This past Friday I worked in a coffee shop arranging a purchase order, for Halloween merchandise from Disguise, one of the largest vendors in the Halloween business. I started the session by knocking my coffee cup, and the coffee I hadn't yet tasted, onto the floor, with the 2x4-thick catalog. Through the day, I grew increasingly frustrated, as the .xls order sheet I was filling out was embedded with so much information, my five year-old computer worked like the year was 1994, not 2011 (it was my computer, or the google docs platform I was working on). By the end of the session, I realized that Disguise does not carry Superman merchandise, as I implied with the last post. That would be Rubies, the proverbial eight hundred-pound gorilla of Halloween vendors.
In the evening, I went through a singing and dancing routine I'm working on. By the end, I was contemplating sleep, though it was only nine o'clock. I hadn't eaten more than a few hundred calories that day, and none in very high quality form. I remembered then, my sister was working downtown, at Insomnia, a dance club. I'm not accustomed to going downtown late on the weekends, and I had no real expectation that I would dance. Check the place out, go home and go to bed, I told myself.
Looking through my clothes, which all look tired, as I haven't made more than $20,000 the past two and a half years, I questioned my judgement. My sister had said to me one night, "If you're going to go, you have to dress nice," as she looked at my feet, " in something other than grubby jeans and your homeless shoes," which is what she calls the boots I wear sometimes, which have gaping holes where the leather has separated from the sole, which I like to wear because they feel like moccasins. I put on my second best jeans, because they were cleaner and they're a bit more stylish than the best pair, acceptable even (I think) with the purple paint near the right calf, from a night spent painting the walls last year at the Halloween store. My only nightclub-worthy shirt, a navy blue Hugo Boss, was a little dusty but otherwise in decent shape. And under the bed I found the golden shoes my friend Stephan gave me last November, which I have never worn.*
Riding the train in my golden shoes, I thought about a story from Daniel Pinchbeck, about Rudolf Steiner, the seer, who left us among many things, the Waldorf schools and biodynamic agriculture. Steiner apparently believed that the planets are in fact conscious entities, with a spiritual essence. Humanity has long considered Mars to have an influence on war and war-like behavior. Steiner said the Buddha, after leaving this planet, received a kind of spiritual promotion, his spirit embedded inside the red planet. Pinchbeck had a dream, which he relates in 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, of the Buddha, in lotus posture, with his grin, descending into the red planet, a roiling mass of "frenzied spirits, like angry paramecium, rushing through him as if he were a hologram. Their agitation slowly began to subside, absorbing the influence of the Buddha's calming vibration." Quoting Steiner from Pinchbeck's book, "it is now the Buddha's task gradually to transform these warlike traits in such a way that they become the foundation of the sense for freedom and independence needed in the present age."
I started thinking about my anger from earlier that day, working on the Disguise order. Each of the planets has a magnetosphere. Humans too emit an electromagnetic field. How many people were within my sphere, in that crowded coffee shop? Did I affect anyone, with my brief descent into my own personal darkness, with my thoughts about death?
Sitting on the train listening to two unattractive, over-weight, exceptionally articulate, intelligent and confident young black women**, I thought about the Buddha's smile. What would people think in these troubled times, about a buddha? What about a bodhisattva, the awakened one, who chooses to return to this Earth again and again, until all sentient beings are awake?
The club was about two-thirds capacity when I arrived. I bought a gin-and-tonic from my sister, and walked back to the dance floor. I was the only white guy, one of three white folk. But this was no gangsta crowd, mostly middle-class, most dressed much nicer than I was. I walked front to back, and back to front, a few times, sipping my drink, before I stopped in the back and started to let go into the music. A young man named Solomon approached me to tell me he liked my shoes. I had been dancing, but on the edge of the floor. Solomon encouraged me to step out. "It seems like everybody's shy," he said. So I did.
I danced repeatedly for the next hour, through another gin and tonic. I was on the big screen in the front of the bar. I danced in a circle with five women, a few others wanted to grind. A few more guys gave me some positive words. A few times I simply closed my eyes, lifted my face to the ceiling with a smile, and grooved, alone. If I have a magnetosphere, I wanted to project humble, non-threatening power, grace, and joy. No one projected onto me anything negative. After awhile, people got more drunk, couples started to grind, and I walked to the front and grabbed my coat from my sister.
Near the train station there was a young man selling his soundtrack, while his uncle played a five-gallon bucket. I asked for a beat. The old man just sat there. I talked with the younger man about his music, and then asked the old man again, "So, are you gonna give me a beat?"
"You gonna drop a dollar?"
I put a $2 bill in his empty bucket, and stepped back. He gave me a short, difficult, funky riff. When he stopped he looked at me, dropping his head slightly to the side, nodding, "Hunh." He gave me a less complex beat then, and I worked with him awhile on the sidewalk next to the tracks. Blackie Brown is the name he gave me. His nephew, DJ Touch.
On the train, I was standing by the door for several stations, really wishing I had my iPod. Wondering about dancing without music, but not wanting to get arrested, I sat down instead, suddenly very tired, and very sore. Across the aisle next to me, I realized, were two exceptionally attractive suburban white women. The one closest to me had violet painted toenails. 'Hey. I'm wearing a violet bandana', I thought, and smiled. I caught her checking out my golden shoes. But she didn't ask, and I don't really stand out if I'm not dancing; and these weren't the sort of women who spend time with men who have little money (or so I judged), and I don't really remember anything about their conversation (which may also have been about how tired I was).
**"I thought I was the only one in the world who didn't care about that Kanye West/Taylor Swift thing."
"No girl, I didn't have any real problem with it either."
"Really? Right, like everybody thought Taylor Swift was like, fifteen. That girl was eighteen years-old."
"She could have stood up to him."
"Right. Like 'Hey, I won this award, get off my stage!'"