Saturday, February 25, 2006

on my own

See, i kept my promise. Only 12 hours later and I'm back. A little sleepless but here.
I'm sure i will have many more things to say as time goes by, but I wanted to at least get down the basics.

So, first I'm going to cheat a bit because earlier on I had written an e-mail to the danceroads contingent detailing the beginnings of my time away and I think I'm just going to copy and paste that here, as it really says it all:

"I had a good long bus ride myself: from Cardiff to Birmingham and then
from Birmingham to Leeds. And when I wasn't chatting with people (which
I'll tell you about in a minute) I was also letting images and memories of
the last month drift in and out of focus as the countryside whizzed by.

I thought of our first meal together (although Emre wasn't there that
night).... how polite we all were, but now looking back I can recognize
the small glimpses given into the eventual personalities that I would get
to know. Dusan spilling his beer and blushing, Freida fishing the ice
cubes out of her water, Gareth and Meg admiring my large beer and
re-ordering for themselves, Nilan and I squabbling over menu items, Gian
so so so enjoying his food, and Johnny sitting quietly at the end of the
table taking it all in.

Nilan, Freida and I dancing like crazy banshees at the Akron family
concert as Gian and Emre slowly got pulled in.... there are so many
images, and I feel so thankful and blessed that through everything we
really came together... this strange makeshift family... and it seems
strange now not to be able to sit and laugh about my day with all of
you... all of a sudden.

It occurs to me that there is mapping to be done just of our relationship
to each other... How our individual lines merge and weave and divert and
become thicker with retracing... a knot unfurling across the world now but
with this very tangible centre that exists in some place outside of
physical geography... or does it have a home? if we placed the map of each
of our cities on top of each other would the our individual lines weave
themselves into a knot.... floating, invisible, internal like veins and
arteries... essential.

ok, I'm getting kind of nostalgic... but I do think it's a potent image
and it feels true to me.... you feel under my skin.

It seems strange now that you never came to Nilan and my city. That I was
never able to invite you into my home. When I get back I think I will need
to throw a virtual party for you all... take you to the parts of my city
that resonate for me, like the redpath sugar factory down on the lake
shore that smells of raw sugar and has mountains of sugar that you can see
through the warehouse door. Like cherry beach, where I go to clear my
head. Like our island... small oasis from concrete. Like the grit of
Kensington market, the swing that someone built down a dark alley, like
the upright base someone made by drilling stings into a lamp-post, like
the smell of china town where if you're lucky you can find a piece of
chopped-up fish with it's heart still beating (sorry Ga and Meg), like the
field of cow sculptures in the middle of the business district.

Another time....

Anyway, my day.
I met three very distinct and chatty people on my travels.
On the first bus trip, I sat next to Ivor. Ivor is probably about 65 or
70. He is retired from the telecommunications business. He was travelling
with his with Margery to visit their daughter and grandchidren. Among
other things, Ivor really likes the new "Billy Elliot" musical.... he
highly recomends it. He was recovering from a feeding frenzy at this
restaurant in Newport (where he lives) where they have a "10 on the 10th"
policy: the 10th of every month you can get 10 desserts for the price of
one. Mind you, only one person in the history of this tradition has ever
actually eaten 10 desserts. Ivor only had two, and still he didn't sleep
so well last night. He thinks I should go into acting and he's going to
try to promote me in Newport.

Then in the Birmingham bus station, I sat down next to Hughie who just
launched right into a conversation like we'd known each other for ever.
Hughie is a Scott, although he doesn't live there anymore. He was heading
for North Wales because ten years ago he took up running races and there's
a race there this weekend. Keep in mind that Hughie is at least 70 years
old. He was a soldier when he was young, he danced highland dancing for
the Queen at Royal Albert's Hall, and he used to be a baker. He's a
pensioner now and is skeptical of the system. Sometimes he does volunteer
gardening. I had to lean in very close to hear him and his accent was
quite strong so there are many things that I missed, but nodded and smiled
and tried to follow as best I could. He carries a little note-pad that he
bought at a Pound store. It has the pop-up face of a bear on the cover and
he gets everyone he meets to sign it and to write "All the best Hughie,
keep running" and then put down the place that he met them. I gave him my
address so that he can send me some of his poetry.

