Tuesday, July 19, 2011

6 cities in 6 months

The six-month run-up to my diagnosis was a blur of activity, and, in hindsight, I see it as a frantic search for meaning. I had just left a pretty serious relationship, because, like most of my previous relationships, my man-friend and I just seemed to hit an emotional wall and not know where to go from there.

Despite the best efforts of therapists and self-help books and programs, I had reverted to my habitual emotional stagnation, finding myself in romances with men who were just like me. After a certain level of intimacy, neither of us had the know-how or inclination to take the next step into the messy places of the heart.

So, once again, I set romance aside and started “doing stuff.” That was my default mode. Lonely? Go dancing. Sad? Take a bike ride. It’s a much better choice than sitting on the couch and stuffing your face or drinking yourself into oblivion. But activity, as I was to learn the hard way, is not always an option.

At that time, however, activity was both an effective way for me to soothe my feelings and a functional tool of meaning-making and self-expression.

I visited six cities in six months, and each of them seemed to contain a theme. The trip to New York City was all about art.

In July I visited my friend, Suzanne, who was staying at her sister’s 12th-floor apartment on Park Avenue South. It’s the fanciest address I’ve ever had in New York, with its spectacular view up Central Park and the grand buildings alongside it. Suzanne was studying acting for the summer and working at a caviar boutique up the street. Suzanne is very cool.

We went to see a revival of “Chicago,” which she didn’t like because she hates musicals, and which I loved, because Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith on “Frasier”) played Vilma and because I just love “Chicago.” The music totally rocks: “Razzle Dazzle,” “Cell Block Tango.” “When You’re Good to Mama” has to be the only song in history that finds a way to rhyme “reciprocity” with “love me.” What’s not to love?

We also went to see “Villa Villa” by an Argentinean dance-theater company called De La Guardia. Beautiful boys and girls (Dancers are always called boys and girls regardless of how old they are.) performed on wires and pulleys overhead, while the audience stood the whole time, craning to look up and around at dancers on balconies and in midair. I went to see the lush and colorful Bonnard show at the Museum of Modern Art. Suzanne, her friend Neal and I went to the Cloisters climbed to a bell tower at The Riverside Church in Harlem to see their amazing carillon.

Suzanne and I went to “Slamnation,” a film about poetry slams, and to the Nuyorican Poets CafĂ©, a famous venue for slam poetry, spoken word and hip hop on the lower East Side. She and I were both slammers at the time. We were going to try to get on the bill, but I couldn’t stay up that late. I was crashing, just beginning to feel the degradation of my previously prodigious energy. I was having a hard time keeping up with Suzanne, and this was new for me.

Next week, we go to Austin to compete in the National Poetry Slam, and try to keep up with lovely people half our age, then on to Yogaville in Virginia, to Kansas City and Cherokee.

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