If one arrives at a place of power; at a time when the power is at it’s greatest, and no one else is there…What is one to make of it?
This is what I was thinking, standing atop the Chokmah mound watching the night; full of auroras and borealises; dwindling to dawn while, unbeknownst to me, massive solar storms bombarded the earth. This was my last full moon walk of The Tree before the release of Accidental Initiations and, even after so many perambulations inside this archetypal structure, there was still plenty new to discover.
The galleys for the book arrived later that day. I’ve spent almost every waking hour since then giving them a rigorous last going over with my editor; Alan Abbadessa-Green from Sync Book Press. No way could I have done it without him. He’s been the great music producer/record exec I always wanted to find when I was making records. His energy and attention are limitless and his insights are genuine. Plus, he has George (his “wife”) in the background keeping him (and by extension, me) honest; talking trash and giving (mostly) good note.
Last night, as a test of the readability of the book, I brought the latest draft with me to Quality Burrito; to see if I could read it with distractions. I used to do something similar with my recordings; playing them in a crowd so I could hear the generalities of the music and not the glaring specifics that can obsess you in the final stages of mixing.
It was strange; being there with my book. Several people who are in it were gathered around the bar; drinking in the lounge as I ordered my usual; 2 fish tacos, and an Andras – a drink I designed and they named after me. (The recipe: 2 oz tequila, ¾ oz lime, ¾ oz simple syrup, ½ oz Green Chartreuse. Shake with ice and serve in a pint glass topped with Magic Kombucha.) Jeff Bartone was there, and Peter David Connelly, and Theo Kwo (who makes the Magic Kombucha). I showed Kwo the part in the book where I mention Magic. I told Peter about his being mentioned in the list of artists who have appeared on Radio8Ball. Bartone sauntered over and asked to look at it. As he flipped through the pages he saw his name.
“Did you write about me?”
“Yes I did.”
“Why didn’t you ask me about that? You should have asked me.”
I’m going to have to address this concern a lot in the coming months. I didn’t check with anyone I wrote about to see if they were OK with my including them, and I know, this isn’t altogether honorable of me. But it’s my story and the people in it are real. The things that happened in it are real and I knew if I started asking people, especially in Olympia, what they thought about me telling my story; I would be encouraged not to. This shushing impulse is exactly why I had to write the book in the first place. Olympia is sick with silence.
Now it can be told!
“Just don’t hurt me,” Jeff said. “I’ve been hurt a lot.”
You and me both, brother. As readers of AI will soon know, Jeff and I each got labeled as “sexists” and were fired from our long-held positions at The Olympia Film Society by low integrity people possessed of greedy ambition who manipulated administrative processes to serve their own aims and NOT the community they purport to represent. If Jeff’s reaction last night was anything to go by, he’s still aching from the experience at least as much as I am, and that’s a lot.
It seems the boring haters at OFS are at it again.
I woke up early this blustery morning, to send off the last edit of AI to the printers, and was synchronistically jazzed to receive this latest petition from members of The Olympia Film Society. It looks like some of the old familiar characters at OFS are up to the same kind of sneaky power grab I describe in my book. With the above petition, the membership is trying to do something about it. I wish them luck, and I wish Accidental Initiations was here today to aid them in their cause. It should be available online by March 19th (the spring equinox) and I will have copies for sale when I host The Blackberry Bushes Stringband and The Dead Winter Carpenters show at The Olympia Ballroom inside The Olympian Hotel on March 30th.
In the mean time, if you’d like to show your support for Radio8Ball and Accidental Initiations here’s something easy you can do. Go to this link (below) and vote for “Andras Jones” and “Radio8Ball” as your favorite Olympia solo artist and band.
If we get the most votes, they will have to include Radio8Ball as part of the award show at The Capitol Theater on May 5th. If you are from Olympia and want to vote for some other artists, I understand.
I voted for The Noses
and for Scott Taylor
but if you don’t have a more favorite Olympia band, please give me your vote and I promise to make some serious magick when I return to The Capitol Theater stage for the first time in many years.
“Accidental Initiations: In The Kabbalistic Tree of Olympia” went to press today. In retrospect it will all seem to have happened incredibly fast but it’s been a long nine months since I first conceived this thing. I am raw, and excited. There really is something in AI’s one hundred and eighty-four pages for anyone to hate, which is why I have tried very hard to make it a fun read; something even a hater can love.
Evergreen alum Matt Groening created the puckish Bart Simpson, and here we find Bart’s catch phrase scrawled detention-style along the green (heart) path of Strength/Voice binding the poles of Severity (The Geburah Corner) and Mercy (Emma Page’s Fountain.)
It’s not easy to imagine Bart Simpson writing a book but a year ago it would have been hard to imagine me writing a book. Now that I think of it, my writing style is kind of Bart-ish – if Bart read a lot of Robert Anton Wilson, and grew up in Olympia, and was Jewish. So I guess it’s not the voice, it’s more the untamed boyish glee at dropping something from a great height and watching it explode.
Look out below!!!! You are about to get accidentally initiated!!!!!!
This photo was taken on the banks of The Capitol Lake Vortex, just beyond The Binah Swirl and before the first Daath Crossing. It’s what this February feels like inside The Kabbalistic Tree of Olympia.
On the night of the Leo full moon in Gregorian 2012 a vintage 1970’s organ showed up in front of the time capsule bench on the Chokmah Mound. My camera’s flash wasn’t working, it was devilishly cold out, and by morning the organ was gone without any documentation of this playful Punch Drunk Love-ish offering to The Tree.
On the same night I noticed a pentagram drawn into The Binah Swirl. The Kabbalistic Tree of Olympia is waking up and people are using it for magick. Bless them!
and me getting called an asshole onstage…twice by Alan Abbadessa-Green, who earlier that day told an old lady on the subway to “Fuck-off… Now you fucking hear me!!” It was all refreshingly New York. Olympia’s nice but sometimes its niceness becomes oppressive and one yearns for some open hostility. And NYC provides it. A city where you need to hit some tobacco to get a breath of fresh air, but you won’t get cancer from keeping your emotions in your gut.
The whole Sync gang, as far as they were able to make it, were great at summoning up the sync. Rammer, Jen, Peg, Douglas, Kevin & Kyle, The Mask of God Dancers. Good stuff all around, and Alan held it together like a great director; wearing his stress well. Steve Willner (Labrynth of the Psychonaut) and Rogan Russell Marshall (The Attic Expeditions) each Skyped in to ask a question to The Pop Oracle and by the end of the night, as it always does after getting really uncomfortable, it all made perfect sense, and more so all the time. The event was filmed and at least some of it should find its way onto the web at some point.
Fans of The 13 Moon Natural Time Calendar will note that we began what that calendar refers to as a galactic run on Friday, Feb 3 (the day before the opening of The GATE.) It ends today; Sunday, Feb 12. This phenomenon has been described to me by people fluent with the calendar as a time when the veil is thinner. For me the themes of this galactic run have been very challenging; disappointment, sorrow, futility, oppression, cruelty. It’s the Tower card from the Tarot, as February always is, only this year “the world is ending” or at least that’s what hovers at the edge of our consciousness. You can either let these portents of doom scare you off your path, or allow them to inspire and refine what the Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo Buddhists call your ichinen, or will.
