Sunday, April 27, 2008

Alone in a crowd

At the end of a sweat-soaked weekend day, the sun finally gives up its domed kingdom to Luna, and the stretching shadows merge into darkness. I am particularly bothered by the headlights of the autos traveling towards me, as I repeatedly have to squint, a sure sign that my being needs more rest than it has been allowed lately. No, not lately. Ever. Than it has been allowed, EVER.
This is my choice though, as the borrowed mountain bike makes navigating the crowds and the less-than two mile distances much more efficient than an auto. On this bike, on this night, the line of brake lights ahead do not mean stop ahead, as I coast by on the shoulder of the two-lane beach road.
The lines of traffic are caused by the pedestrian crosswalks, which are manned by teen-agers with whistles and light-sticks, for Saipan is hosting an arts festival this weekend. The groups of people trekking toward the site make for minor obstacles as I weave around both traffics and enter the gravel lots. The relenting of the sun has allowed the dust to begin to settle, and for a moment I'm allowed a reprieve from the day's heat. almost immediately I come up against the heat being generated by the crowds of people, and my repast vanishes.
The noise alone from that many people is a stifling temperature of itself; a symphony of people each adding their own little notes in an attempt to cause an avalanche somewhere in Alaska. Children run, sometimes chasing, sometimes eluding, although as I watch I realize that they do not know which they are doing anymore than I. Groups of teenage boys march together, and I catch some of their eyes as we pass, some return my nod, others glower. The gangsta look prevails here as well as any other place in the mainland of the U.S., straight-billed ball caps, do-rags, and colorful patterned tops are in abundance. I watch some of these groups, and witness the leader step forward, as well his posse closes ranks around him, but not in front of him, as the groups approach the crowded concourse of the festival. The places are recognized, even assigned sub-consciously, and these young men are picking their roles in life's journey as surely as if they filled out a questionnaire honestly. We enter the fairgrounds together, to the right of the stage, and as my crowd of people draws even with the first tower of speakers, the drums tempo intensifies, as if welcoming us to the show. The male voice is chanting, singing in a language so unintelligible, yet familiarly beautiful that I can immediately picture an intimate circle playing out this same song and dance, in a time come and gone before my birth. Although the rythym calls to me, I must first make a visit to one of the booths further away, almost at the back of the fairway, where I have been attempting to commission a personalized shirt for a friend.
The crowd is not as large tonight, it almost seems as if many have stayed away because of the hundreds who visited the festival on the prior two nights. There is ample space to walk along without the constant press of bodies, and look at the booths and the wares being displayed by these local craftsfolk. Coming towards me are the faces of a people regularly unseen in the land where I come from, although they are faces in which I see my brothers and sisters. Most often I am looking upon Chamorros, descended from a culture native to the Marianas Islands, who have mixed with Carolinians, Fijians, Japanese, Spanish and Germans, to name but a few, without ever losing their dark, beautiful skin color. There are Korean and Japanese, some as tourists, some as inhabitants of the island, and by no means the only representatives of Asia I encounter. Caucasians are a minority, although not an oddity, but the climate of Saipan doesn't allow them to adhere to their descriptive misnomer of "white" people. Some are red from the sun like me, mostly the few who appear to be visiting Americans-which is an amazingly easy thing to spot once you go to other places because we Americans do have a "look" about us-but much more plentiful are the locals who hold some sort of degree of tan on their paler skins. Many of them are grouped in families with children of beautiful appearance, clearly adopted and reared as their own, which is an increasingly common occurrence among new friends during my travels. In short, I am submerged in an ocean of colors and appearances as I meander through the open field eying the many different local handicrafts on display.
Good news at my destination, the artist is in and he agrees to my personalized request. I pay him a mere fifteen dollars for the tee-shirt and the screen printing he is going to do. Although I continue to search the booths as I make my way back towards the stage, I determine that unless one specific totem appears to me, I won't spend any more tonight.
The drums had stopped, emcees had talked, full darkness had fallen and the drums had started again. The tone of the voice speaking into the microphone was rising, and so I returned to the outer reaches of the crowd to discover the cause. What I saw was so naturally unnatural that you have to see it to really feel what I am about to describe. If you have seen it then you will know. Polynesian fire-dancers had taken the stage, and they twirled batons lit on each end as the drums and chanting called out their moves.
If you don't understand think of this. Have you never sat at a campfire, and looked at a person five or so feet from you, and realized how amazingly lit-up their being is by the flames? You have an inkling then, of the impression that fire makes when associated with a physical body. Seeing a person standing, without clothes or any other outer protection, even though they are immobile, with fire grasped in their hands...the spinning, the throwing, the skills with the torches are amazing, but not as much for me as the raw power that emanated from these dancers as they performed on that stage. 'Playing with fire' has taken on a new meaning for me.
The rest of this evening was enjoying the food and looking at the stars. Wonderful, but not the point of mind that got me started on this post. I walked through the crowds alone tonight. I stood and watched something amazing, and I felt energy all around me, but I still chose to feel lonely. and it has been like that, throughout my life. I can remember being in Texas at fifteen, walking around at rodeos, football games and a fourth of July celebration, lonely. I lay in a bed on the 4th of July in 1998, with over twenty other men who were being detained and felt alone. I have been to Christmas parties and Thanksgiving dinners where I was as morose as if I had dined solitary. The list goes on and on, repetitive in all my initial memories. Why do I feel so alone? For a person who can make friends with so many people, why? I don't expect people to just walk up to me and say, Hey you look cool, let's be friends. But why do I scoff at my own inability to do exactly that? I call myself names, pummel my mental being because I won't just walk up to a perfect stranger and say hi. Why? I am creating a feeling of alone by telling myself that I am somehow less than other people, that I am not as good as others would be in my similar situation. Ridiculous. So I relaxed. Intuitively I know that as far as any mental change would happen to me, I must first relax mt physical being. My terseness shows to all those who care to look. Once I felt physically relaxed, I owned the feelings. Not a hard thing to do. I chose to leave all my loved ones, hence i am alone. I don't really want to try to meet a bunch of new people tonight, hence I am alone. I am sitting here talking to myself in my own mind, but the things that are being said are a composite of thousands of volumes, conversations, expositions and knowledge gleaned from the universe. The universe that is me. And all of you. So how can I ever be alone? When there is a universe inside of me, that is also inside of all of you, and it talks to me, then I must acknowledge how wonderfully connected I am with everything around me. But enough of that, I was still standing alone, and now hours later, there has been no one to touch me, no voice to say good night, no tail to wag upon my arrival, I am sitting in front of this computer alone. It just occurred to me that blogs aren't usually this long when I've read others'. It all makes sense though. I am what I believe I am. If I want to be alone, and sometimes I do, then I am. If I try to fill myself physically with another person, or people, to combat that loneliness, I am only human, but it is still in vain. When I decide to stop feeling alone, I will be able to sit in a crowd, and feel as if the life is flowing through me, and not all around me. I am NOT alone, I never have been. All those remembrances of lonely events, contain in them some sense of awe and wonderment, not at first recalled, but always there, as a gentle current, carrying my life along.


