Comedian Marc Maron interviewed singer and guitarist extraordinaire St. Vincent (Annie Clark), recently on his WTF podcast. I was flirting with Marc Maron on the porch of a cafe just a few nights ago in a dream. Then, we were ambushed by college students. Two weeks prior to this dream, I was watching a performance of Annie Clark’s song Rattlesnake and staring at the wall where hung the watercolor snake I painted. That night I dreamed of the venom from the boa-rattler hybrid that was sealing the blood in my veins to cement. So, naturally, when I saw he was interviewing her I had to listen.
“Follow the power lines back from the road,” St. Vincent starts the song Rattlesnake with. Follow them back through the desert. See where they lead. Take up these threads. Follow to see where they unravel, to examine the heap left with.
My dreams or some weird act of synchronicity lead here. I listen as if to the Three Witches in Macbeth. Spin an ambiguous riddle, cast a spell to blind me or bind me to a foul prophecy. Press me to act from superstition.
If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not,
Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear
Your favours nor your hate.
(Way to quote Shakespeare, you pretentious asshole!)
Witches seem to chant through the speakers in a podcast from a garage out west. Annie Clark talks about getting back from managing Tuck and Patti’s European tour. Her sister suggests, “Get a job at Starbucks, and save some money.” In the garage out west, in hindsight, both Annie and Marc reel at the thought. They cannot fathom the idea of punching the clock and filling orders for the pressed-upon masses, and making money for an expressionless corporation. Marc Maron says something that grabs me in his idiosyncratically consumed and driven vernacular. “What people don’t realize, is that it is never a choice. We are just compelled to do it (art /performance). We can’t even worry about the things others worry about.”
And like that… I am down in the dumps. If a true artist has an undeniable urge to pursue their dreams, so much, in fact, that they cannot concern themselves with bills and habitats, where does that lead me? If I was going to do something I would have done it already.
“Hold up, chump!” I admonish myself. “Not necessarily. Sagittarians are infamous late bloomers.” I’ve had a lot of shit to muddle through in this life, too. I recall a conversation with friends. I said, “Sometimes I wonder what I might had been by now if I hadn’t had a turbulent early life, if I had had more support.” (Me all of 36 years, swooning and pining over the span of wasted time.) In so many words my friends responded. “It is the people that have gone through pain and struggle that are the ones who possess that something. Those who have witnessed more of the human struggle and have been exposed to more of the human psyche (in all it’s violent and glorious colors) possess an undeniable edge.” I deem my friends “The Oracle’s Mouthpiece.”
Go back to that persnickety placement. With a North Node in Virgo and a South Node in Pisces, this time around my life is about service and learning details. The last lifetime was about being an artist. Pisces is my comfort zone, but it is stagnant and by no means the path to my bliss. (If you are wondering about the nodes: The north node represents your soul’s aspirations, the way in which your life must move to be fulfilled. The south node represents what you have already conquered in previous incarnations, what is naturally ingrained though little provoked. Your south node is always the exact opposite sign of your north node.)
Say hello to the customer service smile. Say hello to the pressure of kitchen work on the fragile mental confines and the knees. Say hello to trying to enforce rules and regulations to middle and high-schoolers when it isn’t even clear if the regular teacher does so. Say hello to checking their whereabouts after giving them a pass. Say hello to following-up the details. Say hello to cooking and waiting on family members. Say hello to being paid in breadcrumbs. Say hello to a life of servitude.
As I recall, I have been bequeathed the short end of the stick. I need to look at the nodes again.
I clicked the first thing that came up on my Google search. Ahh, the Divine Intervention works through the interwebs. Ahh, and here the Divine Intervention works through Astrologer Celestina. This must be the best information I have learned about the nodes here at http://www.truenode.org and I am not so sad anymore.
Right away some optimistic light is shone. “Many people born with the north node in Virgo placement choose writing or poetry as a career. Famous examples include Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, Kurt Vonnegut, and Percy Shelley.”
OK. So maybe I have been banished from the art kingdom, pushed out from too many lifetimes with paintbrushes, mind-expansive drugs and general and specific lunacies. I will agree. I possess an unfounded and inexplicable confidence in my artistic capacities, an undeserved confidence. It all seems so simple… even boring. If I spent enough time, I could replicate another’s visual art. Mine, however, lacks that spark of inspiration that is the only crucial element of a piece. Banished from the galleries I may be, but not banned from self-expression, not banned from a craft. I can write.
