Points of View Game

points of view cardsWe were told to pick up any card off a table, the backs were all the same and said “Points of View.” I picked one and sat down between two people I didn’t know (that was the instruction) and looked at it. It pictured two men sitting on a stoop with their legs crossed. From the top up they wore tuxedos, their bottom halves had hiking shorts and long hairy legs (not particularly great looking legs either) and from the toe to nearly the knee, giant brightly-colored leather knee boots with metal spikes and stuff, Folsom Street Fair style. The caption on the card said, in all lower case, “should be.” The leader of the exercise told us to ignore the caption, hide it with our thumbs, study the card, decide why the photographer shot it how they did, close-up? Long shot? Or in this case, medium shot. We were asked to look at the words, to turn them into other words and while I am usually weak at anagrams, the letters seemed to rearrange and swim back into new words (like a commercial for dyslexia): “should be” became “bold shue.” “Magic,” I thought.

Still I was very unhappy with my card choice. I looked at those on either side of me and each of them had a much gentler, new age-y image and word. To my right was a golden glowing dandelion ghost and the word: “completeness”, to my left, a rich colorful photographic image, I couldn’t totallly make it out but the colors were beautiful and there were no hairy legs or spikey boots or anything nearly so realistic. Why did I get the only ugly card?

The leader told us that this card would bear significance for our lives, whether we liked it or didn’t, whether we chose to ignore it, give it away etc. – it would be with us for days. “Should be” I pondered. I couldn’t make tux or toes from the image, had no idea what it meant and how it applied to me. And then she changed the instruction. Walk to the person you feel most or least attracted to and face them. One of you is A and one is B. “B”{ person take four minutes and explain what this card means to you, what about it that you need to “let go” of. “A” person, just listen, no talking, just give them your attention, if they stop talking just keep giving them your attention until the time is up.

I felt neither attracted nor repelled to anyone and ended up choosing the host family’s high school age son, who then demurred and got his mom, the friend who’d invited me to this neighborhood evening of self-exploration. She looked at her card, a blurry impressionistic view of a screw on a wooden board, very colorful with the word “stuck” below it. She was somewhat upset by the word, had a litany of complaint regarding being stuck, the card made her feel down about herself, certain things she wasn’t moving in her life, etc. I listened intently, I studied her. I’d never looked at her so closely. Without my response she seemed to grow a bit insecure, looking for complicity, maybe confirmation of what she was feeling. I could give it a little but had been told not to, so I was consciously keeping it neutral.

We were then told to switch cards. I got the “stuck” card. That was okay, I wasn’t stuck, I was flowing, I didn’t have any attitude about it, I’d survive, plus I’d gotten rid of that damned “should be” card! We switched and then before I could do any talking, we were told to switch partners again. This time, as an “A” person I had to be chosen. I sat where I was and another person I knew came and chose me. Now I got to speak to her about the “stuck” card. Mostly I recounted what my first partner had said, all her complaints and insecurities about being stuck (she was also the hostess of the event and feeling a bit nervous about how it was going). Then I complained about my first card. Finally I reflected on “stuck.”

Switch time again. Choose the person you are least attracted to. I chose a clean cut looking man, 30-ish, handsome, regular on the far side of the room. We would spend the next half hour together sharing the secrets of our hearts, intuiting where each other’s power came from, what our strengths and challenges were. The leader assured us that the person we were “least attracted to, had an important lesson for us to learn.” After listening to me, the young man told me my strengths were “talent” (too vague) and “curiosity” (very intriguing to me.) Where did this land in your body, the leader inquired. Curiosity landed in my back body, where it fully resonated. I spoke about my writing and whether I have what it takes to keep going. The man intuited that my challenge is: “Is there enough of it?” That landed very well too. The fear that I do not have enough to say, that beneath the first few layers of stories and feelings there is, boredom, redundancy, a waste of space.

He told me his story. I intuited that his greatest strength was his belief in the good, his focus on it. He had drawn a card that had the word “forcefulness” on it. He had an outmoded concept of his use of force, stereotypical as in a man using force for negative, macho or abusive purposes. But he understood at the same time that he had a personal force and that his current philosophy of staying in the moment, “going with the flow,” might be lacking a bit of something, force maybe, personal intention, will. Yes, this seemed like a useful card for him.