Randi said...

To me this blog is showing that you are looking inside of yourself and figuring things out.... I am proud of you!!! I love you

Paige Abbey said...

here, here....go Rio!

sonya said...

It's so interesting to me that everything is a choice. I'm learning that more and more solidly everyday I am at Option. It's an amazing feeling to know I am in control! My task now is to stop my self judgment when I choose ineffective ways of being. And my hope for you is that you can do the same and truly realize that every thing you've ever chosen what the best way for you to take care of yourself in that moment.

sonya said...

Oh! Also, I'm curious about what the totem was that would convince you to part with more cash.

Just Rio said...

a lizard...
but with all the jewelry, carvings, dolls, weaving and paintings
i couldn't find a single one
dolphins and other fish symbols a plenty, and turtles

Don't remember where it came from...
but in a nutshell it said:
At the least I would never associate again with someone who treated another as badly as we do ourselves; at most I would consider physical assault.
It's true...I've been physically sickened before listening to friends and their rationale for the mental abuse they put themselves thru...but it is their best too...
thanks Sonya-love ya

ksawhill said...

Wherever you go, there you are! Even 1/2 way around the world. Once you get past being a tourist, it's about creating your day-to-day life. This sounds very real and human. You have the incredible opportunity to choose (starting from scratch) what you will fill your life with. I expect that you'll find yourself some of the best company you could have.
I felt the energy of you in the words and feeling of this aloneness.
I love you, sweetie.