This placement touches on something more troubling than a question of self-expression. I have been wondering why I seem to attract these people who want my sympathy. I live with someone who is a chronic complainer. For the most part, I take the negativity as so many grains of salt but the constant ploys and pleas for my sympathy are taxing to the point of exasperation. What does she want? “There, there. You poor thing.” Really? And why me? Why do people want my sympathy when I have so very little?
Celestina explains the plight of the Pisces South Node. “You will find a constant distraction in others’ sufferings. In fact, you feel the pain of all those around you as a result of so much suffering yourself in a past life. Only when you begin to discriminate between those whom you can really help and who deserve your help and those who are beyond saving will you make any progress in your own life. If you have let others drain you of your energy so that your own plans and schemes have suffered, this is your South Node dragging you down. Begin to use your intellect to rule your emotions and you are on the path to happiness.”
I must be doing something right. I must confess I have a low tolerance for bullshit. It weighs on me easily, but I refuse to haul it for others. I don’t like feeling sorry for people who give up and expect me to pick up the slack, expect me to fix them. People are perpetuating what they complain about in endless cycles. I have no patience for those disconnected from their own empowerment. Why am I attracting this when I feel I do not broadcast feelings of sympathy or even patience?
“People will try to rely on you, for you still radiate a strong compassionate nature which draws others to you, especially the weak and hopeless.”
In varying degrees of true helplessness and shameless pity-mongering; The beloved great aunt who wants me to take part in her stressful environment. She is dying and being taken care of by her drug-addict daughter. The doe-eyed children with curls and filthy pajamas in the mechanics garage, abandoned to a waiting room while their negligent father works on a snow-mobile, leaving a two and three year old to wait for hours with not even so much as a toy to play with. The grandmother who sinks further and further into a funk. Taking advantage of all I will upkeep as she keeps her ass pasted to the chair and her eyes glued to the television. The lover I took who was much more comfortable with the weight he placed on me than I was.
(I won’t even begin to discuss how the placement of these nodes in the 11th and 5th houses cause me to only feel comfortable as a solo act, but perhaps this is one reason I am able to wade through the garbage with more ease.)
The St. Vincent interview paints Texas in a warm and welcoming light. It makes me think of the music scene in Austin. My mother lives near there. I would be met there with enthusiasm. My mother paints a bright future and tries to entice me over the phone. She has always lit my dulled reality with hope like only a partial sane person can. I love my mother, and yet I know. My mother has always been a liar. She is quite possibly a narcissist. Have I learned nothing? She has always known when to strike; at my weakest. And this, this the person I would move toward?
An irrelevant Crowded House song plays, but in it the lines, “Stripping back the coats of lies and deception. Back to nothingness, like a week in the desert.”
In the past, there had always been opportunities to arise. There were friends to encourage and sponsor my up-rooting. No such opportunities present these days. I know the west is ill-advised, possibly a trap but I am already caught in a trap.
Speaking of people perpetuating what they complain about in endless cycles, here is my pattern. I move away from home. I start anew. I do my best but my best isn’t good enough and I land with family once more. Family becomes toxic and I become desperate to leave. I look for the opening. I look for light from the crack of an open door.
Maybe this would just be a move that makes sense. Maybe I don’t need to curse myself for being weak or stupid. Bigger cities mean more jobs. There are many other family members too that would be welcoming and happy to see me, maybe even supportive. As Sheryl Crow simply put it, “I think a change will do me good.” Maybe this is the inevitable next chapter.
The witches’ bony and gnarled finger turns and curls slowly beckoning me to the west, to the desert.
“It is important for the north node in Virgo to pay close attention to detail. This will help you make good decisions and drain the swamp of your tumultuous emotions. You are here to develop your mind and learn discrimination. This requires you pay close attention to the world around you. If you fail to focus, you will find yourself mixed up in a series of misunderstandings or even tragedies. The universe will not support you in glossing over things or going with your gut feeling any longer.”
So I must give more detail on the path to further fulfillment. I must focus. I must pay attention to the world around me.
There are so many stories, so many more details.
Always more stories. Always more details.
