my life

This is your brain on Starwood

Ah, Starwood. How to explain? Maybe the last night's bonfire...one of the biggest bonfire events in the country. Think a pile of flaming logs the size of a small house (the House of Fire! I must use that next year..."Welcome to the house of fire") with hundreds of people dancing around it and drumming, all night.

The moon is almost full, and hangs above the fire. I am wearing a lovely Chinese silk jacket that I just got, looking damn good if I do say so myself...this festival I have been manifesting the archetype of the Lover a fair bit (and more on that later), but tonight I pulling down a blend of the King, the Magician, and the Holy Goof, dancing around, coming up to people and telling them "Now don't tell anybody, but the moon...is beautiful." I am the King bestowing blessings; I am the Magician, teaching my secret knowledge. I have a hope that for someone, this will be the moment, the exact thing they needed to hear. But mostly I am the Holy Goof, for the whole thing is ridiculous, I am for some reason I cannot explain talking in a Tom Waits gravel voice.

I am dancing all night, the sun comes up and there are fewer but still many of us, some dozing off on the sides or wrapped in embracing couples or trios. A bunch of people in ridiculous superhero costumes come changing in and bring an infusion of energy - how can you not be joyful at the sight of a tall thin man in an American flag jockstrap waving an inflatable toy sword? A pretty girl - an old Starwood fling with whom I have, perhaps, reconnected - gets me to hula-hoop for a while.

Some of our fearless leaders, America's top alternative spirituality
leaders, arrive and start a bocche ball game in and among and dancers. I
overhear Ian Corrigan, Archdruid Emeritus of the neo-Druid group Ar
nDraiocht Fein
, and Reverend Ivan Stang of the href="http://catb.org/jargon//html/H/ha-ha-only-serious.html">ha-ha-only-serious Church of the Subgenius, talking about how they have no idea how to score such a game.

Jugs of "Discordian Juice" - some fruit juice and alcohol mix - get passed around. Rev. Stang produces a jug of "Subgenius Antidote" for the Discordian Juice (it seems to have the same active ingredient) and a hot blond girl grabs me by the hair and makes me drink some. I do not complain.

Around 8am I am exhausted, feel my work is done, start to gather my things. In one of those moments that means nothing to anyone but those involved, I find that my karma is still tangled with that of the only ex-lover with whom I am not on good terms, she is coincidentally standing right where I left my bags, talking to someone seated nearby. We do not speak (the last time I did that, she spat on the ground - yes, the energy remains that toxic) as I pick up my bags and start up the hill, only to be called back to the fire by perhaps my favorite magickal ritual.

A few years ago our good friend Brian Jefferson realized that the chorus from an old soul song makes an excellent chant. And now a bunch of sleep-deprived and intoxicated freaks and seekers dance around and embrace and sing to each other, "I want to thank you / for lettin' me / be myself, again..."

And this is your brain on Starwood.

report from Brushwood

At Brushwood now, in the lull between Sirius Rising and Starwood...arrived
last night, saw a interesting thing when I got off the highway, a bunch of Amish (or Mennonite?) people playing volleyball, women in bonnets, men in suspenders.

On the ride up, passed under a bridge for "Middle Road", could only think of Buddhism, I was passing under the dharma somehow.

Sitting under my pavilion this evening, playing guitar, a cute girl came up carrying a flute, asked if she could play along. And it occurred to me, hurray for women who aren't shy, if I had to always rely on my bad conversation-starting ability I'd never get to talk to a pretty girl...

Ok, that's a little self-pitying now, ain't it? But still, I find my energy in this endeavor scattered since Cathy broke it off. (I am glad, though, that I went to Red Emma's to buy a copy of the Harry Potter book (which I finished today), reminded me of how many pretty girls seem to hang out there. Oh, and another great revelation - you see lots of pretty Asian girls at the Asian supermarket.)

Good music today, I have neighbors, a couple, the guy plays guitar, the woman stand-up bass (the flautist I met is camped with them), they were playing at their campsite this afternoon, now over at Phil's Grille as I sit across the way in the Starwood bar, great stuff. Then walking in I passed Randolphe (Harris) playing by the side of the road, amazing as always.

Just saw Nicole, she was headed off to meet with Dorian and Jason who just arrived. Brian and Joe are also here, Trisha on the way, so we'll have the Baltimore crew well-represented.

Potter. Harry Potter. Emma. Red Emma's

Ok, I'll admit it. I'm waiting for the damn Harry Potter book to go on sale at midnight.

