Sunday, October 15, 2006

WRITERS WORKSHOPS are such interesting little events…

WRITERS WORKSHOPS are such interesting little events… quietly exuberant microcosm of human foibles, fancy/fantasy and fascination. Sometimes they kind of bombard the sanity like some sort of literary Normandys and Waterloos; sometimes they nag and irritate like in-laws Inquisition/Torture chambers. They devastate, they pulverize you into crappy smithereens; they tick you off like crazy, they ruin your day, yet you can’t really complain. You keep on coming back for more… But, most of the time, writers workshops are just fun hangout gigs where we could check in our egomaniac trips or check out smart girls who hid erotic fires between seductive cleavages of some oblique but sweet metaphors… You can also survey hot dudes who may be the same exact replica or clone of Lestat The Vampire—mysterious, dangerous but irresistible. Don’t you know that most often than not—writers workshops are disguised as singles convergences or Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club? While the “taken, attached and involved” are busy sipping super-sweet nectars of twogetherness some place more private, the “lonely” seek out writers workshops!
Seriously though, in workshops—we may be able to trip on a cool Dead Poets Society and reap some wisdom along the way, or a publishing agent who’s well-connected somewhere might sit in, that “guest” could be our bridge to fame and fortune. Apart from that, I “accidentally” tripped on a lot of writing/editing side-jobs – including babysitting, dogwalking, housecleaning sidelines — while immersed in writers workshops.
I must say that I learned a lot (of whatever I know about writing) in writers workshops—weekend gatherings and midweek drinking bouts (played up as “workshops”), summer creative writing camps, and literary conventions. For sure, most workshops that I joined in were fun, square room arenas of swashbuckling, duelling egos (masqueraded as “discussion”), unrequited perversions (clothed as “craft” or “art” or “freedom of expression”), super-trashy literary dalliances, and yes indeed, in many instances, I get to discover sparkling gems (that are a lot better and more engaging than what are usually peddled at Barnes & Noble or Borders as “Month’s Bestsellers”).
What’s so cool about writers workshops (at least those that I signed in) is the seductive element of surprise that lurks in there… you don’t know what you’re gonna get.
What I mostly got—during the early years of my own writers workshop saga? Hear these..
“It took me a good 15 precious minutes to ponder rhyme and reason—sanity and insanity—about your little piece of poetic intrusion into this beautiful world of ours. What I’m trying to say is, why don’t you just quit this writing silliness and just wait tables, and be of service to humanity?”
“I’d rather read a Chinatown menu or Wal-Mart catalogue than waste my time over this unrelenting exercise of drab shit stacked up like empty vials of cough syrup clothed with puke sitting beside a stinking downtown commode!”
“My advice – just forget it! Go jump over Verrazzano Bridge, bungee jump down Niagara Falls, eat roaches, wash your grandmother’s apron, buy your girl a wonder bra, whatever—but, please, don’t subject us to this atrocious poetry again, oh please!”
So, how do we deal with those? Well, we have to put up with those amazingly “upfront” comments or suggestions… Although there were moments, as well, when my ascetic patience hit bottom, so I climaxed one writers session too many with a mano-a-mano at a parking lot. (Those were my twentysomething years, I have mellowed considerably.) But then, among these insane piles and heaps of heartaches, bruised egos, and black eyes (c/o the brawl), you’d get one or two good, enticing invite.
“Hmmm, your poetry is very multi-layered, I need to dig deeper, very mysterious… would you have time on Friday night to discuss this? My apartment? Bring more of your poems, I’ll have wine…”
In Asheville, I thought I only know of two regular, weekly writers workshops. The Tuesday group (with Robert Kelley) and the Wednesday group that included The Indie’s ever-prolific and diligent senior writer, Mike Hopping.
I was told that there are actually more specialized, exclusive writers groups in the city. Writers groups by astrologers, women-only, non-smokers/non-drinkers, lesbians and gays, Baptists/Catholics, fundamentalists, pagans, Deadheads, Goths (divided between those who dig Danzig and those who don’t), vampires and vampyrs (segregated between those who hang out at Waffle House every aftermidnight and those who simply stay home and chow down grits over diet Mountain Dew and watch “Dawg, The Bounty Hunter”), sadomasochists, Weightwatchers alumni, vegans/vegetarians, white supremacists, Hispanic/Latinos, ex-AA denizens, high schoolers, hip-hop homeboys/girls, anorexics anonymous, Crumb&Pekar Fans Club, divorcees and jilted lovers…
And more – writers workshop by men who were disapproved by their in-laws, women whose husbands are honorary members of Man Law sect, weekend lovers of autumn leaves, haters of dandelions, celebrators of the wind and snow, eaters of beef jerky and pickled pig ears… (believe it or not, there’s one like that).
MANY! Many writers workshops!
This is good, you know. Don’t get me wrong…
When I used to go around Filipino-American communities in the NY-NJ-CT tri-states seven years ago (while editing a mainstream Filipino newspaper), I chanced upon a million Pinoy writers groups denominations. All of these are rooted to the Filipino culture back home… but it seems people don’t simply agree the moment they sit down around a circle and open their mouths. So they form their own splinter, semi-splinter, pseudo-splinter, copy-splinter, splinter-splinter writers workshops.
Some of the list that I gathered – a group for writers with northern background (12 chapters scattered all over and around five New York City boroughs), writers with northern background whose parents are from the south, writers with northern background whose wives/hubbies are from the south, writers with northern background whose kids were born in the Philippines, writers with northern background whose kids were born in the US, writers with northern background who’ve been dumped by their wives/husbands, writers with northern background who are applying for American citizenship, writers with northern background who are undocumented illegals or with expired visas, writers with northern background who are actually from the south but don’t wanna say, writers with northern background who are… whatever.
In Asheville, this cornucopia of writers groups certainly add spice and brew to what we all call (and brag) as diversity.
Well, diversity is good if these seemingly “different” people, or humanity with different points-of-view or “madnesses,” decide to coexist as one community and try to work or unite towards a collective end… diversity won’t work if these same groups of people simply create their own cliques and specialized groupings. Why do we drum up “diversity” and celebrate community while at the same time, we segregate ourselves from the heart of the collective?
Many times I observe that the gap that separates between a non-vegan/non-organic carnivore and a healthy-living, non-smoking, non-drinking person is wider than the space that sets apart a Republican from a Democrat… a lesbian group has their own place in the community, is their a Man Law group around here? How about the anarchists vs the moderates, the hippies and the yippies/yuppies, the babyboomers and the confused young?
It’s not like these people are going to co-exist on a daily basis or watch Glen Beck or “Desperate Housewives” on TV, seated on one couch under one roof. It’s just at least, once a week meeting in a public venue, you know…
In the last few weeks before this deadline, senseless killings and shootings painted our lives red. Is there a war in America? Why do our kids decide to grab that gun to articulate a point? Who are they listening to, what are they thinking?
It seems like we have more time to figure out the good nutrients in a hummus, ruminate over the dark spirits behind an SUV, hail and glorify the peaceful vibes of an unseen god up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, mused over gender sensitivity and political correctness, or debate whether Dan Brown is a heretic or not, or Oprah Winfrey really has right and authority to pick a good book, or does condoms bastardize the sanctity of Kama Sutra… than try to sit down with our children and, for once, listen to what they’re saying.
What do the children or the young want? Maybe they want to join our good-natured, holier-than-thou, “exclusively for adults” writers groups. Maybe they know better than us… maybe they have more beautiful ideas to share.
Maybe one of these kids are working on a novella that’s actually a blueprint to another Columbine tragedy? Or maybe these kids exude promising auras of future literary greats? Do they have to grab a gun again to let us, adults, listen? The writings on the wall scream like a giant cat’s blank stare. What are we gonna do with these signs? Muse, ruminate, discuss, debate, banter, ponder—over them—behind closed doors, closed to/from the outside world? Our doors that secure and protect our exclusive groupings from the others are so tight and sealed that we can no longer hear what’s going on out there, just a good ten yards away.
I wonder what we have been writing lately…
Writers workshops are a gathering of people, I believe. People, who—besides a writing passion commonality—are also human beings who want to be heard, to connect, to bond. I don’t believe that most struggling writers—or even published ones—are in workshops simply to polish or break in a draft. They are there because they have a truth to share, no matter how risky or dangerous that may be.
We always mouth the words “community” and “diversity” – seemingly, to trumpet a global, no-walls/no-ceilings wisdom. But we seldom have the courage to open our doors to those who knock just because they don’t measure up to the word, “Writers” or “Part of the Group.”
We write about the world we live in, and the people in it—including us. Isn’t it boring to listen to just one “truth” every Monday or Friday or Wednesday night? Unless, we only want to listen to our own voices and cuddle our own stuffed toys of elitism and exclusivity, then it’s maybe cool to just stay locked up.
As for me, I just want to write… Whether you tear my poetry away and flush it down the toilet bowl, or hang it on your bedroom wall, beside a Van Gogh or three red roses. Whatever it is that you do with my little intrusion inside society’s four walls – the important thing is, I have extended my heart’s spirit. Quash it, burn it, step on it, no matter—no one frustrates, rejects, dumps, disappoints the spirit.
That’s the spirit of the writer that I want to hang out with in a writers workshop. I don’t care whether we do it at Waffle House, at Pritchard Park, or inside my humble abode, beside my fireplace, on 61 Dunwell Avenue.
Bring in the poetry, I’ll have wine and tea.

