Wo Dynasty

Could Be Worse

Woe the wand’ring little cloud
And woe the storm that brings it
Woe the stupid jingle
And the imbecile that sings it
Woe the little instances
Of love and life and laughter
And woe the need for terror
of our darkling numb Hereafter.
Woe to ev’ry tiny thing
inhabiting the daily
and woe to starlings sparring
and to manatees a’flailing.
Woe to paws that scrabble
and woe the speechless beagle
woe to poor Montgomery Ward
and dear tormented Spiegel.
Woe to those appliances
which maim and snap and crackle,
and woe to those who die at sea
while rescuing their tackle.

Atheists and Pantheists and Little Lambs Eat Ivy. Again.

Maypole!

Druids, Wiccans, Zoroastrians, Nuwaubianists, Cthulhu acolytes and well-off Vatican habitués in ill-fitting silk: hello. And hi to you, herniated bronze-age nincompoops who assembled Stonehenge. Was it worth it? We don’t know what the hell it is.

Tanned, muscly Aztec priest with your heavy eyeliner, Marcel Marceau-anticipating pancake and over-serious tribal headdress: put down those sacrificial entrails and come down from your gore-littered ziggurat. Let’s have a word. Your worship has grown tiresome. How many still-beating virgin hearts can you gnaw in a week? You must be paying a fortune for floss. There is an easier way to venerate.

To paraphrase the Old Testament: it’s summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime in Santa Barbara California! Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Spiritual Heartwork and Drink Specials Celebration® has come staggering down the pike once more, and our relationship with Nature® is the better for it. First day of summer! The longest day (not to be confused with the 1944 coastal invasion of France) of the year! What the ancients used to call Midsummer and would celebrate with enormous bonfires and dances and chanting? You’re in! Gather up your healing bunches of St. John’s Wort, raise your arms to the stars and sun, embrace the season cycle and the circularity of it all. Let’s ring it in with a gaudy parade and send it packing with a terrific organic hangover. All that genuflecting before old-timey Titans in the clouds, multi-armed Vedantic yoga freaks, that laughing fat guy with the incense holes? So yesterday.

Santa Barbara at Solstice is the Way, The Truth, and The Lite. Paganism, venerable pre-Abrahamic obeisance to the natural order, is here thrown a party in which the celebrants are happy to raise a toast. To what they aren’t exactly sure. These are folks who think Wicca is the stuff lawn furniture is made of. No matter. Let us pray for two whole days and nights. This mammon-haunted burg shall become a New Church where the faithful feverishly worship the sun, the Earth and the trees, well drinks-two-for-one, Puff the Magic Whatnot, and the sun and the Earth. And the trees.

We Santa Barbarians have seen this before. Going on nearly 40 years now. What began as a gentle mime/artist/eccentric playfully celebrating his own birthday with pals by traipsing down State Street in a colorful show of self-congratulation (RIP, Michael Gonzales) has, in the well-meaning decades since, morphed into a self-loving juggernaut fraught with all the trappings of a metastasizing commercial enterprise.

On Solstice weekend, a reported 100,000 people pour in from all parts, nailing their lawn chairs to the Main Street curb in the wee hours before the big day, the better to be in the middle of the action when the parade comes broiling up the main drag with its balloon arches and scantily clad pan flute wielders and army of annoying bubble-blowing flower-children adults.

The parade’s terminus, beautiful Alameda Park, is so crowded with vendors that weekend you can barely make out the grass for all the electric cable. Stella and I were accosted in the early hours of vendor setup last year by a Goat’s Milk Soap purveyor intent on a sale. No, thank you, ma’am. If it squirts out of a goat, I won’t want to lather with it. Later in the day, the entrepreneurism was in full-flower at the park, Ra looking down in wonder. This in the midst of a Summer of Love mob of dancing, swirling babes in translucent rainbow-colored gauze, and the ingenious chameleon-like “Dockers and Izod” infiltrators who slipped unnoticed (they truly believe) into the melee, wearing confused grins and glad for once to be in Church.