I had figured I'd just get a copy when I get back from Starwood. But with all the fuss about spoilers, somebody might well ruin it by that time. And I can get a copy here at Red Emmas and support a cool local business. (I'm posting this from one of their PCs.)

So grab a copy, get home and get sleep so I can be fresh for the promotions at the dojo - or stay up and read? I know I'm going to read some of it...

a vicious cycle of ecstasy and despair

On my refrigerator, I have an old "Zippy the Pinhead" cartoon. Zippy and his friend Claude are discussing worry and love.

"When I'm in love, I worry I'll fall out of love. When I'm out of love I worry I'll never love again..." says Claude

"It's a vicious cycle of ecstasy and despair, huh, Claude?" observes Zippy. And with a wistful look, Claude replies, "Wouldn't want it any other way, pardner!"

So that's a bit of where I am now. No names (though those who know me can figure it out...), but since I've been back and since Cathy broke it off with me, I've been feeling smack in the middle of that vicious cycle. Several women on my mind...one lovely lady I met at Starwood last year who I'm hoping to see again; one friend I've been sweet on for as long as I've known her (eight years or so); ok, another friend I've been sweet on for even longer time and once had a tryst who has also been in my thoughts; there's a new lady who's a writer and a book lover; one ex-brief-girlfriend who called me today; one friend-and-one-night-lover who seemed interested when she heard I was unattached; one lovely lady I met in Japan who I just heard from; one cute new recent internet correspondent...what's that song? "Seven women on my mind, four that wanna own me, two that wanna stone me, one says she's a friend of mine...."

Anyway. Went to the reading at Minas today, a Gimme Shelter benefit for a well for a village in Africa, did some stuff at the open mic. The guy running it hadn't seen me read before, which points out how lax I've been the past few years about getting out into the scene. Anyway he was interested in booking me for a future reading, so I ought to get my ass out and read some more. A nice after-party, then dinner, hanging with Robin and Carla and Brian.

saved by hotel desk clerks; guardian-gardeners of steel

Despite the high rhetoric of world-redeemers, saving the world is a one-person-at-a-time deal. And I remember a Zen poem: "Whenever the burden of saving all sentient beings becomes too great, I vow with all beings the breath in the grace of the morning star, and remember that they are saving me."

I was saved by two night clerks a a hotel in Jersey City. I had just returned from Japan and just had my girlfriend break up with me, was wondering if it had been worth it to come back, if there was anything on this continent worth staying for. That Saturday I went up to NYC for the annual black belt clinic; called around to find a hotel room, found one at place I'd stayed before, the Radison near the Journal Square PATH train stop. Caught the train after the welcome party, walked over to the hotel.

Two young ladies behind the counter, black girls, kind of rolly-polly (of course, for the first week or two after I got back from Japan, everybody in this country looked rolly-polly). And they were beautiful Americans, cheerfully giving directions to one guy on how to find a good local bar, joking with me about my name and "Swiss as in cheese or as in bank accounts?" In just a few minutes they redeemed America for me, made it worth coming back.

Recycling excess copies of The Examiner

Sick and tired of picking up litter dumped on my lawn by The Examiner's carriers, I fired this off. I'm sending hardcopy in the mail tomorrow. Yes, I do intend to follow up and bill them if they keep dumping papers, and if they don't pay, I'll consider turning it over to a collection agency.

Feel free to copy the idea and make similar arrangements with these littering bastards.

Tom Swiss
2119 Arlonne Drive
Baltimore, MD 21228
410-455-5325
Fax: 443-927-9320
tms@infamous.net

Michael Barnum, Vice President, Circulation
Baltimore Newspaper Publishing Company, LLC
400 E. Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
mbarnum@baltimoreexaminer.com

Jun 27, 2007

Dear Mr. Barnum,

Since repeated telephone calls to the circulation office of The Examiner have failed to stop your carriers from littering my lawn and driveway with newspapers, I can only assume that you have great difficulty in disposing of your excess papers.

Rather than pressing criminal charges for littering against your company, I propose a profitable and ecologically helpful solution: I am willing to provide you with a recycling service for excess papers. My rate is $90 per pound of papers, one pound minimum for any day you choose to use my service.

Any copies of The Examiner left at or in front of my house (2119 Arlonne Drive, Catonsville MD, 21228) after July 4, 2007, will be taken as acceptance by Baltimore Newspaper Publishing Company, LLC, of these terms and as a request for the service described above. Bills for the service will be sent to you at this address.

