Saturday, September 20, 2008

Multi-Media (VIDEO and WORDS): Sacred & On Fire With the Same Force That Made The Stars (Live Through This)

[A few days before the day I moved out of Planet Harlem, Stef and Alex and I went to the roof to BBQ paper because when there's nothing left to burn, you have to set all your bank statements on fire. I made a video of it, and it's at the end of this post but it's not on YouTube 'cause it's This-Post-specific. We burn some crap screenplays I penned in 9th grade but we read them first. We're wearing clothes found in the netherlands of my closet and I was way too immersed in The Sads to bother with makeup or the hair-iron. This raw beauty is what garnered "When There's Nothing Left to Burn, You Have to Set Yourself on Fire" the Best in Show award at this years Festival of Excellent Films. Basically, it's like when we won the Uh Huh Her contest, but sans-prize-pack.]

One thing I've been noticing lately is all the people. I've always known this city was teeming with people -- people who live here, people who work here, and so on. But, for all I've spoken of Emily Dickinson and agoraphobia I didn't realize the precisely how self-centered & insane my Planet Harlem Apartment world had become until just now. 'Cause just now I've been thrust right back into people-world again, all at once and all over, like Dorothy landing in Oz except dirtier and with less choreography.

See, due to circumstances beyond my control (or so I tell myself to make myself feel better) that left me sans-home as of September 1st, I'm currently living in Long Island with Alex and her parents and commuting daily to and from the city for um ... Alex's job. Also, for about six weeks now I've been off the juice. JK ... kinda. More on this later.

Anyhow. In Long Island I wake up at 7, we get on the train at 8:26 so Alex can be at work at 9. By 7 P.M, I'm feeling boring and sleepy. The body beats out of habit, my heart isn't even warm. See, I used to be a superhero and no one could touch me, not even myself.


About six weeks ago my doctor switched up some of my meds. Though I'd been taking the same RX for about five years, I'd found a way last year to use those capsule-sized lifelines into a fresh & bad habit and it was killing me. I'd been disciplined and healthy with it for years until May 2007 and yet when faced with emptiness at that time I chose to fight chaos (unemployment, new home, strange schedule, changing social life, internet-world) with chaos. I was foolish enough to think I could establish self-discipline with undisciplined strokes.

I felt real good, but what good is it to be a genius superhero if you're going faster than the speed of light towards obliteration.

In the emo cave I was always chasing something, like I was in a race that was also a tape stuck in a loop. The nature of race was clear when I started it; I was racing to keep up with my ex's mania in hopes we'd eventually share a moment or two eye-to-eye.

Time went on, and though my problems changed, my behavior didn't. I wouldn't even notice how much crazy I was talking until someone came over, or a roommate dared utter a word to me. Any word, of course, sounded like "firecracker" or "boo!"
And that's why lately life has felt like some kind of shock therapy -- like I'm all cutting and no edge. All these people everywhere ... it gives me perspective. I'm one of millions, not one in a million, and now I'm forced to face how fucked up my whole existence has been for the last sixteen months until six weeks ago, maybe even longer than I want to say, 'cause there's so much I might never let go of -- and maybe I don't have to.

Also, I'm really tired now.

Falling asleep has been easier, but waking up is harder.

After waking up there's breakfast and then rush hour on the train. Once in the city, I've got no apartment to go to so I'm automatically surrounded by people and at their mercy so I'm modeling through the devil's baby in my uterus or vicious allergies. People, people and then more people in theaters, delis, restaurants, jostling for a seat at Starbucks, parking my body & heavy bag on the floor at Penn Station or Barnes & Noble or on Central Park's big wireless lawns where people are running & biking & beaming with beaming bright buoyant bountiful babies in expensive strollers, at the gym at rush hour with the people soaring towards absolutely nowhere like gazelles on thumping slick black exercise machines, and I'm navigating the rocky roads between hunger and longing-withdrawal and the library, the 1 train, the A, the C, the D, the E, the N-R, the 2-3, the 4-5-6. I'll go to Natalie's or see my therapist or when I go to this one job I go to I'll see those people.

The every train, The going and going more, next stop, last stop, stop stop stop.

And when I want to have a fit about something, like how expensive it is in the world, or how many people's cell phone conversations I've been forced to overhear, or how many private acts I've accepted that I must now do in public ... I just can't. I cannot have a fit in my car or my room. I cannot have a fit at all.

