of the moment decision to go to NYC was definitely the cherry on top of my five-week book tour.

einstein at the highline NYC

this article was edited by Christopher Ross and was first published in the women’s travel magazine Pink Pangea

Buy My Book links here

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Derrick May, Strings of Life, and Me

Dzijan Emin conducts the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with Derrick May & Franceso Tristano at Chene Park, Detroit

The people of Detroit love their fellow hometowners who have gone out into the world and done well. The list of successful artists and entrepreneurs is long, and it seems like every time I turn around I learn some famous person is also from the city, or at least nearby.

Derrick May is one of the famous people from Detroit. He, along with a trio of friends know as the Belleville Three, created a musical sensation known the world-over as Techno. That was almost thirty years ago. Derrick’s first releases are now considered classics, the most revered is a track called Strings of Life.

I knew before Derrick before was famous. He was just a guy living down the hall in the apartment building I had moved to in the Cass Corridor. I was just a shy girl fresh out of high school. A mutual friend introduced us and Derrick, being the gregarious personality that he is, invited me over to listen to the music he was making.

One night I went to visit. The apartments in the old building were small. Spread out on the floor of his living room were several little machines and keyboards. A very cool sound unlike anything I had heard filled the room. I really liked it. From an open window I looked out over the night skyline; the city lights were sparse. The music filling the space became haunting as if telling the story of abandonment and decay. The beats began to pulse and urged me to dance. I felt my spirit soaring over the empty lots and empty buildings, and the people who lived out there. I felt a sense of hope.

Derrick said, “Listen to this one I’ve been working on. A friend of mine is playing the piano, I made a loop from a snippet, and I can’t stop listening to it.”

He put on Strings of Life. I loved it.

I left Detroit soon after that, and was unaware of the whirlwind Techno music was throughout Europe. I remember when I first learned Derrick had become famous. It was the mid-90s. I was at a party out in the deserts of New Mexico. A young man was there. Somehow he learned I was from Detroit. He became animated telling me of how much he loved Techno and asked me about a Detroit club called the Music Institute – which was founded before I left the city. Back then Derrick, along with Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, and others, spun in that barebones club.  The young man talking with me just about passed out from excitement when he heard I had danced there, telling me that place was legendary – it was the first Techno club in the world. I felt my ego inflate a bit just because of who I knew and where I had been. Funny how that is. But it is.

On August 14, 2015, Derrick brought his latest project to Detroit – he would play his music with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at Chene Park. The amphitheater filled with people who shared that same intimate pride I felt back in New Mexico talking with the young man. Only this time the energy of sharing in the glory of success was exponential. And we were not let down. Derrick’s show with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was epic. History was being made again.

The concert was a magical moment. Strings of Life came from an acoustic piano and created a genre of electronic music, and then an acoustic symphony orchestra played the music that came from Strings of Life, creating a new genre of music – symphonic fusion.

The story of this collaboration has its roots across the Atlantic Ocean. A bold conductor from Macedonia named Dzijan Emin composed several scores of Derrick’s music for classical musicians. The event debuted last year in Macedonia and has played around Europe. I’m so glad it finally made it to Detroit. The sensation of hearing trumpets, clarinets, violins, and drums play what was once synthesizer music was amazing, genius really. And the finale of Strings of Life crescendo-ed the whole concert right out of the park. Everyone was on their feet. It was a celebration of everything we here in Detroit are proud of – innovation, our musical tradition, and someone from our city who goes out into the world and does great things.

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here’s a video of one of these concerts: http://concert.arte.tv/fr/derrick-may-ft-francesco-tristano-et-lorchestre-lamoureux-au-weather-festival

Post edited by Christopher Ross. And Michael James is Derrick’s friend who wrote the piano piece.

You can buy my travel memoir, A Blue Moon in China, here

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Blame it on the Bucket List, Part 3

violin

My violin – fiddle.

Author’s note March 23: I haven’t been practicing; I’ve been out and about.

I’m teaching myself how to play the violin. I’m channeling Beethoven and Mozart, Mahler and Americana. I really like to play Irish folk tunes again and again as fast as I can.

I first decided I wanted to learn in 1999. It seemed an ominous time and having a skill that brings music to a table might garner a person some food. I blame Prince: “Mommy, why does everyone have a bomb?” I figured we were doomed one way or another. I started late picking up an instrument, but at least I picked one easy to pick-up – carry, that is.

