Doze Green’s Gaia

There is a ghetto blaster in Doze Green’s House, circa 1982.  It still works.  It sits, like a robotic shrine amid a wall of records, tapes and DVDs.  His vinyl collection is a lexicon of psychedelic, hip-hop, hardcore, reggae, jazz, and on and on.

Doze’s house is a low-slung affair in west Nevada County, a remnant of the 80’s that is steadily transforming into a self sufficient, off-the-grid paradise.  He and his partner Nicole Strand moved here from San Francisco a few years ago.  Like many of us arriving in Nevada County, they wanted to try and repair their severed ties to Mother Earth. He and Nicole started, Ouroboros, an heirloom seed company with a fellow permaculturist in Sebastapol.

Doze is a monolith of pop culture.  He can reference any pop personality, place or happening in the last 50 years.  He is of that New York ilk that is faster, street-smarter and wittier by osmosis.  When he talks, he cracks himself up, bursting into sudden cartoonish motion.

I met Doze by house sitting for him last September while he was in Chicago painting a mural for three weeks.  I met his partner, Nicole, his dogs, his chickens, and his tomato plants and paintings months before I met him.  It was intense waking up to his art everyday.  I don’t think I got it at first.  I could see clearly that he had chops, but the intent wasn’t so clear to me.  Some of his paintings appear to be epic narrative glyphs, compressed and layered.  Multiple stories told simultaneously.  Some of them are so infused with sadness and rage that I avoided them first thing in the morning.  And some of them seem empty of emotion altogether. I would stay up late at night with a glass of wine, watching them for new developments.  I became familiar with his cast of characters.  It took weeks for Doze’s work to unravel enough, for my eyes to slowly penetrate the layers, so that I felt like I was getting the story. Or stories.

Image

(still life with Siddhartha)

Doze is a graffiti veteran of the 70’s and 80’s.  He and his compatriots went from being the most hated faction of New York life to the most revered.  “I’m no art critic but I can tell ya that ain’t art!” said a cop gesturing at a throw-up on a subway car in the 1983 documentary Style Wars.  It meant having a secret identity that was emblazoned on every imaginable surface.  As the form became more elaborate and more illegal, the accompanying hip-hop soundtrack was eeking it’s way from little local radio stations into big record labels.   Slowly but with increasing speed, outsider artists were beckoned into the money institutions: getting signed, getting larger venues, and getting acknowledged as culture makers.  To the rest of the country, hip-hop must have seemed to come out of nowhere.  But for the youth at the center of the counter culture, it was just the natural whipping together of hundreds of influences.

Simultaneously, punk and hardcore were lacerating crowds of teens at CBGB’s with the barely human sound of outrage.  Doze frequently found himself enthralled in the chaos of the Ramones or the Misfits.

As part of the Rock Steady Crew, he traveled all over the world, “every continent but Africa and Antarctica,” he laughed.  He worked for design companies like Jive and Bad Boy and painted murals in famous nightclubs like the Devil’s Nest.  He came out to California in the late 80’s and lived in Hollywood with Special K, Grandmaster Caz, Prince Whipperwhip and IceT.  In ‘91 he had the strange LA experience of living on Skid Row and in Beverly Hills in the same year. The empty-eyed faces in many of his paintings are echos of the homelessness he witnessed. The Beverly Hills mansion used to belong to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s House and was populated by ghosts and Scientologists.  “They tried to convert me.  It didn’t work.”

The first painting I bonded with was a single figure that hung in the living room: a golden alien robot floating on a white background.  I imagined if humans evolved for a few thousand more years we might look like that guy.  He was a protector of sorts, there was something soft about him despite his armor.  When I moved out, I missed him.  (Arawak 2011)

Image

(Arawak 2011)

This was a really brutal time in my life.  I took the gig house sitting for Doze and Nicole because my marriage was falling apart and I needed a neutral space to figure out a plan. Everyday Blossom and I would get up and feed the spastic black labs and then we’d go out to the chicken hutch to collect eggs.  Blossom would hunker down with an egg in her hands like it was a precious jewel.  “Thank you, Ladies,” she would coo to each of them.  Then we’d go back up to the kitchen and make breakfast.  We could pick tomatoes and grapes, swing in the hammock or watch cartoons on their old, tiny TV.  It was a relief to be away from my crumbling home and in a place where people were doing everything we dreamed about doing: growing food, making art.  Blossom would occasionally comment on a painting: “I like the blue bird,” or “that one is scary.” Doze and Blossom have since exchanged art; one of her original pieces (finger paints on card stock) hangs in his studio.

