Thursday, July 16, 2015

Liberation Day, San Francisco Pride 2015, the 1960s fully realized

I started writing this on June 26, 2015 – LOVE WINS DAY! Photos are from San Francisco Pride. What a weekend!!!
Friday on Castro, after Supreme Court announcement
Shut that street DOWN!
Last week was one of the great weeks of my life, even within the grief. Things happened that I never thought would happen.
In classes I taught over the years there would be discussions of “socialized medicine” as a concept, but not as something anyone thought would happen in the U.S. Nobody I ever knew gave a rat’s ass about “socialized” – we just wanted everyone to have access to decent healthcare. And some of us dedicated our lives to providing as much healthcare as we could to as many underserved people as possible, but it was a long, uphill effort. Now, after more than 50 attempts by conservative lawmakers to destroy the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), it’s a reality.
Keeping the peace
Early Friday morning (June 26, 2015 – mark that date!) I got a text from my son: “Marriage Equality is a reality!” Here is what the Court said:
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Love wins! And Gay Liberation rolls on like a mighty river.
Delores Park - the Dyke March
AND, I had the great good fortune to be in San Francisco on Pride weekend! Beautiful – as I type at this moment there are rainbows on my keyboard (from crystal hanging in the window). I danced with more than a million people! Literally!
Though not as personally important to me as the previous…
Then there was SC decision about fair housing – disparate impact, i.e., if housing policies result in discrimination, even if discrimination is unintended, it’s discrimination (depend on me for your legal information).
The Supreme Court also stopped Texas’ war on women by blocking the state’s laws blocking access to abortion clinics (depend on me for clarity in writing).
The Supreme Court threw a monkey wrench into the awful gerrymandering that is a crippling part of politics as usual in the U.S.
Oil wrestling in Delores Park at the Dyke March
It’s as if this week is a capstone to what started in the 1960s. Though much is undone or needs more work, still, look at what we did!
  • Equality in Marriage comes 51 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • We stopped the Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese call it, the American War).
  • We brought the consciousness revolution to the world and despite millions of incarcerations and trillions of dollars spent to stop it and lies without end, it’s alive and very well.
    Cops, keeping the peace
  • WE brought dying and death out of the closet. WE made hospice a reality.
  • Sexual revolution? We’ll take the credit for that, too (with all its side effects).
  • Environmental awareness? That was seriously fringe in the 60s and into the 70s. We are a bunch of unrepentant tree-huggers (Talk about a lot more work needed, though!).
  • And then there’s rock & roll! From the moon-June-spoon pap peddled by record companies to Bob Dylan singing, “Equality,” I spoke the word as if a wedding vow.
  • Free speech – this is a family-oriented journal so I won’t include the photo of me sitting on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley (where the Free Speech movement was born), shooting the finger to whomever (think Ted Cruz, Jeb Hensarling, Franklin Graham, all those people).
And much, much more.
At the main stage - what a party!
(Representing Atrium Obscurum)

Equality, I spoke the word as if a wedding vow.

