Sia Hypnosis. A Galaxy of Talent. The writing, the words, the lyrics, the rhythm, the Voice, the singing, the dancing, the costumes, the colors, the energy, dazzling, dizzzzzying, mystifying, mesmerizing, galvanizing. Like her or not, the Die is Cast, Sia. A giant boundless creature roaming the earth. Stardust burst from an unknown star, the sun, the mother sun, the sister sun, a myth, a legend, the dessert, the desert, the deserted one. What is her story? Where does she come from? Sia! Sia! Sia! Delirium!
Post WWII. Can you see it? Disturbance? Wonder? Life and Death? Philosophy Brewing. A Kind of Rebirth. The Mouth About to Speak. Too Shocked to Speak? Where is love? Where are my brothers and sisters, my mothers and fathers? My cousins, my aunts, my great grandparents? History! Blasphemy! Ecstasy and Joy! All of this to come. All of this to learn. To Cherish and Behold. To Dream, Perchance? Who am I? Where am I? What am I? A breath, a bone, a bit of dust. Your friend. Your soul. All souls. Can she hear them? She can! She will! She must!
You see Rosa? She calls me “hippie!”
We all get pretty nutty at the Biospace!
It’s a good pitstop, a cozy place. Been here forever, before all the rage.
It just gets better and better, tastes like fine wine and they have that too!
Toni never quits!
Pedro is peaceful, sweet and fit!
I love these people and I love this place.
Think I’ll go get a bag of Turkish figs later today!
This is my hood. Plaza Francesc Macia in the Eixample de Barcelona. Finally it feels like fall. The wind is blowing, that sapphire sky I write about is back. There are shadows and intense chiaroscuros. It’s an inspiring day. I take the elevator down and greet Sonia, the portera, wearing my dark sunglasses and my new black riding-hat-baseball-cap and we laugh at ourselves. Sonia is young, in her twenties, already losing her thin black hair. She’s pretty and smart and yesterday she rescued my bathing suit! It had fallen from my hands when the clothespin slipped. It blew away like a big leaf, like a flag, like my favorite rag. It fell in slow motion, drifting down past the rafters and the old laundry lines, past the drain pipes and the sticky city windowsills. I cheered its safe landing on Sonia’s back patio where only she could retrieve it, in the back of my apartment, eight stories below!
“There are two things Bill Sluggs left me: his gray sleeping bag with the purple patch and a question that haunts me like a freshly removed growth or a holocaust.
“Will it happen again? Is it happening again?”
I was suspicious then and I’m suspicious now. I confuse the present with the past. It’s hard for me to tell the difference between what is really happening and what I imagine is really happening.
Seneca says: “There is a fine line between acute paranoia and acute perception.”
I believe my ability to freeze people out at the drop of a hat was already functioning before I met Bill. When I found out he was in love with Claudia I wasn’t surprised and I didn’t feel hurt. I was relieved. Bill was attracted to Claudia, I wasn’t paranoid, it was just as I thought. Claud’s jumper cables. Bill was putty in her gravitational pull. I was cheated and lied to, but I didn’t feel jealous. I understood. I haven’t seen Claudia for over four years, but in 1969, at Stinson Court, when Claud and Graham and Bill and I would sit around drinking beer and laughing, it was like being in a scene with Etta, Butch and the Sundance Kid!”
She was already picking out the perfect tree where she would bring him. The fig tree near Kiki and Mel’s house. It was absolutely dripping with figs right now. The only problem would be the bees. They would have to go there at night. She knew it was crazy, but she suddenly had this wild idea—she should have sex with Carter.
The Mar y Sol is practically empty. It is mainly a night bar, an early morning post-discoteque hang out. Rhonda and Carter look like they are filming a scene in a movie. Drop-dead-casual.
Carter looks like the film’s stud.
Rhonda is already one step ahead of having sex with Carter, she has just decided he is the perfect man to father her child. She realizes this is a crazy fantasy, but there it is. She can see herself; tall, skin and bones, her hands clasped under a high graceful belly. She will wear long white gauzy dresses that billow around her in the breeze. She will walk along the edge of the sea, glide over hills of straggling ancient vineyards, drift up the sides of cliffs, and one day she will lie down like a cat and have her baby under a tree.
“Raquel Welsh says the sexiest organ of the body is the brain.”
“Train the brain,” Carter nodded. He was pleased with the rhyme.