Then on the bus to Leeds, I slept for a good two hours. When I woke,
Dillon asked me where my accent was from. Dillon is a thirty-year old
newly reformed drug dealer from Leeds. He has spent the last 8 months in
Wales in a rehab program and he has found Jesus. Now he's part of a
program to help turn people like him around and find God. He is quite
inspiring, really. Has completely turned his life around and really
believes in what he's saying. Whether or not you believe in God, you can
see that this experience has been profoundly positive and life altering
for him. When we arrived in Leeds he helped me figure out where I was
going and carried my bag to the taxi stand. He's staying with his Mum here
in Leeds. He asked me if I knew how special I am... made me think about
how we can all be, all ARE special. No more or less than each other....
but special non the less.

I got to my hotel.... the fucking poshest place I have ever stayed. WAY
over my budget, but I'm considering it a birthday present to myself. It's
strange not to have any of you down the hall. We could have a party in my
ultra-chick bathroom. The television screen said "Welcome Susanna" when I
entered the room!

I got myself all together for a night of schmoozing here at the festival.
Arrived at the theatre and it was truly overwhelming.... TEEMING with
obviously the whole UK dance who's who scene... of course I don't know who
any of them are so I had the freedom of this sort of strange anonymity. I
downed some wine and planted myself a still point and the centre of the
storm of networking fiends.

The show was not so good... fantastic dancers but just really a bunch of
dancy-shmancy stuff.... I'm realizing more and more what I want from
performance, and basically if it doesn't grab me by the balls or perhaps
the fica, then I just can't get that excited.

As coincidence would have it, the people I was set to meet from Birmingham
(but didn't know how in the middle of this mass) were sitting right beside
me in the theatre. Went out for an amazing indian dinner with these
Quebecois people who were also there in affiliation with Birmingham...
there are a lot of Canadians here and a bunch of NYC people too.

But then I got locked out of the big after festival party.... i didn't
have a pass and I got behind the people I was tagging with... so now after
a wander through the drunken streets of Leeds I'm back in my hotel.

Feel a bit like I missed the boat with the schmooze thing but part of me
doesn't care, although I have paid a pretty penny to get up here and
stay... ah well, the Dance Roads curse of shaken expectations
continues.... doesn't matter.... I feel that this tour has taught me a bit
about trusting that things happen as they do because that's how they're
meant to go... and if you keep your eyes open, eventually you'll see the
open doors and the reasons why.

I know I have lots to digest about this hazy-potent time we have shared...
it will continue to unwind and trickle its meaning till we meet again....
scattering threads spreading round the world and then spinning in together
once more..."

Ok. now we are back to me looking back and speaking from a distance.
I spent a second day in Leeds, discovered that it is home to the Henry Moore Institute so I wandered the streets and eventually found myself there, looking at art from the 50's by Brazillians protesting the regime. Also wandered around following a treasure map of window art installations hidden in unsuspecting places around the city. It was a rainy day and I spoke to almost no one save for the woman from whom I bought a cornish pasty. I holed myself up in my very expensive hotel room, watched some very bad tv for the first time in 5 weeks and ordered the most expensive fish and chips of my life as room service.... hey, I was about to turn 36 and figured I deserved a treat.

Next day, my birthday. And in Birmingham at that! Received all sorts of lovely e-mails which I could hold secretly to myself as I walked anonymously through my day. Met with the DanceXchange people who very generously gave me the scoop on all the people in the UK I should be contacting about touring, etc. (found out the party i missed was not really that much of an opportunity anyway) and saw a rather bad hip-hop rendition of Romeo and Juliet. Not the worst thing I've ever seen, by far, and I am quite amazed at people's physical ability.

Then, off to Dublin for a day.... the cheapest way for me to fly from Birmingham to Brussels was to fly to Dublin first, which gave me the perfect to excuse to visit my friend Sonia, her delightful Mum, and her two twin 7-year old daughters. So much joy pouring out of these two! Even when they woke me earlier than I would have liked, there was no way anyone could have stayed irritated..... they quite litterally laugh from the moment they wake till the moment they sleep. Everything is a game and there is pleasure in every crack in the sidewalk.... so good to be reminded of that!