Monday, April 17, 2006

BONFIRES JOURNAL: Spring Weekend Usher--Cool, Smooth, Easy... but Why Am I Sad?

GRACIAS ET AMORE. Among past Traveling Bonfires events in Asheville in the last few years, last weekend's shows at UNCA Highsmith Union and Pritchard Park were two of the most successful, well-coordinated, very-organized, methodically-supported, financially-manageable, and less-stressful.
But I don't know what I'm feeling at this moment--post midlife crisis, last strands of Mercury Retrogade whatever, wearied blues. I am simply sad. Never mind...
Thanks to each and everyone.
The program went pretty well with the "THREE INNOCENTS & A SPIRIT" dramatic play/mime by N a Sonje (our Haitian visitors). We set up before 4pm... from Rick, Highsmith's head tech person to John Staversky (sound) to Kevin Innes (projectionist) to opening act (Pure Energy) to SGA's intro remarks to the three-person cast of Carla, Djaloki and Ari. (Rick even donated some PA/sound equipment to the Bonfires.) Heather Duncan was an instant cast member and she did an awesome job on stage!
Overall--no slips, no missing prop, no tech problem, no complaints, we loaded out just as smoothly as we loaded in. I was getting tensed few minutes before the show, fearing that not many people will show up. It wasn't standing-room only kind of event, but it was pretty well-attended, and the audience was very attentive and interested.
There are so many people to thank, but let me pore through my tired memory -- Glenis Redmond, Charlie Thomas, Tim Pluta, Bob Brown, Deirdre Wiggins, Monika (Jubilee community member), Kim Potter, Jackie Bowman, Matt Mulder, Jim Brown, Katie Kasben, John Staversky, Danzig Jr & Misty the Younger O, UNCA Highsmith Union, Marta The Nicer's workmates Alison, Janis and Missy, Rena Wright, UNCA Student Government Association (esp. Anne Walch and the cool dude who introduced the visitors).
UNCA's tech staff was very accommodating, very efficient, very kind... from Rick to Will to Megan to the evening-shift lady who kept on asking me if there's something that we need... The SGA was very nice indeed for juggling their schedule to show support through their presence (aside from the co-sponsorship).

The kickoff event of the third year of the "BONFIRES FOR PEACE AT PRITCHARD PARK" (the following day) was a breeze. Again, we saw beautiful humanity at the park, dancing like spring is just a weekend, seize the moment. But let me give special thanks to Chris Johnson and the entire Touch Samadhi trance DJ family and their friends and relations for the generosity. As usual, everybody's there on time... we started setting up few minutes to 3pm. The DJs arrived around 3:30, and started spinning at 4pm--right on time.
Thanks to Rosetta Rzany for the tent, to Roman Pizza and Mellow Mushroom for the food, Cold River Gallery for the donation, Katie K (again), Dale Hoffman, Ryan Christopher, to the beautiful souls who dropped money at the tip jar... We earned $110. To the Citizen Times columnist who emailed me these words (the same night) -- "You are on a wonderful life/spiritual journey and it was a pleasure to meet you and, later, to learn more about you. I hope our paths cross again in the near future... Thank you for what you are doing -- for yourself and for the planet" ... to the man who's a perennial Bonfires attendee--who stopped me at Malaprop's as I took a 10-minute break to check my emails--to shake my hands and remind me to "Rest sometimes, my son."