Monday, July 13, 2015


I try to limit my visits for a pecan roll and
coffee to twice/week
I started writing this on the day marking four months since my beautiful Leslie passed away. Oh, honey, I miss you, I am so sorry. Thank you for our life together.
Last night Charles B took a photo of David and me. Looking at the photo it was the first time I realized that my son is now bigger than I am. Life goes on.
I was thinking yesterday how much I miss lying in bed with you, holding hands or touching one another, sometimes talking, sometimes not. In love.
10/26/2012. We were both sick (GI – nevermind the details) and Leslie was much sicker than I. After a few days we were able to get out of bed to somewhere other than the bathroom… after we could move around there were many hours that we still lay in bed together, one or the other dozing, awake, not talking, holding hands, and even though neither of us felt well, it was a sweet time, together.
The Redwood Lily in Arcata 
Sometimes at night, when you’re asleep I whisper things to you, like, “Leslie, I adore you… My beautiful Leslie… Forever and ever... I love you…” Adore - a perfect word for all of this. Subsonic love-making.
These are the days.
The 6/21/15 NYT Book Review had a review of The Odd Woman and the City (a memoir) by Vivian Gornick. It was as if the reviewer was describing me and my walks and bus/train rides through San Francisco. Samuel Johnson wrote in the 1740s, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." One can substitute San Francisco for London, of course. Sometimes I’m part of what I see, but mostly I just enjoy and appreciate it. It helps. I got the book. 
The day before I read the review, I sent this to my friend, Joy Blacklagoon: I was thinking today that one of the things I do – that makes me happy – is just walking around or sitting or whatever and just digging people. Babies, especially. I was on the train today and there were two people sitting there, one with her head on the other’s shoulder and it was really sweet and I was so happy to be there next to them. Haha! They had no idea what I was thinking. I hope you have a day full of love.
My little cubby in the Redwood Lily
Here is poignancy for you: My front window overlooks the sidewalk. There are trees up and down the street and there is a planter around the one closest to me and right now there is a homeless transgender person sitting on the planter, carefully putting on makeup, nothing spectacular, I think she just wants to look good, her little dog curled up beside her on a coat or something.

Psytrance party in the woods, 7/2015
put on by Follow Your Bliss
I think it would be edifying, interesting, humbling, all kinds of things if everyone would exchange life histories with one another, something like each person taking 30 minutes or however long to say, here is my history, struggles, good things, things going on now, dreams, and so on. Not only would we learn about one another, but we might also learn about ourselves as we tell and retell our story.

Someone said today that I'm really lucky. I know it's true.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Some things I've learned...

Early on in hospice I realized that often, those with the most to lose at the end of life have the easiest time. By the most to lose, I mean fulfilling relationships vs. a lot of unresolved issues like love unexpressed, anger swallowed, love lost, and so on. In terms of my grief, this has been The Truth. We lived and loved as hard as we could – all in, all the time. I am so glad we did it that way!

Flagging in the Park, June 2015
In a real sense, love is love. I’m three months post losing the Love of my life. Several times in these times, people have told me beautiful, joyous love stories of their own and within my grief, they make me so happy. And I see lovers walking along the sidewalk, people lying in the park, embracing – not to mention sweet parents and children together(!!!), and they make me happy. There is melancholy within my happiness at these times, but happiness is the main thing (though I’m a good ways from happy all the time).

There were times in that last month of Leslie’s beautiful life when love would come down around us as clearly and palpably as if I’d taken a large dose of mescaline. It wasn’t just a momentary thing either – it would be for hours, even days. Aldous Huxley wrote about heaven and hell. That’s what it was.

And there are those questions I asked weeks and months ago: who will I tell my stories to and who will hold me as I pass away? And the answers I’ve found in this embrace and honoring of my grief are that the stories have been told and we’ve held one another and so it’s ALL complete. It’s done. I want more, of course.

I can say these things in large part because of the steadfast love and support from David. Having a son like David is like having a wife like Leslie – more than I could have imagined. Ahhh, Son. I love you. John, Jeff, Aletha, Nora, and so many others play important parts as well.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Story (a song by Brandi Carlisle)

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true... I was made for you

So, yeah, I have stories of who I am, where I’ve been… and now you’re gone and who will I tell my stories to? Who will know? And this morning I was listening to this song by Brandi Carlisle and I was thinking how you knew my stories, including the deepest ones, all my life, the good, the bad, all my stories. I was thinking how I knew your stories, the good, the bad, all your beautiful life. I was thinking how in your last months you talked more than ever before about yourself, your childhood, so many stories.

And here is the point: we told one another our stories. I told you my stories; you told me your stories; we lived our stories together. We were made for each other. Who could ask for more?