The GATE, as well as being a great metaphor, is an ambitiously-intentioned organization. On the day of their event in LA I woke up in Boston and flew all east coast day to Seattle. I watched the event live online into the wee west coast hours from my bed in Olympia. It was mostly riveting viewing, aimed at inspiring Hollywood to recognize the market for consciousness raising content. The existence of this market is proven out by the huge sales for really bad films like The Secret and What The Bleep Do We Know? The value of the consciousness raising aspects of these two egregiously awful films in particular, made them worth watching despite their low production value; kind of like porn or instructional guitar playing videos, except that The Secret and What the Bleep did much bigger numbers, and across a wider spectrum of humanity, than anything Yngwie Malmsteen or Jenna Jameson ever churned out. Why? Because Americans are hungry for whatever enlightenment we can get. The argument to the capitalist powers in Hollywood, that they would do well to recognize this large and ravenous audience, clearly serves Radio8Ball’s case for inclusion in the mainstream media landscape, so I’m down.
For me the two events (SYNC in NYC & The GATE in LA) were woven together within whatever larger spell Accidental Initiations is a part of because Linda Balaban (Curb Your Enthusiasm) was there as a guest of Lili Haydn on behalf of Radio8Ball. My ghosts were giddy over this alignment, especially the spirit of my old Boon bandmate Josh Clayton-Felt. Josh and Lili and Linda and I ran in intimate youthful circles back when we were all bouncing around in LA and Boston; pre-death, pre-fame, pre-alcohol. And here we were, together again at The Gate.
Lili’s mom, Lotus Weinstock, who was my adopted mother when I moved out to LA as a teenager, and who died a couple of years before Josh, joined my gang of ghosts as I ran my Tree that day. While her daughter made like Jimi at Monterey and showed the old warriors and new initiates at The GATE what consciousness-raising art is all about, I could feel Lotus and Josh and my father all gathered around me to enjoy the show. Hovering on the edge my being as I sent my intentions out through The Tree for… RADIO8BALL… RADIO8BALL… RADIO8BALL… RADIO8BALL… RADIO8BALL…
It’s my consistent prayer and offering, “I serve it as it serves me. The land and the king are one. Radio8Ball on TV!”
Balaban met one person of note at The GATE as far as R8B is concerned; Tom Shadyac.
Tom is the director, most recently, of the documentary film “I Am”;
all about his spiritual quest for meaning after suffering a brain injury in a nasty bike accident. I can’t help but think of Warren Beatty’s “Heaven Can Wait”.
Before the accident Tom was the director of huge money making middle of the road comedies like “Ace Ventura”, “The (Eddie Murphy) Nutty Professor”, “Bruce (And Evan) Almighty” & “Patch Adams”. After the accident, Tom pulled a “Sullivan’s Travels” and re-made himself as a kind of Beach Blanket Bingo angel; giving away most of his possessions and moving into a trailer on the beach, devoting himself to learning and teaching.
Before all of this, in the late 20th century days when Josh and Lotus and my father still walked the earth, Tom was my acting teacher. His impact on the man I would become was great, as I documented in Accidental Initiations. That he would show up in response to my prayers and intentions on this auspicious evening, felt just right, if only so I could get his address so I can send him a copy of the book. In truth, I can’t help but hope my old teacher, big-hearted Tom Shadyac, recognizes that his “I Am” path and that of Radio8Ball are one and the same. I want to join forces, like old times. It’s a good wish that leaves me filled with all the hope and disappointment bred of years of reaching for community in the Hollywood fear factory.
And so I balance here. Hanging in the central pillar of my Tree with my heart out there for all to see. It’s February, in the shadow of the thaw, and the days are dark and pregnant. The omens are incessantly negative with overwhelming moments of inspiration sprinkled in like raisins in a boring cookie, or out-of-place organs deposited in the sephiroth of the Tree. I sit in my apartment like a drunken spider in its winter web, barely living but still vital, waiting for Accidental Initiations to drop and do whatever magick we have been called to.
The winter storm of January ’12 hit right on time. It socked me in good. I was holed up in my Martin cave, unable to run The Tree for several days, eating cheese and drinking red wine given to me by some dentists I bartended for on Friday the 13th. I think they felt bad for me; right before the event, Big W called to tell me they were hiring a new hottie to work my well. We ended it with honor, but afterwards I told the caterers about it and they sent me home well-stocked with comfort foods.
My cowboy nights behind me, I dug into a final rewrite of Accidental Initiations as the snow blanketed Olympia. For a day there I was pretty sure that one of the chapters sucked; the one I think will probably get the most critical scrutiny. I felt mentally, as well as physically, snowed in. And then the inevitable breakthrough, at which point the flakes turned to drops and my Tree, though minimally flooded, was once again accessible to me in my holy (as in, full of holes) running shoes.
When I got to the park I saw that one of my favorite trees, a big old beech tree planted by the park’s namesake Edmund Sylvester, had exploded. Two huge branches had separated from the trunk of the tree and fallen to the ground, splayed apart like the legs of a giant.
Where the branches had been connected, a gaping dark cavity was opened in the tree.
When I looked inside I noticed a block of cement.
At the beginning of Accidental Initiations I write about having placed a stone in a tree, and wondering if this damaged it. The block of cement in the core of this, now mortally wounded beech, has me thinking similar thoughts. How did it get in there?
During the storm, while the tree at Hod was succumbing to ice and gravity, and my teeth were singing with the strain of Geburah’s inspiration for my sixth chapter, the sacred whore from my book was in Bali getting engaged. She called to tell me so last night. I said the right things, and then I smoked a little pot.
If I didn’t know summer was coming I’d be pretty depressed.
On the night of January 8, 2012, under the full moon, the wolf moon, I walked The Kabbalistic Tree of Olympia and was pleasantly surprised that nobody else was using it. Accidental Initiations: In the Kabbalistic Tree of Olympia is set to be released on the spring equinox (March 20th) after which I doubt I’ll have this artifact all to myself for much longer, especially when the moon is full between sundown and midnight on the west coast (prime viewing times.) As much as I may regret this later on, it feels like the time is right for sharing this powerful magickal item at the center of our town.
A.I. is necessarily incomplete (since I am still learning about The Tree myself) which is why I began this sequel blog; to continue sharing my explorations with those who are interested in following my footsteps as a jumping off point for their own excursions into The Tree. This piece should be a chapter in the book, but it’s not, because Accidental Initiations ends where this sequel begins, and because magick only works if you are willing and able to trust it.
As I walked The Tree this month I received several insights which may be of value to my fellow seekers. Here they are…
1. The Value of Offerings Just walking The Tree is an offering of your time and energy, and it is enough, but on special occasions, such as a full moon, the solstice, the equinox, or even a particularly difficult or important day, I like to make additional offerings to the individual sephiroth of The Tree. For this month’s full moon walk I took ten one dollar coins (gold in color) which have been on my altar for over a year. The coins were given to me by a longtime friend with whom I am not currently as close as I once was. In this regard, the coins symbolize more than just material abundance. They also symbolize friendship and tribal affinity.
As I walked The Tree, I placed one of these coins at each of the sephiroth, mostly hidden from view, but not so well hidden that some other traveler or person in need couldn’t happen upon them and put their fortuitous find to good use.
I placed the first coin in the cleft of the tree at the base of The Tree, like a key. The second coin was hidden on the Statue of Yesod. The third and fourth coins, I lay upon the circles of Hod and Netzach. The fifth coin was placed in the Tiphareth Gazebo, and was gone by the time I made my way back down. The sixth and seventh coins were placed, similarly to the third and fourth, on the earthen circles of Geburah and Chesed. I put the eighth coin under the grate in the Binah Swirl, the ninth coin in the brush in front of The Kether Seat, and the tenth coin I hurled into the abyss of Daath from the top of The Chokmah Mound. With each subsequent placement of my offering, I sensed and/or imagined the value of the remaining coins increasing.
At the bottom of The Tree I retrieved the key coin from the cleft of the tree and held it in my left hand for the rest of my walk, thinking of how best to put it to use. I had several ideas.
