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swings in the basement; Koot Hoomi

Last night, Friday the 13th...I went to the 14 Karat Cabaret, haven't been down there in a while. In the basement of a building on Saratoga Street, a venerable venue for performance art and the more avant-garde sort of music and film.

I had forgotten that they have a swing hanging from the rafters -- a simple chain and wood plank swing, adorned with plastic flowers. It suddenly reminded me of my grandfather, the child's swing he set up in the basement when my brother and I were young boys. I don't think I'd though of it in many years. Perhaps it came up because the whole family-kids-what am I doing with my life question is close on my mind recently, between the recent romantic tangle, my best friend's son's first birthday party tomorrow, and my own odometer-turning birthday approaching. Still, odd what tweaks the memory.

Tonight, I'm at the Windup Space for the Telesma show, featuring a lecture and live painting by "symbolic" artist Bob Hieronimus. Hieronius's art is on display, and there's a program for the exhbit explaining (to some degree) Hieronimus's work.

I opened up the booklet and had to laugh -- according to it, "Former Secretary General of the United Nations U Thant also saw the importance of Baltimore when he introduced Hieronimus to his spiritual teacher U Maung Maung Ji, a Buddhist scholar, statesman, diplomat, and disciple of the Master Koot Hoomi."

The laughter was due to tripping across yet another "Koot Hoomi" reference. Koot Hoomi keeps turning up in my Pagan historical researches -- he was the foremost of the (semi-?)fictional "Mahatmas" or "Secret Chiefs" that Helena Blavatsky, fraudulent Spiritualist and founder of the Theosophical Society, claimed as the authority behind her work. Authorization by these Secret Chiefs were later claimed by MacGregor Mathers, Aleister Crowley, and even by Ernest Thompson Seton -- one of the founders of the Scouting movement who also has an interesting connection to the birth of Wicca.

So, now I have a Koot Hoomi - Baltimore connection. That alone was worth the price of admission!

Zelda's Inferno exercise: inspiring movies

This week's Zelda's Inferno exercise: (from Karla) pick a movie that has influenced or inspired you in some way, and use that as a starting point in some fashion...I ended up with more of a short essay than a poem, but hey, the point of these exercises is that if you have words on the page, you win.

I was seven years old, in third grade, the year Star Wars came out. I can remember my father taking me taking me to see it at the Patterson one fall evening, joking not to tell my teacher that he'd kept me out late.

For the rest of my childhood, the question I asked myself in various situations was, "What would Luke Skywalker do?" It was the ur-myth of my boyhood, the pattern to countless inner monologues. Playing at being the heroes of Star Wars was our ritual, one more meaningful to us than the bit with the wine and the wafer on Sunday.

I was thirteen, about to enter high school, on the verge of manhood of a sort, when Return of the Jedi came out. I remember waiting in line with my best friend to see it, and as we filed in to the theater, we passed my middle school music teacher just coming out. We chatted for a few seconds about the film -- perhaps one of the first times I spoke with an adult as an equal.

We watched the film, and I saw my childhood hero come to within a hair's breadth of falling over into his anger in an attempt to protect someone he loves, and my childhood ultimate villain redeem himself at the last minute: a morality play more meaningful than anything teachers or priests had offered me.

And this is why sometimes when people ask me about why I practice karate, I want to say that it's the closest thing I've found to Jedi training.

The dangers of hope

So here's the context of this musing: Earlier this year, I met, and fell hard in love with, an extraordinary woman. I've known a lot of women over the years, but I've never been with anyone who made me feel the way she does -- not just being in love (I've been down that path a few times), but a strong and definite feeling this is someone who could be, should be, a life partner.

And, for some reason, the poor woman is confused enough to like me back. But after a lot of thought and discussion, she has decided that right now there is not space for this relationship in her life. But, if circumstances guarantees, but the possibility of there being a chance down the road is not excluded.

And so I'm holding on to hope.

So I've been contemplating the nature of hope recently. I mean, hope is supposed to be a 100% positive thing, right?

But the problem is that hope draws us out of the present moment. Hope is always about the future, and if we attach to thoughts of the future we're lost. As Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck wrote (in her book Everyday Zen: Love & Work):

the Fells' Point Fun Festival's impact on my life

Came down to Fells Point to get out of the house on this rainy Friday. I forgot that this is the first weekend of October, so tomorrow is the Fells Point Fun Festival -- part of Broadway is closed off in preparation, screwing up traffic and the already insane parking situation, so I had to drive around for about a half an hour before finding parking and getting down here to Leadbetters.

(Digression -- Kurt is singing "Desperado", a song by the Eagles. There is a most amazing version of this song on the album "Langley Schools Music Project", it's sung by a girl maybe twelve years old tops, it will break your heart. The album is a wonderful find by "outsider music" expert Irwin Chusid, a recording made by an itinerant middle-school music teacher in the late 70s, of a kids chorus singing pop songs. It's the sound of kids falling in love with music. Top recommendation.)