In me-me-me world when I needed a fit I'd go lie on my bed & cry & moan and stare at the ceiling hoping to break through and throw or stare or scream sharply at my phone with despair, refreshrefresh refresh inbox (1) fucking a it's the goddamn hrc again. I'd think about breaking walls like I've said before but I never did break any walls 'cause I couldn't afford that kind of security deposit.

It's not that I never left when I lived in P-Harlem because I did. But ... when I did, usually Caitlin would pick me up in a car so I'd avoid all the people, and I always felt safe with Caitlin, wherever we went. And anyhow usually we went places to see other familiar faces.

Those faces were anchors grounding me safely distant from the kind of social anxiety that builds up when you've not spoken to a stranger in days, when you've not only been inside your own head for too long but crawling around in it, building a new library in there and scaling the walls and jumping from its roof. Anyplace unfamiliar gave me paralyzing fear but now that evens out over the day 'cause I'm forced into society so much that each little encounter is no longer The Only Social Interaction With a Stranger of my day. So there's less consciousness and pressure, it's no longer this minute but just the way things are.

At the end of the day I'll see Alex and at Penn Station late at night there's so many people, like the girls who are still wearing the things that girls like that wore in the mid-nineties which makes me feel like nothing changes except the brand of expectation clinging to their longings.

When I read posts from last summer and autumn I can spot the times that I was beetle-buzzing through my own brain like a run-on hornet. Details, linkage, obsessive proof-reading and revisions. Words and more words.

And so I was reading Sam Anderson's obit of David Foster Wallace, and he says this:

"For Wallace, a thought could never actually, in good conscience, realistically, be finished — there was always one more reversal, one more qualifying clause, and an honest writer had to follow them out. Hence the famously never-ending sentences that spun off, even more famously, into never-ending footnotes. The black hole of his self-consciousness drew everything into it, even and especially self-consciousness itself. But that compulsion to be exhaustive was, apparently, exhausting."

I can't -- and don't intend to -- compare myself to Wallace. He's a genius, I'm a weirdo. He's published & famous & legendary, I'm a weirdo.

But I relate to one thing -- I relate to the words upon words. 'Cause when I wrote like that I was certain to not only address my point, but all examples, counterpoints, not only my thesis but yours and all the thoughts I'd ever had about it, and I'd play devil's advocate and people's advocate and lozo's advocate and feminism's advocate and sometimes my own advocate too. I wanted to speak to everyone and I wanted to shoot myself down before you could.

I wonder if DFW felt like his head might explode, if he was tired like I am.

I think it was good to be in my head so completely, like I needed that phase. I needed to live a life that didn't make any sense -- I mean you think you know but you have no idea -- but to me, to my reality (which contained only me & my people) -- it was a cool life. 'Cause you know what? We had a time.

And I'm sure I'll have phases like that again throughout my life, those rushing manic surges that sometimes enrapture an artist to do whatever she can to chase the dragon into dawnlight, towards wherever it is that stars become people and people become poets.

I miss the night-fires, I miss the abandon and the rampant self-destruction. I miss knowing everything wasn't right but not caring because I was so alive, because it was so fun or so vivid or so full or because I hit the streets with all I had. I miss absolving myself of responsibility for myself. I miss the future we used to talk about with such generosity. I miss the stories we believed in and I want to write the ones we never told. I want so many things.



Anonymous said...

That video was a-mazing. So, actually, were the words.

It's weird; since I moved (also at the end of August), my insomnia's greatly lessened, too. And getting up is harder, I'm always, always tired. And there is no space for my usual high-strung meltdowns.

I don't know. I'd like to comment, but I'm quite sad and wordless.... I wish we'd gotten to hear more of your play; from the bit we did, it would seem that Stef (who is v. good-looking btw, I'm not blind) had the right idea about it being the awesomest thing ever.

But yay! ABC very soon!

stef said...

first of all -
i'm around most of the week, and if you ever really are going stir crazy, please drop me a line. i know my apartment would make you sneeze, but i do have a roof that the cat's never been on. we could also eat lunch somewhere further south, as harlem is crazy town.

secondly, your video editing skills have gone from kick-ass to masterful. well done. i cackled like a maniac watching this, and i repeat, fuck you john mayer. you made it look very poignant, funny and touching, which is just how i remember it.

i am glad you are coming back to the universe. you have been retreating for ages and i know you will feel better when you are grounded and active (and uh, the opposite of homeless - homeful?). this is gonna get better - weird at first, but better, and i don't worry about you. the good news is that when you freak out you write pretty entries like this one.

fourthly, thanks e! i needed that compliment today. 'but they are mad' by marie lyn bernard is the best play i have ever seen, even better than les miserables.

a. said...