Went to an art opening (sonia's a painter) and had what I was assured was my first Guinness (it being my first one in Ireland) in the company of her art friends. One in particular, who would just hate that I was writing this, has a site that I think is worth checking out:
Nevan is opperating at 100miles an hour at every moment of the day. He chastized me for not getting as drunk as everyone else and accused me of taking notes on the scene from my perch of sobriety. Well, he was sort of right.... although I honestly would never have been able to keep up with the drinking even if i'd been in any shape to do so. I won't say that much here, just that you should visit the site... it's a bit nuts to navigate, but it's worth it.

A talk with Sonia about this feeling of something creatively needing to break inside me got her egging me on to apply to the Irish Museum of Modern Art for a residency. We made a pact to be aggressively bitchy rather than regressively bitchy and I now have to hold to the commitment that one day a week I will devote to sound. I'll leave that ambiguous for now and we'll see what that means over time.

This vow came in perfect time for what was one of the true highlights of my time away: Brussels. And more specifically Brussels in the inspired company of Bob and Liz.

Bob is a composer that I met briefly when I was last in Brussels two years ago touring with John Oswald. He approached me after our show and invited me to come and do a wee bit of recording at his home studio. I was a little apprehensious at the time... I mean, who IS this guy, and why am going over to his house? (then again, based on pure instinct, I got into a car with Andy in Cardiff and drove 40 minutes out of town to a beach..... I may be too sure of myself, but thus far I have managed to distinguish the good leeds from potential serial killers).

Anyway, two years later, Bob sends me what he's done with what was a very casual recording session of me improvising with text that his parter Liz had wrtten. And this is the starting point for what I think will be a very exciting collaboration.

So I spent a few days in the home of these wonderful people. My own attic apartment. A great big kitchen in which Liz gave me my first bread-making lesson (made for foccacia...yummmy!), walks down old cannals, dinners in the homes of other friends, and lots and lots of talks with Bob about art and music and science, and comix... listening to what we'd created so far, dreaming, taking notes and doing another 5 hours of recording.... a little more focussed, but in the same spirit of exploration.

You know, I love this work. This work that doesn't feel like work. When I find myself in it, I'm almost always surprised at how not like work it feels. Of course it's not always like that. But when you're actually doing something that you love, even when it's incredibly challenging, there is some element, some quiet strain of pleasure to it. Then I think, "this is what I'm supposed to be doing. And I'm so lucky!" I felt this, too, when we actually got on stage during the tour. It's very affirming, and so clear. Just when you thought you were completely lost and unable to locate anything anymore.... there it is. There you are.

This time was very precious. I feel like I've made two very good new friends in both these people, and I feel quite committed to finding my way back there.

In general, even though there is much about the trip that needs still to come into focus for me, and I think this may take a few months, there is something about shaking up perspective that I can already see has been very valuable.

Seeing Meg Stuart's "Replacement" in Berlin.... seeing a wholly different aesthetic in general, of artists unapologetically taking up space and being given the space or taking the space to do so: Gob Squad, Ausland.... Just being somewhere else, surrounded by many different points of view and not being known. I feel like I need to "break my eye" as Claire would say in "Six feet under". And I feel hungry to do it. Not to smash everything that I've done before, but to allow myself to break it a bit..... nothing is so solid, nor should it be, I'm beginning to think.... as scary as that feels.

Perhaps to build, I need to break, too. Any structure needs spaces to breathe, as well as wild detours and surprises..... something to keep it always in a state of beginning on some level.... some level of inexperience, just learning.... I guess this is what they call "Beginner mind".

Anyway, with all this feeling of limitless potential I took myself off to Paris. Staying with one of my few friends for High School, Claude and her boyfriend Eric. Both artists: paint, video, word, and FOOD. Claude is gearing up to open her own cooking school, so we have feasted on duck and crepes and wine and cream and I am getting fatter and fatter. Paris is stunning as always, even on piss rain days.

After all this time, still have trouble with phone cards and figuring out country codes. Still have to look very closely at my money to distinguish how much change I am actually holding. But in a swing of travelling that has hit its stride, just as it's time to come home. But, yes, it IS time to come home.



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