29 October 2008

(work in progress)

"Human nature is what we were put on this earth to rise above…"(Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen).

When I was preparing for my show with Auditory Sculpture I dug up some old pieces I thought I might want to re-work for the occasion, or to see if they might inspire new pieces. Amongst my own writings, I found poems and songs written for and about me by different lovers over the span of several years. Oddly enough, two of them were about one specific night, a night when I also performed with Auditory Sculpture 8 years ago. I was out with a full entourage and two of the boys presented me with their respective views on the evening.
One likened it to watching a parade, and, though then "favored by the Spanish queen" as he put it, he pointed out the futility of he or any of the other hopefuls waiting for me to stop for them. One of those very same hopefuls mused whether:

"…to pace round the station, my temperature dropping
Or chase down a train that will never be stopping
At all…"

Another wrote:

"It's easier to tie her up
than tie her down"


"She has mastered the craft of the 6 night stand
and on the 7th day she rests."

It's a brilliant line, but, ouch! I just wish it hadn't been written about me.

My first thought, of course, was: wow, I've dated a bunch of whiny man-bitches!

But it's my nature to be aloof, my nature to run, have one foot out the door, jump from rock to rock. It's my emotional identity, part my creative process.

All of these reasons I had flung back at me by lovers who "had" me only in the most fleeting sense. For the most part there were no painful, explosive break-ups. I simply never let them in and moved on when somebody else caught my interest. I am fortunate to count many of them as friends today, but occasionally the question comes up.
Why? Why didn't it work out between us?
Sometimes it was a matter of circumstance or timing, but in most cases all I can say is: I don't know, it's just how I am.
Ten years later, the tune hasn't changed. And there is no point in speculating on whether any of them could have been The One--- I don't really believe there is just One--- but many of them were good people, with good intentions, looking for love or companionship that I wouldn't give them.

It's just how I am. It's my nature.

There's that phrase again.

I'll never forget one dear friend, former lover, standing at my door with a book and an earnest look in his eyes. "I'm giving you this because I love you. Will you please read it?"
"Are you kidding?" I asked looking at the title 'The Sexual Healing Journey'."Really?"

He and others trying to dig deep for dark secrets in my past, something that would make me "this way".

It's just how I am. It's my nature.

I always had multiple crushes when I was a kid. I watched my parents flirt, watched Dad woo Mom daily--- even from his death bed. No knock-down-drag-out fights, maybe the occasional terse words and an hour of silence, but "never go to bed angry" they always said.

And still, I never longed for that One person. I didn't dream of marriage and kids. My biggest fear was getting trappped into the life of the women I saw around me in Colombia. My father's biggest fear as he lay dying was that I would never have, never allow a man to take care of me.

I have always been this way, string sets of lovers. Even young love, innocent love, where we held hands until the recess bell. I always wondered what it would be like to hold hands with that other boy, that other girl.

It's the thought of what else I might be missing out on that keeps me on the move. And so I ponder the nature of habits, of human nature and what that really means.

It's just who I am.

It's just who I've become.

It's just who I've choosen to be.

And suddenly, it's a choice I've made.

All Content Copyright 2008, Juliana Tobón. All Rights Reserved.

16 October 2008

Beachside Bounceback

"So whatever happened 2 your blog? Did u finally burn through all your boyfriends?"


Well, it's not the first text or message I've received in the past couple of months asking for an update, but this was too much to bear, especially from a smart-ass ex.

My dear, my social life is hydra-like--- I cut one off and two more spring up in his place… But this is about a story isn't it?



My beach trip was a little tougher to write about than most, more elusive. Other stories are clamoring for attention but will not be written until this chapter is closed, so…

 I was walking recently with a new friend, one who is new to my stories, as well. He had read about the Beachside Bukowski. He pointed also out to me that I hadn't really posted anything since. I had been so excited, and then… nothing. So what happened?

"I was heart-broken. Well, no, not heart-broken…" I said searching for a succinct way to describe it.

He scoffed at my unwillingness to admit to or to feel heartbreak.

"Well, it's not like I was in love with the guy…I just spent a weekend with him," I protested, still struggling to explain.

I told him my story.

He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. "My heart's breaking just hearing this!"

I rolled my eyes.

"No, seriously, this is just heartbreaking!"

"And that is why I haven't written since."

"NO! No, no, no NO!" he refused to move forward as he began the well-intentioned harangue that has lead me try to write this.



My time at the beach had promised to be another Misadventure, a free-for-all, a meeting of two characters–– The Infamous CoatCheck Girl and The Beachside Bukowski. We'd traded "fuck stories", as he called them. We'd flirted and shared almost nerdy, literary-minded fantasies–– trading stories over gin in his back yard, reading Shakespeare under starlight, a quick skinny dip and frolick in the surf…

I don't think either of us were quite prepared for reality.

It was not a romantic idyll on some remote beach, nor was it a vacation. He invited me into his home and shared with me the things about which he is most passionate–– his beloved dogs, his beloved beach, and his passion for writing.

He had a gift for me as soon as we arrived. A book, of course. How else do you court a writer? It was a first edition (UK) of Mary Gaitskill's collection of short stories "Bad Behavior". One of my favorite movies, Secretary, was based on one of the stories in that book.

It was a perfect gift. 

His beach cabin is cozy, full of books and Rolling Stones memorabilia. We sat out on the sunny deck and ate a quick snack before heading out to do an open-mic reading at a local café (the name and location of which I was sworn by the locals to keep secret from Californians and other undesirables).

BB seemed to be quite the local celebrity, as much for his profession as for his impassioned writings about the local beaches. He signed us up to read, carefully choosing a time which would maximize our audience.