The first was to give the fateful coin to the one audience member whose question is chosen at the upcoming Sync Book event in New York City on January 31st, where I will be presenting a Radio8Ball Show with several of the Sync Book authors. This seemed to be the best artistic idea until a paranoid sync arose
I was being followed by a stoic (I know it’s a cliche’ but there is no other way to describe him) Native American man from the Geburah side of the park. I didn’t know if he meant me harm, or if he was inspired by my devotional attitude, or if he simply had to walk my way. I decided, after our paths crossed for the third time, that if he confronted me, I would offer him the coin and tell him where it came from. Once I made this decision, I didn’t see him again.
In the end, just as I was returning home I saw a ragged looking youth, picking up trash from the gutter and throwing it in the garbage outside of my apartment. This simple act of conscientious neighborliness inspired me and I called to him. When I held the coin out to him, at first he said, “No thanks,” but when I told him I was carrying it for him, he stopped walking away. He seemed to recognize that I wasn’t giving change to a beggar. This was a different kind of offering.
“Thank you, brother,” he said with big clear eyes, gave me a hug, and walked off into the streets.
Now the coin is somewhere out there in Olympia, making magick and good fortune for all who touch it.
This is the value of offerings.
2. The Value of Intentions
Intentions are present whether we state them explicitly or not. If we consciously walk The Tree we do so for a reason. This reason may be obscure to us, or it may be obvious. We may think we are doing it for one reason when in fact our true agenda is unknown to us. I have general intentions which are always present and specific intentions which are more timely. For example, the success of Radio8Ball is always an intention of mine while this week I was particularly focused on the January 31st event in New York City with Alan Abbadessa-Green, Douglas Bolles, Jen Palmer, Kevin Halcott, Kyle Hunt, Rammer Martinez, Peg Carter, Christopher Myers and Rogan Marshall. I’ll be hosting R8B and performing the music. My colleagues will be bringing a smorgasbord of syncsploration. And it’s all going to be filmed so it will be syncing long after I’m back in my Tree.
When I consciously lay my intentions out, as I did for the full moon walk, I usually try and come up with an intention for each chakrik energy center. Here is what I had for the 8th:
1st chakra – Root/Material – The success of my projects (R8B, The Sync Event, Accidental Initiations) leading to greater financial abundance and more freedom of action for me, and a brighter more inspired future for life and consciousness on planet Earth. I also sought to understand and resolve an issue at work that was troubling me.
2nd chakra – Sacral/Creativity – Draw the moon out from behind the clouds and receive a vision.
3rd chakra – Solar Plexus/Will Power – Bless the land with my practice and be blessed by it.
4th chakra – Heart/Compassion –Bless the people of the land with my practice and be united with my tribe.
5th chakra – Throat/Communication – Find the proper words to communicate my vision in art that inspires fellow seekers.
6th chakra – Third Eye/Psychic – Dissolve time and join with the timeless masters in an ecstatic dance of complete mind/body/spirit communion.
7th chakra – The Crown/Spituality – Open up to receive as much light as possible for the good of all.
I know this all sounds hippie as shit, if you read it with that in mind, which is why I suggest reading it with music playing. These are divine fucking intentions. They’re dirty and crude and feisty, but they’re not stupid or dark or adolescent. These are the intentions of an artist.
If you know what you want, then you know who you are.
This is the value of intentions.
3. The Value of Music
It will be a surprise to no one familiar with Radio8Ball that I almost always walk or run The Tree listening to music on shuffle; accessing sync via The Pop Oracle. Music’s inherent order; rhythm and melody, imbued with the artist’s lyrical vision, sings delicious paradox and tunes me to a divine order of things. It fills me with energy, propels me forward, and occupies my active monkey mind.
Here are some highlights from 01/08/12 Radio8Ball Show in The Tree of Olympia.
Try reading and playing Song A, then skipping to read the next section, and returning to this appreciation, to check in as each song ends. That is, if you enjoy reading and listening to music at the same time.
A: The first song to come up was Fountains Of Wayne’s “I-95” from their 2007 CD Traffic and Weather. Since a specific intention of my walk was the success of the New York Sync event on the 31st, and Fountains Of Wayne are from NYC, and the song is about the freeway I will be taking to get there from Boston, it felt appropriate. I’ll be taking a bus with my Mom and her boyfriend. Best dress warm and plan for traffic.
B: At the statue of Yesod, through the circle of Hod, Harry Nilsson’s song “Bath” from his 1968 album Aerial Ballet, came up with the optimistic refrain “I’m beginning to think there’s hope for the human race.” I was born in 1968 and, in order to reach the statue, one must descend into the park, as if into a bath.
C: As I reached the lake and headed south toward The Binah Swirl, AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” from their 1980 album Back In Black began to play. Scary, right? Not really. The Tree is a representation of everything; the dark and the light in balance. Getting tripped out and reactive to dark imagery is the same as getting obsessed with it. I took this song as a test of my faith and fortitude. There is a Buddhist parable about a seeker who encounters a dragon and, rather than running away from it, or trying to do battle with it, he throws himself into its mouth. The dragon is immediately transformed into the Buddha and the seeker achieves enlightenment. Likewise, I allowed the force of the music to fill me up, and I moved on up The Tree.
D: While crossing the bridge of Daath, Veda Hille’s song “Ace of The Nazarene” from her 2008 release This Riot Life began to play. Just like not getting too scared of “Hell’s Bells”, I didn’t want to get too Jesus trippy on this song, although it was tempting to do so. One of my nicknames is Ace, and Olympia is my Nazareth. Veda is a 1968 Leo, like me, and I’ve always felt brotherly feelings toward her. In this regard she is not only my Princess Leia, but also my Daath Veda. Listen for Ford Pier’s Townshend-esque Han(d) Solo blaster riffs on guitar.
E: At the Kether Seat, a run of Rilo Kiley and Jenny Lewis songs began with “Always” from the 2001’s CD Take-Offs And Landings.
followed by “Silver Lining” from Rilo Kiley’s 2007 CD Under The Blacklight (during which song the moon made her first appearance)
and finally “Happy” from the Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins CD Rabbit Fur Coat her acoustic acid record from 2006, by which time I had reached the second Daath crossing.
Scott Taylor told me that Jenny Lewis is the granddaughter of Al Lewis, although I haven’t been able to verify this online. Having quite a few unverifiable relatives myself, I am choosing to enjoy believing Scott until it’s proven that Jenny Lewis is not Al Lewis’ granddaughter.
Al Lewis is most famous for having played the role of Grandpa Munster on The Munsters TV show in the 60’s. I only ever got interested in or impressed with him after I heard his radio show on WBAI in New York during the 90’s and early aughts. He was an ornery and insightful old curmudgeon who wasn’t afraid to speak difficult truths. Think borscht belt Studs Terkel.
Since I consider the second Daath crossing the grandpa spot, this felt very appropriate.
F: As I approached the Chokmah Mound Robert Plant and Alison Krauss began to sing the dirge-like “Polly Come Home” from their 2008 Raising Sand CD
and just as I reached the top of the mound and jumped up on the stone bench to cast my last coin into the abyss, “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys began playing. This song which many, myself included, consider to be a perfect song/performance/recording was also the perfect song for the moment and simply opened me up, as well as the heavens.
G: While re-entering the lower realms by way of the bottleneck alleyway leading to the park, Tom Waits’ “Tango ‘Til They’re Sore” began to play. I used to host a Tom Waits Cocktail Club at the Bottleneck Lounge in Seattle. They fired me the day after my last big full moonwalk in The Tree, which led to my writing Accidental Initiations.
