The Yoga of Experience – Native Language

sb2

You never forget your first language(s).

I got back from California two weeks ago. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get back to the typewriter, so to speak. If I had to pick a reason – OK, if I had to pick two reasons, they would be:
1. Craft ADD. I love making stuff. With my hands. It’s fun. Sewing, knitting, crochet, making products to use on your beautiful skin. It’s in my blood, making things. Just ask my Dad. So I’ve been busy making stuff.
2. Fear of creative expression. Weird for someone who claims to be a writer, right? And even though I’ll be the first person to demand that the definition of “being human” includes the words “creative expression is one of the core tenets of being human,” it’s sometimes is easier to ignore this and just binge watch Cheers, than to put myself out there and let the inside out.
And sometimes, it’s just hard to find the right words.

I had a fantastic time during my three-week SoCal vacation. Duh! I practiced yoga in Long Beach. I read a PG Wodehouse book (among others). I walked on the beach (a lot). I ate sushi, I bought Vans, and I drank a lot of coffee. I enjoyed doing things and visiting with people, and I enjoyed doing absolutely nothing other than feeling the sunshine on my bare skin. Oh man, I love that place so much.
Even though I’ve been gone a looooooong time, Southern California still feels like home when I’m there. Everything just seems so relaxed, and there’s pretty much at least one of every kind of person you can imagine – everything goes. So it’s really easy to feel like I fit in. Especially in Sunset Beach. I can’t even imagine how much money you would need to actually live there these days, but nonetheless, the atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious.
When I arrive at the beach, I fall into a wonderful sort of familiarity that feels so natural. I don’t have to try to do or be anything. It all just is, and it’s always exactly as it should be. The waves keep coming, the sun sets over Rancho Palos Verdes, the cargo ships wait their turn to dock in San Pedro. My grandmother’s house still stands – empty now, but still full of memories tucked into every corner.

On this trip, I really connected with Seal Beach, too. It’s sooo cute! I love it there. My Dad told me that he and my Mom were living in Seal Beach when I was born. They rented a house, because my Dad had gotten a teaching job nearby. I didn’t really know that before; my Mom never told me much about her time with my dad. But realizing they lived there together, in that cute, cute place…no wonder I love it there too. No wonder it’s so familiar, somehow.
I will buy a house there someday. It might end up being a teeny tiny house, but it will happen. I’ll have a short walk to the beach, and a short walk to Main Street where I can meet my friends and have a coffee and watch the tourists. You can come visit anytime.

seal beach pier
seal beach pier

I started and ended my trip to SoCal with a visit at my Dad’s house, in the foothills of La Crescenta. It’s kind of a nice way to bookend the trip – a way to acclimate. When I first get to California, a visit with family makes the transition to the culture a little easier. And on the way back home, it’s a good transition back to reality. Because if I had to leave Sunset Beach and drive straight to LAX to get on a plane back to Tulsa, I would cry for three straight weeks.
And of course, it’s also nice to see my Dad.
After years and years of living with women, my Dad has gotten pretty good at listening, without necessarily offering solutions. Occasionally a logical (to him) solution does pop out – and that’s ok – but he’s a good listener. It’s really nice to be able to talk to him about things that I’m learning or discovering or working on. He knows my language, he understands what I’m saying. And one thing he does do, without fail, is call me on my shit.
He listens so closely, that he challenges me when I speak in opposition to who I am working on becoming (he’ll probably have an issue with how I worded that just now, but I can’t think of any other way to say it, sorry Dad!). He challenges me when I express doubt or negativity, after declaring that I am no longer going to express doubt or negativity. He requires me to clarify my thoughts and intentions. He knows my language, because I am his daughter. No one else is left on this earth who can know me like that. There’s a sense of familiarity between us that I sometimes still marvel at to this day, since we didn’t spend much time together when I was growing up.

So as I understand the language of Southern California, so does my Dad understand the language that is me. I am fluent in Californian, I am fluent in Neil. Perhaps they are the same? Either way, I will craft something good out of this language, and it will be amazing, and it will be mine, and my Dad will love it.

ace and dad
ace and dad
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The Yoga of Experience – The Vacation Inside the Vacation

Practicing My Quiet Skillz

vacation inside the vacation

Today marks the beginning of my third week of vacation.
I have never had a three-week vacation before, not counting summers off from school. Which was about a million years ago, anyway.
But earlier this year, I decided that if I was going to make the effort to come out to SoCal and soak up the sunny vibes, then I was going to do it HARDCORE and make it a 3-week affair – for better or worse. As a self-employed person, “paid vacations” are a just an enviable concept, and so when you are someone who still relies on trading hours of your life for money, not working for a while has its, well, shall we say, disadvantages. So I am toughing it out here by the seaside. Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s and the Ralph’s Rewards Card.

My companions have gone home, and I have the next few days to myself before I head inland to my Dad’s, to spend some time with him before heading back to Oklahoma. A vacation inside the vacation, as it were. So here I am at the beach, listening to the waves. All by myself.

Being at the seaside is, to me, the best place to be. As an (extreme) introvert, always looking for potential escape routes or opportunities to extricate myself from possible mayhem, the seaside offers unique opportunities to feel very much on the outside of everything. I am at the edge here. There is one whole side of my view that has NO ONE IN IT and part of me really likes that. The ocean seems to go on forever, offering endless possibilities for emptiness… ah… Add in the salty smell, the sound of the waves, the sunsets over the water (and the surfers), and you have the fixins for My Favorite Place.

