The convergence of a number of things: house maintenance, governmental corruption, an arduous winter, blogging daily, some deaths among friends and students, and herds of cats have all been made almost unbearable since my fall on Groundhog's Day, the one that dislocated my shoulder and put the whole top left quadrant of this pudding of a body into a state of nonfunctional pain. Then the painkillers fuzzed up my head.
Short example: I didn't act fast enough when one of the three female cats gave birth to five "sparrows", scroungy little gray specimens with various decorations of white. I'd say they were street cats if we had real streets in this tiny village. Pretty scraggly inbred lot. One has fallen in love with me and follows for a chance to snuggle. They all have the idea that my double chin is a lot like a mamacat's belly and determined that there must be a source of milk somewhere. Maybe claws . . .
Then it's Easter and I watched "Jesus Christ Superstar" on YouTube twice. This has led to an attack of not-quite-conscience. Because having a conscience is knowing what is Right. I don't know what is Right since I don't even have Trump's conviction that wealth is the criterion. (Too bad he's not really rich -- just faking it.) But there's never enough money to cure stupid, weak bullies, or the other insecurities of a bald old fat man. Now I'm just going to talk about myself, who never valued money and so passed up every opportunity to get money in order to preserve my freedom.
As a barely post-toddler, I was entirely secure and protected. Even when the second baby, a boy, appeared, I was confident that I was the Axis Mundi, the spindle on which the planet turned. But the planet tilts and it's doing that now. Still, I coped pretty well until school. The adults all thought I was just what a little girl should be and gave me good grades and praise, though one noted on my report card that I cried all the time. My classmates despised me. Still do. They'll deny it. Nearly eighty years old, red-faced, relatively prosperous, they meet for lunch once a month.
That's the grade school bunch. In high school no one mattered but my teachers and the dramatics program so college was where my dramatics teacher graduated. (She disliked and feared AK -- I think it was the lesbian thing.) But now I am shamed by my classmates, so hooked by success and achieving a respectable version. Northwestern University now sells out to international corporations, letting the School of Speech become so esoteric that it will be easy to snuff in time. And yet I could use the services of a good otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat doc) because I have issues, surprisingly related to Dr. Porges' ideas about the vagal nerve system. (I guess that's pretty esoteric, too, but at least no earth-eating international corporation is involved.)
What's at issue here is the concept of success. I didn't have some burning issue about going to teach "Indians" as is assumed. It was just an accident that after graduation we drove through Browning and a job was open. But once there I did have conscious issues about what person would be best for me to link up with. It was Bob Scriver. So then we concentrated on HIS success. He was 47 and in the next ten years I put him first in my life. I made myself as closely like him as I could, but also cheerleader, cheap labor, and publicist. I pushed him into the New York scene because I still read the NYTimes. Locals will say I made him a success and even ask me to do it for them, but they have no idea what I did, because they have no concept of the New York art scene. When Bob divorced me, he said that he should charge me tuition because I learned so much, and there was truth in that.
So -- over thirty and out on the street with no money. (Alimony was $1,200 and a free winter-over on the little Two Med ranch he bought without consulting me. I loved it.) Was this success? Two years of penance teaching again and I discovered Third Force psych. Reframing has been key ever since. Success is how you look at it. But I wouldn't mess with marriage again. I did keep watching the Western Art world and, once I convinced Bob that I wouldn't attack him, saw what a racket it became.
The arts became enchained by those who capitalized on it: the publishers, the dealers, the galleries and bookstores, the customers who believed they were doing something smart and privileged when they were only sheep. The best-seller lists of books are not based on quality of reading, but rather on sales. The sales of certain bookstores were added up, and the ones with the most money were the number ones. Art auctions were similar: sales were through auctions: public, hyped, a little drunk, reputation by word-of-mouth, and secret deals. When there are lectures to explain why certain paintings are worth millions, they fall flat. When one sees that they are linked to virtue -- paired-with secret-sin, it's even harder to understand. No need to reveal which artist is the son of a whore or even a whore himself. Charlie Russell loved to hang out with whores and that's a known fact. Would Jackson Pollock sell so well if he weren't a suicidal, unfaithful, self-destroyer? Writers, the same -- the worse, the better.
I didn't get hooked into that. I don't drink, smoke, gamble, overspend, chew gum or dance. I eat too much and I have too many cats and I don't dress well, which is what convinces people I'm disreputable. I'm full of The Big Ideas. So it seemed like seminary would be a natural place. That's where I saw the real coverups and pretences. Until I went out in a circuit-riding van to be more martyred and virtuous than anyone else -- mostly based on self-deprivation, which I thought of as asceticism.
When I came home that time, it was to a Portland full of crime and drugs, but I wasn't out on the street anymore except to and from work on the bus. That was enough: a drug king was pushed up at gunpoint by a cop just outside the window by my seat. It took a minute to realize that a bullet would travel through that wall, so I should move. I had been hypnotized by the three carat diamond stud earring in the drug boss's ear. Then there was the young man on drugs who slept in the bus stop shelter until his lungs hemorrhaged, creating a twenty foot pool of blood on the sidewalk. It was days before the contracted bus shelter maintainers cleaned it up. The shelter itself was architect-designed, a beautiful glass and bronze structure. I saw that the celebration of a wonderful pocket garden in the ghetto had a dark side: the bushes made a perfect place for rape, just like Central Park.
By this time, I had a Lisa computer and impressed my mother by sending an internet message to my high school's principal, a black woman, and receiving an answer from her by return email. I figured out how to contact a professor in Dillon who maintained a circle of Montana people, and started to send him an email, but ended up crying so much that I couldn't.
It was 1993. It will take whole blog posts to explore the rest. Reframing -- this is a "book."