Friday, February 4, 2011

LTD Tour Day 2.5 - 3: State College > NYC

My Trek East on I-80 to Enlightenment

Thankful to report that my drive from Lanse, PA to NYC was pleasant and without trouble. The ice made for beautiful scenery. Juxtapose the gorgeous winter wonderful-land with my soundtrack via Rage Against The Machine: Live from the Grand Olympic.

As soon as Bulls on Parade started playing, it became an emotionally appropriate mix for my transition from Agents of Change research to the Demystifying Depression. I realized NYC may be quite painful in digging up my family history; first research for understanding the cycle of hurt/pain that was passed down through three generations to me, which quite understandably makes me = very prone to depression.

Certain lyrics (as always) really struck a chord with me, much more so now that I firmly believe I have been liberated from the stranglehold of depression. Yelling at the top of my lungs along with songs like Killing In The Name Of (I can only image what I looked like to other drivers;), I teared up a little, screaming "F*ck you; I won't do what ya tell me!" Freedom (from any oppression) is a beautiful thing.

Bulls on Parade's lyrics also transported me back to Monday night's Bricolage + Belarus performance. The lyrics became very real as I related them to the stories and scenes of life in Belarus under dictatorship:
Weapons not food, not homes, not shoes
Not need, just feed the war cannibal animal
I walk tha corner to tha rubble that used to be a library
Line up to tha mind cemetary
What we don't know keeps tha contracts alive and movin'
They don't gotta burn tha books they just remove 'em
While arms warehouses fill as quick as tha cells
Rally round tha family, pockets full of shells
Rally round tha family
With a pocket full of shells
Bulls on parade!
It was kind of funny (and frustrating) to me initially how as 'sheltered Americans' we don't necessarily comprehend these lyrics very well on a personal level. We are relatively naive because we haven't experienced the level of hardship first-hand on a societal level as many others in the world have lived through. What I realized, though, is that while we may not live under the extreme rule that Rage screams about, it is the human condition to experience oppression in any of its many forms -- from the extreme persecution of totalitarian rule to the rules of any institution (school, church, religion, society, community, family, marriage, etc.).

I remember being in high school + college when Rage was big and relating to Zach de la Rocha words as a rebellion to any sort of authority in my life -- at that time, working for the man (aka: Walmart), trying to discover myself in a difficult system of control like high school with abusive personalities picking at every point of uniqueness/difference (10 yrs later, I just unlearned that it's okay, even a good thing, to be different/unique... something to be embraced), internalizing and fighting societal pressures/messages to look a certain way + act a certain way to be appealing/sexy... a woman (I'm still a tomboy at heart and I now totally rock it and the bohemian lifestyle as well), fighting to have a progressive world view in a community that is extremely conservative and isolationistic (ie: SwPA mentality), etc., etc.

Now, I understand and embrace that I am simply a little more countercultural; there's no use fighting it and I'm embracing it as a part of who I am. It's something that I pride myself on now, but then the process of breaking free of the systems that keep you in a certain, confined place -- sometimes minacally... but mostly, control is just the simplest, easiest way to manage a large group of individuals -- was a long and difficult journey to freedom.

In my own way over the years, I have cried out my version of, 'give me liberty or give me death,' fully meaning it. I'm writing a short-story for Madwomen in the Attic that details that specific instance when I was at my complete wits end in Siberia -- time No. 2 of 3 that I was sure I was going to die. I was balled up in the corner of the apt bathroom, alone, crying to God or myself or whoever was out there listening, 'Kill me or change me. I will not live like this [in/with depression] any longer.' That 'prayer' was not answered 'miraculously' and immediately but instead over the last four years in a very specific series of milestones/stepping stones. That cry of desperation came full circle to fruition during that last episode of depression in Oct/Nov where it became an impetus for change -- I began my complete metamorphasis in defining + embracing my identity and redefining my career/life passion and vision for the future.

Via OTV, I'm blazing my own trail... which serendipitously is the theme of this fantastic book I started reading on the subway yesterday (LTD Day 3... burning through the first 40 pgs), by Chris Guillebeau called, The Art of Non-Conformity (see also his blog by the same name).

Seriously, you must own it and read it asap; it's been transformative for me... at a point where I've made so many transformations already over the last two months that I didn't think any more were possible; I was gladly mistaken. Here, I'll even get you started (it's only like $8 new, $4 used... what are you waiting for?:)

Okay, so I'm doing my typical non-linear thinking... to bring it back to where we started, Rage Against The Machine, I'll end this little section with some of the other lyrics that have become my personal good rules to live by:
  • For it's the end of history;
    It's caged and frozen still;
    There is no other pill to take;
    So swallow the one
    That made you ill;
    I am the Nina, The Pinta, The Santa Maria;
    The noose and the rapist;
    The fields overseer;
    The agents of orange;
    The priests of Hiroshima;
    The cost of my desire;
    Sleep now in the fire!
    -- Rage, Sleep Now in the Fire 
  • Now Tom Said; "Ma, whenever ya see a cop beatin' a guy;
    Wherever a hungry new born baby cries;
    Whereever there's a fight against the blood and hatred in the air;
    Look for me ma,
    I'll be there.
    Wherever somebodies stuglin' for a place to stand;
    For a decent job or a helpin' hand;
    Wherever somebody is strugglin' to be free;
    Look in their eyes ma,
    You'll see me!
    -- Rage, Ghost of Tom Joad target="_blank", derived from original John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath
  • I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more
    No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more
    Well I try my best
    To be just like I am
    But everybody wants you
    To be just like them
    They sing while they slave and just get bored
    I ain't gonna work on, nah
    I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more
    -- Rage, Maggie's Farmcover of original Bob Dylan.
  • Who controls the past now controls the future;
    Who controls the present now controls the past;
    Who controls the past now controls the future;
    Who controls the present now?
    Now testify
    -- Rage, Testify; derived from original George Orwell's 1984
  • It has to start somewhere;
    It has to start sometime;
    What better place than here?
    What better time than now?
    All hell can't stop us now;
    All. Hell. Can't stop us. Now!
    -- Rage, Guerilla Radio