At the time some of my best friends were musicians. As I struggled to sound tolerable, they would say, “Why did you pick the hardest instrument to learn?” I blamed Sherlock Holmes, BBC, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It started with them. And Jeremy Brett. I saw the stage production in London before the television series, which I watched every Sunday night and mourned the day it was done. I read the complete works to satisfy my craving. I decided to add a soundtrack. I went to the local music store and a nice man helped chose my violin. It came with a hard case. He gave the name of someone to take lessons with and so I began. For a few months, anyway.

I picked it up again seven years ago, in conjunction with my bucket list obsession. I decided to learn the fiddle, took a few lessons and drank a few Guinness. The two went well together. But I didn’t have the privacy I needed to sound awful. To my dismay, I felt too embarrassed to practice in earshot of neighbors and set the instrument down, again.

Then I moved in a house with a yard. I had space. No one could hear me and if they did this was a neighborhood of kids, so I could just be one of them. A kid I knew had just picked up the violin. Lucky girl, band was part of her required curriculum in grade school. As far as I was concerned she and I were on par in accomplishment and I wanted to someday play a duet. I heard that she was practicing without having to be told. Knowing that motivated me. (As did the discovery of – wait for it – the new Sherlock Holmes. Oh, how that satisfies many cravings all at once. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman you rock my world.)

I disciplined myself for 20 minutes a day. It was frustrating. There were times I wanted to smash my precious instrument.

A professional said to me, “Practice your scales.” An opera singer told me it was all about consistency and muscle memory.

I persevered. I practiced my scales. I played songs over and over. I kept my eyes on the digital tuner. I watched videos generously posted by master players. I tried different holding positions, practiced half hour sessions; I began to sound better.

One day, I sounded good. For real good. It was magic. It came and went, but was staying longer. I was so excited I played for an hour and didn’t even notice. I did this again and again for weeks. I began to pay attention. I asked, “What was I doing different when I sounded good to when I sounded bad? Why was it still hit and miss on the intonation? The bowing?”

I realized it was about not thinking, just listening, deep breaths in and out, totally relaxing and allowing my body to move however it wants. It was about communicating freely. Having fun. I played for an hour and a half every night, still practicing my scales, the playing the same songs over and over, and expanding my repertoire. Two hours at a time. And counting.

Maybe the next thing on my bucket list should be, instead of learning Spanish, go to a pub in Ireland and join in the music around a fire. Then onward to Spain.

###

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Brett      (I loved David Burke, too)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Conan_Doyle

In my book, A Blue Moon in China, there are 18 black and white photographs I took while there; an index; and recommended reading, movies, and music from the book lists. I hand-drew the map. Library Journal‘s verdict was that it’s a “nice addition to women’s studies readings as it chronicles the kind of travel undertaken with a tattered map and the recommendations of students met on trains.” Feel free to contact me: elizabeth@elizabethpilar.com  My website has lots of pictures: elizabethpilar.com If you want to read my story, I’d love for you to order it from your local bookstore and ask your library to add it to their collection. $18.99 softcover ISBN: 978-0-9904251-9-9

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Filed under Bucket List, Essay, learning to play the violin - fiddle, Music, Writers

Blame it on the Bucket List, Part 2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Five novels by Pearl S. Buck & three by Carlos Castaneda

When I saw my partner on the floor and realized he had had a stroke, the strangest thing happened: it was that my life that passed before my eyes; my mortality stared back at me.

The awareness of death lingers as a constant deep in my consciousness. It’s part of my being. I hear Don Juan tell Carlos Castaneda that Death hovered behind his left shoulder and would tap, “It’s Time.” My mother would say that on the day you are born, the day you are to die is already written. These concepts felt ethereal. The picture before my eyes of the fallen man with drool on his chin was tangible, tactile.

I sat in silence next to my partner who lay in a hospital bed. I heard a voice tell me I had to make a “bucket list.” It sounded so cliche. I blamed Jack Nicholson. I didn’t see the movie, but I was living in L.A. and the promotional campaign was everywhere. The jargon stuck, as did the concept which I understood as “the doing for the sake of doing.” Like “art for art’s sake.” Something bourgeois, self-serving.

Concrete passion had a habit of eluding me. I didn’t feel the purposeful drive people who accomplish a lot have. I know people of that caliber, women in particular. I am in awe of them, often wish I was like them, but I am more a person behind the scenes, wanting to be in the shadows. I felt my purpose was to to be of service, in whatever way I could. Or I was before I asked myself that question. I went for walks, read books and wrote in my journal.