It was such an eclectic little microcosm of people. I met a Surfrider in love with an ODFW, Capulets and Montagues of the Oregon Coast. I met people of all ages, writers, musicians, teachers…even one older gentleman who had actually heard of the Infamous CoatCheck Girl. This man, old enough to be my grandfather, told me my photos were "hot".

The next day was one of those rare days you get on the Oregon Coast that are actually warm and beach-like. I even donned my bikini. But I wasn't on vacation, and neither was he. It was a work day, bikini notwithstanding. I sat in the sun in the backyard doing research for a Sauvie Island piece, the one BB had encouraged me to write. He was inside working on his book. We'd occasionally pause to chat and check on each other's progress, share a quick kiss or a comment, but the feel was more of colleagues sharing ideas.

One of the things that originally drew me to him was his passion for Oregon, for the beaches here. He regaled me with tidbits of Oregon history and lore, and my admiration for the breadth of his knowledge and for the uniqueness of my home state grew.

I realized then that this was no mere Misadventure.

I was being offered a precious gift, whether he realized it or not.I had begun to think of myself as a writer, rather than a "mere blogger". I was beginning to feel more rooted in where I live, beyond my apartment and the clubs, cafes and bars I frequent. I won't be setting off on a three week back-packing trip through the Cascades or anything anytime soon, but I certainly gained a better appreciation of the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the ongoing efforts to preserve it.

I also found the personas falling away. BB and Infamous CoatCheck Girl had been left behind--- probably still sitting at Hoover's, slinging back gin and tonics.

As night fell, I felt more and more exposed. It was just Juliana and M.,  and Juliana was feeling tentative and unsure.

 "So, I just had sex with the CoatCheck Girl," he teased.

"No. You had sex with Juliana" I corrected, feeling even more naked.

The next morning we decided to go to Mary's Peak, the highest peak in the Coastal Range. We loaded up his pups in the truck and drove through little coastal hamlets and clear-cuts. As we began to climb up the range, we drove past what I've come to consider quintessential Oregon--- stands of old-growth forests. We rounded a corner and suddenly…

I felt like I should be twirling in a burlap sack of a dress and a butch haircut, raising my voice in song. The hills were alive, with thousands of wild flowers and knee high grass and sunshine.

We parked the truck, leashed the dogs and walked the rest of the way up. The view from the peak was absolutely breathtaking. On one side, you could look into the Willamette Valley and on the other, through the haze, we could just barely make out a hint of coastline.

We took some photos, watched the dogs run around for a bit before returning to the car. I absorbed the sights and sounds--- the humming and buzzing of bumble bees, the chirping and birdsong, and…ABBA?!

There was a family in the parking lot, complete with white mini-van, blasting "Dancing Queen", utterly oblivious to the symphony playing all around them.

This is what BB has been up against in his fight to preserve his beloved Coast.

 My lesson in Oregon history continued as we drove back to Newport, and onto a lecture later that night. I'd never heard of Derrick Jensen before, but I was very moved by his stories. Some were very relevant to some of the questions that BB himself had asked of me.

Derrick told of a tradition among some Native American warriors who would stake themselves to the ground during battle, vowing to make their stand there, and there they would stay until dead or victorious. He talked of the importance of making a stand and figuring out where that will be. It doesn't matter where as long as it's somewhere, whether in the context of environmental activism or otherwise.

BB, too, had asked me where I make or will make my stand, as a writer, as a person, as a personality.

 "How about CoatCheck Girl does politics?" he asked.


When I returned from my trip, I was very introspective. I was pondering the many things I had heard or discussed. I also pondered how to convey to BB my gratitude for sharing his insights, his wisdom, and his camaraderie.


A week later I had the opportunity to work on a movie production called "The Road". They had come back to the area after finally getting permission to film on a long-deserted road on Mt. St. Helens. The road has been closed for good reason--- there are parts where one lane has entirely fallen away.

The landscape, while bleak, still had a sort of melancholy beauty to it. Everywhere there were signs of nature making its steady comeback. I wandered away from the catering tent where I was working and befriended some of the locals. A curious little chipmunk came out to see what I was about. After a few moments he darted away, and I remained sitting where I was. A moment later the little guy came back with a bigger (and I must say tougher-looking) chipmunk in tow. After a while they went about their business and left me to mine.

Feeling inspired, I walked back, grabbed pen and paper and I wrote. I wrote a good old-fashioned epistle. I wrote of the stark beauty around me, of the gratitude I felt to BB for many things. I wished that I could share that view with him, and felt that I was better able to appreciate it because of the time I had recently spent with him. I thought he might appreciate a hand-written letter, and one that was so heart felt.

I mailed it when we got back into whatever passed for a town in those parts.

When he had received and read it, he called.

I don't know what I expected. A "thank you", perhaps.

Certainly not:

 "It was really well-written."


"And what? I said it was a great letter. Your nature observations were well written"

"Well, I didn't mail it to you to edit!" I said in frustration.


I was utterly crushed. As hard as it may be to believe, I rarely really let my guard down and make myself completely vulnerable to people, be they friends or lovers.

Later I emailed him:

You may be a writer, but your soul lacks poetry.


Corner a Leo, and we'll lash out and hit your weakest spot. One shot is all we need. It was a bull's-eye, too.

He said he was removing himself from the conversation and did so. Permanently.

That was the end of my adventures with the Beachside Bukowski and the beginning of my writing hiatus.

Good thing Leos are also resilient.


All Content Copyright Juliana Tobón, 2008. All Rights Reserved.