There is an interview with Doze back in his graffiti days where he is explaining the connection between dance and the trippy characters that make up a piece.  He has been building his own language for decades so of course it is esoteric. But he is also so deeply connected to some kind of instinctive cuneiform; his imagination parts so sharply from reality at times that it must be a struggle to come back to this monotone world.

A few weeks ago, we were standing in his studio and looking at Doze’s new works in progress.  He keeps about 6 or 8 going at a time, which attests to his restless energy.  This particular painting was a body, a humanoid body, in a sickened landscape of darkness.  Within her body there are faces with different expressions.  She is plowing forward in a gesture of elephantine determination with one hand behind, a black veil trailing her and a red orb floating inside it.

IMG_2390IMG_2393 IMG_2394 IMG_2400 IMG_2401 IMG_2402 IMG_2403 IMG_2404 IMG_2405 IMG_2406

“It’s Gaia,” he said, “in the apocalypse, pulling the seed of life from the void.”

There is a phenomenon called the Stendhal Syndrome whereby a person is so moved by what they are seeing that they are transformed physically, often getting ill with the shakes or dizziness.  Apparently it happens a lot in Italy when people are seeing the great masters for the first time.  It happened to me when I saw the Venus de Milo and it happened when I saw Doze’s Gaia.  I had to catch my breath and he patted me on the back reassuringly.  I had trouble sleeping, which is nothing new, but the image stuck on the inside of my eyelids.  Great art resonates with our experience, like a tuning fork.  It should reach in there and pluck that chord that feels unique to our body, our memory.  It should require no explanation.

I just spent the last year dialing back all my plans and dreams because it took all my energy just to get out of bed in the morning.  Add in the chronic terror of living in a collapsing system, an eroding ecology and all the helplessness and the denial it takes to keep going within that system.  In the grips of single motherhood I looked at Gaia and I saw…myself. Gathering up the babies, walking through chaos, dragging the void and the seed of life behind me.

Doze seems to permeate that thin membrane between the dead and the living.  People come to Nevada County to call out the last shred of the sacred. There are other artists here, cloistered away in the hills, exhibiting internationally, bartering their paintings for chicken feed.  This is another reason I don’t want to leave.  It changes me, to see and to be around people who are making their imagination actual.  It gives me hope and the sense that the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction, despite the smart phone pseudo-revolution.  Or maybe this is just a gold country phenomenon: that people like Doze and Nicole along with many other travelers on the path, arrive here.

Knowing them has made me all that much more resistant to moving, to getting a “straight job”.  I want to do in my fiction what Doze does on that canvas.  It maybe partly fear of failure.  A friend posted a quote for Beth Moore recently, “Writing is like throwing up: I know I’m going to do it, I just need to find a place.”

When I told Doze that I gave up trying to make music for a living because it sucked the joy out of the process, he said something that has stuck in my gut since: “Meer, you have to be willing to hate it, about half the time.”  When I sit down to write now, i think about that, I try to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I can see what it must feel like to have reached a point in your art making where you no longer wonder or care if it is good.  Doze may be a little eccentric, but he’s also free.  And that freedom produces magnificent results.

He is about to go to Las Vegas to paint a five-story mural.

“I’ll be in a cherry-picker the whole time.”

“Are you scared of heights?”  I asked him.

“I didn’t used to be,” he said.  “I used to run on top of the subway cars.”

“Jesus.”

