Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Sneak Preview - "Eslabon" Chapter One

Haight Ashberry

Summer Solstice

            Pen to paper. Ballpoint drags into fibers. Something disposable inflects something cherished. A liquid marks a solid in symbols.  Tool is used to record a thought.  The permanent saturates the unblemished.  The internal becomes physical. The giver graces the receiver and anything I write is what I have done, am doing, and is whatever I imagine.  This is Helena Labreque’s journal.  I am starting this here, on the first day of summer at the summer solstice bash in San Francisco - the first official hippie holiday!   .  Could this be more unreal?
            Light dapples the sand, kissing my lips and chest, changing shapes in the shadows under this rainbow canopy. My eyes are playing tricks with the folds of fabric. I see the shadow of a beautiful woman turn into a nasty crone.  I see a pelican flying through a storm.  I see darkness shift and morph and now I realize that this second round of LSD I took must be kicking in.
            My toes are tingling; this is stellar.  The very letters I write, this W.O.R.D. is dancing with electricity as I lay it down, black and gold, with a trail of red-shift. But before the undulating currents of sweet ecstasy reach my brain, I have to explain how I got here…    
            This afternoon on my way to Golden Gate Park the crowd bottlenecked and I got trapped by the Haight Street Zealot.  Today he wore a black linen suit and tie just to put cigarette burn in the kaleidoscope of garb swirling all around us.  If I could sum up our sparring, it went something like this-
            “Go home to your families and repent of your sins. You are doing nothing good for the world.”  He dripped with sweat and didn't notice the pit stains growing under his tacky armpits. “You are wasting your youth… wasting your talents. Make use of your lives.  And you, you women! Have babies like you were created to.  Your place is with the children and in the kitchen.”
            “What ever, man,” I tried to shove around him, grazing against his moist body. The lane was narrow and he wouldn’t budge. I could smell his funk.
            “You are probably on acid young woman.  Look at your face, covered in paint.  Do you know what you look like?”
            “Shove aside.”
            “You all should be lobotomized,” he blurted in stadium voice, “all 100,000 of your drifters.  Smash the world of fantasy in which you are submerged.  Cut down the emotional child’s play and redirect into socially acceptable channels.  Metrazol for all of you.  Or else give gratis to who came before you.”
            I wiped some spittle from my face.  Still inches from his mouth hole, “You are a dirty evangelist, man.  This is all about love, nature, and beauty.”
            “What do you do for a living?”
            “I am doing the biggest work in the world.  Trying the new. Doing what I want.”
            “What is your salary for that?”
            “Same as you make on your soap box.  It’s a lovelution!  You are either in it or you’re old news.”  I ducked around him and back into the throngs. 
            The mention of salaries made my tummy churn.  One month on the road with Michael and six in the Golden City, and my pockets are light as an eyelash.  I’ll have to perform another play in the park with the troop so I can eat something other than oatmeal.  Mad Harry let me be Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz last time.  Only Dorothy wore a tie-dyed wedding dress instead of that blue checkered get-up.
            My outfit today is superb.   Autumn let me remake an old red velvet dress of hers.  I cut it short and opened up the blouse.  My blond hair is loose and wavy, set in a ring of daisies.  Autumn streaked blue paint under my eyes before she left for the sunrise.  I was still hung-over so I slept on the couch till noon.  The party lasts all day, so I didn’t mind dreaming away some of it.
            The waking life is better than anything I could dream.  Strolling down Haight, I was surrounded in balloons and bubbles that cast auras in the afternoon sunlight.  People have decorated everything they own; bicycles look like space ships - one woman resembles a giant bird, all in white feathers - some man in paisley silks flicked the bird to a bus of tourists - and I am wearing my most golden smile. This city is in its zenith and everybody is in on it.  Most of us are celebrating our liberation, and it will continue as long as people can get together and share it together.
            All of the houses and apartments in the city emptied out and filled this place up with families, lovers and druggies.  Passing through the gate at Stanvan Street, I meandered past the bowling green and tennis courts toward The Polo Fields.  A strong wind and the eucalyptus trees muffled the music in the distance.  And down a hill, through a tunnel of bushes, I stepped into a burst of sunlight where a girl was sitting alone in the lotus position.
            “Is this the way to the Human Be-In?” I asked her.
            She came out of her trance with beaming eyes.  “I have been meditating for three hours,” she said cheerfully, “and everybody’s been going that way, so I guess that’s it!”
            On the other side of the forest, passing herds of hippies, I came out into a meadow packed with thousands of people and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane singing “Somebody to Love.”
            Frisbees crossed above, dogs and children played, and painted faces greeted me everywhere.  The Hare Krishna’s sung their mantras, “Jai, Jai, Hare Krishna,” and here and there was the occasional rhythm drum circle filling the air with all the sounds of human kind. 