As I was walking down Broadway I considered how this bar during that festival impacted my life thirteen years ago. It's one of those "fortunately/unfortunately" sort of stories.

on Eris and the "Apple of Discord", part II: the importance of clear communication

Last year at Fires of Venus, contemplating the deity in charge of my love life -- who is not, it seems, Aphrodite/Venus but rather Eris/Discordia, goddess of chaos and confusion but also of freedom and of silliness -- I had a revelation about the ur-myth of Eris, the story of the golden apple. The usual version of the story, as found in Bulfinch's Mythology, goes like this:

At the nuptials of Peleus and Thetis all the gods were invited with the exception of Eris, or Discord. Enraged at her exclusion, the goddess threw a golden apple among the guests, with the inscription, “For the fairest.” Thereupon Juno, Venus, and Minerva each claimed the apple. Jupiter, not willing to decide in so delicate a matter, sent the goddesses to Mount Ida, where the beautiful shepherd Paris was tending his flocks, and to him was committed the decision. The goddesses accordingly appeared before him. Juno promised him power and riches, Minerva glory and renown in war, and Venus the fairest of women for his wife, each attempting to bias his decision in her own favor. Paris decided in favor of Venus and gave her the golden apple...Now Helen, the wife of Menelaus, was the very woman whom Venus had destined for Paris, the fairest of her sex. She had been sought as a bride by numerous suitors...She chose Menelaus, and was living with him happily when Paris became their guest. Paris, aided by Venus, persuaded her to elope with him, and carried her to Troy, whence arose the famous Trojan war...

Last year's revelation was that this version of the story is an official history meant to make the opponents of the power structure -- i.e., anti-authoritarian types, such as Eris -- look bad. The apple was not a prank meant to stir up trouble, but rather a wedding gift. After all, who is the "fairest" at any wedding? The bride! Eris was simply giving a gift, and it was the jealousy of Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena that caused the trouble. And let's not neglect their bribery of the judge! The goddesses of business and household affairs, of wisdom and warcraft, and of love, all cheat! This explains much about how the world works, does it not?

I've just returned from this year's Fires of Venus, and as I danced around the bonfire I further contemplated this myth, as well as the chaotic state of my own love life at the moment, and was granted a further revelation to share with the festival attendees. So, yes, Eris had only good intentions and left a wonderful gift, but why did so much trouble come from it? How was it possible for the jealousy of Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena to turn a loving gift into such a disaster? Ambiguous communication. Had she clearly labeled her gift, "For Thetis, the prettiest one", the whole mess could have been avoided! And so I suggested to all present that they attempt to apply this lesson to their romantic endeavors, and indeed to all aspects of their lives. (Of course, it's easier to suggest this to others than to do it oneself.)

on Eris and the "Apple of Discord"

Video from my talk "Discordianism Through Its Literature" at Starwood 2009, featuring my new revelations about Eris and the so-called "Apple of Discord". "For the prettiest one"? It must have been a wedding present!

9/11 remembrance

It seems to be mandatory for everyone to post some 9/11 remembrance piece today. So...

In the fall of 2001, I had a Tuesday happy hour gig at Leadbetter's Tavern in Fells Point. September 11 was a Tuesday that year.

I figured that music would be cancelled, out of the question, on a day like that. But after watching CNN and listening to the radio at home alone all day, I wanted to be around other people. So, grabbing my music gear just in case, I went downtown.

The streets were empty. But the bar was packed: no one wanted to be alone.

As it turned out, I ended up playing. And so what I remember most is the feeling of being the center of attention (in between the TV reports at least) at a time like that, of having fifty or sixty scared and angry people focusing on you.

I also remember two young men, Marines who knew their leave was just about to end. The younger one, maybe just barely 21, was all gung-ho; his buddy, a little older, was quieter, shaking his head, knowing the shit was about to get deep. I remember how they both groaned after Bush gave a speech with a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face. They tipped good, and I played any request of theirs I could. I wonder where they are today, hope they're okay.

A few years later, I was finally able to write a song about my experience that evening:

"No Words of Wisdom"
Tom Swiss

Everybody's looking at me
They ask me to sing and play
But I've got no words of wisdom
For a day like today

I came down here with my guitar
To help you pass the time
We could have a drink and have some fun
And sing these songs of mine

Now everybody's looking at me
They ask me to sing and play
But I've got no words of wisdom
For a day like today

LaSara FireFox on Facebook

Tripped across the Facebook fan page for LaSara Firefox. She is "is a writer, coach, and educator. Ms. Allen helps her clients find balance in their lives, and more full alignment with their personal and family-held values." She's also a frequent presenter at Starwood, where she's famous for giving a flirting workshop that incorporates some ideas from NLP.

For those of you who've been to my workshop "How *Not* To Flirt With A Goddess" at FSA's Beltane or Fires of Venus, she's the person who encouraged me to develop it (and suggested the alternate title, "How Not To Be `That Guy'"). So a tip of the hat to her, and if you're on Facebook, why don't you go check out her page?

Zelda's Inferno exercise: swimming

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write about something from a list of topics...I picked swimming

when I have flying dreams --
which is one of my top repeat themes --
it's like I'm swimming thru the air

breaststroke, freestyle crawl
sometimes the backstroke
occasionally in my dreams I find myself doing the elementary backstroke twenty feet above the ground while my childhood swimming instructor's voice repeats the mnemonic for the arm stroke:
tickle (as hands come to the armpits)
T (as they go straight out to the sides)
touch (as hands pull down to hips, the propulsion stroke)

I'm now a twit

I'm now a twit. Follow me on Twitter if you like:


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