“Ahh, It’ll be fun,” he said with a grin and a bombastic gesture of excitement.

dozegreen.com

watch a video about the Las Vegas project:

http://vimeo.com/76575366

 

 

Advertisements

I spend too much money at Caleb’s in Penn Valley

I read a book called the Automatic Millionaire and the author did the math on going out for coffee, even three times a week. in five years it amounted to something like 20,000$.   

So I have lived in Penn Valley for 5 years, and I’m not saying I come to Caleb’s three times a week but I estimate that Jeromy Laurin, the owner has probably earned about 15 grand off my household.  Between the ice cream and the bagels and the juices and the exceptionally awesome coffee, Jeromy has probably done quite well by us.  

Downtown Penn Valley has a bunch of nothing in terms of places to hang out.  Jeromy and his wife, Sarah, named their little ice cream and coffee shop after their son.  Jeromy is probably one of the happiest people in Penn Valley, as far as I can tell.  He laughs and manages to banter with even the grumpiest of retirees.  

I’d say 90% of Jeromy’s customers are regulars, he seems to know pretty much everyone by name.  When hipsters come in I feel tempted to ask them if they are lost and need directions.  

There are two gentleman who occupy the barstools daily.  They sort of remind me of over 65 versions of  Jay and Silent Bob from the Kevin Smith movies.  One of them just watches and they other one provides a running commentary.  Silent Bob occasionally chimes in with: God, you are embarrassing.  Eavesdropping at Caleb’s is highly entertaining.  

It is a tradition at Caleb’s to read from the Union’s police blotter out loud.  

last night: 8:27 pm a caller from the 200 block of Sutton Way reported her neighbor was attempting malicious mischief and was jumping up and down, causing light fixtures to break.

10:31pm a caller from the 1000 block of North Ponderosa Way reported coming home and finding her door open with the lights on.  (really, nothing taken, nothing broken, still worthy of a call to the police, knowing full well it will show up in the blotter the next day?)

 Often, the police are responding to a dispute over the existence of aliens or because someone’s livestock is too noisy.  Seldom do the police arrive to discover the perpetrator still on the scene.  It’s a really easy way for us to celebrate the fact that we live in a small ass town.  There is also a poetic quality to the language which I think deserves a little recognition.  

Regularly, politics comes up at Caleb’s but it never seems to get heated. Maybe the hardcore political conversations take places at June’s.  It often seems to me that people agree more than they disagree, no matter where on the spectrum they happen to sit.  It always seems to wrap up with a chuckle over how absurd the world is.  

Sarah also owns the Blue Cow Deli down the street, so people will roll into Caleb’s in the morning, caffeinate, and then roll over to the Cow for a sandwich.  There are probably even some people who roll back over to Caleb’s for ice cream.  The Blue Cow is honestly the only restaurant I eat at in PV.  It’s healthy and reasonably priced and fast.  Sarah and Jeromy have a knack for hiring nice people.  

I find that when I pick up Blossom from daycare, I have to distract her when we get close to Caleb’s or she will start intense negotiations for ice cream.  I admit, I let her win.  

 

Poop Management

I watched a Louis CK bit recently where he said something to the effect of: I wish someone had told me that parenting was really about cleaning shit out a tiny vagina several times a day.

As soon as you think about it, the diaper part, it makes sense, but no one really tells you that your primary job in the first 3 years is really Poop Management.

I am now in a difficult phase of my career as a poop manager: the potty training phase.  The real problem with this phase is that you are fooled over and over into thinking they have a handle on their various functions enough to at least warn you when something mighty is about to happen.  You get lulled into this post diaper bliss that is altogther illusion.  You drop your guard.  And your diaper bag.

For the last week, the girl was not sticking to her regular poop-right-after-dinner routine.  I didn’t think about it much, these things have a way of straightening themselves out whether I fret about them or no, but we were also taking a short jaunt down to the Bay Area for a peer’s birthday party.  The girl decided to wear a newly acquired magenta dress (she was adamant that we not refer to it as pink) and I made the mistake of adding tights to her little ensemble.

