I Like Watching Tall Dudes Cheer on Tiny Girls: Mitski at Brooklyn Steel

Mistki, Photographed by Ebru Yildiz.

Mistki, Photographed by Ebru Yildiz.

 

I don't know if you have listened to Mitski’s records or found yourself replaying her songs so you can review a lyric, but if you haven't, you should.

I found Mitski in a vacuum of sorts. It was a match made in Spotify Weekly heaven, Mitski and me. I didn't have the opinions of friends or ideas of who her fans were or where they came from. I just knew her melodies had a pop sensibility, which is to say that they stuck in your head. They sounded like they were written in her bedroom. All of this rawness and ease was counterbalanced by another quality, the nuance of someone studied and masterful. Beneath the softness of her voice and the audible emotion, there was a technician. You could hear both equally: the garage-guided girl and the disciplined music academic. Not that those two characters are always two separate ones. Think Winona Ryder, controlled enough to channel the rawness of all the feelings.

I saw Mitski play at Brooklyn Steel on Saturday night. It was the first time I had gone to a show alone in two years that didn't involve a friend's band or Bjork.

The Bowery Presents new venue had just landed in my neighborhood. We have sleepy streets and know our landlords. People buy fresh bread from stores that make their own mozzarella. This venue being here is like having a Skyscraper in a suburb. What place does it have among Catholic churches that still have very small parades on weekdays? The fact that the second largest all-ages venue in Brooklyn was supposedly down Withers if you just kept walking was was something I had to confirm with my own eyes and ears.

I got there right as Mitski was about to go on. It was quiet, even sleepy just outside the main space’s doors when I grabbed two tall boys to and made my way in. As I stepped into the dark space, I sort of felt like Dorothy when opens the door to Oz and the other side is not only filled with a yellow brick road, but is also in color. It was like opening the door and suddenly being in Manhattan.

To my left, handsome, well-dressed guy stood about a foot over me. (Or I imagine this is what he looks like. It was dark and I didn’t make direct eye contact with anyone, because this whole scenario brought out the middle school dance-goer in me.) Opting not to go further into the crowd, I found myself about halfway to the stage. The spectacle of lights and smoke made me feel like I was dreaming. The place was filled from end-to-end with folks I had never seen before. And to my surprise I wasn't the oldest one there. (The vulnerability of Mitski's voice and lyric that had led me to imagine that everyone in there was some other age at which being emotional didn't have to be a secret.)

The drummer came out first and he wailed on his drums from a minute. The sound was crisp and clear and bizarrely resembled what comes out of my headphones despite the hum of a thousand people cheering "Go Mitski!!" at the top of their lungs. You could feel the kick drum vibrate in your heartspace without having your eardrum blown out. The tall guy on my left started to cheer fanatically. "Woohoo!... YEAHHHH WOOOOOHHH!" This surprised me; I don't know why but  when I was younger we thought it was cool to act perpetually unimpressed. But I can get down with these twenty-one year-olds.They have hope. They get excited.

Mitski came out looking very much like the goddess of so many of these young fans' dreams. She sang out her first lyric and the perfection of her pitch and the power of her belt was sort of shocking coming out of this small radio of a human.

Mitski doesn’t just sound good on a record. She’s a true vocalist. Hearing her sing live had the same effect on me that Beyonce’s did when I was sixteen and that Bjork’s has on me always. When she lets the note out, people shut up. They feel it in their tailbones. Mitski fills out the wavelengths of her notes in full. It's powerful. It's feminine. It's soft and scary and natural but also supernatural. It's surprising and mythical. And it's technically masterful.

On the record, the drum machines have the meticulous tick of being digital. Played live on the rims of a snare, they are instead snappy. The guitarist had the familiar vibe of my awesome almost-dorky best-friends from middle school. They were all the type of guys who looked shy and as if they are always concentrating, but when they is suddenly got on a stage to slay a solo, all the girls could easily project all their fantasy narratives about what kind of boyfriend he would be based on his Purchase t-shirt, glasses and which pedal he chose for which solo.