This song lent an urban edge to my descent, making it feel quite appropriate to lean against a dumpster and relieve myself. On the top of the dumpster was a dirty blue and yellow birdhouse that was so bright it in the moonlight it looked like something from an outtake of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
H: After several more hours of walking and syncing in the wolf moon light, the last song to play before I left The Tree was Prince’s “Willing and Able” from his 1991 CD Diamonds & Pearls, a song which syncs really well with all of my intentions.
Walking The Tree and being open to its magick is an act of willingness. Also Prince, the most able of rock stars, had recently come to the area to perform a show in Tacoma on December 19th. I had intended to go but instead got sick with a flu, which led me to begin a marijuana fast (as explored from Sobriety Is A Gateway Drug on in A.I.2) Prince, is a mercurial master of the musical arts. He embodies the complete musician. He resonates with my youth and with my own old lion battles for artistry in the face of boring corporate hegemony. And the song, well, it’s all about wealth. Recognizing your diamonds and pearls, and being willing and able to play them like an instrument that’s like a lover that’s like a god in a card game in the symbol’s mind.
“Watch me do my thing.”
This is the value of music.
4. The Value of Madness
The park where The Tree can be found is a magnet for “crazy” people. You might even think I’m one of them. If so, I’m one of the crazies who holds it together enough that I seem sane while deconstructing reality and putting it back together in my own image. Others are not so lucky.
There is a guy who regularly stations himself at the opening of the path from Tiphareth to Netzach, represented in the tarot as the path of Death, where he does some kind of frantic and furious martial art which is full of passion and entirely lacking in grace. He grunts and stomps his feet and lashes out at nothing I can see. People generally give him a wide berth. Since he’s usually right in the middle of the path, I have to pass him several times to complete my circuit. I think I pass by him closer than most. I don’t nod acknowledgement for fear of upsetting him, but I do send my heart in his direction as a blessing through my fear.
Earlier in the day, before walking The Tree in the moonlight, I did my usual rituals, which includes running The Tree a bit more robotically, though still with similar overall intention.
On the afternoon of the 8th he was at his spot. No surprise about that, but when I returned to The Tree under the full moon several hours later, just as I reached the Tiphareth Gazebo he rushed out to his spot and began his violent ghost fighting. For a moment I was frightened and then I realized that he was my ally, really The Tree’s ally, supporting me by challenging any demons which might threaten my good work.
As I put the coin down in the center of the gazebo I dropped it instead of placing it, so that he might hear, in the hope that he would be the one to collect it.
By the time I had navigated the circle of Geburah and arrived at Emma Page’s fountain, he was gone, and with him, some of my preconceived notions about reality.
This is the value of madness.
5. The Value of The Center
Before I descend into the park I notice two figures silhouetted in the Tiphareth Gazebo, lying on their backs, with only their knees visible. It was a sweet, romantic image, and I felt blessed by it and by them.
There was a time before I knew The Tree, before I accidentally initiated myself into consciousness of it, when I was one of those lovers, simply enjoying the energy of the place and the woman I was sharing it with. As I approached the central structure of The Tree which they occupied I blessed the fuck out of them.
Before I reached them, as I was leaving the circle of Hod, they got up and headed north into town. I saw that they were just kids, probably no older than sixteen, maybe younger. My heart pumped an extra beat. I wrote my book with the kids of Olympia in mind, so that we might have something more sacred than bad music, beer, and reactionary politics to unite us. They didn’t know it but I was doing it all for them, and whatever they were doing made me happy, as long as they kept it to themselves.
Meeting in the center is the best place, even if, and sometimes especially because, you don’t actually meet.
Every sephiroth of The Tree is connected to Tiphareth, the heart. Likewise, every aspect of our life, if we are in balance, runs through the heart. Feeling angry? Run it through your heart and it will come out less jagged. Feeling sad? Run it through the heart and it will feel less hopeless. Feeling horny? Run it through the heart and it will come out less desperate. Feeling scared? Run it through your heart and it will come out wrapped in courage. The value of the center is that it is always here.
Whether you have an external Tree to run or not, as long as you live, your heart is beating a welcome.
This is the value of the center.
6. The Value of Fire
Fire is my nature, which makes it a mystery to me.
The night before my full moon walk I got severely, and I think unjustly, reamed at my job. I felt set up to fail, misunderstood by my co-workers and my boss, and attacked by one colleague who I have only ever intended to support. My natural reaction to this kind of thing has always been to rage internally, and sometimes externally. In Accidental Initiations I write about an unjust situation in my life and it’s the longest chapter in my book.
Through much practice in and out of The Tree I have learned that my fiery nature is to be tended but rarely indulged. This keeps me from indulging it about half the time, which constitutes a major evolution. When I do indulge it, I try to do so consciously, like a warrior, not a worrier.
On this particular night I chose to welcome the injustices in my life as a focusing fuel. Whether I agreed with my mistreatment at the hands of others was unimportant. There was a lesson here which I hoped would be revealed by the time I got back down from my moonlight ramble. Like a good soldier, mine was not to question why but die and die and die and die and keep on going. For truth and poetry.
This is the value of fire.
7. The Value of Water
The night was cold but this didn’t keep me from splashing the waters of Emma Page’s fountain at The Circle of Chesed all over my face and neck and over my head, slicking back my mane. I slurped it up and spit it out and shook it off, like a thoughtless happy beast. With this final ritual in the nestling discomfort of the lower two thirds of The Tree I felt an exhilarating release. The world behind me fell away. The world before me opened up.
This is all I can tell you about the value of water.
8. The Value of Reflections
As “Hell’s Bells” began, I thought of my bar, where they play “Highway To Hell” on a regular basis, and a difficult truth emerged.
I heard the words of my boss, “You say that bartending is an honorable profession but I don’t think so.” and “We’re not sure if you even really are a bartender.”
I heard the words of my bar manager, “You’re like a used car salesman. You see people as dollar signs. Just stop screaming and doing jumping jacks and banging your mixing tin on the bar. It makes people uncomfortable.”
I heard the words of my co-worker, “Fuck you. If you pull this shit again I will mess you up. I don’t….(what she thought I had accused her of.)”
I knew they were wrong about me but they weren’t wrong. This is how they saw me. This is how many people must see me. A fake, a hyper-active huckster, and a conniving bastard who speaks of honor as a way of avoiding something. The very fact that this is the exact opposite of my intention and experience is revealing. That kind of polarity suggests balance, alignment, super-charged polarity.
Something welled up in me then. Something akin to love. These people were my temporary family. I could use their reflection. How they saw me told me something about them, yes, but what did it tell me about myself? How I saw them seeing me? For better or worse, at least in my own mind, we were in this together.
The boss was like the father, roughly demanding more from me than I thought I had to give. Terrifying me toward an excellence I didn’t yet understand. Claiming that our profession had no honor while behaving in many ways like the honorable men I’ve known; unconcerned about the opinions of others, hewing to his own code, surrounding himself with men of honor who are devoted to him.
The bar manager, like an older sister in a motherless home, annoyed at my boyish attempts to distinguish myself for the father, and protective of her little sister, my co-worker, who saw me as a threat for reasons I still don’t understand. These women had their reasons for mistrusting “men like me” even if I was way more, not way less than they saw me. At least I thought I was, think I am.
Like a real family, it felt as if I hadn’t chosen them but they were mine to accept as they were or quit. Quitting wasn’t an option. If I did I’d lose my unemployment, which is all that’s going to keep me in beans and internet until the next gig, should it come to that. I didn’t think I’d have to quit. I felt my days were numbered, so I readied myself for Hell’s Bells.