Half way through the party, while I was making a last vain attempt to get her to eat something resembling nutrition before the cake came out, she announced that she had to go.  So I trucked her out to the bathroom and put her on the training potty our hosts had made handy.   She then produced a couple hollow sounds not unlike beans in a tupperware.  The contents of the potty resembled some little, hard crumbs of corn and beet, neither of which the girl had eaten in the last few days.  It looked like brown gravel, more like rabbit droppings I noticed, but decided again not to think too much about it, I was just grateful something was coming out the other end.

So we went through the flushing and the struggle of readjusting tights and the hand washing and made our way back out to the party.  The song was sung, the cake was cut, the frosting was smeared all over most available surfaces, apologies were made.  The party was winding down when the girl suddenly howled from the play area that passes as a backyard in San Francisco: “Pooooop!” I could see from the way she was standing with her knees bowed and bent that this was not a pre-event announcement.

I scooped her up and returned to the bathroom.  Oh my.  I think is what i said, I really hope that is what I said.

Well, the tights and the big girl panties were, uh, transformed, and since I had no provisions I had to peel off the offending layers and, well now what?

“Whoa, das a man size poop,” she said employing one of my often used tactics to make light of a disgusting situation as i did my best to shake some of it off into the toilet.  I spent a good half a roll of toilet paper.  Kicking myself, I decided to go upstairs with a naked-from-the-waist-down child to find a bag to put the mess in, conceding, despite the several sangrias  I consumed, that leaving soiled underwear in someone’s wastebasket was not good manners.  Even if it had a lid.  I learned that lesson the hard way when I was in kindergarten.

But our hosts were the fastidious San Francisco types who have not a single plastic bag in their abode.  So I settled for a paper bag, folded tightly with every intention of dumping it on the way out.  Of course, in the hubub of leaving, saying good bye to a dozen people, I absently tucked the thing into my purse.  I dropped it into the car and promptly forgot about it and It immediately blended in with all the other useless shit that invades my car.

Not recognizing it as a parcel of mass destruction until I got home, I opened it with total curiosity.

I almost fainted, let me put it that way.  Bummer about those tights too.

You think there are no surprises after you witness your infant’s first bout of diarrhea.  But no.  The gifts keep coming.

When she is 15, I will still be following her around with wipes and a change.  Much to her abject humiliation.

Living the Dream

Today was one of those days where I wondered again what the universe would like me to do.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could just put in a request, like at the grocery store where they have slips that say: what would you like us to carry? and you wrote down: Cocoanut Water and a few weeks later, it appears on the shelf.  It just doesn’t work that way.  

I love it here.  I want to stay here.  And it seems like Nevada County really wants me to stay, but I need a new place to live, which means I need a real job .  I am trapped in that quandary of service industry work: if i get a job, say at the Briar Patch making 12$ an hour, then I lose what little assistance I have and I can’t afford to pay for child care.  

Suddenly I am peppered with offers to make music, people are interested in my writing, I’m meeting new interesting people I want to pursue relationships with and yet my mind keeps telling me to be reasonable and get a grown up job.  Somewhere else. 

I was at an event today at Sierra Commons for local business people and I found myself chatting with two people, one of whom turned out to be Heidi Hall who is running for congress, and both of them told me they started novels about the area and never finished them.  I guess alot of people have this dream.  Someone needs to tell the story.  

I noticed all over again how many exceptional people are drawn to this area with the hopes of contributing, of striking gold and sharing the bounty.  It’s built into the place.  And many do.  A surprising amount of people do.  

I seldom make the responsible choice.  Today, I could have sat down and struggled again trying to write a marketing blog about marketing trends in the life sciences.  I could have job searched.  I could have listed more stuff on Ebay and taken more stuff to the Salvation Army.  

Or I could have sat down and wrote another two pages in my novel.  Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda.  

But I also know that I will never get to the end of my life and think: I should have gone right back to work after Blossom was born.  I know I will never feel like this time with her is wasted time.  She benefitted already from her first three years here.  

I have to believe that even in the thick of this unease it was worth it to be poor so I could be with her every day.  And if that means that Mommy never gets a career in marketing, or makes it as an artist, well, tough titty.  

Nevada County feels like paradise in a lot of ways.  But paradise is illusory.  