And while the yearly parade themes change, the parade itself does not. Beverly Hillbillies theme! Peace theme! Sunshine theme! Affectionate Gargoyles theme! All the themes feature the same goldfish on bicycles and young ladies in chiffon batwings, flapping serenely down a main street thronged with the stoned, the stunned, the curious, and the hideously sunburned – our visitors from the Heartland who keep raising and then slowly lowering their cameras. Normally respectable orthopedic surgeons twirl down State street in papier-mâché tree outfits alongside besotted clerk-typists in loincloths, drill-teams of faux Amazons on roller skates, and kettle-drum beating, shirtless and worryingly crimson Hedge Fund managers in the first stages of heat-stroke dementia.

That tired-looking, older gentleman-hippie on stilts lumbers about ponderously for the umpteenth year in a row and is not yet pitched screaming into the roadside kiddies by stilt-loving termites. The high-priced DUI attorney (probably still on the clock) for once tipsily commingles with and does not attempt to prosecute the inebriated IT guy, both of them dressed ineptly as sunflowers: the Lion and the Lamb. Overtanned retirees, who fancy themselves “fit” and have the sort of hairy upper arms that make you throw away your ice cream cone, prance about in regrettable form-squeezing lycra – their sweaty, balding pates ringed with denuded wildflowers. It unnerves the children. Oh, the children, the children. They come for a parade and a little shower of tossed candy and instead have their innocence ripped from them by oldsters prancing in floral leggings, the septuagenarian’s unearthly, outthrust, collagen-plumped derrières looking like bargain styrofoam implants. Don’t look, baby! Turn your head to mommy, turn your head to mommy!

But then (speaking of Bringing Up the Rear) troubled hearts are made new again by the monstrously cheery, primary-colored, bobbling inflatable giants that more often than not signal the end of the Parade line every year, and which are invariably greeted with cheers and even more feverish, lumbar-tormenting gyrations. We have the brilliant and indefatigable wonder-worker Pali-X-Mano to thank for that; a lettered Hungarian artisan and Budapest’s gift to our twisted little Candyland for many many years now. His brilliant, happy creations have become emblematic of the very spirit of the celebration.

And it’s all for the love of Mother Earth, or Mother Nature, or that margarine in the 70s that used to invoke Mother Nature. There’s some Mother involved, okay? Flower-bedecked, bra-burning. We have come to worship Her. Gail? Sounds like Gail, I think. The communion wafer is a peyote button, the Blood of the Sacrament a hidden flask of warm Wild Turkey. The only sacrifice this religion requires is that of your pride as you toddle blindly into traffic owing to your sloppily aligned butterfly mask and the several pints of Guinness sloshing around in your happy, swollen thorax.

By the end of this two-day orgy of spiritual growth and graceless tipping over with painted arms a-waving for help, one can see the acolytes scattered about the twilit landscape like people dropped from a low-flying airplane; face-down, arms outstretched in a show-closing embrace of Gaea (that’s it!), supine, exalted. The fruits of faith.

Oh-How-We-Adore-It, this indescribable weekend of bedlam! Solstice in Santa Barbara! A freak! An anomaly! A disheveled clown cruising through your neighborhood at dusk on a Vespa! There are no truly apt analogies, and that’s as it should be. It is a yearly grand mal carnival that is wholly our own, completely SB, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. So, till next year, dear ones. Cast your bread upon the waters. Just aim away from my new shag carpet.

 

*Jeff  writes the column State Street Scribe for the Santa Barbara Sentinel – where a ravishing print version of this piece can be found.

SB Sentinel, Volume 3/Issue 12/June 14-28. Page 6

 

Stonewalled No Longer

Supreme Courtship

My fam just returned from a terrific weekend spent with two married men; married to each other, of course. Great-looking, culturally informed wits (if I may briefly throw my lot in with the stereotypists), skilled parents, laconic commentators on the current bonfire, and most importantly this weekend, boat-owners.  I have nothing culturally significant to add to the flood of typing that has erupted in the wake of the recent and historic death of DOMA, but to say that the dizzy and doomed legislation, when named aloud, sounds like the inarticulate threat one might puzzle over in the instant before being punched in the face by the idiot school bully after 6th period. By the bike rack. (yeah – he warned me. who knew?)