If you choose not to make use of this service, then you merely need to stop littering my lawn and driveway with newspapers.

Very truly yours,

Tom Swiss

my Starwood workshops

As previously mentioned, I'll be presenting workshops at the Starwood Festival again this year. Now, I know which ones:

Sparking a Creative Inferno

Zelda's Inferno is a weekly Baltimore poetry workshop that has been meeting and writing since 2000. We have only one rule: if you have words on the page at the end of the exercise, you win! Longtime Zelda's coordinator Tom Swiss will lead participants through writing exercises that might show you new ways to spark the fires of creativity. For poets, bards, and writers of all types and abilities.

Self-defense as a Spiritual Practice

You are a manifestation of the divine, a child of the God and Goddess. That makes you a being worth defending; yet our culture's confused attitudes about violence, plus the self-esteem issues faced by many people in the Pagan community, often obscure the fact that self-defense is also defense of the divine principle within all of us. In this workshop we will try to cut through the fog and discuss attitudes and skills to preserve not just your body but your divine nature. Targeted for those without previous martial arts or self-defense training; but experienced students are also welcome. We will practice verbal and non-verbal communication skills for dealing with conflict, and a few simple self-defense techniques.

Zelda's Infero exercise, Jun 24

Tonight's writing exercise: we all looked at art books, each choose a piece and briefly described it to everyone else. We all took notes on the descriptions; that's the first part below. (Mine is #5.) Then we used these as feedstock to write poem. Obviously I stuck on the first one; others integrated all the descriptions into their exercise.

(Also I probably radically misheard some people's descriptions. Doesn't matter for this purpose.)

1) green background, large mouth with blender-like mechanical points, crescent shape

2) translucent body, prostrate, bright yellow flame ascending into eyes everywhere, observing

server migration, Buddhist precepts, rare books

Zelda's at the new space at St John's tonight...it's a nice space but sort of an inconvenient place, not much around and a farther drive for me. I've walked up to Xandos, near JHU, for a veggie wrap and a coffee.

Yesterday, worked all day on server migration for the day job. Loads of fun shepherding that. In a well-designed system it would be trivial, but this is such a patchwork, a mishmash, that it had to be babied through. It took pretty much all day, with a few bumps and some things to still work out this morning - and the boss said it went a lot more smoothly than some past migrations. Yeesh. So now that we're moved I'll see what I can do about getting better practices in place.


I've been considering the idea that the Buddhist precepts basically boil down to "Don't make trouble" and "Don't settle for cheap thrills". Add in "Tip your bartenders, servers, and musicians" (i.e., the practice of charity) and it becomes also a good guideline for a night out on the town. (Which is, perhaps, indicative of some sort of overarching metaphor....)


Friday, went down to Ellicott City for lunch and ended up over at Gramp's Attic Books, a used and rare bookstore where I often find interesting things. I found a collection of some of Emerson's journals, a cheap copy of On the Road, a complete Whitman collection as well as a biography of him, and an interesting-looking scholarly book about the image of India in German Romanticism. Great research stuff.

toasting the Solstice; the metaphor of fire for love; stretching the writing muscles

And so summer either begins or hits its midpoint, depending on how you count, here on the Solstice. I've come down to the Judge's Bench to toast it.

Last night I got to go over and catch up with Mike, hadn't seen him since I got back from Japan. Joe came over too, so I was able to hand out their omiyage.

I've been mucking around more on ancestry.com the past few days, digging back through census records, finding out a little bit about the great-grandparents and even some more great-greats and great-great-greats. Might have found some distant cousins through the site, over on the Sprole side.

So I'm contemplating the metaphor of fire for love, and thinking of how they leave behind a mess of soot and ashes and smoke that has to be cleaned up. Or that will eventually soak into the soil and nurture it, but meanwhile is a mess.

But it's interesting to consider the perspective of emptiness on the end of a relationship, as we would apply it to death...we might understand that a "self" is a dependent arising, not a real thing. Can we see the same in a romantic (or other sort of of interpersonal) relationship, that it is an aggregate of things that come together and come apart? Just as when a flame is blown out, yet all the molecules of air and fuel remain, so she and I remain, and so does the space between us.

Of course, contemplating that the flame has not really "gone away" anywhere is not useful when the fire goes out and you're freezing. Emptiness is also empty.


So, let's stretch the writing muscles with a little poetic exercise. Supported free-write on a random overheard phrase: "light me on fire"

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