 

 

Prenatal Yoga and Why You Should do it, Mamas.

ImageI just finished my yoga teacher training when I got pregnant.  I was in the best shape of my life after having practiced yoga at least twice a day for a month, eating only vegetarian food, giving up wine and limiting my sugar intake to a little good chocolate.  And spiritually, I had spent a month meditating on whether or not it was within my dharma to be a mother.  

What I wish someone had told me, after a month of exerting conscious effort to draw my physical and mental energy upward, was that becoming pregnant was like turning the hourglass upside down: everything my body and my mind had suddenly and radically dropped down into my womb.  The exhaustion, the nausea, the extreme dreams made me feel like I had fallen down a black hole.  I fell away from my practice and ate and slept my way through the first trimester.  

This is how nature sets it up, rerouting the bodies energy to form a placenta (can we just pause and note the miracle of the pregnant bodies’ ability to build a new organ whose sole job is to nourish a new baby?) but good grief!  It felt like my body had been the victim of an alien attack and something else beside me was moving my limbs.

Had I to do it all over again, and who knows I may, I would immediately seek out a prenatal class from the very git.  Because even after completing my own training, I did not know how to reconnect with my body through all this new experience.  When I finally found a class, it was like climbing into a warm bath.  I had to relearn how work with my own sensitivities, to deeply relax and in doing so, discovered a whole new store of energy.  I began an in vitro dialogue with my baby that continues to this moment.  And I also learned how to conquer heartburn, backaches and swollen ankles.  

My birth was a beautiful experience but there were many, many moments that everything could have gone off the rails.   Certainly I was lucky; birth is not a solo but a duet and it often doesn’t turn out how we plan or expect.  But the preparation of doing some simple breathing, stretching and movement sets up the nervous system for the full-tilt, hard work of labor.  Mentally, yoga allows us to release some of our expectations and be present to the moment when our baby arrives.  

It’s not just my anecdotal experience either, the research shows that women who practice are less likely to develop preclampsia, high blood pressure, diabetes and a host of other complications that can arise with pregnancy.  It shortens active labor time, it makes tearing less likely.  

Witnessing a roomful of mamas treat their bodies and their babies with respect and awareness is tremendously rewarding.  And being one of those mamas, doubly so.  

for more information about my prenatal yoga class visit : www.kinfolkyoga.com

Job Hunting

Today I went to Sacramento for two purported marketing jobs.  What “marketing” means  is really sales, but most employers don’t tell you that you will be going door to door selling office supplies or working at trade shows giving away promotions for casinos.

Once when I was 20 and I first moved to Santa Cruz, another bleak job market, I answered an ad in the paper for a sales position in the paper.  This was pre-internet. I drove down to Monterey to discover that I would be going door to door selling vacuum parts.  Not even whole vacuums, just vacuum parts.  I feel kind of like that now.

I’m an artist who has finally made the concession that art is not a job, and call me bougie, but I can’t sell something i don’t believe in: you should see this casino!  It’s opulent! and cheap at the same time!  You should pay the 399.00, take your family, load up on cisco food and dump all your savings into a slot machine!  It’s sooo much fun!

Here’s the horrible thing: I would do this job if it had anything to do with writing AT ALL.  I could sell bullshit all day long as long as it gave me a chance to craft the language.  And of course, I got paid.

But I can’t work 10 hrs a day and never see my kid and live in the big box burbs AND make no money.  That would be a serious step down in my and kid’s quality of life.

This is the funny thing, on the way back from Sac I stopped at Carpe Vino ( really needed a glass of wine) and i started chatting with a lady at the bar.  Turned out we both live in Penn Valley and we compared notes about living in Nevada county, how people here definitely bring their B game when it comes to efficiency, but there is so much art, culture, so much potential.  She asked me what I do and i told her I write, mostly fiction but I’m trying to break into marketing etc.  She asked what I love to write about and told her art was the thing I really loved to talk about.  It turns out she works at Center for the Arts in GV.  And she gave me her card.  Weird, I thought.  last week I was about to off myself because I was unhirable, this week I had 3 interviews only to discover that all of them were crap and then I bump into a neighbor who is essentially responsible for supporting artists in Nevada County.