If you think this realization made me more confident to return to work the following week you would be wrong. The truth is it scared the shit out of me and woke up, not just my inner samurai, but also the smallest most insecure feelings in my crack of cracks. I didn’t, and still don’t, know if they will keep me on, or let me go, or if I have what it takes to change the way they see me or live with their vision of me. What was clear to me was that, if I could remain true to myself in the face of their critical appraisals of me, it would make me a better bartender, and a better man for the moon and for The Tree.
This is the value of reflections.
9. The Value of Addiction
When I reached the top of The Tree and The Seat of Kether I sat down, unzipped my jacket, stretched my arms behind me, and opened myself wide. As I did some presses, lowering myself to the ground and lifting myself up again, Rilo Kiley’s song “Always”, which begins with a Police-esque synth tone, followed by a surging band intro, started playing, but before it reached the vocals my phone fell off the bench and the battery came out. Silence. The time was 8:01pm.
Though the night was cold I took off my shoes. The chilly cement felt good against my feet. I pulled on my red stocking cap (a prize given to me by a fellow participant in an ayahuasca ceremony) and tied my orange bandana around my neck.
This is where I would, at a different time, have smoked some pot. I had some with me and rather than take it into my lungs, I tore off a small bud and placed it in my left hand. I then took out my lighter and burned it there like incense. As it smoldered and the smoke rose I was struck with a realization, but before I could put it into words, the ember reached my skin. It hurt and I closed my fist on it, putting it out. I felt immediate sympathy for my throat and lungs, which have taken in so much fire and smoke over the years.
Then understanding emerged. Addiction is a blessing because it gives us something to sacrifice for the greater good. If we were deeper people, more connected to the land, or each other, we might have to sacrifice things of value to make this sacred point. I thought of Abraham’s willingness to murder his own son, or cut off his own foreskin for YHWH. I thought of the enlightened Aztecs surrendering to the marauding Spaniards because the arrival coincided with prophecy. I thought of Lakota Sioux warriors ghost dancing into bullet fire, planting their blood like seeds in the ground. These were profound people with deep connections; therefore they were called to make great sacrifices.
We, however, are addicted scumbags, as I can hear Louis CK saying.
We, are not so deep. Our connections to land and each other has been so de-programmed out of us that losing family and land is second nature to us. Money, drugs, luxury, social position, intense sensation. I’m not judging, but these things own us at least as much we own them. Cars and gas and the ability to flush our refuse thoughtlessly downstream. These cheap and easy luxuries keep us small and sick, as long as we need them, so when we can find even a moment to try and break away from any of these, it’s probably going to be a good moment. A sacred moment.
During a fast, when I want to do the thing I’m fasting from, I remember why I’m doing it. If, for the moment, I can want to and not, it generates energy. More than energy. Power.
This is the value of addiction.
10. The Value of Miracles
Before I began my walk, with the late afternoon sky a deep blue behind her, I caught one glimpse of the moon coming over the hill to the east. Big and yellow and about to enter a veil of thick clouds.
By the time I entered The Tree after sundown the moon was only a glow behind a blanket. I had no doubt that I could draw her out before the night was through. This faith comes from years of practice.
At each sephiroth I turned and gazed upward into the murky night and found her hidden luminescence with an increasing sense of wolfish desire and confidence. Like a lover, I winked and beckoned and cajoled, with all of the playful patience in the world, backed by a natural urgency that felt more like magnetism than lust.
By the time she peaked out for the first time, I was walking the path from The Kether Seat to the second Daath crossing. Rilo Kiley was singing “Silver Lining,” a song which held totemic significance for me and my ex and future something, Robyn, with whom I first engaged the moon magick of The Tree before I knew what it was. In the moments prior to the moon’s arrival, a deathly vision from a nightmare arose before me.
The car pulled a U-turn and parked fifty yards ahead of me. The door slid open and the assassin emerged. By the time she revealed herself as a mere child about to go roller-blading with her mother, I had already surrendered to my destiny, the destiny we all share, if we are lucky, a good death. And then the moon was there, naked and in full view, winking at me from within a small opening in the clouds.
As I continued along the path and stepped onto the grating above the vortex-rich waters to empty my cup Jenny Lewis was singing “Happy,” the third randomly chosen song featuring this fellow psychedelic seeker of potentially trouble-making Jewish origins. Her voice and muse spoke for the silent moon in poetic paradox as I turned to touch the “Life Ring – Located Inside” where a lone winter spider sat in her web, guarding whatever portals lay behind her impossible existence.
This is when the miracles began in earnest. I walked slowly along the path toward the Chokmah Mound. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss singing “Polly Come Home.” Loving thoughts toward my difficult bar family rolling around in my head. My last coin in my left hand, where the burn of the marijuana incense still lingered. I felt empty and full and drawn and driven. Awake and in a trance. As I came around the last curve of the hill there was a stick, about three and a half feet long, sitting there as if consciously placed for me to pick up. I did so without stopping, without thinking, and took my place at the center of The Chokmah Mound. As the opening chords of “God Only Knows” began to play I leaped up onto the bench which sits atop a time capsule, intended to be opened in 2051, and side-arm hurled my last coin into the abyss.
I looked up and the clouds began to part. The moon shone with a piercing intensity and, without thinking, I began tracing a circle in the gravel around the bench with the stick, which now felt more like a staff or a wand, purchased with my ten gold coins. Yeah, it sounds weird, unless it happens to you. Then, it’s fucking awesome! Within the circle I traced mystical symbols, again without really intending to do so at first. As I did so, the clouds, which just minutes before had covered the sky, formed a circle around the lake, giving the moon her solo against a background of stars. I basked and danced and offered grateful prayers and felt the light, and knew that somehow, when the time was right, I could do it again.
This is the value of miracles.
XX – Final
People sometimes ask me,”Steve, how can I become a millionaire?” I tell them that’s easy.
First, get a million dollars…
– Steve Martin
If you wish to walk The Tree in the moonlight, first devote yourself to it every day. Recognize the power of natural cycles. Make offerings. Set intentions. Listen to the music. Honor madness. Find your center. Tend your fire. Bathe in the water. Surrender to your reflections. Value your addictions. Make miracles.
When you fill your days and nights with magick I will meet you in The Tree and we shall see. We shall see.
There is a Jon Brion-esque musical genius from Olympia with whom I walked The Tree recently. It’s weird that he’s still here, and nice for me, because this is a town that kills good music and drives the people who make it mad, bad or away.
This local prodigy is one of three people who called to tell me they were considering suicide since the winter solstice. I like when people tell me they are facing this particular abyss, so I can laugh and welcome them to the realm of serious people. It’s the only serious question, so said Albert Camus, and I know that on the other side of it is life. Not just breathing and thinking and eating and shitting, but life as a powerful choice.
I first met the genius in question when he was a precocious kid attending The City Limits/Anti-Folk Summit at The Capitol Theater in March of ’99 which I organized with my then wife Heidi Love. This event was designed to share the skills necessary for crafting your own indie music career. We had forums on tour booking, recording, self-promotion, and other tools of the trade. Attendees were encouraged to bring and share their demos. His was rough but still my favorite of the bunch.
Since then we’ve become friends and worked together on some of my favorite and most obscure pop projects. In 2003, when my marriage ended, we were collaborating on one of the best of these: a tribute to the band that would have been if Paul McCartney had joined The Attractions to present the songs that he and Elvis Costello wrote together in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The group was called My Brave Face. I played Elvis. He played Paul. We only did three or four shows but they were legendary for those few pop fans that got to witness them. I can only imagine how much fun the project would have been for me if I wasn’t dying inside the whole time from my divorce. As it was, it probably kept me alive during the worst of it.