All of this is couched within the context of the crowd's epic reaction. Everywhere I turn the whole crowd knows all the lyrics. They lose their minds when I Don't Smoke or American Girl or basically any song begins. Because there is no moderate Mitski fan. Mitski is Friday Night Lights. It's My So Called Life. It's a moment of perfect vulnerability while you're discovering there's other kinds of music out there. But it's still accessible. It's still natural. Because the feeling of seeing Mitski on stage isn't academic and cerebral, no matter how astute the lyrics are. It's emotive and dramatic. It's instinctive and raw but sounds familiar because it tells the epic tale of your feelings: the discovery of heartbreak or the realization that you’re angry. It’s Puberty…. Part 2.

And towards the end of the set  when she says she'd like to do a couple of songs alone, she sings about telling her mom she is sorry because she can't always pay her rent and can she sleep on her couch. This moment isn't just about how someone who is talented enough to sell out shows in every major city in the USA and also in Europe can't make enough to keep her apartment in Brooklyn while she's on tour. The moment isn't just about Mitski. It's the story of every artistic kid who feels in their heart they might be a genius, they might be an artist, they might be a historian or a poet or a healer, and the anger and confusion of discovering they live in a world in which their creativity and vulnerability resonates with so many people, but will likely lead to couchsurfing, but will end in a place where only dreams are allowed: in the smoke-filled arena among hundreds of strangers who know all the words to the same songs. 

 

The Hierophant: How to Reconcile Your Career, Identity, and Civic Responsibility

Photography by Mike O'Shea, one of my talented best bros. 

Photography by Mike O'Shea, one of my talented best bros. 

I have as of late, been really digging into myself and asking what I want. 

I think for most young people, especially in New York, owning your own business, especially if the business has a physical reality, is a dream. It's a privilege, a creative outlet, and for sure a test of accountability. The part of you that always thought you could creatively direct, financially steer, and of course, have an inner compass and light to be a good team creator as well as a team leader, when you open your own business, all these parts of you puff out and say, Yes! It's my turn. 

As employees we all let this part of us talk shit; as employees we are more in the position of the critic than we are of the creator. We all did it/do it. The IT to which I refer is the sometimes-silent criticizing of business owners. We always think there's something that can be done better. If we are trusted and responsible enough, and/or liked enough, and if we work for owners who have the courageous power to let go a little bit, then we become managers. But for the most part, none of us will ever know what it was like to be the person who we are criticizing. I for my own part, when I managed a bar, found that the owners with whom I worked most were so quiet about all the work they were doing that none of us ever even realized that certain things were being done, until I was doing it myself and making a point to always let people know wtf I was up to purposely debunk any myths of effortlessness or ease.

In any case, I can tell you now as a business owner with only a little over two years under my belt that this shit is fucking hard. I have worked for small businesses my entire adult life. It is not some purposeful decision I made (in fact, I would take the time now to confess that I haven't felt strong enough in my mental capacity, nor strongly enough in the knowledge base until very recently to develop any solid ethos beyond "Be Nice.") My education in small business was a 100% intuitive, which is to say, not-on-purpose. Things fell into my lap, and I always demonstrated a desire to learn, a sort of perfectionism that bordered on workaholism, and above all, a desire to be liked that at times became a need.

For all of the parts of my life that I have filed into the "distraction" or "failure" folders of my memory, there is one common thread it would be hard not to see. I have filled positions as a first-timer at least four times in my career. That is to say, I was a manager when one previously did not exist. I ran an office that was just born, was a Senior Fashion Writer at a magazine that never had a permanent employee. I was a person who struck out into territory for which there was no map. Repeatedly. I was often self-taught in the professional field I entered (I was hired off the sales floor during what I considered to be a temporary job to be a buyer at one of most industry-respected boutiques in New York), and I often had no idea how to measure my success, or in fact, what my goals were.

For all of my 'laid-backness', which I can tell you shows itself most in social situations, I still  have an Aries ego with a truly Gemini moon. What does that mean for those of you who hate or are not up on the more lofty topic of astrology? My mind never stops. I listen to media as I fall asleep. I wake up and open a window on my computer to a documentary and then start reading something. I am amped up 100% of the time until I literally almost fall apart at the seams. My capacity for intake is so high that it is exhausting just to be in a room with me while I passively consume things. 