AM I TIRED? But my spirit is still roaming around...
Sometimes, my other self asks me--"What are you getting out of this?" I don't know... I told Marta The Nicer as we walked around our West Asheville block last night, "I am tired, I'd like to take a break but I don't want to miss these moments--this is all I got. I am sad that life isn't perfect... I am sad that I have to cut my links with people on my way to forge ties with more people... I wish I'd be happy by just spending whatever we have on a new pair of shoes, or a weekend trip to the coast, but I know what makes me happy. I am happy last night... amidst the din, amidst the crowd--I see people happy. I like to see the peacefulness in people being happy... I miss home, but I see home in those bodies of energy, those people... I'd like you to take the lead, you are on the spotlight, you can't say `I don't know' anymore -- you have to have ready answers to these people that you profess to serve, whatever they say, whatever they accuse you of. Be true to your spirit."
I miss home, I miss familiar faces and familiar moments. I'd like to read new poems this Wed to help me ease my heart. See you at Malaprop's then--I am reading poems with Walter Dinteman, Megan Hislop and Matthew Mulder.
Meantime... salut!

Monday, April 03, 2006

61 Dunwell Av and “Looking Forward"

SPRING SUN IS UP but winter froze is still wafting by. The fireplace burns to make up for the currently unavailable heating. Sooner or later, warmth and ease will usher the sylvan grace of sunflowers and mischievous banterings of crickets – and afternoon poetry shall emanate from the front porch and songs will envelope nighttime bonfires at the backyard.
That is the metaphor of the moment.
Let me rephrase the Ecclesiastes. There is a season for the blues and funk, a season for rock and roll. For the time being, we can jazz up time and space, say thanks to winter’s transcendent dark and welcome the gypsy merriment of spring. Life is beautiful despite the temporal misery and intermittent agony.
Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” saunters in the living room, but my spirit is humming Neil Young’s “Looking Forward.”

GOOD NEWS. We have just moved to our new office and house in West Asheville. No more musty cave-like cribs—bittersweet memories of Woodfin Place and Courtyard/Lexington Avenue, this time out. The exact address—61 Dunwell Avenue, Asheville NC 28806.
The cable and internet connects are already reinstalled but we are still laboring over purgatory and hell trying to get Charter to correctly, obediently, punctually, truly hook the phoneline back up. (UPDATE/04.01--we already got the phone hooked up but it's a new number -- 828 505 0476.) That is the bad news.
In one of the most impoverished societies where I spent years of my impoverished little life, all I ever needed was extra money—something around, equivalent to $15 to $20 to hand under-the-table—to get good, efficient, swift service. In a dreamland like the US of A, it’s not that easy and accessible, no buddy! You see, I made sure that I paid the month’s Charter bill, ahead of deadline, before this current move to assure that we’d get the phone reinstalled fast (as this huge telecom firm promised) but, as of this writing, we don’t have it.
But I don’t want to upset myself any longer. It has been an amazingly tough two weeks! The Blue Sky God/dess will make things happen, sooner or later… Let me enjoy the blessings after the sorrow. It’s good to have a Marta The Nicer Osbourne beside me all the time—she balances my spitfire-dragon spirit. (And she’s the only earthling I know who has the astronomical patience and composure to wait three hours as Charter shuffles her from one staff to the other.)

AFTER A LONG, elongated recitation (or sermon on the mount)—the Blue Sky God/dess wired me enough money to get our bearings back after this latest distressful conjecture that my avowed “rock journey and sublime madness” got enmeshed with. “Grow up! The problem with you is—you can’t live with any human being in this world! You don’t belong to earth! You’re too-bad-to-be-true!”
And so the God/dess revisited the gloriously weird past of the "little man" who nailed three bats on wood panel awaiting for Dracula to emerge after 12midnight, the imp who threw logs and logs of flames on the fireplace to force Santa Claus to enter through the front door instead of the stupid chimney, who stole all the edible contents of the household fridge of plenty to distribute them to all the starving tribal kids up in the hills…
This time, I am sure I am not the doubtful imp or the Dracula-hunting brat no more – I am the “fridge thief.” I was promised plenty of impermanent luxuries by the grizzly courtyard bear and twin rivers muse but there is nothing left for poor, beautiful souls that mill around my bonfires – so, excuse me, we gotta go. They can dance the devil’s boogie under their burnout PBR moonlights, but I am rockin’ with my kindred spirits under the blue sky, as ever. This is the moment when ramen noodles shared with the glorious humanity and pigeons at Pritchard Park tastes a lot better than a lonely, twosome free oyster dinner at Magnolia’s or Lobster Trap. Wisdom, no matter how impervious and odd it is, comes and goes from within the heart—nowhere else.
I don’t regret leaving the Courtyard. It’s a blessing that we left before we got deeper and deeper down in compromise.

OUR NEW West Asheville abode—four rooms (two bedrooms, plus an office, a space for a dark room or library), a relatively big living room (with a fireplace) that could be cool for an intimate poetry reading with two glass windows overlooking trees in the neighborhood, huge basement/garage (cool spot to build a mini-music studio), wide front and backyard (with a garden), side porch for a serious conversation or mid-afternoon reading respite. Yes, there is a kitchen (but I can also make some salmon grill on the porch). Tall trees and greenery surround us.
We plan to do a garage sale/intimate Bonfires show here this late spring. Indeed, I have more than enough space to cook all my—“Who’s cuisine reigns supreme!” culinary magic. The basement has enough room to do a Friday filmshow or summertime open mic. The yard is rife for a chill-out bonfire and acoustic/poetry convergence, or just an afternoon family barbecue.
It’s a block away from/to Haywood Road (Westville Pub, West End Bakery, Digable Pizza, Orbit Video). We share the house with a young couple, Jay and Misty—young enough to be our kids—who look like Marilyn Manson and Kelly Osbourne (no kidding). (I now “baptize” them as Danzig Jr and Kelly The Younger Osbourne). They have awesome, goth, sweetly strange pets – centipedes, millipedes, spiders, geckos, frogs, mice, snake, uhh – but don’t be afraid (these pets are all in their pitch-dark or reddened room), they also have cool birds, a super-tiny dog, black cat, and lots of fishes on aquariums. A parrot stands guard beside the front door and whistles a lot like crazy.
But our roomies or housemates are nice, peaceful, courteous youths. I think I scare them more than they probably think they scare me though… Sweet kids, they eat a lot of cereals, tuna salad, and chocolates. And drink loads and loads of milk and diet Mountain Dew. Danzig Jr also draws (on charcoal) a lot of human body parts, by the way.
We haven’t really properly settled our piles and piles of office paperwork and stuff, and I am not yet fully at ease with table placements, wall hangings, and I don’t know where to display my collection of cheap shades and Dollar Tree sunglasses yet – but come on over and visit us. We have a big TV screen, we can watch movies—enjoy the Final Four on cable, or put up a bonfire outside…