Train, Rhonda thought, toilet training. She smiled. That would be no problem, her child would go naked under the trees. She looked out to sea, a statuesque leading lady standing by her bike, standing by her man. Carter wasn’t her man, no man was her man. She didn’t want really want a man, she wanted a child. Rhonda believed this idea to have a child with Carter was a miracle. A miracle in the Ibiza port, in the blue and white morning, among the fishing boats and the million dollar yachts and the catamarans — here it was — the miracle word, written right in front of her on the oily rainbow surface of the Mediterranean. It swirled, gleaming at her, in the middle of a sunny patch like a florescent hieroglyphic. Rhonda stepped closer to the patch. She read the word. It was a message. Faith. This was nothing new. An astrologist had once told her that Faith was the biggest stumbling block to her creative expression, that her insecurity generated fear and as a result, her artistic career was blocked, not to mention her true powers and strengths. What she needed was Faith. Faith would build self-confidence, and only with self-confidence could she get rid of her fears and realize her true potential. She licked two tears off her cheeks, swallowing them as if they were a divine breakfast. Then she turned to Carter again and tilted her head to the side in an effort to be kittenish.
“Speaking of training, did you know I trained myself not to eat?”
Carter swatted at a fly.
Rhonda reconsidered. “Well, only certain things of course.”
Carter’s face was a mask.
“Bimbo,” she said. “Take Bimbo.”
He took it.
“It’s got antifreeze in it. It’s rotting people’s livers, kidneys, breasts and probably the brain, in particular the lobes that tend toward depression.”
He settled further back in his chair and closed his ears.
“That’s not all. You know what they use to make it easier to mix those giant 500 pound batches of enriched bread? You know what they put in the Bimbo dough to elasticize it?”
He saw her face but he didn’t hear a word she was saying. She knew he was looking at her but she didn’t dare try to guess what he was thinking, she just kept on going like a train that couldn’t stop. “They put plaster of Paris. Then, so bugs won’t ruin all the flour, they remove the wheat germ and the bran where all the nutrition is and sell it for animal feed. Bimbo eaters get a starchy substance that wouldn’t keep a bug alive. You know what it’s called?”
He wished her mouth would stop jumping around.
“Endosperm.” Rhonda blinked and batted her eyelashes. She paused. “That’s a loaded word, isn’t it?”
He knew she was waiting for some kind of answer from him, he could tell by the way she suddenly lifted an eyebrow, but instead of saying anything he gave her his handsomest smile and filled his ears with Modest Mussorgsky.
Rhonda knew that if she stopped talking now, whatever chances she had with Carter would be over. She explained that 26 essential elements are removed before the bread is even baked, she named all the chemical additives, she gave him the WWII story on how the food companies put iron filings in the bread to toughen up the soldiers’ diet. She thought the part about the iron filings might rouse him, but he never said a word. She knew he painted, so she changed the subject to art. Carter maintained the same bland face but he was listening to her now, he was splicing and editing her sentences into subtitles for a video clip of Pictures at an Exhibition.
“…art has been reduced to objects…. technology, skill, control, special effects…quadrophonia…”
Her words were perfect for the scary movement at the old castle.
“The true essence of art is….irrelevant now…it’s not appropriate in the computer age…. Art is….outdated…. it’s artifactual.… it’s superfluous…. it’s just like they say it is…it’s dead.”
The cymbals crashed. He leaned forward.
Rhonda took this gesture as a sign of interest. She also leaned forward. “Who are the recognized artists?” she asked his beautiful Bimbo face.
The lonely horns swooned.
She didn’t wait for his answer. “I’ll tell you who they are! They’re the ones whose styles and techniques reflect modern life. But what’s so great about modern life?”
A good sad insert for the string section.
“We’re just….a bunch of….consumer corpses…grinding away…”
The oboe…the slow-motion consumer corpses… downtrodden… marching to their daily jobs. Ahhhhhhh…
“…trying to…as my father says…beat inflation.”
Carter grinned. Beat inflation. The perfect subtitle for the trumpet announcing the inauguration.
Rhonda thought the grin was a positive sign. Now was her chance. “Do you think true art in modern society is like a rusty knife trying to cut into a dozing half-dead cerebral cortex?” She was about to sit down.
Carter edited this last line out of the video and stood up.
“When you have it you know it,” he yawned.
She didn’t have it, whatever it was. She sat down. She was fed up. She was a mess. She blew it. She was sick of pretending. She was sick of being cool. She wasn’t cool. She didn’t know what she was. She didn’t care either. She didn’t care anymore about having any chances with Carter, or trying to get him to talk to her or impregnate her. She was sick of trying to get Carter to like her. She was sick of herself. She was exhausted and humiliated and hungry.