All of that was fantastic.

Fairly certain I need to burn some of my past sometime before the snow starts falling.

Hope you find a home soon.

Anonymous said...

I'm killed. i just hgot home and i decided to go on the internet? i read some and gave up. i'll reAD IN THE MORNING. YOU'RE HOTT.I LOVE MY BEST FRIEND'S SISTER. GOODNIGHT.

Anonymous said...

i forgot after i read when i was writing my last comment to meantion that you should have recycled that paper instead of buring it.

Anonymous said...

do you like Kathy Acker's work?

autumn m said...

its scary to me how you look just like one of my friends. you kinda seem like the same type of person also. its a bit freaky. this was an amazing post. but you talk alot about the trains, or subways or whatever, do you ride those alot? why not drive? are trains fun? ive never been on one, so i gotta ask.

Vashti said...

I can't watch the video til later tonight because I am sans computer atm. But I have to say that I so thoroughly enjoy your writing. I never comment on posts like these because I never feel I relate so I don't know what to say other than I wouldn't mind reading your writing forever. Right now, I'm on my way to the airport to fly across the country. I'm starting a new phase in my life and I'm terrified. There's not one person out there that I know. I mean, generally keep to myself so I'm cool with being alone. But now, I'm not just alone - I'm lonely.

I don't really know where I'm going with this. I'm just glad I woke up on a day of chaos and mixed emotions to find words that, though I feel I can never relate, make me feel comfortable just reading them. So thank you. Really.

Haviland said...

I have a lot of feelings.

Since it's 5:15 am on the west coast, I feel that many of the feelings are as a result of the time? It's early where you are, too.

Overheard on set last week, "There's only two people in the world who give a sh*t about your feelings: you, and, if you're lucky, your mama."

My mom doesn't read Auto-Win (tho who knows what could happen in the month of October), but I'll tell you the only feeling that's really important, and really true (honesty, yay) which is that I love you so much, and I'm proud of you.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you'll be like Zach Braff in Garden State. You'll get off the juice and start being happier or something. Of course, you'll be way more physically attractive.

Also, whoever was holding the camera seemed to be focused on Stef's tits. Way to know your audience.

riese said...

e.: We read a screenplay and one play. In the play, there's a foreign exchange student and I believe at some point a shoot-out with a deer hunting rifle. In the screenplay, Blake gets clean and gives up the drugs, after a lot of therapy and juvy-center sexual trysts. I think. Now we'll never know ... jk, obvs it's all on my hard drive.

It's so strange, isn't it? how much a change of walls and driveways and sidewalks can change the way you live, and thnk.

stef: I think I'm likely to go the opposite of stir crazy ... what is that, like "out in the world" crazy, or maybe that just means "actual life, like everyone else has been living for so long" ...

thanks, re; my skills. when i showed it to vega she said "i think your readers will like this because they all have a lot of feelings like you do," and i thought, well, that's true isn't it, they do. i feel this video is a good showcase for your comedy stylings. Also, it's an example of what happens when I don't get to do my makeup or hair before filming. clearly costuming is a conversation for another day.

i think that good news of which you are speaking is the number one feeling that gets me through this, and everything, 'cause i will look back. speaking of les mis and great theater, I wonder if Haviland would make a good Blake ...

a.: But fires in the snow are the most romantic fires of all, that's what the snowman learned about love.

anomyous: you are amazing, i hope everything works out with your best friend's sister. also, the burning idea came up 'cause i needed to shred a bunch of bank statements and bills to avoid identity theft, then we just burned a lot of other stuff too. but yeah i don't want to recycle bills, someone could steal my info and have access to the $24 in my bank account!

ikantsleep: I do like Kathy Acker's work. I like it better when I'm fucked up and want to believe the world is as violent and merciless and ugly and yet still beautiful despite this as she says it is. Sometimes she makes me wish I was dead, but I don't mean that in a bad way.

autumn m: Usually when peopel say I look like one of their friends it's 'cause we both don't have a chin, do you thnk that's true? Trains are okay, I mean you can read on a train is the advantage. But you can't drive in the city, there's too much traffic, everyone takes the train especailly during rush hour. You can sometimes drive at night but there's still traffic, but I don't have a car.

vashti: You're welcome. And you'll be ok. I mean you won't be at first but then you'll be okay, like the first three months I spent at Sarah Lawrence were extended exercises in not crying, trying not to cry. I spend a lot of my life feeling alienated and separate from people. That's why I do this, I guess, and it makes me feel better, and it makes me feel better to know it makes you feel better too. Feeling okay laone is good, I think that will eventually make you better at being around other people.

haviland: Thank you baby, really.