THANKS to Mike Hopping for helping us move (with his ever-reliable pickup truck) last week. Thanks to Janis R who accommodated us (in her Merrimon Av house) for few days after we left the Courtyard in a huff—while we scouted for a place that, at least, isn’t “temporary.” We drove the “pimp van” all the way to Swannanoa and Black Mountain and Fairview and Barnardsville and back to Biltmore Forest and Oakley last week—looking for a place that’ll fit this sweetly eccentric mind of yours truly. (For Marta The Nicer, any place is as good as any.)
“You deserve a better place than Asheville,” Janis said (then she handed me $20, “Do me a favor, buy Marta dinner tonight”). But, the bottomline is, a place, city, town—wherever, whatever circumstance surround them—are all the same to me. These don’t really, actually change—it’s the people that change or matter. And I believe in humanity… I believe that the human heart prevails, one way or the other. I might be angry and running my smart, arrogant mouth these days – but I will be a sweetheart again, few days from now. Promise.

THREE OR FOUR winters ago, when Marta The Nicer Osbourne knocked at the erstwhile Indie Crib on 70 Woodfin Place, Suite 01’s door – torn and shattered, no money, no car, no job, no friends, no relatives – I didn’t know what to do. I knew that I didn’t have the material/physical capability to take her in. But I always believe in what my childhood faith told me, “Whoever knocks at the door, let them in, these are blessings.” I told Marta that I didn’t have money anymore, I don’t even own the lease of the office, I don’t drive, I didn’t even have enough money to get an issue of The Indie out. But God has “given” her to me, I can’t do anything about that—I never turned anyone out of my door. Although the building prohibits it, I had to take Marta in. I will not let her out of the winter cold, I can’t. So we shared my supply of ramen noodles and helped me labor to get The Indie out and the Traveling Bonfires rockin’ with the vagrant wind.
That was three years ago last December.
Last month, at the Courtyard, I had to let a “homeless” friend go—leave on winter’s night—because it wasn’t my premises, anymore. We rented our space inside the vicinity but we were housed within a compound that is governed by a landlord and other tenants. There were rules and regulations. Such is the strangeness and weirdness of that “collaborative” deal that I got into.

ON MARTA’S FIRST event at the “Bonfires for Peace at Pritchard Park” in 2004, she wept like a kid thinking that she’s not worthy of the work and responsibility—when a performer started whining over some technical mishap. Marta was a 42-year-old divorced individual who came from the poor-as-Third World boondocks of Welch, WV—whose last job was a nursing aide. I told her not to cry—it’s not what seemed to be her physical, creative, or academic deficiency or drawback that matter here, it’s her spirit that matters. “Hang on… we are on a rock and roll mission from the Blue Sky God/dess. We are just warming up. Get up and fight!”
So Marta The Nicer Osbourne, like a loyal soldier and obedient friend, followed everything that comes out of my grand, sweet lunacy. We defied the odds, we fought adversaries, we treaded roads less traveled – Vagrant Wind tour up north, two years of Pritchard Park madness, countless gigs and events – the passing of my dear Mother, evictions and unpaid bills, food stamps and Mission visitations, car crash and more “detractors.” She talked and negotiated with Asheville’s police chief, City Mayor’s office, city government officials, business leaders and club/restaurant managers—as well as the rowdy, drunken vagrants at Pritchard Park and rock-star Bonfires performers…
But at the end of day, we laughed as we rested our tired backs—I danced around to Led Zeppelin and Santana and we goofed around Adam Sandler DVDs and continued to spawn new programs and projects each time we seemingly “failed.”

AT THE COURTYARD, we realized that we were on a wrong side of the block. We were maybe assured of a better physical situation (compared with when we were at Woodfin Place) but that’d also mean leaving the spirit behind. I can’t swallow a spoonful of nice Indian dish provided by those who can afford them, in expense for the beautiful humanity outside. To put it simply, I quizzed myself, “The grizzly bear could afford to buy me an oyster dinner, or fly his abundant self to Puerto Rico and Florida for a grand vacation, but he doesn’t have $150 to pay a soundperson to launch his one-man-committee film festival—a festival that unsuspecting young, dreamy filmmakers sent in entries for a fee. The man wanted me to mouth the ideals of the Traveling Bonfires just because we enjoined close to 200 performers to share music and time for free to the community one summer?”
I remember those Pritchard Park nights when I tried in vain to hand Hippie Shitzu’s Mark Anderson $25 earned via tips for his gasoline money for providing the sound to the entire event that day. The night I had to let go off my remaining $10 so we can buy bread for performers because the food donation didn’t arrive on time… The many mornings that Chris Malz picked Marta up for work at UNCA. These beautiful people who gave us rides, shared their food, donated their work, handed us money extracted from their meager pay... I can’t even freely let them in the Courtyard premises on ordinary days because we needed to close the gates all the time.
It was so easy for me to follow my heart when things like this happen.