He was his own kind of punk-ass mess at the time: drunk and high and broke and smoking cigarettes all the time. A talented and aimless wastrel who could barely be counted on to make it to gigs or rehearsals; he frustrated and annoyed as many people as he entertained. Then he met a good a woman. The relationship transformed him and for the last eight years it’s been a joy to watch him get his shit together in the stability this container provided him. So, when he told me a couple of weeks ago that she had broken up with him and asked him to move out of the house they shared I was optimistically concerned. If he could weather the heartbreak and uncertainty, I was pretty sure he was on the verge of an explosion of growth, and when a person of his talent explodes and grows it makes a difference for everyone within earshot.
On December 30th, after several days of unanswered and increasingly urgent calls and e-mails from me, he finally got back in touch. The kid, now a man in his 30’s, was deep in the dark and blues, listening to heartbreaking Willie Nelson demos recorded in Vancouver, Washington in the 50’s, and wondering if it was time to join “that stupid club.” I told him that I was going to come and pick him up and we were going to walk The Tree. Before doing so, I ran it myself and felt filled with a profound sense of purpose. All my work had led me to this moment. I knew I wasn’t just going to pull my friend back from the ledge; I was going to set him on a course which would serve multitudes, myself included. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. This was an incredible feeling and I wish everyone could experience it; faith and power and love and destiny. Tribal warrior shit!
After I picked him up we went back to my place. I gave him the last of my pot to smoke and showed him a diagram of The Kabbalistic Tree of Life, while he filled me in on the details of his misery. The night was wicked cold but we bundled up and walked The Tree. If I had any fear that he wouldn’t respond to the magick, it was unfounded. Not only did he recognize and resonate with the structure but, as a kid who grew up in Olympia, he shared a lot of similar memories to mine. Everyone else who I’ve shared The Tree with is from someplace else or has only lived in Olympia as an adult. Hearing his recollections and visions of the landmarks that comprise The Tree as we walked, I was deeply moved. Like me, he ran around it as a child with his father and, even as I felt our elderhood descending, I had the sensation of being boys at play in the park of our childhood dreams.
At The Chokmah Mound, where inspiration had filled me earlier in the evening, I looked my friend in the eyes and told him, without pretense or doubt, that his destiny demanded that he go through whatever initiation of death and rebirth his current situation was demanding of him, and stand up as a man, as an artist, and as a future elder of this magickal town. I told him not to take this as a compliment but as a command, and a responsibility that I would accept no shrinking from. Not only was I able to deliver this intense communication but he was able to receive it. It felt like we were tapping into the energies of men of a more honorable time.
Years ago I had a best friend, my last best friend. His name was Josh Clayton-Felt. We went to high school together on the east coast and both moved out to LA in the late 80’s. Together we formed a band called The Boon. I intend to write extensively about this in the future but the short story is that the band broke up and I lost Josh, first to indie rock fame, and then to an untimely death from cancer at the age of 33. Last year my Olympian collaborator and I recorded one of Josh’s unreleased demos called “Time” for a tribute album which never came to fruition. I’ve been feeling Josh’s spirit with me very intensely since November and, standing there on the Chokmah Mound with Olympia’s homegrown genius struggling through his dark night of the soul at my side, I knew that, whether by memory or spirit, Josh was present and I was glad to have him here as a part of all of this.
After the walk I took my still-depressed and suicidal friend home and left him to percolate on the experience. The next day I felt exhausted and almost sick. I’ve known lots of healer types and they always talk about the tremendous energy it takes to hold space for another person’s healing. While I haven’t doubted them, I’ve never experienced it, nor did I think I’d ever have to. I’m not a healer after all, I’m an artist, but I’m finding that these are not mutually exclusive pursuits; in fact, one may lead to the other as a natural progression.
So tonight I was at the open mike at Hannah’s, for which I prepared a cover of Jon Brion’s “Knock Yourself Out,” and my friend was there. He told me he’d found a new place and was moving in on Friday. Not only that but he had made peace with the woman who had been so good to him for so long and he seemed genuinely happy and inspired about it. He told me that our walk had been the turning point for him and that he felt “like a man for the first time in my life.” It took every ounce of cool I possessed to keep the tears of joy and gratitude in my heart from flooding the bar and making the moment about me. Instead I just beamed at him and knew what my next post here would be about.
There is one more exquisite synchronicity I must relate before closing. During a smoke break, outside and around the corner, which I joined but did not participate in, one of the local musicians, out of the blue, brought up my old best friend Josh. He said that he was getting really into Josh’s music of late, and that one of his guitar students had recently covered Josh’s song “Euphoria” at a recital. It’s a pretty obscure song from what is now a pretty obscure pop recording by his band School Of Fish from the early 90’s. Not at all the kind of thing that punk rock Olympia supports. Nonetheless, my old friend’s muse found purchase in my hometown and here I was standing on the sidewalk outside of a neighborhood bar, surrounded by old musicians, getting the synchronistic news on this auspicious night of unexpected blessings. Overwhelmed by the moment, all I could do was look up into the waxing moon, shrouded in mist, and know that, despite all evidence to the contrary, everything was perfect and getting better all the time.
The rain was coming down in sheets and buckets. We were drenched and walking south. I was unloading on my friend with the full force of my frustration.
“Fuck you! Stop interrupting me and giving me advice before you even know what the fuck I’m saying! I sit there and listen to you go on and on about your shit and when I try and talk for thirty fucking seconds you can’t even fucking listen. And you think you can give me advice?!?! About my book? About O-fucking-lympia!?! You can’t! Don’t try. Just shut the fuck up and let me finish one goddamned thought before acting like you know what the fuck I’m even talking about…”
And on and on and on I go. How did it get to this point?
According to the Arguelles inspired 13 Moon Natural Time Calendar, the veil has been thin since the 25th and will be through January 3rd. So, for the last few days I’ve been trying to keep it cool. Cooler than usual. I run hot. That’s what I call it. It means I get angry. Some might say that I lose my temper but it doesn’t feel like losing anything. It feels like I’m full of fire which has nowhere to go but loud. I wish I could lose my temper but it always comes back, like an extremely loyal rabid dog.
It may sound strange in light of this admission but I’m a pretty peaceful person. Under the surface though, I rage at the thoughts in my head and at inanimate objects. Like, for example, if I can’t find the right key for my door? I get angry at my keys. Or the fucking Microsoft word program and the green squiggly line it lays under sentence fragments. I want those sentence fragments the way I WROTE them you piece of shit program!
As for the thoughts that wind me up? It could be anything: something someone said to me at work, or someone I pass on the street who looks at me the wrong way. It could be a global injustice or a personal slight. Shit, I can still wind myself up about things that happened to me in middle school. My mind is a minefield and I’m a mental pyromaniac. I must love setting these hidden explosives off because that’s what I do most of the time: I run these thoughts and work myself up and feel the burn of it.
I’m tired of this endless, pointless fire. It only gets me in trouble and keeps me trapped in childish patterns that go nowhere, so I’ve been practicing just witnessing the process without letting it run me. It’s like there’s this bully inside of me, picking on me, taunting me, trying to get me to fight, and I’ve just been walking past saying, “Not today. Not today.”
