It is currently 29°F outside, actual feel of 22°F. I am outside for my morning medication: today is cannabis and coffee. I’ve already taken my fish oil, but there’s no one to say anything about that if I take that in my kitchen. So I come outside after having dressed for the weather. This includes: underwear, thick socks, two pairs of flannel pajama bottoms, a long sleeved shirt over a short sleeved shirt, a fleece hoodie, my purple fuzzy robe with white stars, a knitted neck warmer, a knitted hat. I have spiked my coffee with hot cocoa mix and butter to make the warmth seem thicker and more long-lasting.
I have a medical marijuana card. Up until *very* recently, whole flower was not allowed to be sold in medical dispensaries. Smoking whole flower is the method of delivery that works best for me. If vaping worked for me, I could probably get away with vaping inside my apartment, although I really wouldn’t want to try. But it doesn’t. Smoking whole flower is what works. I no longer engage in practices that are meant to be good for me but in actuality, aren’t. Imagine if instead of taking your anti-anxiety meds by pill, you had to have them by suppository and you had to do that outside because that’s what the law dictated. Just because.
When it is colder than this, or when the weather is shit, or after dark (I feel like a D!sney princess out here sometimes, skunks ((Flower!)), raccoons, possums, cats, ALL the squirrels), I sit in the car. Even with the engine off, this is illegal to do. When I have zoom therapy and I am home I do it in my car or outside so that I can smoke. So that I can medicate. When I have zoom therapy and I’m at a friend’s house, I can be inside and warm and still medicate.
No other medication is subjected to restrictions and procedures like this. This is inhumane. Could you imagine if I told you you had to go outside for your heart medication if you weren’t well off enough to own your own home with private property? If I told you you had to take your cholesterol meds every morning but go outside somewhere on the street, what would happen?
And if I told you that unless you had the wherewithal, you couldn’t have a get-together with friends and have a smoke sesh. Have all the wine and cheese parties you want, every book club has its Bordeaux, every rehearsal dinner its Riesling, but no ma’am, you’re not allowed to enjoy this totally legal thing where you live, where you love, where you entertain. What would you do? What would you say?
People are going to consume where they are able to consume. Where they are forced to consume. This has always, and will continue to be what happens. By welcoming dispensaries and consumption lounges into Peekskill, by allowing smoking in specific areas of our many public parks, we are making our residents and visitors feel more comfortable and welcomed.
Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 53 years old. I spent the entire weekend with people and missing people who clearly love me and who I love so much. I spent the weekend
I spent the weekend doing familiar birthday things, Going to the Lyndhurst craft fair as I have done for decades (maybe half the artists this time, different layout, timed ticketing, all due to covid restrictions) stressing out from all of the unknowns (known and unknown, thank you D. Rumsfeld) wanting so much for normalcy (but what is “normal”, anyway? I certainly don’t have a fucking clue) feeling so much that I have to explain even though I know I don’t It seems like all I have been doing for the past three and a half years is explaining and explaining and explaining because honestly I don’t understand any of it. Just when I think I do I get caught off guard and none of it makes sense again.
I suppose I’m not explaining to others so much as to myself.
I miss all of the things that we talked about, all of those things that we never did. All of the ways we responded to each other, all of the good, all of the terrible. The contrast, I think, the contrast is what’s killing me now. i do not know if I can take being loved this way.
I can say things out loud and I can say things out loud and not worry about feeling stupid for saying them. Being made to feel stupid for saying them. I can say things out loud and not worry about I can say things out loud and not worry about being instantly and immediately criticized. I can say things out loud and not worry about who might be on my side.
I know I know for sure I know now that you loved me but I didn’t then. I never knew for sure. I never knew from one minute to the next. You would rescind and retract your love like the outgoing tide. Snatch it away from me, away from my
craven, grasping, grubby little paws
I want to forgive you for saying these things to me. I want to forgive you for this so much.
How can I miss you so much and still be so angry at the things you did to me? That we did to each other.
I told your sister once that I never really had an accurate sense of your feeling for me, not that I felt I could believe anyway. That I always thought you thought I was stupid and not enough and too much all at once. That now I can look at the last things you wrote, and know. I can look at all the small lovelinesses you left behind. I can look at those things and know that they are real, they are proof. Not soon enough to be able to enjoy with you, no.
The very desperate need to hold onto them
((craven, grasping, grubby little paws)screaming to the sky to talk to you for you to hear me
I am trying so hard to do everything I can to be well. I am still so I am still so unwell but I don’t feel crushed by having to hold up every other damn thing anymore if only because I have given up on everything it seems)
I can look at the small lovelinesses that you left and see them for the huge gestures that they were. Everything is relative.