So what that means for someone like me, is that if you hand me an opportunity, I will not only corral all of my will power for you, I will corral my physical might (lifting half kegs of beer using sheer will), my mind (I will try to better a system once a week, that needs no bettering), and my heart and soul (I will become my job.) Which is great for you. And is a total disaster for me. In every way.

Let's face it. We are not our jobs. We are not our houses. We are not our friends, or our families or even our spiritual practices. This is because of one simple thing. Words are a construct, as our these labels and roles. Careers are for sure a construct. And even for the most enlightened of us, it's rather hard to take power back from the society in which you find your purpose as a friend, as an active member in a relationship or organization, or in which you feel safe, or from the language in which you have expressed and learned and understood the worlds of the exterior as well as the interior.

So if you're not Richard Branson, and you want to be a writer and a business owner, or spend a year writing a novel, or want to learn tarot, herbalism, ceramics and choreography, then you're going to be called a drifter, a hippie, a person with ADHD. You will be called unprofessional, directionless or worse, "not serious". Maybe someone will tell you you lost the plot. And I'm telling you as someone who has invested so much time in healing, from reiki to tarot, past life regression, meditation, buddhism, saging and who knows what else, the words that ring the truest are rather hard to swallow. They are often cliche. (I'll say this 1,000 times, cliches keep surviving for a reason.) They are open-ended, and they leave the brunt of the work on you. How to get in touch with you authentic self. "Get quiet and practice listening." How to find out your soul purpose. "Slow down often enough to ask yourself if you like what you're doing and then be compassionate enough to let yourself explore the things that feel the most 'you'." 

I keep getting the card the Hierophant in my tarot readings. What is this card about? In my tarot workshop with Lindsay Mack, as well as in my reading with one of her students Sarah M. Chappell, I learned this card is about institutions and belief systems. It asks you, Where do  your beliefs come from? Inventory them and ask. I know this is the next task for me and I am having a tremendously difficult time sitting down to do it. Oddly enough, my copy of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, has been missing for about a year and a half, and last night, I found it on the shelf where I thought it was, and have looked for it over five times, just sitting there in plain sight.

This book was recommended to me by my friend and favorite healer, Hank Hivnor. The book is about how every word is an agreement. I mean that in the most academic and objective way. I remember reading in a linguistics class many years ago that there are 50 words for snow in Eskimo language, because their survival and culture holds the snow to be of utmost importance. By knowing the words, those who speak that language are agreeing on their importance. In the political climate in which we live, I don't think there could be a better or more important time to inventory your belief systems. What does "conservative" mean to you. Or what does the word "highly-educated" make you feel when you hear it. There is so much stigma, so many falsities and sweeping feelings involved in words these days, that it seems like they mean everything but their definition as of late. We can not longer agree on what a "fact" is. We find the word "science" or the word "expert" divisive. 

This is a time when the moths are flying out of the closet and we are being forced as a society to say, wtf have we been locking away and repressing for all this time. And as any healer would tell you to an individual who is going through that same process on an individual level, the first misstep you could make to healing a wound, is to deny that the thing you would rather not see is there, and the second step away from healing you could make would be to demonize and "other" that shadowy part of yourself or your society, rather than compassionately attempt to understand it, so you can address and ultimately change it. 

Listen, I'm a fucking immigrant. I wasn't even born here. But I don't think that the people who have lost their manufacturing jobs or are afraid of Muslims and trans people are mean, evil or stupid. I think they are being manipulated in a truly unethical way by a media means that have no inner sense of responsibility for reporting the truth, and that their fears are being played to because they only know about the "idea" of something. They've never encountered the reality of that something, and so their minds are easily manipulated. They've never met a muslim. Maybe they've never talked to a moderate Democrat. It's a lot easier to say you hate or are scared of a word than it is to walk up to a human being who introduces themselves and picks their child up from school where you are also picking up your child, or patiently waits with you at a doctor's office, and say, "I hate you, I don't want you here. You scare me." 

A more whole representation of the groups of people the current president is attempting to other and fear monger around could change and shift the world. If I had the ability to produce my own television show, it would be about the realities of the middle class. What is it like to live in a suburb and never see a black person and then be called upon to talk about race? What is it like to teach at a public school in the Bronx and have your Muslim students in tears after being bullied and harassed? Or to be a regular citizen trying to understand all of these policies and the best course of action while taking your kids to school and going to work everyday. What about that story? What about our story? (For the record, the best work I have seen being done this way are the PBS series Frontline and the POV documentaries.)