So today I was running The Tree and thinking about how all the fish at Trader Joe’s is from Asia, and is probably toxic from the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, and how, if I’m going to eat healthy at all I’m going to have to start shopping at the local food co-op again. I’ve been shopping at Trader Joe’s, or driving to Seattle to shop at their co-op, for almost all of my food since the Olympia Food Co-Op rigged their own system to install a boycott of Israeli goods without including the voices of local Jews. To be honest, I don’t care that much more about Israel than anyplace else. They’re government is corrupt, like ours, and oppresses indigenous people, like ours. If it really was a holy land it wouldn’t be drenched in blood. It’s just another place I’ve never been and don’t plan on visiting, but I do care about the way Jews are treated in Olympia, and when a local progressive organization conspires to keep us out of a conversation about Israel it pisses me off. When I tried to raise these issues as a shopper at the co-op and then wrote about it in our local progressive rag Works In Progress I was called out in its pages as a conservative and a sexist and given no space for rebuttal. The sexist bit was because I claimed that my aggressive stance against the injustice of the co-op’s actions was inspired by my riot grrrl sisters. It seems a man is not allowed to be inspired by the riot grrrls, even if he grew up with many of them, and has shared their battles with status quo sexism for his whole adult life.
I was thinking that if I intend to start shopping at the co-op, I should wear a gag and print up a t-shirt that says on the front of it, “Fuck You. Don’t talk To Me.” And on the back says, “The Oly Food Co-Op Lies.” That way I can voice my displeasure without actually saying anything which might lead to my being accused of being a violent and oppressive man.
All the time these thoughts are running, I’m beating a path through my rain-drenched Tree and doing my best to only think the thoughts, but not get caught up in them. When I realize they’ve got me I put them down. They jump up again and I put them down again. It goes on like this all day.
Back at home I do whatever I can, short of smoking the blessed weed I’ve been fasting from (See: Sobriety Is A Gateway Drug), to reclaim my mind. I meditate, eat, jerk off, make phone calls, dance, anything not to engage the rage.
At about 4pm I get a text from a friend who wants me to meet her at a restaurant. I figure this will be a good distraction. When I get there she tells me she’s been eating mushrooms all day and launches into a kvetchy diatribe about some “powerful witches” who have been dicking her around regarding a job she was promised and is now being denied because she said the wrong thing to one of them at a local Chanukah party. When I ask her where the party was she tells me it was at the house of someone who I write about in Accidental Initiations: the woman who introduced me to Re-Evaluation Counseling, my ex-wife’s old best friend and someone who I thought was one of my best friends until recently. In the last couple of years she has broken off contact with me without explaining why. When we’ve run into each other on the street she acts like nothing has changed but it has, and not being invited to her Chanukah party is the latest evidence of this.
“Keep it cool Andras,” I’m saying to myself while my friend goes off about her issues.
During her rant she talks about a scene from the latest Miranda July book in which July tells a story about being promised and then denied funding for a film. This leads Miranda, the former Olympian, to fantasize about going riot grrrl on the Hollywood liars, tearing off her shirt, drawing some crude obscenity on her belly, and walking right back into the offices to tell those fuckers what for.
As I’m listening to all of this my blood is boiling: Boiling at my former friend and ally who didn’t invite me to her party. Boiling at not being allowed to be inspired by my riot sisters even though we clearly think alike. Boiling in solidarity with my fungus eating friend, and boiling in frustration at her domination of the conversation. All the while, trying to maintain my equilibrium. Hold it in. Anything but run that old familiar energy and lose my cool.
When we leave the restaurant the rain is ludicrous, violent, a parody of the northwest. My friend asks me to walk home with her, promising to drive me back after she walks her dog. I want to go to my apartment and write this out, but my friend really doesn’t want to walk alone, and I kind of hope that the rain will cool me down. Two thirds of the way to her place, she starts giving me advice about my book, even though she hasn’t read it, and I explode at her.
It’s a ridiculous scene: Both of us drenched. Me waving my arms wildly in the rain and making absolutely no sense. My friend standing there in a large puddle of water, looking at me with a mix of mushroom humor and womanly pity until I eventually burn myself out.
Back at her place, in the kitchen, in my sopping clothes I tell her that even though part of what I was trying to say was true (I don’t like being interrupted, no one does) my tantrum isn’t directed at her. It’s just misplaced sadness at not being invited to my old friend’s Chanukah party and feeling like a second class citizen in the town I grew up in. She asks me if I need a hug and when I mumble, “I don’t know” she just does it and I am so grateful that I ask her to drive me home, knowing that when I get there I won’t write, just collapse on the floor and cry. Like a girl? Like a riot grrrl?
Two crime thrillers (The Drowning Pool & Out Of Sight) and a glass of wine later I finally made it to these pages. I didn’t succeed in keeping the peace today but at least I got it down for the record. Luckily no one got hurt. I was with someone who could handle it, for which I am deeply grateful, and now it’s documented so I can’t escape my foolish fury in the fog of memory. I won’t succumb to self-hatred but I can’t say that I’m particularly fond of myself tonight either. I’ll try again tomorrow and the next day and the next. I clearly have my work to do because when I think about you, any of you, reading this, all I can think to say, with all the feminine fury at my shadow’s disposal is, “Fuck… You!”
If sobriety is a gateway drug, what will my next fix be?
In Accidental Initiations I write briefly about fasting but I’d like to go into a bit more depth here. I’ve done over ten fasts of a week or more in the last six or seven years. I choose the Master Cleanse fast but, having tried no others; I can’t recommend it as the best one for anyone else. That’s up to you to divine. In all but one case I had a positive experience: cleansing my mind and spirit as well as my body. The one negative fast had a lot to do with my attitude. It was my third one and I had become arrogant and macho about the undertaking, which set me up to fail and, in so doing, to learn an important lesson about intention: You simply can’t muscle through these things. It has to be inspired and then you can surrender to it.
Other than this one “failure” all of my fasts have been set in motion by synchronicity. One day I’d be going along stuffing my face like everyone else, and then someone would say something in a song, or a cloud would pass overhead, or some other trigger would catch my mind and, all of a sudden, not eating seemed like the most natural thing I could do.
I have two basic strategies for fasting. One is to do Re-Evaluation Counseling sessions about the feelings that come up when I am hungry. The magick of these sessions is that once I’ve cried and raged through the feelings, the hunger pretty much vanishes. There’s a profound lesson here that hunger is as much a malady of the heart as of the stomach. Of course, I only apply this to hunger which is chosen. I wouldn’t want some asshole suggesting this strategy to someone who is actually starving. Although, if I was starving, it is what I would try and do.
My other strategy has been to smoke pot through my fasts. There are those who will say this defeats the purpose. To these people I say: Fine for you. You can find another strategy, but this works for me. I can give up almost anything as long as I can hemp my way through it. Pot inspires me and inspiration is all I really need to live, at least for a little while. Eventually we all need to eat but I can go a long time without food as long as I can taste the poetry of existence and, for me, nothing stimulates the muse like the smoke of the green goddess.
I hate when people who drink coffee, eat sugar and meat, watch TV, live for money, sex, and power, and project their shadows onto favored enemies, talk about sobriety, as if they have ever been sober. Maybe when we were very young some of us may have tasted sobriety for a time but it was short-lived and we probably can’t even remember what it felt like. It certainly wasn’t our choice. American culture is a drug dealer and most of us are junkies. So, when an American junkie gets high and mighty about the use of natural medicines like marijuana I have a hard time taking them seriously as, I’m sure, do their children if they have them.
I bring this up because I currently find myself taking a sabbatical from my negotiations with the ganja crystals and their inter-dimensional guardians. I want to write about it, but I don’t want this to be taken as an “anti-drug” message. I am grateful for the lessons of the smoke and I soberly encourage communion with it, until it no longer makes sense. Given the choice between being a pothead and an uninspired hypocrite, I would always choose the former.