So tomorrow, I go back to the One Stop and check out the postings.  Tomorrow I try to get a gig doing reception or waiting tables.  Or “marketing”.

Wouldn’t you rather I paint your picture with words, Nevada County?  Wouldn’t you rather I help bring this place into the 21 century in terms of fostering a lasting culture, a real reflection of all the amazing stuff that is happening here?  All you have to do is pay me.  Really.  40k. and maybe benefits.

Sigh.

Fall Falls in Nevada County

We are turning the corner on another year and the marker is that the clouds have reemerged, the pressure has changed the days are shorter the leaves are sifting down around the oaks.  The mimosas are abloom with bright peach and orange tufts of fuzz, the vegetables abound.  

It’s been a weird and wonderful summer: alot of grief, skies rife with smoke, bristling heat.  My people, as usual, make my life worth living.  I’ve made new friends, rekindled and refined old friendships.  I’m really alone now, in that exhilerating and terrifying place of freedom from a suffocating relationship.  My novel dangles like a hangnail, constantly aggitating to be finished, but providing me with no climax, no sudden burst of inspiration.  Philip Roth said you have to leave a place to write about it and maybe he’s right.  I sure hope so.  

I’m heading into a couple interviews this week, big corporate firms that require suits and other conventions.  In my hippied-out existence here, I have become so comfortable wearing yoga pants and tank tops in public, regularly using words like energy and ridgefolk.  I’m at once scared and excited to enter the matrix, to regularly use words like schematic and return on investment.  Most of all, I am ready to make some real money.  I’m ready to pay rent, to unload a ton of useless belongings, to receive a paycheck and go home.  

I am letting it all go: the dream of living off the land, of partnership, of participating in a local, vegetable based black market barter system.  I’m letting go of art and embracing commerce.  The new me will check her watch and monitor twitter and tumblr accounts.  

I will miss you, Nevada County.  It’s too bad you couldn’t employ me.  I will always keep you in my heart and I will visit often.  Sacramento is only an hour and a world away.  I will finish the novel before I die, I swear.  I will tell your story.

The water in Sacramento sucks.

Soup Night at the old Stonehouse Brewery

Because I was restless and didn’t feel like cooking and it actually happened early enough that i could bring my 2 yr old, I took a chance on Soup Night at the Stonehouse last Wednesday.  And I am glad I did.

It’s unusual for me to walk into an event in Nevada City or Grass Valley and not know anyone.  But that was the case and it made me realize there is a whole community of families and farmers that I have yet to get to know.  The place was packed by the time we got there, people stood in line with their bowls and spoons at the ready while happy servers doled out beef curry, old school chicken or potato leek soup.  Little girls ran around  with their shoes off as the dj’s warmed up with a little 80’s kraut rock.  We ate and observed, then moved upstairs where people sat eating, talking and reading from the lending library.  Blossom followed the older girls with gleeful awe.

If you’ve never been to the Stonehouse, it’s like a cross between a medieval castle and a Goldrush era bar.  Its cozy and cavernous at the same time.

The event was an annual fundraiser for Food Love Project to promote farming in education.  So it was forgivable that the potato leek was a little on the thin side.

People in Nevada County take this kind of thing seriously.  We live in a bubble where people want to know what they are eating, where they really see local food production as a salve to a broken food system.  Wander too far out of the bubble and you will find very different ideas about what is good for the body and what is good for the economy.

Little moments like this make me really appreciate living here.  Everybody was full and happy when the DJ’s busted out some disco and Blossom and I couldn’t resist getting out on the dance floor for a few songs.

I think the answer to some of our big problems is maybe just this simple: party more!  Participate, communicate, educate, grow together, eat together, dance and laugh.  Ok, not all our problems.  But many of them would quickly evaporate if we shared more.

Thank you to the Stonehouse, one of our beautiful historic buildings, for acting as a home for these kinds of happenings.  Thanks Nevada County, for caring about your land, your food and your children.