A million digressions, but again, my whole manifesto in starting this piece of writing is that, I am not one thing. You are not one thing. No person is. I am not a label or a word. My mind is poetic and scientific and I am a business owner, a concerned citizen and a writer. I am here to share my story as often as I can and I really encourage you to share yours, too, because I"m listening.  Sifting out our individual identities will help transform our society. If we are to find out why we hate or fear or have knee-jerk reactions about certain people or subjects, then we can come clean with ourselves about the work we have to do as individuals and how that work could change the world. We need to proceed with great strength and caution, but first, clarity and knowledge of who we are and what it is we are fighting for. 

Organization

Why Decluttering Your Space is Gut Wrenching

I have been trying to purge my belongings for the past four years.

I have thrown out at least ten trash bags worth of clothes, donated heaps of books, sent packages to my nieces, and all of that. I have been gifted the "The Art of Tidying" by Marie Kondo twice. I am now reading it for the second time. 

I tend to breeze through books as I am an especially fast reader. But do I actually internalize the information? Yes and no. The thing about the KonMari method of organizing your house once and for-all forever: it's nothing complex. It's actually just a really simple method of curating your space with the author's common-sense details to help you avoid the most common snags and energy-draining traps in the process.

I am about 1/5 through the second reading of the book. I am now reading it more slowly and have unearthed so much emotion in myself that just writing this sentence makes me want to pass out. 

What do we keep?

What Marie Kondo says is that when we clean our spaces we should do it drastically and thoroughly by category over a relatively short period of time (say six months), and that we should think not about what to throw away but what to celebrate, what to keep,  what brings us joy when we hold it in our hands. 

All of the images I share in this post are from Pinterest, where dreamers spend more of their time making inspiration boards than actually getting rid of anything. This house looks so zen but also unrealistic for us New York apt-dwellers. 

All of the images I share in this post are from Pinterest, where dreamers spend more of their time making inspiration boards than actually getting rid of anything. This house looks so zen but also unrealistic for us New York apt-dwellers. 

I am a group-oriented person, or at least I was one for most of my life until recently. What that means is that I shift my personality so that those around me can get along, I become a connector, a smoother-over, an entertainer, whatever the whole requires. I'm genetically predisposed to this behavior. I was born in the Philippines where the mentality of operating as a whole especially amongst the females of the group is in our bloodline. (You think we can't carry behaviors in our bloodline, just watch your cat's behavior and tell me she wasn't once a huntress.) 

That means I think of myself as a sister, as a daughter, as a girlfriend, roommate, ex-girlfriend, etc. These relationships form the core of my identity and so the objects from each of these are like artifacts of myself. I have poems I wrote in the seventh grade when I used to watch The Doors movie way too often and subsequently wrote poems about turtle blood, and moonlight. I have the cassette mixes my friends made me when I was 19 and belts and old headbands my mom gave me. I hold these things in my hands and think about 1) how one day I could become this person again and miss this thing 2) how will this person feel if I discard this ? 3) and this is the heartbreaker for me, what if I forget a memory forever when this object no longer reminds me.

Marie Kondo addresses these issues. She says, you can think of when you got something and why you got it and how it has served you. And then to trust  and know that it has served you and wants to be released from its purgatory as much as you would like to release it. And she also addresses the objects we keep because they are heavy with guilt, sentimentality, memory and of course, the symbol of unlimited time and potential (after all we DIY types can basically make something out of anything.) 

So what does this mean for us? Why does it break us when we go through these objects? Well for one, we have to confront all of the change we have been through, and we are so prone to think of our lives in terms of loss rather than in terms of evolution.

From my Pinterest Board. I just want to get the point where my Inner Grandma looks more intentional than accidental. 

From my Pinterest Board. I just want to get the point where my Inner Grandma looks more intentional than accidental. 