Also I know you want to be an actress but with your sleep schedule I think you should consider dairy farming, 'cause you can wake up at 5 to milk the cows.

I remember I said we have to incorporate that into our lexicon, but there was something else that we wanted to put in too that Vega and I thought of the other day, or heard the other day, now I need to remember that one too.

I love you so much too.

dj lozo: I hope that I get to make out with natalie portman. speaking of natalie portman, my friend natalie thinks zach braff is hot, and I keep trying to tell her why he isn't. this is one of many things that keeps me up at night.

my movie will have a better ending though. i promise.

Anonymous said...

Lately when commenting to your blogs I feel like a broken record (remember those?) skipping over the same groove of "I completely get what you're writing and going through, oh my G-D do I completely get it", looping over and over and over throughout the last weeks (months?) of this crazy, odd, unsettling summer of agoraphobia and emerging from emo caves. Like, swap out Harlem for Downtown Honolulu and your stories could literally be my own. Which is weird. But comforting. If that at all makes any sense whatsoever.

Anyway I am proud of you, and of your strength, and of your resilience. It takes a strong person to accept suddenly doing those private things in public and be unashamed, and confronting the people and the insanity and the expenses of being where you are right now, and of being off the juice for however long and for whatever reasons.

For all of that and more (i.e., at the very least making this little crazy homo feel less alone / insane / etc.) you should be proud of yourself.

Anonymous said...

if i'm in this movie, it better have a happy ending.

Anonymous said...

This is a little bit of magic Riese. painful magic. in a good way.
I feel slightly inadequate leaving only that as a comment when you're clearly super talented at sharing feelings, but all my other feelings about this post are probably inappropriate.
In a good, non weirdo way.
I hope.

caitlinmae said...


I'm not going to lie, i got a little choked up at this video. Whoever said it was right- if you have a lot of feelings, this video gets stuck in your throat. (high five, you who said that!)what a lovely cathartic thing you've created there... and if those of us watching on a 1' x 1' window can access some of that catharsis coming from igniting part of a lifetime... says something good.

Also, stef was right on point with her comment about your editing skills. You've got another hidden talent! This is totes festival ready. But in all seriousness you've really got a knack for it.

I think being out and being alone might be more difficult than perpetual cavedwelling, if for nothing but the aimlessness of it all. When you're on your own turf, you're on your own schedule: you set the pace, not the world. I don't do well alone, and haven't ever, but I can definitely understand the itchiness of constantly being surrounded by other people's lives and conversations and motions. It's like constant unintentional invasion of personal space. which is uncomfortable.

In summation, you're spectacular, this hit all the right heartstrings, and I hope the change of seasons gets you settled somewhere you want to be.

Anonymous said...

if your travels ever lead you to midtown (however unfortunately) during lunchtime, park slope during supper, or if you want to try some hot ass bikram yoga, let me know, and we can kill some time and catch up.


Meghan said...

Everybody's said the things I would want to say & more eloquently. The whole time I read and watched, in my head I also heard along with Stars: Keep on fighting to remember that nothing is lost in the end when you burn your life down.

Mercury said...

Awesome video, awesome post, kind of leaves me feeling wordless. I totally relate. life is insane. and it goes through chapters and you don't even realize what the last one was until it's ending and then you have no idea what the next one will be but you feel cold at all the edges like you're outside without a coat and about ready to burst from stress/excitement/wonder/fear. And knowing you never leave a chapter of your life the same way you entered it. Nope nope, always changing.

I know what you mean re: inside your head and then realizing... all these other people! everywhere, living their lives, feeling their feelings.

So yeah. Thank you for that. Good luck in the next chapter/finding a place to live.

Vashti said...

So I finally got to watch the video. Yeah. It was just as brilliant as the words. This is why I love your blog so much.

ps - Do I sound like a total suck up? I feel like I might. Sidenote: I also feel like I'm time traveling because it's 9 pm when it should really be 11 pm.

Michelle said...

sometimes (most times) feelings are scary. howevs, having feelings is much better than not having feelings. not profound, but that's all i got. i've never commented before. i'm a newbie. this is more intimidating than i thought...