I can see the unexplored and forever unknown possibility of us becoming better to each other, to ourselves. Knowing how difficult it was even in the very best of us knowing I would not be this person if you were still alive proving my progress to the memory of a dead man wanting so much to escape your critical eye, your devastating words and yet wanting to show you that I am okay I am not okay.
Yesterday was my birthday. I felt loved, and cherished, and adored, and so sad for what we never had. If you could see how people treat me now. If you could see how people love me now and aren’t afraid to say, to show. I know you would, too.
The girl on the right has no idea that a few hours later, she’s going to watch her husband get his life saved by his defibrillator/pacemaker right in their living room. She has no idea that the trip to the emergency room that night will be the last time she takes her husband there.
That it is the last week on this planet for her husband.
The girl in the middle, a year out from that night, operating on sheer mania and lack of sleep. Fucking up everything, it seems, though people are quick to tell her, “no, no.”
The girl on the left, today. I honestly have no idea how I’m even breathing but for the unending care and tenderness of some truly spectacular humans. Still fucking everything up that isn’t life-or-death and refusing to give a single shit about it any more. Loving deeply and intensely with no regard for those who fly too close to my flame and get burned. Indulging in ink and sex and cannabis and embracing everything good. Dismissing anything less-than.
I no longer settle. I no longer feel less-than.
I miss you more, Gary. I miss you so goddamn much.
There is an incredibly talented artist that I love, and who loves me. I am proud to call Jar my friend. They post their work on Instagram here: @artbyjar. In every flash special they post, there’s always at least one piece that catches my eye, but never anything that has spoken to me. Until now. So this little beauty comes up on my screen and I zero in on the whale. Whale! A humpback whale! needneedneed send the DM get your spot. DONE. I look up from my text to see directly above the whale is a bee. a bumble bee. ughneedNEED. Here’s why:
Songs of the Humpback Whale, on vinyl released in 1970, was the first record I was given as a child, I was maybe six or seven. It opened like a double album, had a book inside that talked about the people who recorded it (Roger Payne, after research by Frank Watlington in 1966) and highlighted the problems with the whaling industry. There was a graphic photo of a dockside with the aftermath of a slaughtered whale. There were also five pieces of the most incredible abstract music I had ever heard in my (admittedly short) life. I have since listened to that album countless times, no bullshit new age music muddling the perfect pitch of whalesong, no dumb “inspirational” assholes spewing useless tripe. Pure, mournful, insistent. Funny, at times. Comforting. Reliable.
Over the years, I replaced the album with a CD, then digital download. I still have the album, probably warped from the heat in the attic but still.
1988. I was working at Waldenbooks in the Galleria. We sold movies on VHS and played them on continuous loop on the two overhead monitors above the cash wrap to entice customers. My friend Stef and I had the movies memorized and would run lines along with the videos. National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Dirty Dancing. And Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Featuring the whalesong discovered in 1967 and recorded by, you got it, Roger Payne.
(somewhere between 2007 and 2014) One day after Gary and I had been at couples’ therapy with a woefully underskilled and underwhelming therapist named Gil, we sat in the car, I’m imagining warming up the interior. I’d just gotten the aforementioned CD in the mail, and wanted to share it. I explained why it was so important to me; Gary, impatient, gestured “all right, already.” I hit play.
I closed my eyes, feeling the familiar cries wash over me, smiling as they filled the cabin. Shortly, I heard an intake of breath, and opened them. Gary was wide-eyed, tears spilling down his cheeks. “Stop it. Please. Make it stop.” his voice breaking. I stopped it immediately, grasping his hands, terrified. “Tell me,” I pleaded. “What’s going on?”
He took time to catch his breath, dry his tears, drink some water. Took another breath, let it out. “It’s absolutely excruciatingly obvious that these are incredibly intelligent creatures, communicating with each other. It is abundantly clear that we have no way of communicating with them. We can’t understand them; they can’t understand us.” The enormity of the parallel intelligence of these beings with no Rosetta Stone was too much to bear for him, that the only thing possible was to appreciate the song for what it was: abstract expression. As we would discover, that was something possibly impossible for him to do.
I never again played that album where he could hear it. I’ve played it a lot in the past twenty-two months. Mojo goes on high alert. I wonder how whalesong translates to him.
Bumble Bee. My nickname for Gary, one of. The Bumbliest Bee. The Mister. Mr. Grumblebee. I was glitterbug to him, his Glitter Girl. He used to mimic John Belushi in the Blue Brothers “King Bee” bit. He could be soft, and fuzzy, and sociable, and helpful, and he also had a very painful sting. It made perfect sense that the only medicine that helped for his allergies was honey, lots of local honey. He was my Bumble Bee for years. Forever.