Day 3: A Native New Yorker
I'm grateful to be experiencing non-tourist NYC on this trip. I'm feeling like a native... which may not seem unusual, until you put it in perspective: I grew up in the sticks of SwPA. I've only been a city dweller for about 6 years.

My 2nd cousin, John, gave me the most amazing compliment (without realizing it, I'm sure) when I picked him up to put my car into a garage in Upper Manhattan; he simply said, "I'm impressed, you're a good city driver." Images of playing basketball in middle school came to mind driving in the big city, I was reminded of the tactic to never second guess a decision. Once I started in a direction, even if it was the wrong one, I followed through with it. Hesitation = collisions in these types of vehicular situations.

When I first got off the GW onto Broadway, it was a slight culture shock because I had been on the monotonous interstate road for 4 hours prior. It was also a little more crazy than usual (even though I arrived before the late afternoon rush) because of the snow NYC had a few weeks back. My Pgh peeps will appreciate it. Remember February last year where the city streets were a complete disaster because there was no where to put all the snow? That's NYC now. They had 19" of snow last weekend and in the last few days ice on top of it. The once 4 lane Broadway is reduced to two narrow lanes with people still needing to come/go for deliveries, which means they simply double park and stop all traffic both ways.

Knowing that the same rules of the road that I'm used to in Pgh, don't apply in NYC (namely the Pgh Left, blocking crosswalks and deadlocking intersections), I got caught in a deadlock situation to my chagrin. Like a good NYer, I stood my ground in my little VW Golf (Matilda) against a giant coal-truck type vehicle making an industrial delivery. He tried to squeeze himself in to cut me off as an island in the middle of the intersection, but I didn't back down and inched by to maintain my spot in line when traffic began moving again:)

Day 3, I travelled about the city like a rockstar, taking the A Train from Upper Manhattan (Dykeman Stop, 200th block) to Brooklyn (High Street, 4th block). I snagged a card from a chick playing beautiful (Eastern European sounding) on the inside of the subway platform -- I'll send post a link to her site/youTube videos as soon as she emails back;). Then I began reading Art of Non-Conformity on the 45 min ride to Brooklyn. Then I texted Fb/Twitter updates while walking the 5 blocks to Freelancers Union for my 10am meeting. Unwisely for multiple reasons, most apparently so because it was super icey yesterday -- the freeze/thaw/freeze action made the sidewalks like an ice rink. I simply ice skated my way to the shore where my meeting was located.

I like how friendly and mutual-aid everyone in NYC is to their fellow peeps. For instance, there was a young fellow crossing the intersection in front of me in Brooklyn who did one of those slips/falls where you are upright in one frame and vertical on your back in the blink of an eye. The three guys on the corner where like, "Whoa... stay down. Are you okay?" as they walked over to pick him up. Those same guys pointed out that my shoe was untied and helped me to find 20 Jay Street. Later on, when I re-emerging from the subway on the way home, I tripped up the stairs (awesome) and in mid-fall, 2 NYers caught me. I only boogered up my knee (instead of my face) and my ego:) Even John + Marie know everyone on their street/building and stop to talk to each briefly as we walked to/fro. It is just nice to feel a sense of community and comraderie in such an impersonal space like a big city.

A quick plug and big thanks to Gabrielle and Althea of Freelancers Union for meeting with me yesterday in regard to building collaborations/partnerships for some Pgh initiatives. If you don't know Freelancers Union, you should totally check them out. If you're a freelancer, you definitely should check them out and join (which is free to do). They're doing some great things to help give freelancers the collective power/benefits that typical employees enjoy -- healthcare, advocacy/lobbying, voice, professional development workshops, etc.

An Inside Peak into NYC Living

Not doing the tourist-thing, my only pics so far are of John's apt which is a pre-war building with amazing architectural detail. I captured the overview of it in these pics yesterday when I had the place to myself for several hours. Today, I'm going to take pics of details that are just beautiful -- door knobs, trim, door panels + all his very old/loved furniture.

Day 4 Preview
Maria and I looked over two huge albums of family pictures from the 40s & 50s last night. They are amazing and I will be scanning them and two other albums today.

Look for my flickr updates later today/tomorrow for the original 'Mad Men' and women of the 40s. Great aunt Mary was a drop dead gorgeous, graceful and iconic 40s chica. Grandma + grandpa were the iconic small town peasant-types; a picture of the post-great depression in the coal mining community of Bakerwhitely. I knew them and that area in their later ghost-town years. It was amazing to see pics of it in its hay day in the 40s & 50s.

We even discovered amazing shots of my great-grandfather, which I've never seen and of my uncle Stevie (who died at the young age of 6), also never before seen by me. Day 4 recap is going to be an awesome trip down memory lane of a time almost unimaginable in our modern technology based society... complete with outhouses, water pumps, clothes lines and chicken coops:)

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