Joy Harjo posts reports here on her trips and other happenings.
Within a few days during my recent journey to California I passed through several different worlds, each embodying a certain state of mind, it’s own set of manners, sense of language and deportment. From the vantage point of a few days later each of these worlds appears as a dream, just like dreamtime, in which what happened is already gone, vaporous, but the consequences of behavior, the intentions set into place still exist and are moving forward in the same manner that the day is turning over and soon it will be morning and then night again. Over and over. And then soon that over and over is a year, ten years, a decade, a century, an age. And what of each of these small worlds?
The Abbey is the hip gay club in West Hollywood, just off Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. This urban funky recently expanded warehouse of a club reeks of high gay attitude and culture. It’s predominately male, with a few attendant fag hags, some lesbian tables and a few straight couples who’ve come to see and be seen. We were early and the traffic was easy, still I felt self-conscious and out of place. Here in this kingdom of perfect physical beauty and ambition, in the thump-throb of the industrial dance music holding all together in an energetic rhythmic cell, I was conscious of my not-good-enough clothes, face, stance. Or more than that, as I walked through the different rooms, all the different stories I realized I didn’t want anything or need anything from anyone here—I was a visitor for a moment in time. I didn’t come there by accident. The place intrigues me. One of my best friends frequents the place, as does a cousin. And when people come to town, we go or take them there. Like a tribal chief, but that’s another story.
In another, younger life I’ve lived for that electric dance when everything shines and hangs together perfectly and you want nothing more than to spin on the dance floor and celebrate your earthliness. Here, and now I’m invisible. The only thing that would change that is a change in dress, age and attitude. When my cousin introduces me most are genuinely friendly. They become human with a name, a story. Others look right through me, like the high-powered studio executive who gave a polite nod then fixed his eyes to the wall behind me. I didn’t have apparent power or connections. Then the equation is nothing from nothing.
As I walked through, from the black leather boys decorating the entrance, past the tables of self-conscious diners, to the huge rooms arranged for drama, each filled with the evening’s catch, I asked myself who am I and what am I doing here? It’s the larger question I ask frequently, wherever I am. I ask it to force myself to stay aware. I wanted to dance, for me, dancing is the most natural state of being. But no rooms were for dancing though people gyrated to the beat wherever they were: leaning one of several bars, near the fireplace, or standing in place talking with friends or potential friends or partners. And the music was too repetitive, too dead. There was no humanness in it. It was constructed of prefabricated beats, dedicated to elevating the pace of the hunt. I asked myself who I was, and felt my spirit cupped in my belly. I let it all alone as I walked through the sadness, fear, joy, sorrow and sheer life gathered there. I wanted nothing from that place, or anyone there. I was just passing through…
The next morning as I crossed La Cienega to head to the gym one of the “dancers”, a beautiful athletic black man crossing towards me, carrying his bag with toothbrush, music in his ears, and a bag big enough for a change of clothes. He was still wearing what he had on the night before. I made note of it all. There are reasons for everything.
(Next, the Ruskin Arts Club in Hancock Park, and the dried-fruit factory cafeteria in Yuba City)