            I went by an open pit where The Diggers were cooking up fish and hamburgers and a line of people were getting food for free.
            “Love is the only thing,” I heard a girl say in passing; “Life means nothing without it.”  I slowed my stroll. “Look at the bullshit that passes for happiness in this country.  Cars and houses, diplomas and credit cards, there is so much loneliness here.  It is such a great feeling when you love someone.  And when you don’t there’s nothing.  You’re all dried up.  So many people are walking around scared these days.”
            “Wow,” the guy said, “that’s so true.”
            She took his face in her hands. “Give me a kiss.”
            The scent of pot ruled the air as I made my way toward the stage.
A giant blow up globe bounced off my head.  As I got closer to the stage I found Mad Harry dressed like a sheik.  The guy beside him was wearing the purple vestments of a priest.
            “Christianity ended around 300 A.D.” he said to Mad Harry. “That is when it went commercial. Jesus became a bestseller!”
            “It’s people who articulate that I watch out for,” Mad Harry replied, “Like salesmen and ministers and college professors.  They’re the ones you’ve gotta watch out for. It’s a constantly changing reality, so whatever you think it is about is constantly changing too.  That is why the hippie movement started, you know.  You, me, and everyone here are doing what we can to make it authentic again.”
            “What is a hippie?” said the costume priest.  ”Don’t call me that.  Why don’t you talk about the people who believe in brotherly love?  Why don’t you talk about those making music for free and making art and just having a good time?”
            “The rock bands are making money.  Do you think Jefferson Airplane wouldn’t take a check? What we are doing now is new and ‘cool,’ but it will eventually become a part of the money making machine, like everything else.  So in truth, we are perpetually feeding the hierarchy. You can’t change it and you can’t escape it.”
            “Maybe it is time for me to find a new country then.”
            “Tears are running, oh, oh, down, down, down your breast!  And your friends, baby, treat you like a guest.  Don’t you want somebody to love?” I sang into his ear.  Mad Harry gave me the biggest squeeze and the priest man bounced off.. Scanning the entourage for a missing face I asked, “Where is Michael?”
            “He got a head start down at the beach with a bag of goodies. But here is a little bundle just for you.”  He folded my hands around a pouch and gave his most familiar mischievous grin.
            At the word “goodies’ a short auburn haired beauty with thick black eye brows bopped right into me. “Autumn! “We embraced. “Oh my Goddess!  I was looking everywhere for you.”
            She grabbed my hand and parted the masses like a pixie Jesus, moving to the groovy swing.  But this was no Sea of Galilee.  This crowd swayed like a melting forest of color, everyone in their own tempo.  The air was stifling and my lips tasted salty.  And just as I reached out to part them and take in sweet air, a mouth closed onto mine.
            “Let’s go practice free love, baby.”
            I kissed him back in a full grip and pulled away quick. It’s hard to navigate when the whole world is turned on.  Every stranger is a welcome face, so every man and woman may be my lover. 
            We stopped to watch a young woman dancing on her knees with her baby with four people holding a bedspread above them.  They placed the baby in the bedspread and she flew high up into the air.  I was hit with a tremendous wave of contact high. 
            Folk to my right formed a daisy chain and swayed to the music.  All while the voice of Grace Slick rang out above them.
            “Wouldn’t you love somebody to love?’
            You better find somebody to love.”
Everybody was one their feet rocking to her energy.  People climbed the stage, dancing and throwing their clothes into the crowd, girls sat on the shoulders of their guys to get a better view, everyone clapping and screaming.  Autumn took us to the font of the stage, and with the hot bass player looking on we dropped the acid from the pouch. 
            If there is one thing the junkies, winos, druggies, dropouts, professional dropouts, theatre junkies, avant gardes, and even some corporate monkey’s have in common, it’s that all of us are on LSD. 
            And standing there at the stage began the dichotomy of a good trip.  On one hand you are the observer, seeing the faces of your friends and strangers morph into angels and demons that you either welcome or reject with your entire being.  At least in the Haight, love is the credence. 
            On the other hand you are the manipulator, mobilizing objects, interacting with plants and people, touching that butterfly affect that carries more conscious consequence when you are tripping.  I want to just give back my positive vibes for fear of what the dark can do. 
            Autumns eyes were dilated and her smile was a falling star, illuminating everyone around her.  Sometimes I know where I am, sometimes I am where I imagine to be and am an apparition, just like this world is.  And maybe there is some Doctor behind that stage whispering the code of life in all its simplicity.  Maybe I should be committed or maybe I am the sanest of humans.
            All this was going on in my head and is coming up now because the acid is kicking in again and I am writing about the past and the moment at the same time. 
            I felt like I was flying, and at one point I had the realization that I was actually flying.  We left the park at some point I don’t recall and I was on a trampoline in someone’s back yard dancing in a projection of a real time kaleidoscope that played in the shade.  Autumn was something of a six year old, like she hadn't known the world yet and understood it for the first time.
            I met another Scorpio.  He carried a homemade opium pipe he passed over in a haze on the trampoline.  Mad Harry materialized from the sun and said that Michael was down on the beach and that we should go.
            I don’t remember but we must have taken the bus.  I was naked on the beach among multitudes.  And yet even with the crowd, Michael is always visible.  Handsome with his thick, dark curls and sparkling green eyes, always well dressed, with a Peter Pan grin, he was entertaining a crowd of fawning women playing out some invented character, per usual. I joined the periphery.
            Looking up to the sky he declared, “Who is that following me?  There is something floating up there, hovering, watching us.  Is it a friend or an enemy?  Mr. White Face.”
            “The moon!” a girl cried.
            “Father finally let me out of the dungeon,” they were captivated as he crossed the sand, theatrical and powerful.  “This is a curious world we live in.”  His eyes met mine, “Bella Helena!”  He rushed over and kissed both my cheeks.   “I’ve wanted to see you all day!  Let’s get that body in the water!”  He grabbed me into his arms and we rushed down into the ocean.
            And as the sun sets now with the sand glistening in a billion diamonds I need to put this journal down and take one more dip.  My handwriting is loooopy and big, and I can’t concentrate. This is the best summer of my life…so far…and


