Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why do we wear veils at weddings and funerals?

I posted only once last year and when I look at the Mad Men campaign (which was ridiculously impossible and I knew it all along) I think the reason it happened at all was because I needed something I could pour my energies into that wasn't totally self-destructive. I found out my best friend, my nearest, my dearest first love (that one that shows you what real love is), had very aggressive breast cancer.

I had my suspicions for maybe 2 yrs. prior and had encouraged her to seek attention but nothing shatters the mind and soul like hearing that news for the first time. On Jan. 22nd, 2010, she told me and all I could do was primally cry, "Nooooooooooo!" All is revealed and decimated instantaneously. 2010 became a death march, for none of us live forever but some of us are whittled away. What is the expression, "Death by a 1,000 cuts"?

Kara Michelle Engel was loved by many people (I realized how many only in death and still think that number is rather inestimable really) but she didn't want anyone to know she was ill. She wanted to get this over with and return to her old life. This was a healthy perspective and she was very optimistic. I wanted to support and share that optimism, so no one was to know and I honored her wish.

Still, everything turned gray for me because as I enjoyed the world, I knew she could not and therefore, nothing could hold much meaning for me outside of her presence. I spent a great deal of time with her, drawing, reading trashy mags, laughing, eating healthy foods, drinking homemade juices or coffee, having fun with her iPad, not really watching movies (as was her favorite past time), talking about life and talking about death. She was in the most loving, beautiful environment that anyone could hope for, surrounded by her sister, Bob and many animals. I thought, "For all the years I harrangued her about moving back to Claremont, I shoulda been making an exit plan to move in with her." It was lush, but not overly extravagant- kinda bohemian and classy. She had her art and those of her friends hanging all around her.

Still, as any survivor knows, there is more I wish I could have done. I mean apart from releasing her from the gilded prison of her four walls and body, I wish I could have been there even more, told her I loved her even more, or kissed like we did when we were young and had a pinkie shake or preteen bloodletting type of tryst. This is the human curse and we will all face it in varying degrees at varying times, I know that. I am very good at breaking down things analytically, but sometimes that just doesn't cut it.
Sometimes the core of you just will not obey the noise of your mind. I could read about the stages of grieving and hit every one like a champ, Kara hit all the stages of dying on point in rapid succession, but all it does is trivialize them. People say, "It will get better with time" and I know it has to, but I don't want it to. I don't want to extinguish her torch or somehow soften edges on something so acutely real and beautiful as her. I want to live in memories of her which I know is not a healthy disposition. My husband doesn't deserve that, he's been nothing but the best. Not a runner-up to Kara, but a true equal on all fronts. He's also very disraught over Kara. I feel his pain. If we didn't have each other, I know I'd just die of heartbreak, full stop.
I can't sleep well, even with melotonin because loops of her final hours roll through my head, often accompanied by music oddly enough. She went out in pain so extreme that my mind can not entirely comprehend it. She also was withdrawing from heavy meds because she refused them and said she had already taken them. I have known people to overdose, never underdose. Was she in a dream state, had the cancer moved to her brain, or was she simply not up for the fight and submitting to death, I'll never know. But regardless, she chose the hardest road on which to travel that divide.

Much was illuminated in her death and in the aftermath. I have shared some of this already and some I can not share. Love is absolute, and all that exists forever even if our species extinguishes itself. We are born of it and only leave it behind. But also, there are reasons behind every mystery, some so obvious and mundane that you hafta wonder why you never saw them to begin with. Some that change the landscape of your mind, they are so profound. The largest mysteries are beyond our comprehension entirely (this I guess I always knew since I am agnostic and Taoist- anything else seems to give humans far too much credit) and my only hope is that Kara is now learning those things because she taught me so much in her life and her death. If she is not everywhere and in everything as I hope, at least she examined the complexities and loved the world fully, exactly as it was. She really was very Christlike in my mind, right up to the last. Anyone who knew her, can attest to the magnitude of her spirit. Staggering is all that you can really say.

She left with her heart shaped face, and her magnanimous heart and her first name sounding like caring and her last name meaning angel, on Valentine's Day. While she symbolized love for me on all levels, this is tragic to the point of comedic. Really? The universe really has a fucked up sense of humor sometimes. Well, she always did have a flair for the dramatic, I guess. She loved the burning Mexican hearts w/their crisscross crowns of thorns. She painted them often over the years and recently surrounded them with algebraic equations (I figured x=death or x=love, depending on your mood).