SO HOW MANY, at least in this town, wealthy people housed me in a condominium room up Town Mtn Road, enticed me with an SUV, a house and an office building, dinners at Red Lobster and Applebee’s – but didn’t have a few dollars to pay the “homeless” to weed grasses on their real estate because the property is a “Bonfires for Peace” hook-up? So how many free pizzas and pastry should we beg from Indie advertisers and Bonfires supporters to feed people to judge a supposedly international filmfest because the man couldn’t afford to pay honorarium to the right judges in town? Is it because the project is an Indie collaboration?
I have been trapped in this kind of dubious drill in my life, I can’t afford to be used and abused again. Time to move on, for the nth time… I don’t mind getting up five hundred times in one month, each time we fall 250 times. My energy doesn’t come from my body, it comes from my spirit…
More than anything else, I can – anytime, anywhere – give up a thousand wealthy grizzly bears and emerald-soaked twin rivers but not my friends out there. Marta The Nicer and the acts and bands and volunteers who play and contribute work to this madness… these people, these friends are the very souls that make The Indie and Traveling Bonfires happen. I will say that again--over and over and over again—like the pesky, little parrot on our front door.

SO WHERE TO NOW? That brings us to the Update… (ahh, as usual, these ramblings…)
There is no significant change in regards the Traveling Bonfires’ spring to fall (or rest of 2006) projects and program, as well as the Loved by the Buffalo Publications magazine/books publishing initiatives. Just a few, minor modifications.
[Check the Update on the other blog site-- I know reading this email can be tiring. Get a beer or juice for few minutes, then go to the my other email.]

Gracias et emore!
West Asheville
March 26, 2006.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

PHILIPPINE TRAGEDY: "Help is on the way," the President said

COLD WINTER MORNING. Waking up to the cold... GUINSAUGON, Philippines - Rescue workers searched a sea of mud in vain Saturday for survivors of a landslide that killed up to 1,800 people. Then, the dearly anointed President said, "Help is on the way... from the sea, land, air." If she could only summon the gods, with the grandest and effective official statements, she would. I am very sure. The PR writer earns a bonus trip to Disneyland next year...
Why can't these leaders go sink their holier-than-thou bodies deep down the mud and go tell the dead that, yes, "Help is on the way?" These same people whose grimy, greasy hands they shook during election carnivals in front of overzealous cameras. How many times did they wash and soak and rinse their hands with imported disinfectants after campaign soirees... because their heathen hands need to be cared for, because they are leaders, because they are kings and queens.
Kings and queens dont get buried under a landslide, kings and queens dont grieve. Their tears are made of liquid gold.

I WOKE UP with a barrage of emails from friends and acquaintances from all over, "Pasckie, are your relatives in the Philippines okay?"
My relatives are safe. They are some of the few privileged souls who are able to secure and protect themselves from the deadly mud of tragedy. I am one of the few privileged soul coming from a very poor country outside of the gilded gates of America who is able to secure myself with a heater, salmon grill dinner, 100+ channel cable TV, warm bed, and dial-911 for emergency.
"Devastating typhoons that batter the Philippines almost five months each year kill thousands of my people... it's just February, typhoons usually stop around September, if we're lucky." My heart is so used and abused by these yearly visitations of human misery that I feel that I kind of lost my individual self within a sea of human pain. The reason why ramen soup tastes better than steamed lobster in some instances? The reason why written words and "Bonfires for Peace" mean so much?
It's because I know a few more extra dollars and a few more tired bones and sleepless nights mean a little bit of comfort for those who need them. One day, the words and the bonfiires will cheer and warm the hearts of those who really really need them.

WHEN MY DYING MOTHER insisted that I don't go home because "I am only one life, go and seek the peace that you've long wanted, my son." The dying mother, the magnificently impoverished people in the countrysides, the tearful faces of children who had to wave their fathers and mothers goodbye as they work the deserts of Saudi Arabia and kitchen sinks of London and the freezing canneries of Alaska so they could secure food on the table, sturdy roofs above heads, and a future...
These are the very reasons why madmen have amazing energy and crazy people defy the odds. Should we immigrants come home when what we see when we set foot in our beloved home-country are rows and rows of corpses clothed in mud, rows and rows of GI-sheet shanties sustaining hold of the earth as storm winds shake them, children as young as five selling flowers and cigarette sticks on the streets for measly coins until aftermidnight...
What can we do when they bury a bullet at your back, when they shut your mouth away with a grenade, when they mute your pen with physical torture... We immigrants fly to America, the bastion of freedom and democracy, and say our piece so the miseries and pain from little countries like ours will be heard, so the gods channel aid in terms of sturdy houses, and health benefits, and more jobs that stops parents to work abroad.

SO THEY TELL ME, why do I have a lot of energy to work on multiple projects. Why do I hate the war. I have to say it again... the memories of those places, of those faces--make me cringe at just the mere thought of billions of money spent on bombing villages and killing people, billions of money spent on cutting down trees so they could rev up the economy of those who could build and buy cool houses...

WHAT IS HEAVEN, WHAT IS DEATH? Life is here... What is "heaven," what is nirvana, what is everlasting peace, when you can't do anything anymore to help those who breathe and feel pain and joy, when you can't do anything anymore for humanity? How many years do we still have to consume and waste away, how many dead people inspire and urge us to hit the road and make things happen when the truth is--we can't sacrifice the comfort of the homefront, the convenience of this life?
This tragedy, this pain, this grief... These are the very noise that wakes me up at night, and supplies my energy to carry on. The need to do something, the need to do something, so one day, we may be able to extend one hand, one moment, just one moment to ease the pain of those who didnt have what we have...
"Help is on the way?" What help? Is she going to resurrect the lives of the dead with a box of milk from a Forbes Top 1000 company? Sacks of rice from Washington and the European Union? Plaster band aids to weeping hearts of those grieving relatives?

WHO WANTS to talk about "I going through a lot of emotional shit lately?" Failing heaters or showers without hot water, or vehicles that conk out, or rental back-accounts, or laptops that suck, or "I can't do that gig because..." or "pass that joint, we deserve to chill a bit."
I want to feel that fistful of mud that buried these beautiful people. Just that. That alone makes me want to live longer and longer and longer. One day The Blue Sky God/dess will help me stop that one landslide.
Now I gotta start working on The Indie's March issue... and deliver more Wanders. The weatherdude says temp is 20s. Bundle up, be careful of the ice on the streets, stock up on toilet papers.What the hell...


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Prayers to the Poor & Dear Departed

JOIN ME and thousands in few minutes of prayer and mourning to the dead of adeadly stampede in Manila. There's no word articulate and profound enough to describe the sorrow and the agony--especially that I know and I feel why did these poor people had to be there, lined up before a TV game show, hoping for some cash and kind. They took vigil in their roughshod collectively-rented jeepneys all night, some walked grimy streets, dined on hot noodles--all hoping to get in the stadium first, closer to the prize, closer to little prizes that are basically spare change in America.