After what seemed like an eternity, we switched again. Finally to someone we felt attracted to. I chose an easy physical path to the couch next to me and a woman that had originally sat next to me holding the colorful card I couldn’t read. We’d done one more switch and my card said “journey.” The leader asked us about our “passion.” Was their a passion in our lives we would give up everything for, home and family and comfort to see it accomplished, expressed? I reflected on my early days as a musician, how I’d been a minor rock star in Venezuela. How I’d felt so contented there, like Sugar Man (Rodriguez) when he gets to South Africa, like Anvil without their factory jobs. But I didn’t stay there, I came back home to NYC, returned to my girlfriend (now my wife of 22 years), stayed near my brother, worked in advertising music. I’d chosen comfort, familiarity, financial success, family, over my consuming passion – playing electronic art rock with Miguel Noya, and I’d spent nearly 35 years doing watered-down versions of that passion. The leader asked: “What do people know you for?” “What do they expect of you – your passion, how do they describe you?” And I knew it was music, no matter how much I wrote, it would always be music that people associated me with, that people thought was my most special gift.

I told the gal next to me about it. How I’d been playing covers for ten years, hiding behind Bob Dylan lyrics and Elton John. What if I had played originals? What would the reactions have been like? Even that evening at sunset I’d played two songs at the Kelly Ave. piano scene that Mauro Ffortissimmo had created. They’d been covers and the audience had liked them, but had they loved them? No. It did not feel like the reception that Mauro was receiving for his highly original contributions to art and music.

The rant hit home. The gal next to me had also been playing covers in her band for years and was afraid to make her own personal statement. She’d raised children, been a “good” mother, wife, friend, etc. Now it was her turn to live her own life and she had no idea of what to do, how to do it. We were destined to sit together. We had something to learn from each other. A card switch was engaged, one last time. And (freaky, this) the two cards we now held, were the two cards that had been on either side of me at the outset, the ones I’d coveted: the dandelion, completeness and the dart board: almost. Hmm, “almost,” a very evocative and curious word here.
The leader took over again. She was unleashing her ample psychic abilities on us now. She had spoken earlier of her “guides” and they were with her now, aiming at us. She gave us cute nicknames, she called me “soulful.” She asked us to define our Opportunity. Mine was expression, self- expression. She asked us to find an action we could take in the next 24 hours to move this opp forward. It had to resonate in our root chakra, not just our hearts, it had to mean action. She would check in with us, she was watching. I would need to write, of course.

Finally I asked around, did anyone get the hairy legs “should be” card and make any sense out of it? Yes, a man did and he explained, he hated it too, but found something in it eventually: you want to be perfect up top, presentable, clean, elegant, but underneath all that are hiking shorts, hairy legs and especially “bold shoes.” You’ve been hiding them, but they are all a part of you. Are you willing to show it all? I thought of “Silver Lining Playbook” and Jennifer Lawrence’s character’s admission, “Yes, I’m sloppy and messy, but I like those parts of me, I like all the parts of me. Can you say the same for yourself?”



quadropheniaHe was sloppy drunk and it wasn’t from drinking. He’d been poisoned by eating a cookie baked with cannabis. His eyes wouldn’t focus and in a short time what began as a floating, integrated, stony feeling, pleasurable overall, had turned into a spinning, nauseous, out of control, terrible condition. Soon enough, vomiting became the only reaction his body would tolerate and rather than stand up or potentially fall down the dozens of greasy cement stairs to the bathroom, he just leaned forward and vomited into the popcorn bucket that probably helped cause all the trouble in the first place. He had skipped lunch and dinner (leading to the empty-stomached poisoning by the small quantity of cannabis cookie) — there wasn’t that much volume to the production. Neither was the audio volume of the act overpowering to his seat mates, after all, The Who was performing their watershed album “Quadrophenia” at tremendous volumes, only a few hundred rows in front of them.