I look at these shot glasses at my house, all mismatched and I remember we used to host parties. We used to have trays of shots on a red silver tray as our friends sat in our cozy living room and have since then slowly over the next ten years we watched our friends move out to Rockaway or the out of state to the south or to the west coast. We watched them opt to live in places that don't require so much of your heart, soul, and body. And as for me, I have since then become embarrassed that I don't have a cleaning lady or live in a West Elm catalog or that the soft spot in the floor has a tear in it, or that there might be old mouse traps lying around from before we got the cat. 

So we become stuck in these nostalgic loops of how we have lost that beautiful time of nonjudgmental obnoxious youth, and yet we do not have enough faith in the fact that we are responsible capable adults, and we hope with all of our hearts we will one day entertain again in our homes, either because we will have evolved past the point of embarrassment or because we will have enough money someday to redo the floors with tile like Chip and Joanna Gainesville on Fixer Upper have done two thousand times. 

And so this is where being in the present moment comes up. The more I go into myself the more I unearth cliches. And the things is how does a cliche sound when we hear it? It sounds trite, it sounds obvious, it sounds familiar. But just like we begin to feel about our mother's advice when we turn about 30 or have our first child, it sounds true, it hits a nerve, it stays in our heads. 

I have been looking at this shelf for a year and a half off and on. Decisive, I am not. 

I have been looking at this shelf for a year and a half off and on. Decisive, I am not. 

I recently watched these videos that stylist and business coach Hilary Rushford offered after doing some self-analysis during her four-month sabbatical, and found one of her exercises echoed sections of the Marie Kondo book. 

In this particular exercise Hilary recommends we sit in our own silence for ten minutes. We can be walking, but no headphones, no phone, no magazines, no books. She says the silence might help us realize what the anxious thoughts we are avoiding actually are. Similarly, Marie Kondo recommends that when we sort our belongings we turn off the music, the tv, the everything and actually confront the object in front of us. That we confront the feelings that rise up. 

It's easy to say who we were, and its easy to say who we want to be but who are we right now, at this moment? What are we living in and living with? How many of our belongings symbolize who we would be when we have more time, have more money, lose more weight? If we can get ourselves to continuously ask this question I am not sure what the outcome will be, but I am certain that something will happen, whether we tap ever-so-lightly at the jenga piece of our identity, or quickly see what happens when we shift swiftly if our gut tells us to.  

 

Myths of Creation's Guide to Lightworkers, Healers & Communicating with the Spirits

I'm particularly interested in the stars at the moment, drawn to astrological patterns and cycles. I'm more open to the mystical interpretations of things than most people; all of my favorite novels could be considered to be written through the lens of magical realism. 

When I was in college a friend of mine once said, It all comes down to aesthetics. And I think about this all the time. Do we believe what we believe because it suits a version of the world we find the most beautiful, comfortable or orderly? For those who dwell in the realm of the physical, maybe its possibility of total control that they find comforting, or the fact that all things can be perceived by the senses, or measured in some way.

I can only say one thing: and that is that I see the collective unconscious at work all the time. I see people gravitate toward the same space, activity or object all the time in ways that don't have anything to do with the weather or the changing of the seasons. I have friends who guess what I'm thinking before I've even given them a clue. 

Right now the underlying tone, the bass line of the song we are all hearing in our collective heads is tension. There's a desire to connect, but also people seem to be testing their boundaries like toddlers who do something they're told not to do just to see what will happen. 

I'm not an astrologer, nor do I know how to communicate with my spirit guides directly, but I am endlessly curious and have a knack for recognizing psychological patterns. 

If you ever desire to connect with a truly gifted energy worker, there are a lot of ways to find one and many intuitives out there. But for me, the best experiences have come from recommendations from friends. Here is what I have learned in my dutiful time, research and experimentation. Remember, if you do decide to see any of these healers, record. Some recommend taking notes, but I find that listening to the recordings is really useful. 

ENERGY READINGS AND MEDIUMSHIP:

Passion Mandala,   digital art 2013   by Hank Hivnor

Passion Mandala,   digital art 2013   by Hank Hivnor

Hank Hivnor is a longtime energy reader, healer, and spirit medium. If you have a deceased loved one you would like to communicate with, or feel that there might be psychological factors in your makeup that you can't see on your own, this is who I recommend. You can read about my experience with him at length here. ($100/hour.) 