It's poverty, untimigated poverty. When poor people have no visible hope other than a lotto winning, a chance at a TV game show, a day's meager dream--that's all they got. They had to hope, they had to take a chance --in turn, they lost their lives.

This misery back home, the impoverishment, the huge gap between the rich and the poor, in poor countries that I saw and witnessed as I traversed the comfortable streets of America is the bleeding humanity that makes me survive my remaining life on earth. They hurt so they make me live longer because they make me want to heal.

Somewhere people suffer, somewhere people dont care whether they are fed with rotten fish or bad spam meat, dogs or crickets, canned goods discarded by the western world--as long as they're fed. Somewhere where a Bill Gates sweatshop is good job enough to secure a roof over the heads of a family of four, somewhere where entry to corporate infrastructures in the mold of Wal-Mart is like entry to "heaven," somewhere where survival is the day in the life...

That is the world that I know, and the spirit that makes me wake up... always awake.

I say my prayers... blessed are the poor.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A NEW YEAR JOURNAL: Keep the Faith, Rock the Blues, Spin the Funk

TAKING THE CUE from Heather Duncan’s email from Michigan.

>>>>NEW YEAR and bright year wishes to you. I'm in Michigan amongst the gloom outside, but there are lots of bright indoor lights. There's a community space in Lansing that is worth visiting if any visits to Michigan ever happen. Magdalena's Tea House hosts open jams on Mondays, open mics tomorrow, and there's an open poetry to visit tonight. Many acts come through here. One of them, Hope for a Golden Summer, also played at Earth Haven in Black Mountain this fall on their tour. Maybe Magdalena's can make it to Asheville one day to rival the Crib/Courtyard, or instead just to join a big conglomeration of good folks and events.
Thoughtful tidings, Heather<<<<

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you, too, Heather--and all of you out there. I know Michigan is all snow--but family/friends' warmth makes it all very comfortable down there or wherever you are. Have you moved back to Michigan, or just on a family Holiday break?


I made several phone calls to my family and relatives in Manila few days ago. I could hear eager dogs barking, Christmas carols blaring nonstop (esp. Jackson 5's "Give Love On Christmas Day"), rowdy little kids frolicking around the phone, firecrackers blasting, and tricycles and jeepneys roaring by. The sound of gift wrappers being unfurled… the sweet melody of child-like surprise and gratitude. Lots of laughters!
Laughters, laughters for hours and hours—in the midst of real misery (mostly, poverty-related funk)—are the beautiful gifts of life that I severely miss in America. I remember those happy days… in between band or theater rehearsals—each has a standup piece to break in, every weekend gathering by a neigborhood “pondahan” (small eatery)—each has a dish to share, every Saturday morning of backyard pickup basketball game—each has a new move to brag, Sundays following Church mass—each has a new, hopeful week to look up to and thank God, family, and friends for. More than anything else, we spontaneously gather, tell stories of the week that was, we goof around a lot. Not many muddle or darken the fun via gloom/doom stories or problems and miseries that wouldn’t let go. We drop coins and small bills on the middle of the soiree/joust/funhouse table for the soul that needs temporary monetary aid, we read poetry and sing songs for the spirit that needs jubilation and inspiration. And then we walk that sad, blue friend to his/her house and help guarantee that individual a nice, warm sleep… It was so easy to ease someone's troubled mind and broken heart. I miss those days...
I miss those Christmasses, I miss those New Years, I miss those basketball games, I miss those poetry readings, I miss those jeepney rides, I miss those bonfires. In a country and culture that is battered by typhoons and hurricanes four to five months a year, street/political unrest and unmitigated poverty put its humanity at the lowest of the global socioeconomic barometer – but there are laughters that reverberate from dusk till dawn, happiness that overpowers the gloom any time of the day. There is joy that could be had with just a song sung under a blue moon, there is pain that is healed by just two shoulders nudging.
I HAVE four brothers and four sisters. BIG family. I was always the family clown, believe it or not—that my Mom used to remind me that my younger siblings will find it hard to take me seriously if I always goof around/with them. Indeed, most of my family didn’t have a real first-hand view of the “serious” side of my madnesses, unless I wasn’t home—which means, they simply either read news or heard about my exploits and adventures somewhere… At first, my family didn’t even know that I was in the South of the Philippines for sometime, covering segments of the Muslim’s fight/war for autonomy from the central government, they didn’t even know that I lived in a remote village in India for almost a year, or my seemingly random trips to Wales, Ireland, Belgium, Brazil etc.
These things, “crazy” things about my life, kinda fascinate me these days, makes me reflect deeper—what have I lost and gained, after all these years? What should I try to regain or lose this time? All I know is I don’t think I will stop doing exactly what I first did when I was eight years old, in a mining town in a mountain village, upon seeing tribal kids ran around puddles of mud under an incessant rain, their unaffected laughters booming, drowning the downpour’s roar…
It was very beautiful. So I started gathering my friends to a bonfire, we brainstormed community or school projects (that were often rife with mystery and intrigue), read poems, told stories (never mind if they’re mostly “rehashed,” fiction or half-fiction), sang songs to each and everyone, played basketball, soccer or “patintero” (tag) on soft, dusty or muddy ground in between breaks… went around the neighborhood and asked for donations so we could produce our little madnesses.


[BACK TO Heather’s email]... By the way, Claire Campbell and her band Hope for Agoldensummer almost played for The Traveling Bonfires for our monthly Malaprops gig on Jan 12 but we realized their set-up wasnt conducive to Malaprops' "no-amplification" rule so we may have to book them come spring or summer in other venues (including The Courtyard) instead. This early, a number of female singer-songwriters have already gotten in touch with me for 2006 tour/visits to Asheville -- including Adrienne Nightingale and Malcolm Rollick (she's a she) of Brooklyn NY (May), Jessica Yoakum of Boston (July), and Kathy Moser of south NJ (Sept). Recent Bonfires visitor Deborah Crooks (from Frisco) also plans to return this summer or fall. And, we may also host a Haiti-based performing organization called “N A Sonje” this spring (April).