When I was attending college, I had an adviser with a scrolled plaque over the door to his office. Rather cryptically it read, “The Servant of Two Masters.” I had always assumed this was from an didactic Shakespearean play that I was not familiar with. I wasn’t a big fan of this man, Professor Horan. He had a bony face covered with a white beard and eyes that leered out through the sockets. I always felt he was smirking at me, amused somehow by my ridiculousness. I would have loved to be let in on the joke. Every semester I would come to his office with my schedule already planned. Every query of his I answered. I had it figured out. Fool-proof and water-tight, I just needed his signature.
I remember how he pounced gleefully when I was the only one in Scene Design class to fall for the Hedda Gabler trap. Because of something to do with a gun cabinet, the stage direction only allows for one possible set up. Too eager to be creative, I had overlooked what was on the page in front of me. He shot me down in front of peers that I had wanted to be accepted by. I had been pleased by my design simply because of the time I had put into the well-crafted sturdy cardstock model. I don’t recall being praised for that, even though some students had made slap-dash models of drooping poster board that couldn’t have taken more than twenty minutes to make. I just recall practically being jeered for what I had done wrong. I wonder how many times Professor Horan taught that same stale lesson. When was the last time he used some creativity with his own curriculum? What he did do was sit there with his trap, waiting for a naive dumbass like me to snag.
Years later when I was stage managing for Vermont Stage Company, a couple of the actors were excited to find we shared our alma mater. They gushed over Professor Horan and tried to illicit the same reaction from me. I answered bluntly, “He never did anything for me.” Wayne (this exceptional professional actor that had graduated the decade ahead of me) said in this dead-serious voice, “Brooke, Professor Horan died of a brain tumor a couple years ago.” It didn’t make me recant. I merely responded, “Oh, I didn’t know that,” leaving us all to feel awkward with one another for the duration of the play. I realized Professor Horan was probably a different man when Wayne and Ellen had passed through the drama department. They thought he was the shit. They had some good memories. I recall one of my own peers exclaiming, “I found a whole new respect for Professor Horan when I saw him pull up to the back door on his Harley!” Professor Horan also mentioned the Guthrie Theatre fondly as if his happiness was glimpsed only through the halcyon mists of the past. It was another place and another time which no one present could understand. To me, this guy was nothing more than “there” for my education. My profound monetary investment clearly was not his own.
Still, Professor Horan was adored. He had a happy life with his wife. His daughter was the apple of his eye. It was clear. There were students that loved him. He was an acquired taste. When I think of fandom, I would much rather have a cult following than be mainstream.
Recently, I looked up “The Servant of Two Masters.” It turns out it is an Italian comedy of errors in which the main character becomes a servant for two different masters so he can eat twice as much. A guy who talks wistfully about a theater in Minnesota, a guy who names his daughter Dakota, a guy who cuts out the engine of his Harley and hasn’t updated his curriculum in years, seems like he may want to be somewhere else. One of Professor Horan’s masters must be himself. The other must be the institution he serves. Though no one deserves a brain tumor, I find it hard to feel sorry for this guy. Maybe he wanted to be in the Midwest, maybe he wanted to be free. Still, it could be worse. Being paid well to be in an environment where intellectualism is encouraged to grow doesn’t seem so very bad. Still, what no longer works, no longer works. One becomes stifled and no matter how many masters you are operating under, a chief one must always be yourself.
I’m not sure why I told this story. I guess just because I was thinking of servitude. Maybe it exemplifies the lesson I have been taught over and over. “I am much happier when I do not expect accolades.”
Maybe the moral is that, in my ignorance, I thought the play was a tragedy when all along it had been a comedy. Here I should insert some flowery bullshit about how that directly correlates to life.
I wonder what Professor Horan would think if he ever read this essay. I wonder if he would snarl at it with his sarcastic smile. I wonder if he could bare to mumble one nice thing about it or if he would only be studying it for the mistakes, perversely set on snagging me in another trap.
You read this story as you watch the witches at the cauldron. You wonder, “Do these disjointed ramblings hold any truth, any prophecy? Do all of these random threads ever tie together?”
In turn I ask, “Have I betray enough detail? Have I painted a picture? Have I given enough to keep you? And why should I care about keeping you when your own investment in me has been so small?”
In the end, there is no answer and that’s what’s funny.