I cherish the time I spend here at the beach by myself. There is no stereo, no TV, no wifi, and for the next few days, very few people to talk to. A mini-vacation inside my vacation.
As I sit here, I can hear the waves, and see some kite surfing gear floating in the sky above the top of my grandmother’s house. I am staying in the apartment above the garage. And while it doesn’t have an actual ocean view, it is close enough. Plus, it’s been remodeled, and therefore has a few more modern amenities, such as a stove made in this century and newer plumbing. Since it’s on the second floor, there’s plenty of afternoon light coming in, and it’s truly one of the most pleasant spaces I’ve had the privilege of spending time in.
I stay up here because it’s comfy, but also because I’m hesitant to stay in the main house, my Grandma’s house. She passed away several years ago, but hasn’t lived here for maybe close to 15 years. The property belongs to a family member, who plans to keep the house as close to its original condition as possible (it’s one of the last remaining original structures here on the beach, with unique architectural features, as well as a whole lot of family and neighborhood history. I am dreaming of writing a book on the history of the Neil family and of Sunset Beach…)
I was here a lot as a child, and some of my happiest memories are of spending time here, with my Grandma. And so you might be wondering why I would be hesitant to stay downstairs, in her house…

While the house is definitely habitable, it’s just not… the same. Which is fine – it would be unreasonable to expect thigs to remain the same. But still…
Most of my Grandma’s personal effects are in storage, as the house will eventually be renovated. There is so much history and love and stories in those walls, but for the past few years the energy has felt “in flux.” It’s as if the house misses her. Only once have I felt her presence here – I think she is having a grand time traveling all over the universe, seeing all the sights she dreamt about when she was human, and is too busy to come back here to the beach. But the house is missing her.

I love it here, and I often can’t wait to be alone here. But once I am alone, and it’s just me and the wind and the waves and the setting sun, something akin to loneliness comes up, especially in the evenings and at night. Even us extreme introverts have our limits! Everything in life is all about balance, after all. Tip the scales too far, and we need to find ways to get back to center.

In my ever-increasing wisdom, I realize that this loneliness or emptiness is just a feeling, and once acknowledged, and with a little practice, it can be exchanged for thoughts that are more pleasant. Maybe that’s why I’m here – so I can practice that. There is no one to talk to, no music, no commercials, just me, and… me. So often we try to fill all the empty spaces. Sometimes facing the quiet – and ourselves – can be difficult. But what a great opportunity to practice making it easier.

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goin’ mersh

I’m thinking of starting an online magazine (webzine? E-zine?). So I was thinking about what to call it. It has to be something catchy… anyway, for some reason the word “mersh” popped into my brain. Mersh could be part of the title, like, “Much More Mersh” (or, MMM, not to be confused with the stock ticker for 3M), or “More Than Mersh.”

Often times when a word or phrase pops into my head, I get curious and look it up. I know how *I* use the word mersh, but what is the “official” meaning of the word? Or is there one?
The way I use the word, comes from when I was in high school, in the eighties, in Southern California. I use it to mean “commercial.” Like, I like Sunset Beach better than Huntingon Beach, because Huntington went all mersh. But am I the only one who uses it this way? Because every time I refer to something as mersh, I inevitably get asked what the heck am I talking about.
So I went where I always go when I have ANY kind of question – the interwebs. I SearchEngined mersh. The first reference I got was for “commercial grade marijuana.” Mersh – commercial pot, usually of inferior grade. Well, that’s a new one to me – when I was growing up, there was no such thing! All pot was illegal. Some was better than others (skunk?) but none was mersh. OK, I learned something new there.
The second reference was to something about dipping genitals in chili. Yeah, I decided not to pursue that one any further…
After I read that, I got a little worried – oh dear, have I been using mersh wrong all these years? That can’t be! I kept looking. I knew I had first come in contact with it in the music scene. And I was pretty sure Mike Watt had something to do with it. And sure enough, I did find references on the interwebs to  a third meaning – used in conjunction with The Minutemen. The Minutemen were a fine punk band from San Pedro, CA (endearingly referred to back in the day as the armpit of LA).
I grew up right down the freeway from there, and listened to the Minutemen some, and their successor band, fIREHOSE even more.  Yep, I was punk. In SoCal. In the eighties. Nuff said bout that.
The Minutemen were an integral part of the California punk scene in the 80’s. Founded in 1980, they were around till 1985 when their lead singer D. Boon died in a car crash. That year, they released an EP called Project: Mersh. It was a little more accessible than previously released material (but still not close to “pop” by any definition). That’s the earliest reference I could find to MERSH.
The Minutemen were known for “jamming econo” – touring and playing in an ultra-thrifty manner. (It inspired the name of a documentary about them – “We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen.” You can see it here).
the minutemen
the minutemen
After D. Boon’s death, The Minutemen disbanded. But miraculously along came Ed Fromohio and convinced bassist Mike Watt and drummer George Hurley to start up again, under the moniker fIREHOSE . They were one of my favorite bands in high school and college. Mike Watt is actually one of the best bassists ever (no, seriously, he’s up there with Flea and Bruce Hughes) and George Hurley is one heckova drummer. Oh and his muscles didn’t hurt either.
george hurley, firehose
george hurley, cal state fullerton free concert, 1987 or 1988
 If you have one of those fancy music services, check out their first record, Ragin’, Full-On. A real winner.
Yes, this is me with fIREHOSE. Please don’t make fun of my hair.  Give me a break. It was a long time ago.
andrea and george hurley
andrea and george, c. 1988, cal state long beach
mike watt, george hurley, edfromohio - firehose
mike watt, george hurley, edfromohio – firehose
So, my usage of mersh as COMMERCIAL is legit. Saved once again by the interwebs. Thanks, Minutemen! You rock.
I think I will Jam Econo in my new webzine.
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