The Story by Brandi Carlisle (link)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Psytrance, trance, trance culture

Deep in the Heart of Trances: dance floor 8am Sunday
Someone asked me about trance and trance culture and out of curiosity, I googled it. I wasn't really satisfied with some of what came up, so... though I’m far from an expert, I have learned a little in these past five years. Here is how I see or experience trance (primarily psytrance) and trance culture. Other people will experience it differently – there’s room for us all. Speaking of which, Hey older people! If you liked festivals in days gone by, these events are basically everything you probably wanted a festival to be, except the music is different. Hit me up if you want to go to one of these.
Here is a link to a soundtrack for this journal entry. Just click and play in a different window and click back to here... Aes Dana - Journey Back
Into the forest!
Of course there is the music, but the culture is about more than music. There are shared values and views – including a high value placed on transformation and growth, and an openness to other people’s values and views. For me, trance culture is more about the people and scene than the music per se.
Psytrance! Here is what it’s like. To begin, you have to find out where and when an event is being held. Some of the big ones like Lucidity, Enchanted Forest, Lightening in a Bottle, and Ozora are widely advertised. The smaller ones are discovered via friends, flyers, Facebook, and so on. I want to focus on smaller events, which I prefer over the larger ones (easy to connect with people, easy to find quiet space, and not as much craziness as at some of the larger ones). 
Armadillo Acres
The gatherings are nearly always outside – such as in a forest, at a beach, or desert. Typically there is a drive of at least several hours to an obscure country setting. When you get close there may be one or two small cryptic signs that you have to look for to see.
Down some narrow road and through a gate and you’re on a one lane dirt lane now, winding through trees and ahead is a shade shelter, table, and two or three people (if it’s after dark, there will probably be sparkling lights). Pull over, get out, and walk to the table where you’ll usually receive a friendly greeting from the crew members (maybe my friend Ally Fiesta and me) working the gate. Sometimes the land-owners are at the gate, in which case, it’s more of a business transaction.
Sonic Bloom 2011 (Colorado)
Your ID will be checked, you’ll pay (for smaller festie, about $50 for Friday-Sunday – Not Bad!), and have a discussion about things like leave no trace camping and what to do if things get too intense.
Drive further along that one lane road, up hill and down dale, until you start to see scattered campsites with tents and canopies, sometimes with cars and trucks parked around. Some gatherings have no car camping, some have limited car camping, and at some, almost everyone is car-camping. Car-camping just means driving in and pitching a tent next to your car or truck. Some people sleep in their van or SUV.
Art Outside, near Austin, 2012