Max had assumed the experience would be nostalgic, vainglorious, emotionally-charged, a teenage flashback and it was (incomprehensibly) all these things (even though he was in the midst of a what felt like a medical emergency, one that he only wished to die in order to end.) Perhaps it was this death-wish, this desperate out-of-control feeling of dread-blurriness and physical discomfort, that best re-iterated the teen angst of “Quadrophenia.” In The Who’s double-album rock opera follow up to “Tommy,” (an album Max had discovered as one of his first fetishistic rock attachments, these identified by his physically carting the vinyl and cardboard around his neighborhood day after day, to either show them off, study the artwork and lyrics or play them when they came to another kid’s house and turntable,) “Quadrophenia” was an experience designed for a slightly older teen, fifteen was probably ideal.

Where “Tommy” could be easily grokked by rock-listening youths, its helpless deaf, dumb and blind child protagonist, or even by its caricatured adult supporting roles, “The Acid Queen,” “Cousin Kevin” (a sadist), “Uncle Ernie” (a pederast), and various doctors, parents, etc. It also held clean leitmotivs such as the Mirror (a secret for self-knowledge) and the Rock-Prophet (a ‘60s-era Jesus/Jim Jones type identifiable with Roger Daltry), Quadrophenia offered a murkier concoction. Five years before the 1979 film which would make plainer the more playable themes in the story (that is, adolescent boy from fractured home seeks acceptance in street gang of mod bikers, meets a girl, takes drugs, is enamored of an older mod role model, loses girl, crashes bike, crashes on drugs, etc.) were well communicated to a film-going audience of Who fans (and Sting fans too), we young fans were left to the unexplained gestalt, free for artistic interpretation, these were pure emotions and ones we were well familiar with:

Outsiderness, geekiness, lack of proper male role models, pimpliness, seering, crippling anger which attached to everyone and everything, the feeling of having an inner greatness which was both undiscovered, ever-present, bursting to be released, recognizable primarily by a beautiful teenage girl taking notice of us, and would inevitably become our salvation (as in Townsend’s personal story) or our downfall (as in Townsend’s alterego, Jimmy’s story), or somewhere in between (my ‘70s cohorts became, among other things, filmmakers, minor rock stars, paint-store managers, software geeks, carpenters, drifters, suicides.)

The Technicolor yawn that was Max’s personal accompaniment to this rock revival by a sixty-nine year old Daltrey (looking like nothing so much as a velvetine-gray Reno lounge singer from the Tom Jones cloth) and a sixty-eight year old Townsend, looking his age and accomplished maturity, like Richard Thompson more or less, was a visceral, fully physical reaction to all those emotions, unexplained, explored unsteadily by thirty years of psychotherapy, and finally expurgated into a popcorn bucket that is: Shamanic.

Had Max (or I) been prepped in a ritual fashion for medicine work, under the care of a shaman, ingesting some plant helper from the rain forest, ayahuasca, psilocybin, we could not have had a more complete purging and “de-gaussing” experience (as Dr. Bob Johnson would call it.) The vomiting was actually choreographed to the music, long hard final powerchords of songs that had particular significance to us, would elicit sustained strangled regurgitation into the bucket. It was not just physical sickness, it was a replaying, a reliving of the psychic sickness of adolescence. We were returned to that original stage of vomiting, the one we can remember from being children with a virus, mom holding our head over a round silver bowl, a wet washcloth (if we were lucky) or as in the beginning of Eminem’s autobiopic “8 Mile” (which I viewed last night with my middle schooler, an Eminem fan,) just plain turning inside out in a hideous housing project bathroom due to nerves, a kind of primarium vomitus – the only reaction to psychic teenage nausea.

Max relived this for the entire length of “Quadrophenia” and arrived somewhere on the other side, purged, empty and free of all that psychic garbage and nostalgia. As his eyes came back into focus, the show continued with the band’s other greatest hits, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Pinball Wizard,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Who Are You?” and perhaps the greatest on-your-feet scream-out by this audience of advance middle age, “Baba O’Riley”. They audience yelled “teenage wasteland” from all the seats in the arena, and Max suddenly understood that it was frustration driven by the dream of something more, not the caved-in wartime pessimism gone self-flagellation that Roger Waters perpetrated (though Pink Floyd was the closest comparison that could be made . . .) It was the ire, the entrapment of a small creature, household vermin, that the 12-16 year old boy feels so much more acutely than others. It was not a cry out of rebellion — this burned from the inside and turned all it touched to ash.