While the concept of the Courtyard/Bonfires in Asheville and Magdalena's Tea House in Michigan appear kinda "revolutionary" and cutting-edge, this isnt actually a new brainstorm--it's all over us since time immemorial, in downtown Manhattan, in Antwerp, in Dublin, in Manila, in Bali, in New Mexico.

For instance, in the last few years before I left Manila, we had a popular Manila suburb “artists/writers perch” called, "Kasalo" (translated loosely, "part of the dinner, gathering, relations, community")--where we had singer-songwriter shows, short plays, poetry readings, filmshows, art/photo exhibits, writers workshops, artists/musicians/actors/mediapeople discussions and meetings, as well as birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, book launch, lots of food (mostly exotic dishes that the artists/poets cooked themselves). But there were some break-ups along the way, too--primarily since the Philippines was embroiled (as ever) in virulent sociopolitical/ideological debate during those days. I sort of chronicled that "frustration" in my song, "Looking for my Comrades" and a short fiction entitled, “Viaje” (co-written in Spanish, with Ciara Ruiz Cruz), few months before I decided to leave Manila.

When I first arrived in Asheville--or the first few months that I spent wallowing in downtown's diverse humanity—I “discovered” two places/venues that, for me at that time, exuded promise of "community fervour" and collective strength. These were ACRC (asheville community resource center) and a loft/pad at Carolina Lane called The Core Pad, where the demised Mosaic Vortex of Breanna Leslie+friends once held fort. Of course, we all know that both venues have considerably slowed down or closed altogether since the early months of the anti-war/anti-Wal-Mart activism... [I heard that ACRC was again "kicked out" of its temporary loft at C Lane and they're now wombed somewhere in Hilliard Street.]

IT IS HARD to parallel societal/community goings-on in Manila with Asheville, or even with Michigan with New York City. But I feel that ACRC didnt materialize as a "real or true" (to my mind) community center because of the political/ideological exclusivity (read, gruffly exclusivist than politically populist) that it seems to conjure to a very diverse downtown/Asheville community. People saw the dark workings of anarchist defiance behind the leather jackets and multi-piercings and ear-shattering machinegun guitars than the universal outrage against societal discrepancies that screams out of the political messages. I spent almost 90% of my current life being a staunch activist back home--a small contribution to change is foremost and imperative to my being--but this otherwise sublime/noble endeavor comes with reasonable/just responsibilities other than violent police engagements, senseless street clashes or arguments, and forced evictions. Just like anybody else on perpetual compromise with society, I am always faced with these dark stimuli--it's hard not to get provoked but we should always try to cool out.

WHILE I do agree, hands down, with the very principles/wisdom of the activist/political views that ACRC espouses, I was also offended by the very rough, street-punk persona of some of its followers. (By the way, I did "teach" a few Asheville Free School classes and helped out with the radio people's newsletter/zine around 2001/02). I personally witnessed some of these "punk kids" tore apart Bonfires posters just because they looked better to the eyes (hence "commercial?") than the usual DIY-hand-scrawled flyers that they give out? Otherwise, the confused dude couldn’t really explain to me why he tore the poster down and posted his own photocopied flyers over it, other than, “I don’t like your posters! They're so corporate!”

(My companion at that time had to calm me down… otherwise I could’ve ended up at the precinct with a lawyer—because I was this close to smashing my Walkman on the dude’s filthy face. OK, this is the US, this is not the sidestreets of Manila or Rio de Janeiro—and my Mom or family lawyers wouldn’t be here anymore to bail me out of my oft’times uncontrollable rage. We guard and protect our “peace,” but most of the time, confused souls abuse or make fun of them—so sometimes we have to defend our “heavenly peace” with a demon’s wrath. But we are trying, I am trying—to keep the “peace” in me warmer and closer, than the “war” in me colder and angrier.)

The most recent "shove The Indie away and place ours" tactlessness of some of AGR's distribution kids exemplify that "rough textured indifference" to community unity. It's like, "You aint my kind of activist, dude, so fuck off!"

The Core Pad had a different experience though (with ACRC or Vincent’s Ear)... It's a simple case of "kids abusing parental okay." Sometimes we abuse the privileges that a free society offers us. In most countries outside of America, people dont have privileges that we have--they are either shot down right there or simply snuffed out. Nobody sues nobody, you just get even. At Carolina Lane, during those days, kids spilled over the streets at 1am, sniffing weed or drunk and noisy. I heard ACRC (then at Lex Av) freely welcomed just about any "homeless" youth who simply say, "I'm activist..." I think, community kindness/genorosity has limits--we still have societal laws and rules to follow or abide with, otherwise we just join Che Guevara's soul in the Sierras or Comandante Marcos in the Chiapas. I admire a fiery, true-blue activist who cant seem to live with society and government who'll just pack up and head up the hills as a no-nonsense revolutionary. But we're here, we're still paying rent, IRS taxes that go to war budget, and driving to a corner deli to score "corporate" toilet papers.How many of us made a helluva issue over the arbitrary, fascistic closure (in the name of gentrification) of these avowed establishments that we call “community centers/activist fronts” – but then, we knew exactly why we got kicked out. From minors/underage drinking at The Ear and The Core Pad to “homeless” youths pissing and throwing up all over, afront private residences/business shops at Lex Av and Carolina Lane. I mean, even Comrade Che or Sandino or Ho Chi Minh wont tolerate these within their ranks.

BUT despite all these, I dont want to say, "Hey, it's not gonna work." If it's not going to work in Asheville, it's not going to work in any place in the US—that’s what I think. People from other countries leave their families because of economic reality, gut issues – monthly wages aren’t enough to feed mouths, period. In the US, whether you live in Asheville NC or Camden NJ or Piedmont, South Dakota—hour’s salary doesn’t change much, apartment rentals are almost on fixed standard, gasoline prices are almost the same, food are basically it. But these variables aren’t the same in countries like Kazakhstan, Bangladesh or Mexico. It’s almost worlds/universes apart.Why cant “it” work in America? If it doesn’t work in the world’s most “democratic, free” nation, where will “it” work then? "Community" and people-power worked against a dictatorial regime like the Philippines in the 1980s--we were able to kick a genocidal government away--why cant it work in America where almost every problem that I see offer alternatives at solving them?

There is this thing we call "tactical alliance" in activist circles that's geared at motivating/inspiring cause-oriented, human rights, radical/activist groups to coalesce as a unified force in re collective protest vs a common agenda/cause. Gentrification, Wal-Mart issue, "commercialization of public parks," homeless problem, anti-war advocacy, environmental crusade, women concerns etc etc etc are espoused by many organizations in Asheville -- but there is no unified front at all. At the outbreak of the Iraq War, for instance--there were thousands of people at Pritchard Park—it seemed that WNC came out as one.Where are they now?

How many activities do nonprofit/cause-oriented groupings in WNC do on a monthly or yearly basis? There are "bigger" organizations here with thousands of money in the bank or boast of almost 5,000 membership--but where are the projects and programs? They have weekly, forthnightly, monthly meetings... but where are the members, where are the projects? Research, internet forwarded rants, paperwork, occasional activities that required five committees to organize. Are these the output/s that make up an organizational endeavor?

THE TRAVELING BONFIRES never had a weekly meeting at all. I tried to call one or two, about three or four years ago—that was it. My meetings happen right there during an event. There are ONLY two full-timers working here with lots of physical/material limitations (just like anybody else in America) -- but we got game. We never ran out of things to do.

Thing is, we always complain and mope that "there's a lot of things that's going on in my life right now," and then justify/rationalize our indifference, fears, indecisions, flakiness, doubts/suspicious minds to community/artistic endeavors (that dont usually pay) with the "hardships of life and living." I dont think there's one soul in America who doesnt have a complaint about a material/financial conjecture... same with me. I have lots of them, believe it or not, many of them, actually. Like anybody else, I complain a lot, I grunt a lot, I whine a lot in front of Marta The Nicer Osbourne and The Indie pages and online spots--but I dont stop doing things and posing alternatives and new strategies. I whine 12 hours, I work 24 hours.

So now that we have venues to whine and complain with--albeit on a creative, fun, cool, artistic way--why dont we use them? I still grieve the loss of my Mother few months ago, we are still struggling to pay back office rents and phone bills (man, this torment wont stop), we still go to the Mission and food stamp for food... but I never stop trying and giving birth to new projects and programs. Whether I see two people or twenty in a Bonfires show, I shrugged it off and tell myself, "I'll do it again next time, hopefully, better."

Two people at a Bonfires club gig is immediately erased by two hundred people in a parallel Bonfires event on the road or at Pritchard Park, or the many projects that we do. That is why I always whine that some people who profess to be part of this madness spread not-so-good news about the organization than help us promote and publicize the programs. There was even one writer with The Indie before who whined that he’s not too motivated to write anymore because no one seems to read him, anyway. If that’s the attitude that we’re going to carry as we head to chase a dream, then we better go back to the kitchen sink and do the dishes. We write, we perform, we create art--because we love it and it makes us breathe better and enjoy life -- that's all I know. We spend eight hours to work for the money to feed ourselves and our family, what do we do with the rest of our beautiful days?

WHILE we produce community projects, we should also market and advertise/be proud of them. I pissed a lot of people who joined the madness for so many reasons -- but The Indie and The Traveling Bonfires arent just Pasckie. I'm still generally a bad boy, very rude and arrogant, but no one, I'm sure, could contest the beautiful wisdom of these "rock journeys and sublime madnesses."


We only have one life to live, obviously. I treat my life as a gift, something greater than anything that I could touch or feel or physicalize. I'd like to make good use of what I have. You see, mostly those things that I own aren’t calculated in a bank or priced by hours spent/dollars paid. I still dont know why I get around with just my crazy self with few quarters on my deep jeans pocket. I guess, The Blue Sky God/dess likes me... so the spirit provides.

Oh yes, I miss the country where I was born, the culture that helped mold my biases and spirits, the family and friends that secured rooms in my heart. I still cry in the middle of winter, missing the good old days, good old moments... But countries are all the same, peoples are all the same, homes are all the same to me--I belong to them, wherever whatever. I just open my heart wide and let my spirits fix the dinner and my soul read the poetry. It’s fun.

Let’s enjoy the blessings this 2006, a new year. We have The Courtyard, we have Wander, we have “Bonfire for the Indies” TV show, we have more “Bonfires for Peace at Pritchard Park,” we have more Vagrant Wind tours, we have more Indies. We have more reasons, MORE LIFE TO LIVE.


3:37pm. 2 Jan 2006
Asheville NC

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Spirit of Christmas, The Warmth of the Vagrant Wind


LOVE the one you’re with – whether that beautiful soul is beside you right at this moment, or somewhere far and beyond the physical confines of time and space. Love the one you’re with – whether that sweet gift of life is right there right now, clearly felt by the human touch—or somewhere far and beyond where only the warm embrace of memory and remembrance could reach.

Christmas is like a dry land in the middle of a sea voyage after a tempest. Christmas is like a bonfire in the midst of the dark and the cold. Christmas is like an icy lemonade shared by two by a railway track while a journey takes a breather. Christmas is the magic of intimacy when humanity suddenly gets lost in a fray of uniformity and daily-grind. Christmas is a hot, steamy plate of food served inside a tent while the storm batters outside. Christmas is family when homes get drowned by motor robots on the highway, when houses are submerged by survival flood, when love becomes a fleeting condiment to circumstantial loneliness.

Christmas is when we allow ourselves to float, waft, saunter and flow like a warm distraction that wouldn’t give in and surrender to the rules of reason and logic, like rain that has to fall and kiss and nourish the earth – without condition, without inhibition. Christmas is when we hug and kiss because we want to nourish spiritual energies within, and not because we want to maintain physical rituals from without.

So love the one you’re with – whether that rainbow of breathing blessing is right there with you at this moment, sharing a quezo-de-bola over chicken broth or deviled eggs over merlot as you exchange gifts – like those gifts become the glorious accumulation of many a-hard day’s night in the past eleven months… whether the one you’re with is somewhere in a wintry desert of isolation and distance. Does it matter? Let us make humanity enjoy the grace of life and living.

Feel the magic of a heart that connects and binds, savor the warmth that reassures and comforts. Dance with the stars all day and tonight… with the one you love.


--Pasckie Pascua
7:07pm. Dec 24, 2005
Asheville, North Carolina