That was enough. Until…

“What do I want to accomplish before I die?”

The answer was immediate: write the story of the two months I traveled through Communist China in 1988. I would call it an epiphany, but I had already attempted it over the years. I had three sets of typed sheets of paper, word for word from my journal, done on an electric typewriter and a manual one.

Watching the green lights monitor my companion’s heartbeat, I determined to make it a story. It was a journal written by a young woman of 21 years who studied fine art, not creative writing. (Years later I would read Writing down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg scribble into notebooks stream of consciousness.**)

I began in earnest, fired up for the first time in a long time with a burning desire to complete a long term goal. I figured if that answer was so immediate it must be “my bliss.” I blamed Joseph Campbell for making me want to “follow my bliss.” (And Bill Moyers for interviewing him and introducing him to me.) I did like to draw with pastels, oil sticks, crayons, charcoal, pencils on paper, but that wasn’t the answer that came to me. It was the story of my traveling through China. I didn’t know why it was so important, one doesn’t need to when it’s a matter of the bucket list. It just is important for no reason.

My personality began to change. I became mono-focused, obsessed, impatient, totally self-centered. A Narcissist I think is the word.

A few months later was my 40th birthday. I celebrated on the equator in an eco-cabin high on a cliff. The windows were wide, without screens or glass. There was ocean as far as the eye could see. The royal blue canvas could be zippered close for when the monsoons blew in. And they did.

I had with me my first black spiral bound manuscript and several pencils. I read what was written out loud, protected from embarrassment by the surf pounding against the rocky shoreline, and the company of friends.

I also had with me what would turn out to be the first book I read related to my story: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. I bought it in the airport. I knew her name from the old hardcovers on a shelf of my mother’s. Their presence during my childhood may have one of two subtle conditioning toward my desire to know China. The other were wall plaques my mother bought on a trip to San Francisco just before I was born.On each was a reproduction of a watercolor engravings of a scene in China at the turn of the century. The time of Pearl S. Buck’s stories. The pictures were dark, one had to stand close to study the details, to peer into the past. For my mother they were a treasure, a souvenir purchase from a fancy department store. She hung them in every house we lived in, usually in the kitchen – her domain. For me, they were haunting. They spoke of a foreign land, a time that had stood still. (Little did I know what was really going on in China in the early 1900s, but that information came years later when I chanced upon another old hardback by Pearl S. Buck titled: The Man Who Changed China, The Story of Sun Yat-sen.)**

My partner made a stellar recovery and I stayed on task with finishing my book. (Little did I know it would take seven years.)  I had a story to go with my mother’s plaques.

The next thing on my list: learning to play the fiddle. (How is that for bourgeois?) I’ve been practicing for six months steady. Now that I’m finally sounding better I can feel a mono-focused passion coming in again: all I want to do is play my violin.

###

Each pictures was done by a different engraver: Samuel Bradshaw, F.F. Walker, W.H. Capone, J.Sand, J.B.Allen, H. Adler. All were drawn by T. Allons.

*Any skill I might have writing can be attributed to one man: Christopher Ross, my editor extraordinaire.

In my book, there are 18 black and white photographs I took while there; an index; and recommended reading, movies, and music from the book lists. I hand-drew the map. Library Journal‘s verdict was that it’s a “nice addition to women’s studies readings as it chronicles the kind of travel undertaken with a tattered map and the recommendations of students met on trains.” Feel free to contact me: elizabeth@elizabethpilar.com  My website has lots of pictures: elizabethpilar.com If you want to read my story, I’d love for you to order it from your local bookstore and ask your library to add it to their collection. $18.99 softcover ISBN: 978-0-9904251-9-9

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Filed under A Blue Moon in China, Birthday, Bucket List, China, Essay, Music, Writers

Blame it on the Bucket List, Part 1

My cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number. I answered anyway. To my surprise it was a friend of my friend’s, a respected artist known by the name, Wisdom. I was jarred, immediately on alert. Wisdom told me he’s not one for drama, “Normally I wouldn’t call… but Keith and I were talking on the phone and he stopped making sense.”

I grabbed my bag and shouted I had an emergency and bolted to my car. My speed was hampered by the winding mountain road – and by the four door sedan I was driving. The drive felt like forever and a second. I pulled up and braked so hard, the tires skidded on the gravel. I jumped out and ran for the door.

