Saturday, October 29, 2011

October Poltergeists 2010

Huge storm clouds over the Jemez Mountains, from the scenic balcony of the Motel 6 in Santa Fe, last October.

Finally, the air cools in the 10th month. Everyone in the Phoenix area starts doing things again. Summer here is analogous to winter elsewhere. The desolate aspects of everyone indoors, the streets empty. Emphasized in Maple/Ash by the vast reduction in yahoo college undergrads. Come to think of it, that's a good name for the local Education Factory. Yahoo College. Yahuniversity. Anyway, by October, it's bumping around here.

Last year's High Mayhem Emerging Arts fall event, The Fall Series, had me up to Santa Fe to perform a 45 minute drum set piece I called Poltergeist. (This year's Fall Series kicks off this weekend, and is highly recommended). I was originally inspired by the monstrously talented Frank Rosaly, who blazed through Phoenix 2 years ago and performed a glorious solo set at Modified Arts, reminding me of the great power of solo improvised percussion. I had somehow forgotten.

Poltergeist was intended to capture a few different themes. One is the mystical concept that inanimate objects have souls or voices, and that in striking them, sounding them, those spirits are liberated and freed. I was meditating on the voice of the drums in this way for a while, playing solo in my living room. It occurred to me that there is also a great storytelling tradition in drumming. Griots, of course, but also just the whole way rhythmic phrasing has a narrative arc. I wanted to tell some story about a spirit who had been wronged and who was returning to file an official grievance. Then I encountered this tale:

"The Ghostly Drummer of Tedworth was a case of suspected poltergeist activity. In the early 1660s John Mompesson of Wiltshire began to hear strange noises in his home. There was the sound of a drum beating, as well as scratching and panting noises. Objects seemed to move of their own accord in the house, and sometimes a strange sulphureous smell lingered in the air.

Mompesson believed that a man he had helped send to jail, a drummer named William Drury, had, through some form of witchcraft, caused a malevolent spirit to invade his home. The case attracted interest throughout England, and many people came to witness the spirit for themselves. However, when the King sent two representatives to investigate the haunting, they found no evidence of supernatural activity."

So the whole thing naturally fell together from there. I am still hoping to get the multitrack recording of that solo. I think it went well.

Some photos from that trip, and then last year's trip up to the ranch near Ocate, a trip I made the week after the Fall Series gig.

Carlos Santistevan and Milton Villarrubia III of Ink on Paper:

Me channeling aggrieved spirits:

I do remember when I was done, someone in the front row of the very small audience whispered "holy fuck!" So I guess it was fairly intense. Or he was outraged.

Some photos from the beautiful, historical town of Las Vegas, New Mexico and the ranch trip last October:

The poker table, scene of many a heartbreak:

Some of the cactus sights from near Ocate and then a stop on the way back to Phoenix in a little town in New Mexico called Corona, featuring some very fine Echinocereus triglochidiatus.

At the crossroads in Ocate, precisely the kind of building I love seeing. It tells its own stories, aggrieved or not.

How to Pronounce Schadenfreude

Friday, October 28, 2011

Heat Trapped

Last August and September, I avoided going anywhere for a good long while. It was too hot. The above photo is Mill Avenue in Tempe, at about 7:30 pm on the first Friday in August, as I headed downtown for the art walk. It was about 110 degrees, still. No rain would fall. It would just look bleak and ominous. And it would stay up in the 90s overnight. This is August in the low desert. This year's summer was the hottest on record. But last year was hot too.

Some Phoenix pics:

Some pics from my neighborhood at night, in September.

My room on a sunny afternoon. Shady and cool.

Now that it is cooling off, I miss summer.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Santa Fe Returns; Our Intrepid Traveler Falls

Last summer, a trip with a lot on the line. After intensive step work with my AA sponsor, I had arrived at the willingness, eagerness even, to make amends to a variety of Santa Fe friends, ranging from employers to ex-wives to ex-girlfriends. I have been blessed to maintain friendships with both of my ex-wives and many other exes (largely due to their unearned miraculous generosity of spirit toward me and my finally getting sober) over a great many years, but the specific amends conversations had not occurred, even after 7 years of sobriety. There were several other amends as well. Also on the schedule: scattering the ashes of my beloved dog Fiona in the pond at Sunrise Springs. Fiona spent the first two years or so of her life swimming in that pond and it was definitely one of her favorite places.

Here she is "helping" with the clean up from a going away party for me from 2001 in Santa Fe, before I moved to Los Angeles:

Also on the agenda: Electric Miles Project 2, another in a series of extrapolations from some of Miles Davis' 1970s music. Here's a segment of set 2, featuring our approach to Great Expectations:

I camped up in the mountains for most of the 9 days or so I was there, and it rained every night. My tent was leaking so I drove around with my bedding in my car all day, drying it out.

So it was a very intense trip indeed. It also coincided with profound grief around the state of things with The Poetess and other unexpected feelings. And more. So everything really opened up wide and it all felt like a combined catechism and catastrophe, blissful and liberating and dark and endlessly sad and joyful all at once. There have been many periods precisely like this in the intervening year, but this was especially something like a free fall. There was also incredible deep tissue body work from my highly recommended friend Darcy Alice Nicholson, and that led to a bizarre spiritual experience on the massage table. More about that later, or never. Maybe.

On a much more earthy, grounded note, I saw some great cactus sights. Echinocereus fendleri and a nice form of Cylindropuntia imbricata south of town, and lots of sky.

Santa Fe really is Cougar Country, somehow.

Classic Echinocereus coccineus up off Hyde Park Road, as well as equally classic Echinocereus triglochidiatus:

Always cool to see cacti growing covered by pine needles, at 9000 feet, in the shade.

Also paid a quick visit to the very rare endemic cholla that grows in a city park in Santa Fe, Cylindropuntia viridiflora. It has been speculatively reclassified as a hybrid (supposedly between imbricata and whipplei) but I think it is a distinct species.

Some pics of the Miles gig:

On the way back, I made several cactus stops, including a stop at the Little Colorado River canyons south of Woodruff. I have looked 3 times, a few hours each time, for the very elusive Escobaria missouriensis navajoensis RP33 here, to no avail. One of these days! It is awesome country, and always worth a visit.

The river was brown and raging from all the recent rains:

Some pics from a couple stops along the road from Holbrook to Heber and in the Heber area:

A cool flat and not very spiny form of Echinocereus fendleri from the Heber area:

Pretty seedlings of the same form:

Beautiful Agave parryi in the Heber area:

This was the last trip I took until October of last year. So now, I guess that means I am only a year behind. But about 20 trips to post. That's the kind of year it was. It's wild to just now be starting on the actual travelogue. Maybe nothing and everything is prefatory, anyway. What difference does it make? The point is, there are a lot of travels to absorb. And I keep going on the road again, so there's an almost humorous recursive quality to it.

But the journey of July 2010 was mysteriously inner and ineffable. Something raging like a river. Like beehive flowers. Like the thunder and lightning every night, the rain-soaked cold bedding, the electric music, the sun every afternoon. If I want things to be split open, if I need to get a clear window into anything, whether I want to or not, a trip to Santa Fe often does it.

This coming weekend, a trip back to the "poker ranch" near Ocate, NM. Have to go prayed up and ready for revelations (whether I win or lose money) as they always happen there, too. The trip there last October included encountering this evocative Yo La Tengo song and going completely into free fall again for days.