So I see this juxtaposition, and I dive in. Book the appointment. Right around the 22-month mark. I woke this morning of the appointment after not managing my expectations the night before and am still feeling the sadness of it, even though I know what happened and why. Knowing how to not have that particular scenario play out again, while not scolding myself for allowing it to happen in the first place. The weight of summer is upon me in full: soggy, homicidal, blanketing, dysphoria and depression cycling out of control. My good friend John reached out, early this morning, asking how I was. I was honest. “I can’t get out of bed. I don’t want to.” He was gentle with me, as he always is, asking if I was off work today, what I had planned (not if I had plans. Important distinction), being empathetic as I wound through feeling frozen, not wanting to leave. Listing all the things I still haven’t done. John asked, “Do you feel like leaving means he’s really gone”, to which I replied, “I know he’s really gone. Yes. I won’t be able to look around and see him here, hear his voice here.”
Unprompted, he budgeted my time for me. Told me what to do; gave me guidance. I explained the meaning behind the whale and bee. That I need the physical pain that will come with this new tattoo, this catharsis. Even as I dawdled, started the shower and returned to my bed, John pressed, gently nudging me to get ready. That yes, you need this. I showered, dressed, drove. Started listening to The Ethical Slut on my way. Liking it a lot.
The pain is sharp, and necessary. For the first time ever it doesn’t take my breath away; no, it rides alongside the pain inside, keeping it company, letting it dissolve. Allowing it to be free, to let go. As we talk, as she works, as we work on ideas we’ve shared, plans for a future in which strong women help each other grow. In which good men are welcomed and embraced. This future that I am embracing whole-body, whole mind, whole heart.
I get to Jar’s, walking a few blocks in the 90° heat. It feels like a steam room, the entire Bronx is one big sauna. We can’t even embrace for a hello it’s so hot. Upstairs, their AC on full, greeting friends, settling in, discussing the artwork. Telling them the story I just told you. Feeling the weight and weightlessness at once, knowing that this is perfect. We settle in to our positions, discussing the next piece, and the next. They begin.
I take a few pictures of my new ink, send them to friends of all flavors. Obviously I do this for validation (miss me with your armchair therapist observational diagnosis of codependence, savvy?) and not because I want to share my happiness. OBVS.🙄🙄
I’ve been obsessed with this piece, as I see it as one piece, not two. Whale + Bee, that’s how I have it in my calendar. I’m running through names, permutations for a website, something easy, something memorable. It isn’t gelling. The Whale and The Bee. Nope. Nuh-uh. And then, a question from someone I’ve been spending time with recently. He asks, “Is that like a blessing: Be Well (bee + whale)?”
I didn’t think about the visual pun. That never happens. I don’t know how that happened. I relayed that to him. Then I said, “The whale and the bee are much more personal images with very specific meaning. Be well. It’s fucking brilliant.” The more I sit with this revelation, the happier I become. I promise everyone who asks for context (because I’m not the type to get inked for no reason) that I’m writing a blog post about the meaning. TL:dr “Be well.” It’s something I say to people instead of the ubiquitous “take care” (ugh), or “be good” (vom). Be well.
Be well. I keep saying it. Be well. It hits me again; my current favorite ceramic glaze (well, the past three years, my entire high-fire career anyhow) is a beautifully imperfect thing, a Bruce Dehnert recipe called BwhaleD. Be well.
Here ends the first part of this tale.
Stay tuned. And be well.
Whales Weep Not!
They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.
All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge on and on, and dive beneath the icebergs. The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of the sea!
And they rock, and they rock, through the sensual ageless ages on the depths of the seven seas, and through the salt they reel with drunk delight and in the tropics tremble they with love and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods. Then the great bull lies up against his bride in the blue deep of the sea
as mountain pressing on mountain, in the zest of life: and out of the inward roaring of the inner red ocean of whale blood the long tip reaches strong, intense, like the maelstrom-tip, and comes to rest in the clasp and the soft, wild clutch of a she-whale’s fathomless body.
And over the bridge of the whale’s strong phallus, linking the wonder of whales the burning archangels under the sea keep passing, back and forth, keep passing archangels of bliss from him to her, from her to him, great Cherubim that wait on whales in mid-ocean, suspended in the waves of the sea great heaven of whales in the waters, old hierarchies. And enormous mother whales lie dreaming suckling their whale-tender young and dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the waters of the beginning and the end.
And bull-whales gather their women and whale-calves in a ring when danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood and range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat encircling their huddled monsters of love. and all this happiness in the sea, in the salt where God is also love, but without words: and Aphrodite is the wife of whales most happy, happy she!
and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea.