The Story of My First Bus Ride in Years aka Thug Life

I padded up the block a few steps and looked back, making sure that I had parked my body under the correct bus stop sign. My choice was confirmed when two lumpy elfin women speaking Spanish stood apart from me under the same sign. This was the first time I had taken the bus in years.

The last time I had found myself at the mercy of L.A.’s transit system was eight years ago, when my gigantic blue minivan (R.I.P., Big Blue!) decided to end its life in my very own driveway. Transmissions don’t come cheap. So, Big Blue’s body was sold to a scavenger who gave me $3,000 – about a third of what I’d paid for it only a year before, but enough to pay for a new ride in full. This time it was a motorcycle – and blue again! – a 2009 Honda Rebel, 250 cc engine. Little Blue.

Well, unfortunately, Little Blue’s charms captured someone else’s attention. They carted her away – again from my driveway – in the middle of the night, leaving her money-strapped owner with nothing. Determined not to feel sorry for myself, and after dealing with the logistics and bureaucracy of thievery, I braved the bus. I smiled at the tall female driver with the linebacker’s physique and chirped a good-morning. The driver looked at me and did her best impression of a doorknob. Slightly deflated, I found my seat and tried not to cringe at my grimy surroundings.

Several stops later, a lean, pocket-sized senior citizen wearing several outfits at once stood at the back of the line and waited to board. She had with her a little wheeled shopping basket filled with nonsense. This cart aroused and vexed the Doorknob driver lady, sending her into cop mode.

“I cain’t let you on dis bus til you fowd up that shopping cart!”

Doorknob shouted this several times while the other boarding passengers avoided eye contact, shuffling up the steps like a line of ants on a windowsill. Confused but cheerful, the old lady lifted her rebelliously unfolded cart onto the bus and wobbled to her seat at the front. In response, Doorknob exercised the full extent of her pseudo-powers by refusing to drive the bus until the deviant cart had assumed its proper shape. Several passengers came to the old lady’s aid. First, they emptied all the clutter and miscellaneous objects from the sad little cart, then muscled it into submission. Since that wasn’t good enough for Doorknob, a kind middle-aged woman with reddish-brown store-bought hair and big glasses offered up her seat, so that the newly flattened cart would have a place to ride.

Satisfied that her minions had obeyed, Doorknob continued our joyless ride. Flustered and perplexed, the old woman confided in gibberish to the passenger next to her. The kindly bear of a man nodded at her in sympathy. Feeling no guilt whatsoever, Doorknob smacked at her itchy hair-weave with her right hand and rolled her eyes at no one in particular.

After an eternity, which turned out to be 30 minutes, the old lady and I had the same stop. I sprung to the back door, wanting to claw at it for release. The poor old lady prepared herself for exit with the help of her new temporary bus-friends. Doorknob, in one last demonstration of her satanic powers, tapped at the breaks causing the old lady to stumble.

Finally emerging into the sun, Old Lady went left, and I went right. But right before we separated, I glimpsed her pink knit hat. It said “Thug Life.”

And that is the story of my first bus ride after the theft of my motorcycle.

 

Happy Memorial Day!

Peace and Love,

Raven

The Path Unclear

One of the many dangers of living in an increasingly polarized world is that it tempts us to think in terms of black and white – not just the literal black and white of racial discrimination, but the more insidious black and white of “either-or” thinking. Rarely are things so neat and tidy. But our general laziness as human beings seduces us toward the easy, uncomplicated, unexamined path.

My current path is nebulous and unclear. But I know, with a deep knowing, that the lack of clarity is purposeful and useful. It is like the murky head-space of dreams – where important things are worked out in the subconscious. My personal relationships are vibrant and satisfying, but mostly unclear and hard to label. My creative life is evolving into greater professionalism and excellence, but on the surface, nothing has changed. My day job continues as usual. My spiritual practice is personally enriching and sustaining,  but undefinable – I can’t just provide the name of a religion and have people nod their heads in recognition. Where other people seem to seek security and certainty, I have purposely chosen an enigmatic but captivating life path that is hard to explain.

I discovered this last night while trying to describe my life to a new friend. I didn’t 17_02_19realize how bizarre and riveting my personal experience has been until I tried to explain it. Perhaps this is the path of all artists (and we are all artists in our own ways). Perhaps our lives are meant to be like dreams – strange and non-linear, queer, but revelatory. Ever since graduating college – and certainly ever since changing career paths in 2009 – I have avoided a clear and definable path. Every choice has its pros and cons. But these choices have served me and my purposes in this life.

My hope for all of us is that – whatever path we take, whatever decisions we make – they will be consciously chosen, and based upon what we know is ours to do in the world. May our lives reflect our deepest values and personal truths. May we weed out all hypocrisy and any limiting beliefs that would prohibit us from becoming all we were meant to be in this life. Here’s to a week of increasing courage – the courage to be radically unique individuals in a world that generates thousands of copies.

Peace and blessings,

Raven

Do You Want “Change” or a Revolution?

With the turning of the seasons come shifts in attitudes and perspectives. A new year tends to bring new resolve towards achieving goals, and manifesting our deepest desires. The prospect of a new and different type of president has filled our common talk-space with various chirps of rage, dread, cautious hope, and giddy elation.

The common idea underlying all of the above is a longing for “change.” The New Year brings with it hopes for change. Many presidents have won elections promising change. Somehow, though, nothing, or little, ever changes. Why is that? Do we really want change? If so, is “change” enough? Or is revolution what we really need?

Revolution, based on the word revolve, means to turn things around. A revolutionary acts fearlessly (which doesn’t mean not feeling fear, but acting boldly in the face of fear). A revolutionary challenges existing practices, institutions, and people in power, questioning their very validity. They are willing to upset the status quo in order to achieve their goals, whatever that means (Vocabulary.com). There are very few genuine revolutionaries.

Artists of all kinds – fine artists, poets, musicians, performers – tend to have revolutionary temperaments. It just seems to come with the package. We spend a lot of time looking and observing; feeling everything deeply, too deeply; analyzing and questioning; making connections between disparate things, connections other people don’t seem to see; trying and failing to communicate what we see to the larger world.

"After the Tears Dry" 16" X 12", Acrylic on canvas
“After the Tears Dry” 16″ X 12″, Acrylic on canvas

This is the real reason, in my opinion, for the starving artist stereotype. It’s not that people don’t care about art or that art is not valuable, it’s that the temperament to make art and the temperament to make money are not often found in the same person. These two things require different skills, different mindsets, different priorities. It’s hard to be a wealthy revolutionary. Society rewards conformity and predictability, not radical change.

And this is what hinders many people, artists and non-artists alike, from truly behaving in revolutionary ways. Society and its denizens will punish you if you do. You might want to revolutionize relationships, or workplaces, or politics, or the financial system. But when you attempt these things, you will be punished. Not jailed, necessarily. But criticized, threatened, ostracized, ridiculed, abandoned. You will lose relationships. And money. And status.  Many people talk a good game. But when it really comes down to it, most shrink back and do as they’re told, or continue to do as they’ve always done. This isn’t a criticism. Pressure is pressure; it’s hard to bear. But it’s better to live in such a way that your words and your actions are a match.

Therefore, many people who truly live revolutionarily, in whatever sense, do so quietly. This is the best way. People who talk a lot and make a big outward show out of going against the grain usually turn out to be all talk; their lives are often quite conventional. The few people I’ve met who are truly living counter-culturally, are quiet but insistent about it. They tend to hurt people’s feelings without trying. They withstand the rejection of family, friends, and society at large in order to be true to their beliefs. They give up certain privileges and comforts if it contradicts their sense of what is right. For all the people who prattle on about “change,” few are willing to pay the price of the revolutionary.

Although I’ve never thought about this before today, I find myself naturally attracted to the revolutionaries. The small price I’ve paid is loneliness and sometimes isolation and/or being misunderstood. I can tolerate this. I would rather pay the price than be a hypocrite. I’d rather be isolated and uncomfortable for being who I am than have stability and comfort at the cost of my integrity.

So, to be more specific, here are some examples. I believe that monogamy is optional, not mandatory. Non-monogamy is a healthy and more realistic alternative and something I believe in. All of the institutions and ingrained beliefs that support and mandate marriage and monogamy are based on sexism and the transfer of property. I actively question all of these beliefs. Religion is a way of coping with life but it does not matter in any kind of life or death sense. All decisions based on fear are wrong. I believe in choosing what works for me. Through my eclectic spiritual practice, I have become a more loving, wise, balanced, and resilient person.

The current political structure is bankrupt. Community organizing is the pathway to lasting change. The current law enforcement system is also hopelessly corrupt. I believe it should be dismantled altogether and a new system based on community empowerment and community responsiveness should be in place. In other words, having police prowling around looking for people to “get” should be done away with. Rather, they should respond to empowered community law enforcement task forces who should be voted into their positions by their communities.

These are just a sample of some of my unpopular beliefs. I usually keep them to myself. I provided them here only as an example. I believe the next (successful) revolutionary movement will be stealthy, quiet, thoroughly tested and integrated into many facets of life. As a take on that famous Gandhi quote: “Be the revolution you wish to see in the world.” I would add: be consistent, and be quiet about it.

Peace and blessings,

Raven