November 3, 2008

November 3, 2008

November 3, 2008

Last night was easily the farthest I have gotten out of my comfort zone so far this project and may have also been my worst night of sleep to date.  I stayed a second night at the co-op (I’m okay staying in the same building more than once, just not the same apartment) and was Josh and Jarret’s guest.  I was technically supposed to be staying with Josh, but he doesn’t have a cell phone so I kind of ended up as Jarret’s responsibility.  They’re really cool guys and we talked for a few after I dropped off my stuff on the empty bed in their room–Chris had told me to ask Josh and his friend Jessie (who was also there) about hitchhiking back to school from South Dakota and so that was the first thing we talked about.  Josh went into it a bit, talking about some of the good people he met / only having a place to say some of the time… it sounds really amazing and intense.  Intense seems like the best way to describe Josh, a self proclaimed tree climber who is a college student somehow functioning without a cell phone and who is really into bike riding.  Most of the people from last night were actually really into biking instead of car-ing, which I really respect.

This girl Blaze stopped by right after I got there and invited us all up to her balcony to smoke and I think there were probably ten or so people hanging out when we got there.  A strongly-opinionated, really talkative Ukrainian (I think) man provided me with some coffee and cognac to alternate sips of, which left me with an incredible warming sensation.  To the backdrop of some pretty crazy international music, we smoked some weed and Josh rolled me my first hand rolled cigarette–which was really nice of him, but destroyed my throat.  Everyone was quite open and sharing, which was way beautiful and I felt really welcome to just relax.  We had a pretty lengthy discussion about different types of pot, which was kind of strange for me since I’m completely disconnected from that whole culture and from there we moved on to a vegetarianism / animal rights.  It was fairly apt, given the vote on prop two tomorrow and possible slight increase in the living conditions of animals used in food production… it seems like I have been exposed to quite a few vegetarians so far this project and I think now is probably a good time to finally give up red meat.  I’ve been tentatively planning on it for awhile (as I think it’s pretty hard to ignore how terrible our current practices are for both animals and the environment) and think I am finally at the point of overcoming my laziness, spurred on by a number of really amazing people who are actually living their convictions.

I was really quiet most of the night, but had a great time just being with a group that is quite different from mine.  There were actually some people from both CSU Northridge and Santa Monica City College, along with people from UCLA, which was a first for the piece as well.  Josh decided that since I was only with them one night and everyone probably asks me about the project, that he was going to tell me stories and give me some life advice instead.  I think the most interesting was that even though I don’t smoke, I should always carry cigarettes with me because it’s the perfect thing to do while talking to homeless people: they have a lot of really important things to say and smoking is an easy way to avoid any awkwardness on both sides.  I mean, it seems like pretty solid advice and I’m sure talking to more homeless people would only benefit my life, but I don’t really have any intention to actually start buying or carrying cigarettes.

Jarret and Josh went to rent A Scanner Darkly at some point and that is when the rest of us got into a discussion of the differences between men and women.  The Ukrainian guy was being slightly sexist, although he was being way too loud and argumentative for me to actually get involved in the conversation. This girl who lived there and was from Nashville (I think her name was possibly Emily, but I met a lot of people all at once so I’m not sure) did respond though and it made for quite the lively discussion.  Around this time I was trying to agree with this other guy from Nashville that I didn’t feel like I fit into the sexual stereotypes being thrown around, but am pretty sure that I just succeeded in declaring my homosexuality to a bunch of strangers.  Not finding any way of correcting that without seeming like a homophobe, I just let it stand and still find the whole situation pretty amusing.  After that I headed back to the room, only to find myself locked out and so I waited on the balcony for Jarret and Josh to get back.  It was a stunning night out and I felt completely at peace just watching the clouds move across the sky, even as I was resigning myself to just skim my reading for the next day–some things are more important.  I bailed on the movie, as I was already only going to get six hours of sleep… but didn’t even get that due to one of those guys being the loudest snorer I have ever heard.  Seriously, ever.

It’s hard for me to encapsulate just how chill and open this whole group of people is (a group that seems to be defined via their residence and not any other glaring similarity), but I really enjoyed their company and it is an experience that I never could have gotten without this project.  It kind of makes sense that I keep staying with such generous, laidback people (as those are the kind of people who would house a stranger, plus I tend to move through fairly artistic channels) but it is something that I am very thankful for and am definitely not taking for granted.  It’s kind of a bummer that this experience isn’t something I can effectively open up beyond the participants, but of course that closedness is a part of why it is so intimate and intense.

Although I talk a lot about using art to effect real-world change, it is also something that I am very wary of
and don’t think can easily be defined: essentially all art should effect some level of change, if only within the viewer and the artist.  That being said, I do try and work in a way in which my art has a direct e(a)ffect on me / my body / my place in the world / the bodies of those around me / etc and yes my success in that endeavor varies.  Last night, after I posted yesterday’s entry, I received an incredibly long message from Heidi about the abrupt end of our friendship that we had effectively ignored for three years.  I wrote a really long response and then we talked on the phone, finally getting to the point where maybe we can be friends after dealing with things.  That whole interaction would never have happened without Mario sending me to Brian’s, serving as an example of the kind of merging of / interrelation between my art and my life that I am interested in.  I would never have guessed that Heidi and I would ever start talking again, much less actually talk about the way things were left.  The idea that art has such potential is utterly amazing.

Ah, just for the record I think I should clarify that Heidi was my first real friend at UCLA… not just someone that I went on a few dates with; my Oct. 30 description was probably a bit trite.


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