That said, synchronicity is leading me off the familiar path, just like it’s done with my fasts of the past. I didn’t mean to stop smoking but I got sick and then I got inspired (in part by the experience recounted in Solstice Prison Break) and then the solstice transformed me. Now I’m doing whatever it is that I surrendered to for the darkest day of the year and the returning of the light of 2012. I don’t know how long it will last but I suspect I’ll be experimenting with a smoke-fast until spring at least, or not. We shall see.
My Kabbalah teacher was very down on all substances and artificial distractions. From what I could tell she walked her talk so I can’t call her a hypocrite. I was unwilling to walk her talk simply because she did, but I could clearly see that it worked for her. We all need to come to these realizations for ourselves or they are just an act. I do credit her integrity around this issue with planting a seed in my consciousness which is flowering even as I write these words.
It’s not easy saying goodbye to my sativa practice. Like any good relationship, there is an addictive aspect to it and I miss my visits to the pipe, especially when the hard feelings are upon me. As with food, or a lover, the hunger isn’t physical as much as psychic and emotional. When we are sad or lonely we reach for the nipple. Lucky for me, the lessons of the fasts which my relationship with marijuana made possible are now assisting me in letting this old ally go for a season or more. Funny how that works isn’t it?
My tee totaling teacher and her disciples told me that pot blocks the magick of ritual, something which I have been unwilling to accept at face value, but since I’m taking a break anyway I’m going to put this theory to the test. In the same way I used pot to help me let go of food I’ll be using ritual and art to assist me in this latest letting go. Perhaps you who read these words will be the beneficiary of my practice. I’ll document the results here and we’ll see if there is anything to what my old teacher says. If so, get ready because my intentions are big and delicious and meant to be shared.
It’s exactly six months since I began Accidental Initiations with a psychedelic fueled walk in The Kabbalistic Tree of Olympia on the summer solstice. My intention for this winter’s solstice was to do likewise and “allow what needs to die to die and leave me free and empty to proceed into 2012.” I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to this winter walk of death but I was prepared for it. My body had other plans and, on Sunday, I came down with a hacking cough and flu bug which is still rattling around my lungs. Sickness is another kind of death trip, perhaps even more appropriate for its icky slowness than an ecstatic chemically fueled purging, so I surrendered to it, just as I would the medicine.
In the midst of this bodily journey through the underworld, a theme emerged which took me back again to the turn of the century and another production at The Capitol Theater. The Transfused was a punk rock opera created by Nomy Lamm, The Need and Emily Stern in which I played a role as an actor. In that millennial summer Time Magazine was calling Olympia “the hippest town in the west,” Sleater-Kinney were exploding on the college charts, and festivals like Ladyfest and Homo-A-Go-Go were drawing big numbers to explore alterna-freedom in our city’s streets, but the coolest thing in town that season was The Transfused. A dystopian fantasy of rebellion and transformation, The Transfused, hit all the right notes. The Need’s music (written with Nomy Lamm) was dark and intelligent and full of robotic punk swagger. The cast and crew included current and future local celebs like Mirah, Anna Oxygen, Nikki McClure, Tae Won Yu, Lois Maffeo, Rebecca Pearcy & Zach Carlson. The story takes place a hundred years after the collapse of the American empire when the land is ruled by “The Corporation” which forces the mongrel population to work in the “Fat-Free-Fat factory” to earn their “Fix.” The Fix is a drug which is supposed to keep the mongrels safe from the post apocalyptic environmental degradation but, in fact, just keeps them strung out and coming back for more. During the course of the play, one of the mongrels decides to quit The Fix, get clean, and lead a revolution against The Corporation and its toady soldiers (in the play they are called “Sliders”) who guard the factories. My character was one of these Sliders. When I auditioned they originally wanted to cast me as one of the corporate overlords but I turned this role down and they instead offered me the role of Ze, the masochistic underling of his commander (played with menacing verve by Emily Stern.) Originally Ze was a peripheral character, but over the course of the production he evolved into a pivotal part of the story, and his song “Child Of Destiny” became one of the big hits of the production. For me, as a white hetero male who grew up in this town, to finally feel accepted, even celebrated, by the local queer and feminist elites was incredibly rewarding. I don’t know if anyone who doesn’t live in the northwest can even comprehend a dynamic like this but I guess that’s part of what makes this region such a unique training ground for conscious evolution, as explored in AI.
During the show’s run we sold out The Capitol Theater every night but the impact was even greater than that. Like The Spearhead Sound Hours Benefit, The Transfused involved so many people that it felt like the whole town was in on the ritual. There was talk of taking it to Broadway and I am sure if they had, it would have stood a shot at Hedwig-style success. Sadly, like so many Olympia projects, The Transfused and its creators could not contend with the dangers of commercial success, so the production went no further than the city limits, and today it lives on only in the videos from its one production, and in the memories of those who were there. Even more disheartening for me, once the production ended, that sense of inclusion I had enjoyed dissipated and I faded back into the white woodwork of Olympia with most of my former collaborators walking past me on the street without any sense of kinship between us.
Cut to this week, with me sick at home, listening to Phil Ochs whose birthday was on the 19th, and working on archival projects. One of these was scanning artwork for my digital archives. Mostly flyers and posters from my band’s many tours, but I also scanned The Transfused artwork. While I was doing this my old friend and creative conspirator Willie Wisely posted a glowing tweet about a video clip of “Child Of Destiny” that he had synchronistically stumbled upon that day. Meanwhile, in the wider world, The Transfused’s dark vision of the future seemed to be taking root with Obama set to sign into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which makes it legal to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or trial.
With America building new prisons and dismantling the legal safeguards of a free society, my mind turned again, as it has so often over the last month, to what can be done to make prisons a better place to live. Maybe it’s a failure of imagination on my part that I don’t see the Occupy Wall Streeters turning the tide at this late date but, assuming that the worst comes to pass, I want to know how I can help make the best of it. Recently, I’ve had the inspiration to bring Radio8Ball and my synchronicity work to juvenile detention centers and, eventually, to prisons. As a form of entertainment which trains our minds to recognize and increase the experience of synchronicity, it seems Radio8Ball might be ideally suited to enhance the incarceration experience. You can’t keep synchronicity out, and a person in touch with sync is more likely to be inspired, optimistic and creative, all qualities which can preserve our humanity through difficult times.
I don’t know anyone who works in juvenile detention facilities or prisons and I’m not exactly legitimate on the level which might get me invited to present R8B in the correctional environment based solely on cold calls. Lots of credits but no credentials. So, I’ve just been putting it out there to the universe and hoping to sync up with the right person to connect me with this role. Which brings us to today, the solstice, where it all comes together.
This morning I woke up and the fever had broken. I didn’t exactly feel well but I definitely felt better. I decided to go for a short walk and enjoy the fresh crisp air and solstice energy. As I was walking down 4th Avenue, a voice called my name. I turned around to be greeted by Rosalinda Noriega who played the role of Cooper in The Transfused. We haven’t seen each other in years. I should be used to this kind of sync, and I am, but it still floored me, and I told her so. I asked her what she was up to and she told me that she is currently working with Partners in Prevention Education, a local organization which works with homeless and at risk youth to eliminate violence. I asked her if she knew anything about how to get involved with kids in juvenile detention. She said she did and she would send me a name and e-mail of someone to get in touch with.
As I solstice walked The Tree later in the day with the sun setting, I could feel the light returning. I drew it in and felt inspired by my lack of knowledge of what would come next. I was present to the present, welcoming to the future, and happy to be right where I was. Full of what can only be described as faith, I came out of the alley, down into the park, and what should I see? My fellow Olympia Jews lighting the big menorah at the Chesed corner. I joined them, singing Chanukah songs, sharing the ritual, and feeling perfectly in sync.