It’s a good idea to take some time choosing a campsite. Some people like to be as close as possible to the music and dance floor, while others like to be farther away. The music gets really really really LOUD, so some distance and not in a direct line with the direction of the speakers may be a good idea. Some people will have art or related materials at their campsite. I hang fabric woodblock prints I made as well as Tibetan prayer flags and crystals, and like at home, I always have an altar (there are also altars at the sound stages).
Set up your campsite. People are always willing to lend a hand if you need help. A nice hug is all the thanks anyone will want. You’ll have noticed by now a fair number of people with long hair, dreads, tattoos, piercings, feathers, and so on. And there will be a fair number of people with no outward counter-culture manifestations. Oh look, here comes a guy dressed in a giant bunny suit. Starting to feel like home!
Atrium Obscurum morning meeting
Let’s say it’s Friday afternoon. Sit back and relax OR walk to the dance floor or to the chill stage or dome or wherever to lend a hand setting up. It’s a good way to meet people and get started… there is high value placed on “co-creation” – in other words, these gatherings are not about passively attending, listening to the music, dancing, and so on. They are transformational gatherings, where we’re all involved in making it happen, i.e., co-creating – and in every case, working toward a higher vibe, a higher experience, a tranceformation for everyone.
For several years I’ve been a member of a crew – Atrium Obscurum – that puts on events. In addition to doing stuff that any crew member does like setting up, taking down, working the gate, and so on, I also bake cookies to bring (15-20 dozen, always with extra chocolate chips, of course) and I often present a workshop. More on workshops later.
Making deco, Kai and Tyson (Atrium Obscurum)
The sun is going down, but the music hasn’t yet begun. Maybe time to wander over toward the dance floor. Someone said something about a ceremony… sometimes the ceremony involves designated people wearing all white clothes with chanting and incense, and sometimes the ceremony will bring everyone in so that at some point there is a joining and swirling togetherness and the music starting up thump thump thump it’s really LOUD and this is really fun! The dance-trance ritual has begun.
At the events put on by Atrium Obscurum the music starts Friday night about 9 and stops Sunday about noon with the main climax happening from about 4 to 6 Sunday morning. There is a main stage for dancing and a chill dome for cooling out, though there is a lot of back and forth and at times there may be more people dancing at the chill dome than the main stage.
The Wave Farmers at Soul Rise near Austin
Into the night the tempo picks up and there are poi spinners and hooping, and other flow arts happening. People spinning with fire are off to the side for safety reasons there are lighted hoops and poi and it’s pretty to see. People are dancing and there are little groups of people sitting and talking with one another. Friday night is generally more subdued than Saturday. But the music never stops.
Saturday morning is quieter with the volume and tempo down. People are having coffee, yerba mate, and so on; cooking up some breakfast; wandering around, seeing friends; just a nice social time. Around noon or so, workshops will be starting (see below).
Art Outside
As the day unfolds into Saturday afternoon, the music tends to be mostly chill – for a relaxing day with old and new friends, taking a nap, taking it easy. I’m walking around, passing out cookies. There is a beginning anticipation of Saturday night.
There are artists set up beside the dance floor (which, by the way, is dirt or sand, usually shaded by trees and maybe a fabric shade). These are visionary artists who will paint or draw or otherwise create art throughout the gathering. Two of the artists you’ll sometimes see at Texas, Colorado, and other regional events are ChopsWanderweird and Chance Roberts.
Art Outside
As the sun goes down, lights begin to come on with some campsites having little sparkly lights and some having art light installations. There is someone else with a bunny suit on and there is someone with nothing on and someone with a tuxedo (no shirt of course) and some kandy kids are starting to come out and as night falls, the music is loud and good and people dancing and outside of the lights the darkness is good and it’s safe and if you need a hand, someone will help you. There are folding camp chairs and blankets (you brought your own, right) at the edge of the dance floor and it’s all a friendly and relaxed scene.
Artists working through the night
Into the night the tempo picks up and more people showing up on the dance floor – ecstatic dancing, being, laughing, swirling, stomping, yeah, this IS psytrance and you may realize that this music which you thought you didn’t much like is entering your self… The music and dancing continues well into Sunday morning, usually tapering off but not all the way off around 8 or 9 and mellowing out through the morning and finally stopping about noon. At least in the U.S., there will be almost no trash left as “leave no trace” is part of the trance/transformational festival ethos.
Workshop at gathering near Austin
Here is something I wrote a couple of years ago: Many of the people are from my tribe and to some extent (from a lot to a little) many seem to have hippie values. It is just so good to be around them. It feels good; it makes me happy. Now I’ve become friends with some of the people here and of course that’s even better. Some wonderful times hanging out, socializing at campsites.
I’ve experienced the transformational potential of the music, the dance, the dancers, the art – of the people who participate in other ways. The magic and the transformational potential is in the whole co-created milieu. A few weeks ago I spent time in a naming ceremony camped at the far edge of a festival. It was a perfect time and place in every way.
CK teaching re the end of life (honoring Adrian McF)
Of course there is ecstatic dancing, beauty, saying true things, euphoria, insight, validation, transformation, integration. I am amazed that I’m doing these things. At this age.
So, I’ve described a weekend of music, good times, and fellowship. How is this a “culture?” For some people it’s pretty much what they do, but for others, these events are an important part of life and liberation. Where else will we experience the freedom of ecstatic dance surrounded by others doing the same? Where else are values of peace, transformation, acceptance, and loving your neighbor so highly valued? Well, actually, these things are valued in other places – religious or spiritual settings, for example. But for me (and who else can I speak for?), there is no place or setting as conducive to growth, as accepting, as ecstatic, as connected as within trance culture.
8 o'clock Sunday morning on the dance floor
Music (from Wikipedia): “Psychedelic trance, psytrance or just psy (derived from the ancient Greek word ψυχή "psyche", mind; soul; breath; spirit) is an electronic music style characterized by arrangements of synthetic rhythms and complex layered melodies created by high tempo riffs… Psytrance lies at the hardcore, underground end of the diverse trance spectrum.” Think in terms of loud, repetitive, and usually very fast (140-150 bpm) electronic dance music played by DJs. There are what seem to be infinite genres, sub-genres, sub-sub-genres, and so on. You can read about some of the musical details via google.
InertG at Unify in Colorado
Drugs: Some people use drugs and some do not. Psychedelics and cannabis are the primary substances used, though there are also alcohol users. There are Sanctuary spaces for people having difficult experiences with psychedelics.
Sex: Drugs, sex, rock & roll! Not really. There is sensuality, but this isn’t a cruising scene. It’s a lot more about relationships and if sex is an outcome of a relationship, fine, but sex doesn’t seem to be the purpose. But maybe that’s just me, my age, and my relationships LOL. Suffice it say, all my experience in trance events says everyone is safe all the time. Have you ever been in a people pile? That’s where 5 or 8 or 15 or however many people will kind of pile up together just to be close and kind. Sweet. These are not a fraternity parties! Burner culture is apparently more overtly sexual, but I’m just repeating what I’ve heard on that.
Chops and Jeff at New Era Transmissions
Workshops: The workshops are an integral part of transformational gatherings. Throughout the day there are workshops on yoga, edible plants (a walk in the forest), flow arts, permaculture, and related. I’ve led several workshops on psychedelic healing in PTSD and at the end of life. People seem to be hungry to learn and share – to gather knowledge and understanding (tools for life) to take back to everyday life.
From my campsite near Dripping Springs
Spirituality: Some electronic dance music (EDM) events are just about the party, while some have a strong overlay or even foundation of spirituality (at least as I experience them). From the unification of ecstatic dance to the workshops on yoga and flow arts to the ethos of safety and belonging the focus stays on the human potential to be at one with one another and with nature. There is no dogma, no preaching at, no charismatic leader – rather, there are those old messages: You are beautiful, I am beautiful, we are One.