“Mind if I borrow your bike for a while?” He needed to hurry, the catacombs movement was coming.
She did mind, she minded a lot. “No, not at all,” Rhonda smiled, waving.
She watched him ride off and she waved goodbye to the fig tree and her gauzy white dresses and her toilet trained baby. She waved goodbye to the rainbow hieroglyphic and to faith and creative potential and self-confidence and she waved goodbye to something else but she didn’t know what it was and she didn’t care. Without looking, she dug into her money belt and counted the Spanish coins with her fingertips and when the waiter came around she did something she had been dying to do ever since she arrived on the island. She ordered one of those gigantic silver bowls of strawberries and cream that the tourists ate.
This is where I live. My apartment is the one at the top on the left with stuff hanging down from the terrace. That stuff is my jungle. Sometimes I write there. Not today. Today I’ve got the door open, and it’s a warm fall day in Barcelona, but not nice enough to be outside writing. I’m inside thinking about a story from my novel Black Sheep. It’s about Ibiza in the seventies and the people I knew back then. The same people come and go throughout the stories in the book and it’s about them, about what it was like to be a black sheep in Ibiza and be happy, or at least, entertained. In my book, the stories have an order so there can be a plot, but I don’t care much about plot. Part one of today’s story takes place at the Café Mar y Sol, on the port in Ibiza in 1980.
RHONDA AND CARTER, Part One
Rhonda has so much energy she feels like she could walk up the side of a tree. Instead, she borrows a bike in Cala D’Hort and rides it to Ibiza town. As it is, she has been riding for over two hours when she sees Carter on the port sitting at the Mar Y Sol. He invites her to sit down, but she can’t sit down. First of all, her butt hurts from where she was shot up with Vitamin B, and second of all, inside she is flipping like a fish out of water, she feels like she has coca cola cruising through her veins. She is high on Ibiza’s electric energy and a bunch of happy hormones recently activated by exercise and fasting. However, because Carter is cool and Rhonda belongs to the same cool set, she contains her nervous energy, swings a very long tan leg out of a very torn, very short pair of cut- offs, steadies the bike and stands like a queen with one hand on the seat, the other on the handle bar, filling Carter in on the Nazi dentist in San Antonio.
“He wouldn’t stop drilling. I went in there with a chipped filling and now I have a gaping hole in my head. I was screaming and told him if he didn’t stop drilling I would go to the police. I ran out of there while that maniac in the white coat was staring out the window with his air gun pointed at my eye… Can you believe it ?… while he was drilling, the whole time he kept telling me I would have to have some special fluoride treatments. He practically obliterated my molar. I heard he’s ruined a lot of people’s teeth, not just mine. A lot of people probably have no teeth at all if they went to that assassin. Now I have to get this thing filled by another dentist in Ibiza town who I hear is also really bad. I’ll probably have trouble eating solids for the rest of my life after going to that escaped Nazi butcher.”
She paused here for a moment, expecting Carter to say something, at least a word of sympathy or a hint about the dentist his rich bovine aunt used, but Carter merely tilted his head slightly further back as if to be more in line with the most potent rays of the sun. He was wearing his ski instructor sunglasses and it was hard to see if his eyes were open. His silence embarrassed her, so she kept on talking. It was very quiet on the port this morning and each time Rhonda’s stomach growled, she raised her voice.
“There are way too many cars on this island. The air in Ibiza town is so polluted. Smashed cars are all over the windy little roads, it’s starting to look like that Godard movie…oh, what was the name….the one with that traffic jam? San José is getting so tacky. All those tourist buses. Did you hear about that man? They carried him out of the water half-drowned. He died on the beach, but probably not because his lungs were full of water, there was this crowd of tourists breathing down his neck! Why would they go to the beach anyway? There’s no ozone layer. Their faces are so… pink!”
She would have continued, but now she could see Carter’s eyes. They were closed. Rhonda paused, breathed, and looked out to sea.
“I never eat indoors.” She said, inhaling the smell of diesel and salt water and fish. “I prefer to eat under a tree whenever possible.”
“Free as a tree,” Carter chirped. “A single free tree.”
Rhonda turned and looked at him. This was exactly right! Exactly! She loved that he said that, it was the exact image she had of herself. Not only had Carter finally said something, he had said something to her, the real her. And, he was sexy. Up until this moment she had never even considered Carter a man, he seemed like a handsome suntanned robot.