Ms. Jackson said...

The night vision comment gave me a good chuckle. alex is mos def a banana...a banana that i wouldn't want to cross for fear that she may cut me.
And yes, f*ck you john mayer.

OHH, case you didn't already know, the LIRR waiting area has free wifi.

autumn m said...

so i read everyones comments and realized that i said nothing of value what so ever. but i am emotionally retarded, but i really liked it in my dumb kinda way. and no, i think you do have a chin. it's very...chin-ish, in a nice chin way. but you really do look like my friend, i swear same facial features, and eyes and stuff. its weird. but it's not a bad thing. she's not like some crazy weird ugly freak person or anything. so yeah. you really dont have a car??? do alot of people there not have cars?? these are my dumb hick kansas questions, sorry. i think i would go crazy if i couldnt drive my car...that i just bought....from a car place....that was over priced. since you dont have a car, does that mean you dont have a licsense?? ok im done. i swear.

Danielle said...

love the final fantasy remix of ex-lover. i played both versions of the song all week as my life endured an extreme make over (tyra style, so i'm not sure if it will turn out well or not). good to know someone else has the same soundtrack to their life.

Jack said...

it's funny how since i am having obscene hormonal issues due to premenstrual type-things going on in my body, i wanted to A) laugh, B) cry, and C) stare blankly into the depths of my computer screen when i watched the video. those are all good things. beautiful things, really.

riese said...

ab: Ah yes, broken records, the ones that skipped but at least they made music and played songs. I get weird/comforting. I think I told you I was proud of you once, so there we have it again; the swapping, and more. We are not alone, and homos, and crazy, and it is beautiful, and flammable, like the song from the breakfast club, which i like to play over and over again, and never feel broken, and thank you.

dj2k8: how many times do i have to tell you that happy endings are $180 extra.

rod: painful magic, i can do that. all comments are adequete, it is my responses that do not do them justice. hope is the most important thing of all they said in the shawshank redemption, and thank you.

caitlinmae: YES! I made a girl cry! I made a girl cryryyyy! Almost! Holler! I win the award, I win the 60th anniversary emmy award sundance canne de or festival best in practice lifetime acheivement making girls cry award with other award winners like the lion king, which made me cry. it's weird how things can be easy, but also impossible. i prefer to be alone even though i'm not sure if it's true anymore when i say that i'm at my best when alone. i hope to be somewhere i want to be one day too.

stephanie w: you know how i love wearing tight pants and sweating, bikram yoga oww! i miss you, we'll do it, i'll sing for my supper.

meghan: i like that too, that song about burning things down too. another song about burning things down that i like is when sal's burned down by dar williams.

mercury: your comments are good enough to be posts, i am glad that youhave your own blog. i like also how when you turn around and look behind you it feels less like chapters and more like a story collection. but then maybe when i get to a place here i can coast ... oh who am i kidding there will just be more ups and downs, nope nope, always changing.

vashti: the thing about sucking up is that you can't really suck up, like 'cause it's not like i'm giving you a grade or sending you free things. i mean autumn got a free 'zine, but only 'cause she was mouthing off about how she didn't want one. so the conclusion of this is that there is no sucking up, only kindness and appreciation.

michelle: don't be indimiated, all the other commenters are idiots and suck-ups, they just want to get a date with haviland, you're already my favorite. i love feelings, i have a lot of them.

ms.jackson: oh yeah, you wouldn't want to run into alex in a dark alley especially when her spoon is too big and i did not know that about the lirr waiting area. I will have to look into that.

autumn m: I think your comment was full of value. are you sure your friend does have a chin? alex doesn't have a chin either, that's why people always think we look alike, but she has more of a chin than i do. you asked questions and i gave answers, that's easier for me than to ttry to say something wise when i am out of wise things to say.

no-one in nyc has a car. i had a car when i lived in michigan. you can't drive in the city and parking costs like $20 an hour and that's if there even is parking. i got a drivers license in michigan when i was 16. it does make people crazy probs but the subway is faster than a car 'cause of traffic.

dmost: i love that remix too, like the part at the end with the nightvision after the quote i was like, dear song why are you so perfect. as long as you didn't go brunette or bald, then I feel like the makeover will work.

jack: those are beautiful things. hormones, too. the beauty of crying, laughing, and deep blank stares at screens, are all things i support this message.

asher said...

best video you've done.
and i liked the others.

but this was poetry.

Anonymous said...

this is one of the best things to ever be on your blog. maybe THE best.

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