            It’s a Monday morning and the day has been good to me.  I took a pack of books that I dug out of a street curb moving-pile to the Free Store, and it was all I hoped it would be. A chick in a muumuu and I exchanged our swag and I gained three pairs of sunglasses; one with yellow rims, one with giant lenses, and one round pair.  But Monday morning doesn’t guarantee what Monday evening will be.
            Later, perusing the foggy streets in the early rays of sunlight, I sought out the Drugstore where I gave hugs in passing to familiar faces and then sat at a booth in the quietest corner to journal about what’s been happening. 
            Thoroughly packed as always, the Drugstore is the spot for ages.  We get everybody here; Diggers, drifters, and all of the hippest music makers. I’m pretty sure the woman in the feather boa sending a wall of sound across the room is Mama Cass.  In this cacophony of outbursts and shuffling feet, she is a thunderclap in a rainstorm - loud as hell - and I can’t make out what she is saying, but it is obvious the source of the uproar is the store clerk.  She just reached into her purse and gave him what looks like a couple of dollars and a nasty look. 
            Once I wrap up this entree I’ll introduce myself to her posse. I’ve always wanted to have a famous friend. Wait, the store clerk just noticed me and is walking over here…
            …Okay, this is the perfect example of what is happening lately.  As soon as I put this journal down the store clerk approached me and said they started charging a 50 cent minimum to sit and talk unless I buy something in the store.  He had his hand out and everything!  And since I have no spare change to speak of, I was forced to leave.  I am now on a solitary bench in Buena Vista Park squinting my eyes in the noonday light to write this down.
            Things are changing around here, and fast.  The Drugstore isn’t the only enterprise looking to collect from us.  Rent is going up, food prices are rising, and the scarcity is making everybody forget why they came here to begin with.
            Many people have split town to join communes; saying that they are the only places left free to practice love and live the way they want to.  I have also heard from more than one person that the communes feel like a return to the feudal system - the land owner has all of the control and the hippies slave the land - and that it is best to fight and resist the establishment from inside of the establishment, i.e. civilization. 
            That’s all good in idea, but the establishment doesn’t like resistance.  More and more often the Fuzz show their pig faces without reason or warrant, and we don’t know what to do about them. 
            The other night, we were all jumping on Autumn’s bed stoned and passing a joint around when 20 policemen burst into her bedroom and demanded we “Shut up and sit down.”  They told us we were a breakdown in moral and spiritual values and made us all line up against the wall and give our names and citizenship.  Autumn was crying.  The man who took my info threatened to have me deported back to Quebec saying, “If you don’t protect God’s law, we will.”
            Mad Harry started to argue with the officer about civil rights and unlawful search and seizer in his jumbled language, and that did nothing more than convince the officer to do a full body search, revealing Harry’s bag of goodies and landing him in the back of the cop car.  Oddly enough, Michael and I, the only foreigners in the room, were the most peeved about the whole thing.  After the cops left we talked about how we could get those officers in trouble and about how long it might take to make pot legal in California - soon, Michael thought.  Autumn just listened quietly holding herself, still feeling that her privacy was violated.   
            The next day, when Mad Harry showed up at Autumn’s at dinner time, he gave us an earful of what the Sheriff told him when he was under arrest; about the overcrowding happening everywhere and the hepatitis running rampant among us. 
            “It is getting harder and harder to have some kind of satisfaction being on this earth,” he said pushing aside the canned tuna.  “They blamed me, in my face, for the degradation of society.”
            “We are all in it together,” I told him.  “We are a brotherhood and sisterhood.”
            His face grew somber and he didn’t meet my or Michael’s eyes, “I am leaving Haight Ashberry for the country and suggest you do the same.”
            The theatre in the park broke down the next day, leaving me with one less friend and without a job again.  I have since been selling pamphlets on the benefits of psychedelic drugs for 10 cents a pop.  It isn’t getting me far.
            Michael seems to be having the hardest time.  His most recent lover left yesterday, and though he puts on the machismo in public, I saw him casting one of those far looks he throws when his balance is unsettled.  From the fire escape I saw him kiss the girl with long black hair goodbye and, first pausing to reflect, went straight to collecting the helmet and straps and gear for his motorcycle that has been chained in the brick alleyway all summer.  I see him gathering his belongings more every day. 

