Friday, August 26, 2011

The Mask

What really is anxiety, but the beginning of a deeper ability to feel?

I thought this a few days ago, as I was biking to work, suddenly uncertain, shaking slightly. It was a Saturday late-morning, beautifully summer-like; the path to work passing through Minnehaha Falls Park, people everywhere, and I just puffed. When I puff I tend to focus on feeling, in the landscape of the immediate, or I wander into the vast and unlimited landscape of ideas. Biking, I tend to do both. That day, there being so many people around, on the bike path walking and biking, people crossing the path, the path crossing the street, that suburban-looking woman in that giant automobile clearly not accustomed to looking for bicycles, parents with their kiddie-carts, with their inevitably joyfully swerving kids, that old couple who bike every so often, but rarely, and not really aware of anyone else, the driven-to-get-there getting there as fast and efficient as possible, the ladies chattering, walking side by side, each in a lane. On a snake-like strip of asphalt eight feet wide - weekend August traffic on the road on one side, park patron traffic enjoying-the-day on the other.

It was strange, the uncertainty, the shivering. I haven't felt like that in some time. I tend to wander through life saying and doing what I feel called to do - there being a time when I was incapable of feeling. I've let go of a lot since then, the last four years. These days, I look joyward to dancing in the street. Plants make me smile. On that same Minnehaha Falls path this morning, I sang most of the way to work, pulling forty pounds of tools in my $3 garage sale score, kid-carriage trailer, to begin the assembly of Monster Halloween-Minnesota. Women are much less defensive toward me when I pull a kid-carriage, I've noticed.

I'm also Creative Director for HD Masks. Check us out. I wrote most of the copy on the website. It's a work in progress, so don't be too critical. It came on-line just in time for the birth of HD Masks, our first foray into event marketing, for the St Paul Saints, at Midway Stadium in St Paul. The Saints are owned in part by Bill Murray. Their President is Mike Veeck, the son of the Hall of Famer Bill Veeck, renowned in the baseball world for his marketing antics, once releasing a piglet on a major league field, for fans to chase down. Saints Management conceived of Gary Busey night, Aug 23, just because and maybe as an attempt to lure Gary Busey to the stadium. Keith, one of the Managing Directors of HD Masks, being the entrepreneurialist he is, happened to find out about three weeks ago. We found a suitable image. We made an arrangement with the Saints. We made 1700 Gary Busey masks, fifteen hundred of which were handed out at the gate. We had a table outside where we displayed our custom masks. Then we handed out 200 masks in one section and took pictures. You can see the pics on our Facebook page. More to come.

At first, outside the stadium at the gate, I wore the Alien mask. After a beer I wore the chimpanzee. That one made me dance, and chase the kids around. That was fun. Most people wouldn't look at me, dancing there by our table; those that did often couldn't tell that I was looking at them. I danced to acknowledge that I was, helped by an impromptu folky bluegrass band. The courageous ones smiled. When it was time to hand out the 200 masks to the one section, I put on the orange afro.

In the Latin, mask is persona. So, to say that we are persons, is like saying we wear a mask. To wear a mask is to explore the multitudiousness of the self. It can be, to let go, if one is willing. To wear a mask is like a shape-sifting, opening to feeling.

I didn't say much with the orange afro on. I just sort of bounced, with a kind of joyful swagger, dancing slightly to music no one else could hear. I planned to say plenty: "Are there any Saints Fans in this House! What? I thought Saints fans were super fans? Is that all you got? Are there any Saints fans in this house!? Hey, how many of you are growing tomatoes? Yeah? Nice. I've got about one hundred tomato plants. I thought, I'd plant that many and I wouldn't have to worry about them. I thought I'd be canning three hours a day. I've got about as many tomatoes as I had last year with ten plants. Where was I? Oh yeah. HD Masks. We do event planning, like tonight's Gary Busey night. We have custom masks - animals, icons, colors. You can even upload your own image! Yeah! Show up at the reunion, looking like you did when you graduated. Show up to work looking like the boss? Uh-huh. I'm sure you sure you've got some ideas. One last question: Are there any Gary Busey's in this house?"

But the Saints were down 9-1, in the bottom of the third inning. The air was heavy and hot. It was a pain-in-the-ass getting there; three miles out of my way because urban planner is an oxymoron when you're on a bike, and Google Maps has the stadium on the wrong side of Snelling Ave, which is a damn big deal when you're on a bike, and a pedal even fell off. Someone else was supposed to address the crowd. No one gave me permission. All I ended up saying was, "Thanks, Saints Fans!" And they let go into applause, eager for anything to applause to. I spent the rest of the night, berating myself for not speaking up, pretty certain I wasn't worth the title Creative Director, pretty sure I'd lost the second coolest job I ever had, next to manager of Monster Halloween. But then, the owners of Monster Halloween-MN and HD Masks are the same, and it has been made fairly clear that I am of value. What value? Who can really say?

It is such a strange place I have come to, never more sure of where I am, at the same time...

For the more intrepid of my readers I offer this. It's an extraordinary example of stringing words together well, sloppy in a few sentences but show-stopping, so to speak. It stuck with me for days, and I can't quite see where I stand in relation to it. I've been so busy with Monster Halloween the last few days I haven't had time to reconcile it. I'm not sure how I could. Thrown for a loop, is the phrase that fits. I find myself suspicious, at the same time I can't really find myself disagreeing with any of his important points. Anyway, it certainly is a strange time in which we are living. Wide open. An excellent time to be doing a bit of shape-shifting, testing the boundaries of the self.

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