“Yes,” she said. “I love trees.” She adjusted her Woolworth’s halter top with the hand that had been resting on the bicycle seat, and brushed a fly off one of her bony knees.
Her smile, Rhonda would have no way of knowing, reminded Carter of his aunt. This association led him to think that he should feel something for this skinny girl, but just as it was with his own body, it was with hers. Useless. He couldn’t even feel himself sitting here, not with his head or his feet or the wet seat of his brother’s bathing suit.
Rhonda decided she would take him up on the invitation to sit down if he offered again.
Susana Gross (seated right in bikini) gives the teenagers’ point of view to luncheon committee members of the Friends of the Irving Schwartz Institute. Miss Gross is seeking an answer to the question: “Are sexual attitudes and values changing?” This same question will be answered at the Irving Schwartz Friends Group’s Fall membership luncheon on Sept 28. The topic at the program that day will be “Sex Education.”
“Old Maria is my neighbor. She’s as gnarly as her spreading carob tree that almost reaches my house. She lives in back with her menagerie of cats. When I first saw her, I thought: That’s a witch from a fairytale! I tried to place her. Hansel and Gretel! This wasn’t xenophobia, it was phobia, but it’s gone now. It disappeared the day I drove Old Maria home from Can Pepxica. Her and her layers of petticoat skirts, getting wet through the holes in the floorboard, as our rusty old car bumped over the puddles on the Benimussa road. We had a smooth turn at the hairpin, but when I pulled into the parking spot in front of Izzy’s studio, I remembered: today it was impossible to open the door on the driver’s side! Being stuck like that in the car with Old Maria was probably, in Nanny Scratch’s words, “meant to be.” I turned off the engine and we sat on top of Benimussa and appreciated the view. A bird whistled, “Wheeeet! Wheeeeeeeeeeeet! There’s no time like the present!” We stared at leprechaun hills and the smoky lavender sky with clouds full of coral colored rose petals. Izzy eventually came and let me out, but after that day, Old Maria and I are friends. If we see each other on the dirt path between our houses, we stop and talk about the weather. I’m lucky she’s practically deaf. She doesn’t say much. I answer the best I can. Our conversations would be a perfect example of Unconnected Dialogue, but they’re not unconnected at all. I speak Spanish, which she doesn’t speak, and she speaks Ibicenco, which I don’t speak, but, as if we know exactly what the other is saying, our dialogues connect. Old Maria’s Old Ibicenco sounds like chopped up Spanish, Catalan, French, German and Italian, with a little English and Yiddish thrown in.
Bon dia. That’s her.
Hola! That’s me.
Mirat las voltes?
Molt! Molt! Violent!
Ay caray! Caramba! Molt be! Molt be!
Si… Si… caray!
Adeu! Gràcies! Salut!
It´s a beautiful fall night on Avenida Diagonal. Es oscuro. It´s dark. People are out promenading. We could be in Miami, the weather is so balmy, the palms are flowing above us, breezy as a river. The traffic is noisy, if you listen. I don’t. I’m walking with a friend, Blanca, and we’re talking. We’re inspired, we’re tired, but we’re baring our souls. I leave her at the bus stop and I turn around and there it is, a stunning building in lights. A fairytale at night, a castle, a palace. It’s a beacon for me, into my past. One of my pasts. I once had an appointment in this castle. I met with the person in charge of running events. I was working at the time for a Basque woman, a kind of executive’s guru. She hired me, I’ll never know why, to arrange —over the phone— public speaking events for her. She believed I had, in fact, she dared me to have—the nerve to speak Spanish on the phone with my American accent. She was so pleased with the results she was getting from me that she sent me into the castle. I shook hands with the woman in charge and felt completely at home. She was a little blonde woman, as short as me, or maybe shorter. I liked being in that castle. It was perhaps the most beautiful building I had ever been invited to visit. What struck me most about it was the banquet room, or one of the banquet rooms. It was a scene out of Henry VIII. The scene that shows the banquet table after all the guests have gone. The tablecloth, the candelabras, the crumpled heavy cloth napkins, the champagne glasses, the chinaware, the silver, the dishes, were all spirits frozen in time. The chairs still looked warm. There were crumbs scattered around the table, and crusts of bread. The crumbs and the crusts, I love crumbs and crusts, but I didn’t linger, the woman by my side rushed me past those spirits and crumbs, we had business to do!