We zipped around a lake in a sleek motorcraft of some kind, occasionally towing behind us, in an inflatable SeaDoo, my 11 year-old daughter and one or both of their kids, and more occasionally my easily nauseated but otherwise particularly manly 17-year old son. Our kids clutched the pitifully small handles of the inflatable torture device till their hands cramped. Their kids had arms raised in the manner of rollercoaster show-offs. This says nothing about the B.F. Skinner distinction between kids raised by two dads and those raised by one mom and one hesitant coward. Does it?  Behind the speed boat, buffeted by a rocketing flume of water, becoming madly and unpredictably airborne in the boat’s wake, and at the distant end of their wildly swinging nylon rope, the kids (mine) engaged in lots of hand across the neck gesturing, international maritime signal for ‘slow this ****** down or you’ll see my turkey and lettuce sandwich atop a bile geyser’.

By sheer happenstance this planned weekend at our friends’ lake house coincided with the historically raucous days immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision to give their long-awaited blessing to some of the clearest common sense ever waved into law by a panel of ostensible constitutional scholars. That it took this long to Enact the notion that you can’t legally be a jackass to some and nice to others just because you feel scared or nervous….it says less about our nation’s imperfect charter than it does about the frightened, kittenish morons we humans are, despite our mostly honest efforts not to be. We try, and very recently we have been trying harder. That little extra effort has CHANGED WHOLE LIVES NOW. LIKE A FINGER SNAPPING. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT? WHY DOES THIS CRAP TAKE SO LONG?!!!! The parades and celebrations are tempered by the absence of those who couldn’t make the rehearsal, felled in the decades of utterly needless sorrow now ended by glib judicial fiat. Let’s try a little harder a lot more often. Our hosts this weekend were quietly celebratory, not triumphalist. They’ve been married awhile. They read with muted anger of the spontaneous, nearly algorithmic reflex-effort by a coalition of overwrought attorneys to get the Supreme Court to vacate its own decision. We are desperate bird-brains, all of us.

Well. Our cross-dressing Supreme Court, whose billowing black mumu could use an update, has spoken. They’ve essentially pointed at a cat and proclaimed amid trumpets and fanfare, after many decades of teen and adult suicide in this country, deaths by beating, and generalized soul-ruining mayhem, “IT’S A CAT.” Our be-robed, wizened village elders have spoken.

Thanks.

Sturm und Drang. While DOMA wasn’t about stopping people being singled out for beatings, surely a legal pronouncement of this scale augurs change all up and down the acceptance strata. Meanwhile, these Two Dads (as they would be known in a controversial oft-banned book about same-sex parents), like parents everywhere, have their hands full; they have to drag their kids off the electronics, exhort them to walk the dog, clean their rooms, empty the trash; THE MARVELOUS GOLD-LEAF NORMALCY THAT WE LUCKY HETEROS HAVE BEEN VARIOUSLY DRUBBED AND EXALTED BY THESE MANY YEARS. Married with Children. Now our willing gay guys and dolls can have the connubial experience of sitting bolt upright in bed at 4am of a particular morning and shouting hoarsely into the dark, “HOLY SHIT!! I’M MARRIED!!!! Welcome, Moms and Dads of the New Vanguard. If you figure out how to get your kids to brush before bed, like, every night? for g*d’s sake, SHARE!

Final note, apropos of absolutely nothing: at the end of our lake day I asked one of our hosts if the motor on a Jet Ski was an inboard or outboard motor. Was the propeller perhaps concealed inside the machinery?  He regarded me with an arched eyebrow.

“Neither. It’s a jet.”

Oh. Right. Cheers, mate.

Ray Walston!

Sometimes there are inexplicable bursts of hopefulness or good humor. I reflect suddenly and wantonly and apropos of no other input than the haunting and reverb-soaked strains of Bennet’s ‘Tender is the Night’ from my computer speakers; on such things as David Hedison’s face and khaki demeanor on the bridge of the Seaview, or Ray Walston hamming it up in a sailor’s cap on a beach in South Pacific. Looking 80 years old even then.