Here is a video on global trance culture, The Bloom Series. I told Leslie that it’s kind of an idealized view and she said that fits well with my view – and she was right.

And here is an earlier 7 Minute Psytrance Documentary. I showed this to Leslie to help her understand what I was doing. I think it played a small part in her being so supportive of my involvement with the psytrance scene - though she never cared much for the music and was a total non-camper.

My list of things to bring for a summer event in Texas
Some venues have water, electricity, cell reception; and some have no water, electric, or reception.
Day pack with flashlight, water, gum, Gatorade, DEET, anti-itch, lighter…
Ice chest(s) with yogurt, coffee, sandwiches, apples, ginger ale, Gatorade, water, protein drink. You need lots of ice in Texas!
Water 2 gal/day minimum for drinking – and you can actually get a fairly decent shower with 2 gallons of water (get wet, clean up, rinse)
Freezer bag food, Tabasco
Cooking pack with super cat stove and fuel
Mug, plate, plastic ware, paper towels
Medicine, fiber (all the necessities), batteries
Change of clothes
Jacket, cap
Sleeping pad [large or small]
Car air pump
Sleeping bag (non-REI) and/or fleece, sheet
Pillows, sheets
Fan (portable) with extra batteries
Insect repel
Fest box with decos – textiles, hangings, etc.
Mats for ground?
Phone and charger