I'm listening to the church bell tolling from across the street and it's going for several minutes. Longer than usual but I wish it would never end. Wish I had taken her inside, she would have loved the mission feel of it. Sam and I went to a service there once on a lark and it’s a real hybrid mishmash (it's Episcopalian [which I was raised], but also, Buddhist, Celtic and Aztec and only God knows what else) but why is it never the right mishmash for me, I wonder. I can be such a seeker and such a naysayer simultaneously. My mind never stops battling, I wish it would surrender. I can't will it to.

Since no one knew what was going on with Kara, it was very hard to look anyone in the eye, especially if they asked about her. I am better at subterfuge than I give myself credit for because it seemed painfully obvious to me, but apparently not to most people. Everyday came worse news about her state or a new emotional low for her or me or bad news about those close to her or those close to me. Close formative friends John Fornadley and Sean Davis self destructed and died. My friend Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head by a maniac and the country unravelled a bit more. For me personally, all of these were a drum roll, leading up to the death of Kara.

When she knew she was in the fight of her life, she said it was ok to tell people and it was such a relief. Finally everyone could tell her what I had been telling her since she was 14, 'you are loved, you are beautiful and you are precious beyond compare. Stop beating yourself up.' Thom Fuhrman, Jaclyn Dierking and I organized a benefit show with Savage Republic (Kara and I's favorite live band) and set up a fund for her. Many did reach out and she said it was the best medicine ever. Better than any doctor could have given her. Many did not, due to their own preoccupations with death perhaps or from me making light of a situation in which I could not fully reveal the extent of. We never want anyone to give up on them, even if in our hearts we know the truth. She knew the truth. We'd cry together about how scared we were. She'd try to play it off for everyone else, but I always appreciated her honesty with me. How unbearably sad for her. It kills me in waves, a 1,000 laps on the shore.
Death has always been a specter we were ghoulishly, morbidly, delightedly, interested in. We romanticized it and worried about it and imagined it a million times together and apart since we were little teenage punk/death rockers. I think that we wanted to understand it, embrace it and celebrate it because we had more than your average share of fear and respect for it. That hasn't changed, and it may have become magnified for me after Kara. I have lost close relatives and pets. My grandmother Mimi and my cat RayRay being the most significant, if that can even be measured. She is in their league or beyond. They all have such dimension in my mind, such depth of character, beauty of spirit and symbolic significance. They are not myth, they are extremely real, but they are so rich that no one can believe how amazing they are, until of course, they know them. No shit. Really.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Memorial Speech for Kara

I always felt Kara and I were like Heckle and Jeckle or Tom and Jerry. It was always nice to hear our names in the same breath and an honor to get called by her name which happened a lot. Over the last couple of days, some people have said that she was fortunate to have me as a friend, which seemed ironic because I have always felt that it was really MY good fortune to know her and to have her in my corner. Once I read about our zodialogical compatibility and the title was “A Transparent Interface” which to me said volumes about how easily we let ourselves be seen and understood by each other. Once I told Kara, “Dude, I have this magic mirror that has lights directly on me and I never see myself age in it.” When Kara passed away, one of the 2 lights burnt out in the mirror and I thought “This is it, 1/2 of me is gone.”

We met when I was 13 and she was 14 thru Shanna whose nickname for her was “Stringbean”. I, like most people, was immediatly taken with her. She pulled off a beret and wanted Shanna and I to comb thru this crazy dreaded hairball and it cracked us all up. She seemed wiser, more punk rock and fascinating than anyone we knew. As she and I grew tight over the years, she was my comrade in arms and really the only sibling I’ve ever had. I’d share anything, anyone and everything with her unquestionably. She would respond in kind. We were symbiotic. We both had similar sensibilities, interests and fell to the same side on all issues. How rare that is. As most of you can attest, it was not hard to fall in love with this girl, and I fell hard. Sincere, curious, sensitive to the nth degree, compassionate, in love with all creatures great and small, eerily intuitive, keenly intelligent, considerate, modest, spunky, artistic, talented, hilarious, generous, beautiful beyond compare, conscientious and refined in her tastes. She once announced to me, “We’re forecasters”. She definitly knew which way the wind blew.

I could recount many madcap adventures and quote some gems but they all vie for attention and I don’t know where to begin or end. I just know there is no one else like her on the face of this planet, and if you knew her, you were lucky to have basked in her radiance.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mad Men Slideshow

Yay! Finished a slideshow for the Mad Men contest and used the song 'John Reilly' by my old band Aye Aye Captain! ♥!Here's the links- slideshowand voting. Only 5 days left!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Time Eternal

Hi Blog I've been neglecting! I have so much to tell you little bloggy. 2010 has been a rollarcoaster year thus far. Maybe more downs than ups, but very extreme in any case. Started w/ earthquakes and the woe got closer to home each passing day. Anywho, thankful more than ever to be alive. This isn't a greeting card, but I am thankful to all my friends and family, near and dear, near and far. The world seems smaller and more cozy with you in it. On the upshot, I have been playing a lot of music (generally getting paid in beer) and doing a lot of art (finished 2 altered books and 4 full pages are in Vice magazine's August "Anti-Music" issue) and I made the most of a very ruff school year. I saw Devo, Joan Jett and Rihanna! I am now mid-swing in a media blitzing campaign to be on Mad Men that will go on until my birthday. My friend/hairdresser Cherie Savoie is the photographer that took the Auto Da Fe pics that were so beautiful last year. She was bleaching my hair and suggested I try out for Mad Men. She had all the info cuz she had entered the contest last year. She styled my hair in a little bouffy bob and came over with her friend Susie's camera after I had pulled out some dresses and scouted locations. She shot like 300 pics so there were bound to be some keepers. Here's a few-

I really liked this one-

and this one, it was just so natural-
I posted most of these on Facebook and the one below is the one that was chosen by my friends. I figure they know better than me, since it is hard to judge oneself. It worked out best cuz there was no photoshopping needed (tattoo or anti-60's indicators). The competition is very stiff and I love some of their photos and wonder if they just live in the 60's in their mind. I heard an interview w/ Matthew Weiner (the exec. producer and ex- Sopranos writer) on NPR where he said that being from Baltimore is what really inspired him to do the show. He said Maryland had not changed from the 50's-early 60's era until the mid 80's. Being from Baltimore and having always been fascinated by this era, I have to agree. I moved to California in 1982 before the state started to shift stylistically. My neighbor when I was little, Pat Moran was John Water's fan club president and casting director. She had a bright red beehive and a house of french colonial furniture. It seemed totally normal to me as a kid. I loved going to Hutzler's department store's ritzy cafe w/my great grandmother to eat an ice cream on a doily w/ a cone for a clown's hat and a cherry nose and little raisin eyes or to the flea market at the beautiful 50's Edmonson Drive-In. I collected everything from matchbooks to buttons to tins of shoe polish because they seemed old and better designed. My best memories involved old artists that I knew as a child that lived in that 50's sort of idyll. Everything around them so used, so loved, so old. The country itself so verdant, so alive, so haunted. I felt like such a little urchin, sand always shifting beneath my feet while the old artists and musicians were all so solid and full of tradition and good ideas. I love going back every year because most of what I knew is either still there or being taken back by nature. Is it healthy to prefer the past to the frightening future? The present is the only thing we can truly cling to I guess.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Enchanted Forest

Many blogs ago I mentioned breaking into the abandoned "Enchanted Forest" in my hometown Ellicott City, Maryland with my cousin Ryon while on tour with Amps For Christ. At one of our shows I said that Maryland had many enchanted forests and this resonated with Animal Collective's Josh Dibbs who graciously had us open for them at El Rey Theater. Being from Maryland's woodlands as I am, he understands this to be true. There are some areas of this park far to scary to explore- Ali Baba and the 40 thieves cave with boat ride and the underground train to Alice in Wonderland with a scene of her falling from above down the rabbit hole that was very similar to the lightening flash and the illuminated hanging body in Disney's Haunted Mansion entrance room. I ordered a DVD online with footage of the park as it was when I went there- Toot the tugboat, the mountain with slide, Safari ride, Mother Goose and duckling cars, etc, etc. Here's a few shots with more to come. If this kind of warped, fairytale park appeals to you, there happens to be an unrelated Enchanted Forest in Salem, Oregon which is pretty nifty, too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Well, it looks real nice on the looky box

I worked on this for hours before I realized it wasn't big enough to go inside our record, a CD or a wallet for that matter. It was too busy on the eye anyway. Altered it to make a nice flyer at least-
I have been deliberating on the cover art for Auto Da Fe's 2nd full length 'Emit Time'. My original drawing versus my unfinished painting versus my original idea of finishing the painting to show RayRay's eyes 'emitting time' with the trails of light coming from his eyes. There is also this unfinished owl painting for the back cover and those eyes were going to 'emit time' as well. This record has been finished since January but I have been stalled on the art for 2 reasons. First, I get teary every time I draw or paint RayRay and second, I don't want to 'finish it' and screw it up. Maybe it's easier to be satisfied with mediocrity when the alternative is overworking something into pure rubbish. Regardless, the album is great and timely considering we cover the Raincoats who are back in action. Shape up, T!!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zeitgeist or Heist?

Here's the art I drew (2004) for my medically themed band Blue Silk Sutures that was on our
t-shirts and on our 7" split with Silver Daggers-
Here's the art (2009) for the band Antlers (aren't there enough bands w/variations on that name already?)-