            I couldn't help but notice that when my eyes turned away from him, they pierced through the open window, hanging beads dancing in the wind, into the living room where my old taupe suitcase rests on the spotty shag rug, spilling its contents - my everything - onto the floor.  Maybe Michael has the right idea; maybe it’s time to gather. Things are changing, and fast. Monday morning doesn’t guarantee what Monday evening will be.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

BearCourt contributing to 99 Histories and Mental Health

I am delighted to be participating as a fine artist and set designer for the up and coming play 99 Histories and Mental Health.  Being a part of bringing awareness and support to the community of the mentally ill is a passion of mine.  So this is personally exciting.  Please attend come show time!
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Artists at Play Founders
Julia Cho
Peter J. Kuo
Stefanie Wong Lau
Marie-Reine Velez
Associate Producer
Nicholas Pilapil

Production History
Ching Chong Chinaman

Edith Can Shoot Things
and Hit Them

Artists at Play Readings:
Iggy Woo and
Three Steps Back

Cowboy Versus Samurai

Artists at Play Readings:
Marabella and
She Kills Monsters

99 Histories
99 Histories and Mental Health 
A former employee of the Mental Health Association of Los Angeles County, Artists at Play co-founder Stefanie Lau shares her personal connection to the themes of mental illness in 99 Histories.

My first job out of college was working for the Mental Health Association of Los Angeles County. I didn’t know anything about mental health, so I had to learn a lot. Working on 99 Histories with Artists at Play has brought back a lot of memories of MHA. I’m proud to be presenting a show that explores the stigma of mental illness. It’s a disease shrouded in ignorance when the people suffering from it need help and compassion ... 
Read more about Stefanie's experiences here.
Only 1 Week left for $10 tickets!   A handful of performances are already sold out of $10 early-bird tickets. Take advantage of our lowest-priced special before they sell out--Offer expires August 21!


LOV Fed is sponsoring my Hike on the Appalachian Trail


Camerado, I give you my hand! 
I give you my love more precious than money,
 I give you myself before preaching or law; 
Will you give me yourself? 
Will you come travel with me? 
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live? 
-Walt Whitman "Song of the Open Road"


 I am very blessed to share with you my recent sponsorship for my upcoming hike of the Appalachian Trail.  Christina Ross, author and vegan chef is creating a raw, vegan meal plan and providing provisions for the two week hike I am embarking on come mid September.  This will be a blessing and a great opportunity for me to promote healthy living in action.     

For recipes and more love food, please visit the LOV-Fed website to learn more.