Take me to Takaungu

I always have nourished this intense desire to be an artist, in some small way. The feeling comes and goes, but when it comes, it makes the practicality of my present existence painful. Tonight, when watching a documentary about the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo’s amazing existence in the decades surrounding World War II, I started to feel some of that pain again. When I was in fourth grade, I was convinced that one day I would be onstage dancing as a member of the New York City Ballet. I created this whole personna in my head who was this young prima ballerina in training, which included me lying to my entire fourth grade class by inventing my birth state as New York, instead of Mississippi. At some point in time, practicality in the form of wide hips set in, and I realized my ballet technique was nowhere close to being up to par with the students at the School of American Ballet. Nonetheless, I clung to ballet for as long as I possibly could, until my sophomore year at BYU, my ballet teacher gave me a B+ in class. Not only was this a blow to my GPA, but it also effectively stamped my efforts as below excellence. I concluded my ballet training with a letter to my ballet professor that included the lines to the effect of, although I knew that I wasn’t good enough, “so long as there are hardwood floors and Stravinsky recordings, I would be dancing.” When I finally did move to New York, I had to content myself with watching the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center (Now that I think about it, I think the New York City Ballet is one of the primary reasons I ever desired to live in New York City in the first place). I don’t think that I had an experience at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center that didn’t bring tears to my eyes at some point in time during the performance. Amazing dancing can just get to me in a way that no other art form can. I think it is the part of me that still wants to be up there on stage, willing my body to do things that it could never do before. Suffice it to say, that watching this movie did the same thing for me again. It also made me miss New York for entirely the same reasons that I wanted to be there so badly as a fourth grader.

My artistic sensitivities were affected this weekend as well by going to the Sasquatch Music Festival over at the Gorge in Eastern Washington. The older I get, the more I find it harder to be in crowds with lots of people, where I am forced to overhear the conversations of others. Perhaps I talk so rarely these days because I just am always thinking about how foolish most conversations sound to your unwitting eavesdropper. I am not encouraged for the future of America by the conversations and vocabularies of my generation and the generation younger than me.

In any case, hearing bands like The Arcade Fire, in an amazing natural setting was most certainly worth it. Look at the setting of this place.

The Lineup at Sasquatch wasn’t as good as I hear that it has been in years past. This year it was weighed a little heavy in favor of Spanish rock bands, which perhaps I would enjoy more if I spoke Spanish or spent time in Central or South America, the same way that I enjoy French music and some African music. Nonetheless, Neko Case was great, and I also enjoyed the Long Winters and Ghostland Observatory. There were also delicious Icees to be drunk on a warm, desert afternoon.

In the evening, The Arcade Fire once again reminded me why they are one of the best live shows going these days. They were followed by Bjork. Bjork has been one of my most favorite musical treats for a pretty substantial period of time now. Unfortunately, she didn’t begin her show until 12:00 am, and I knew that we still had to drive back to Seattle that night. But it wasn’t my exhaustion that kept me from enjoying Bjork the same way that I had when I saw her play at the Cyclones Stadium at Coney Island, shortly after I moved to New York. Bjork almost depressed me this time. It goes back to what I was writing about when I began this blog entry: Bjork made me sad, because she just reminded me of all of these risks that I failed to take with my life. Bjork reminds me of far away places that I travelled in times past and times when I thought so much was possible.

The only way I can try to explain it is in terms of the biography of Denys Finch Hatton that I read this weekend. In my last blog entry, I described how I have had this crush on him ever since I first picked up Out of Africa. I think most of the living people I have had crushes on in my life I have liked in part because they possessed attributes that I believe existed in Denys Finch Hatton. Most of them grew out of it, and therefore it made it easy to get over them, because precisely what it was that made them so interesting was this characteristic elusiveness that Denys Finch Hatton possessed. Most people at some point in their adult lives become “possessable” in in a sense, because it seems like that is a mark of emotional maturity. Nonetheless, I venture to say that there is at least one Finch Hatton character out there. I certainly understand why he could inspire Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen to write in a letter to her brother, “That such a person as Denys does exist, something I have indeed guessed at before but hardly dared to believe, and that I have been lucky enough to meet him in my life and been so close to him – even though there have been long periods of missing him in between – compensates for everything else in the world, and other things cease to have any significance.” Of course, later in the letter, Karen had to tell her brother never to tell Denys what she had written, because she had to conceal from him her neediness and play the part of a modern, independent woman. She had to alter her whole concept of love to fit with the kind of independence and freedom that made Denys who he was. I don’t think that was ever really possible.

Here is what I have thought about now, perhaps because I have thought so much of Denys Finch Hatton for so long, in some ways, I have incorporated some of his traits into my life. Unfortunately, they are not the wildly adventurous parts, the parts that make him so interesting, because I haven’t been a risk taker. I have been more tied to the farm, so to speak. However, something crystallized in my mind when I read this discussion the author, Sara Wheeler, made a point of in this book – there is a very thin line between elusiveness and selfishness. I can be as sociable as I need to be, but as a general rule, these days I am pretty reserved and not one to seek out social interaction. Is it simply reservation or have I become unreachable?

It isn’t good to lock up the artistic side of oneself, because more might be trapped than just your desire to dance.

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