The heat of the day was searing and dry. The sun was bright overhead.  The house looked foreboding. I was afraid to look inside.

I entered the room. It was dark.  And quiet. The usual noise of television was missing.

In the shadows I saw him. He was on the floor leaning up against the bed. His legs were straight out, his torso tilted to the right. Drool pooled up in the folds of his faded flannel shirt. But it was his eyes that caught me by surprise – they were full of mischief. He saw me and said, “Hi. I fell. I can’t get up.”

I ran next door for help. I was in luck, he was hanging out with his friend, a paramedic. He took over, asking the questions that are now so routine for treating strokes.  “What time is it?” he asked. Keith blurted out, “333.” That was his favorite number. The paramedic shot me a very concerned look, it was noon. I sighed relief, somewhere his consciousness, the purity of his being, was there. I studied his face; it was glowing with innocence, the bright-eyed look of the Fool.

The ambulance roared him away. I followed behind wondering what this next bit in my life was going to look like in my life, as my hair whipped in the sharp wind as I sped down the highway. The temperature must have been 100.

I felt calm as I crossed the parking lot toward the overhang of the emergency room entrance. This was a familiar sight for me, part of the landscape – my mother worked as a medical technition drawing and analyzing blood. I grew up walking through the automatic glass doors opening wide, into the bright lights, past the receptionists, straight to behind the scenes like I ownded the place. And this time I was ready for a battle. I knew he couldn’t stay, he didn’t have health insurance.

The air-conditioning was a relief. The attendants asked me questions. I said I don’t know and kept walking.  I went through a swinging gray door. Straight ahead the grey-blue privacy curtain around Keith’s bed was open. The drab neutrality was soothing.

Keith was sitting upright, his legs rocking back and forth freely like a child. His bare chest hooked up to machines. His arms punctured by IVs.

I walked to the cold metal railing and stood beside him. He was beaming. A glow was literally coming from his entire being. He looked like a new born baby who delighted in just being.

“I want to go home. I’m all better.”

“If you can get up and walk out of here, I’ll drive you home.”

Curiosity replaced anxiety, I wanted to see how he would handle this particular crisis in his lifetime of physical ailments.

I went to get a nurse to free him from wires and needles. A nurse came over, I explained. She shook her head with a sad expression, she understood and didn’t like it was that way.

My companion swung his legs around, put on his pants, shoes. He pulled his shirt on as he stumbled, with focus, out of the room, bolting for the door.

I thanked the nurse and ran to catch up. I felt surprised and not surprised.

He was already out the second glass door and turning toward the parking lot by the time I went past the attendants. They shouted at me for his billing information. I shrugged and pointed and said, “I’m sorry but I have to go.”

As soon as we got home, he laid face down on the bed and said, “I’m just going to go to sleep now.” I told him okay and went outside to call in reinforcements, convincing him to go to the VA. I knew they would take care of him. He was a Marine.

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Abstract: Orgasms & Bonding

I wrote an academic paper titled: Orgasms and Bonding for a college course called Human Sexuality.

Here’s the Abstract.

ORGASMS & BONDING

Abstract
My interest in the inquiry into whether orgasm was sufficient to create an emotional bond was sparked during a lecture in which it was declared there was a ‘predictable bond’ between the two events.  As I have not observed this to be the case, particularly within the context of sexual relations outside the parameters of a monogamous relationship, e.g., sex with prostitutes, hook-ups or casual sex (regardless of its duration or frequency), not to mention the frequency with which adultery has been reported to occur, up to 76% for both men and women (Symons, 1979), I began my research.  My aim to substantiate the claim of this predictable bond led me to the neurotransmitter oxytocin.  As I first read the literature, I surprised myself by conceding that the simple answer may well be yes: the release of oxytocin during orgasm showed considerable evidence for creating emotional or pair bonding.  But these claims were primarily deduced from experiments with animals; humans are far more complex creatures, and thus a simple answer of “yes” to this question cannot suffice.  (Though, alas, such simplicity would save some from a lifetime of either yearning for secure attachment or avoiding the possibility thereof.)  This paper looks to examine to what extent the physiological functioning of the human body affects the nature of an emotional bond or attachment, given that there are extenuating factors in play, in particular those of Ainsworth’s (1972) patterns of attachment: secure, anxious-ambivalent, and avoidant.

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