Chakra Balancing, Reiki and Communing with your Higher Self: Houiea Love. Houiea (pronouned Ow-yay) came onto my radar when a customer came in asking for a quartz crystal. She had just been to see Houiea for a reading with her higher self. After a breakup, a few months of hedonistic partying, and a lot of high highs and low lows, a friend offered to take her to see this healer. She was a complete skeptic, so the friend offered to pay for the session herself. She came into the shop like someone who had been reborn. She was ready to change her life. She saw the changes clearly. So I wanted to check him out for myself. His energetic readings with the higher self are very clear-cut. For example, he said to me, "The food you are eating is part of self-punishment, because someone else is giving you their own self-hatred." I had been struggling with eating food that made me feel sick because I felt so emotionally drained. I had said NOTHING to him at all when he said this to me. If you want something clearcut, quick and perhaps a bit introductory. Go see Houiea. I also recommend his reiki sessions. ($100 for reiki and higher self, $30 for 10-15 minutes higher self reading). 

ASTROLOGY

Kosmick Kory Varlen. Recommended to me through a friend (who is my unofficial mentor, and a true Virgo, as organized and pragmatic as they come), Kory has been an astrologer for decades. She is a bit whimsical and books pretty far in advance. Her style is specifics. If you ask her, for example, what's going on with a skin condition, she might say, "Don't worry about that, that is going to fade away by the end of the year." She can pinpoint what your chart recommends for exercise, specific dates that will be good for your health and money, psychological shifts that will happen in the next year. I also did energy work with her, but for a first session, I think Predictions is the best package. You can book with Kory, here. (Various packages starting at $175).

TAROT

 

If you are super new to all of this, I have one recommendation and that is Caitlin, also known as Tarotgraph. She practices short donation-based readings a Known to Man (formerly Dolly G's) on Graham Avenue every Sunday. Friends of mine who are are not necessarily into the mystical gypsy-revolution that seems to be going on love and frequent these tarot events. Caitlin is clear, intuitive and gentle. Her readings are short and concise and offer warnings, and solutions (not ominous conclusions.) ($10 +/10 mins)

Damon at Catland: Damon is on point. If you want someone to cut the bullshit, and say the hard things to you, go to Damon. But be prepared. He may tell you something difficult to hear and he will absolutely not sugarcoat anything. For me, he told me to stop bullshitting myself about certain aspects of my business. I needed to hear it, but it wasn't easy. If you need to be "Scared straight." Go to Damon. He can most certainly communicate with spirits through his cards. ($80/hr)

BREATHWORK and REBIRTHING

 

If you live up in your head, and what to get in touch with your intuition, but you also want to uncover childhood patterns or patterns established because of dynamics with your family, go see Peace Arnold for rebirthing. 

I went to therapy for two years. It was really helpful. But I never had breakthroughs because I always understood things intellectually. The problem I had was actually feeling the feelings connected to memories and patterns. And then, the trickier part, just letting them go. Using affirmations, and breathing techniques Peace guides you through a talking session of about 1 hour and then you do about 1 hour of breathing. I discovered old childhood wounds I never would have found on my own, as well as deeply-rooted negative beliefs that underlie and color all of my experiences of which I was completely unaware. What's great about Peace is that she offers solutions and alternatives as well as techniques and practices for you to be able to reprogram yourself and your mind out of non-useful ideas that simply aren't true. For a 2-3 hour session it is $125. She will recommend coming for 10 sessions as is the practice with rebirthers, but that's really up to you. 

FINAL WORD

There's a couple of caveats to this. One is, if you don't have a really open mind, spiritual modalities won't work. Certain things that were told to me didn't make sense until an entire year later. The second thing is, it's really difficult to communicate about these spiritual and emotional matters without using phrases that embarrass us. So just get past the language and listen to what is being told to you. And last lastly, do not get addicted. I remember going to a follow up session with a practitioner and feeling like I didn't get anything out of it. To be honest, I think I kind of stopped asking myself questions and started asking other people. The whole point is to go when you're stuck, realign yourself, and then feel clear enough to use your own information and your own intuition. I think every three months to every year makes sense. If you are highly sensitive like myself you might feel you want to go more than once a year, and it's aok. It's all up to you! If you think this is all nonsense and feel happy and weighted and grounded in your world as it is presented to you in the physical, then thanks for reading this far.