Angela Bocage


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Spring is here; will I manage to become diurnal?

I was walking around outside today with tiny dogfriend, thinking about taking pictures whenever I saw new bulb-sourced plant-blades vibrating with green like just-plucked cello strings. I didn’t want to take disappointingly imprecise telephone pictures of such beautiful tender things. Such newly-minted sunlight, such a blue blue sky today. I remember desiring spring with a clawing greed, but apparently I had recently become resigned to winter. I know that it’s likely to be this warm for at least three more days; that doesn’t mean I take it for granted. It was the first warm day. Therefore it was the first day my friend and I had walked outside together in weeks. I didn’t want to hurry him. I wanted him to get a chance to sniff the world. We had gotten almost to the big street to cross to get to the green grass of Lemon Hill before I fully realized I had no coat on! My clothes were naked!

Despite the pants of my outfit being raggedy and filthy, my clothes weren’t ashamed of that, no way, my clothes have been borderline proud lately, because of the way I’ve been inhabiting them. I don’t mean just wearing them til they’re filthy and crusty, though I’ve done that some, but more that since I moved to Philadelphia it’s been winter and I haven’t gone outside unless I had to, so inside, clothing’s been chosen for cozy warmth: no bra would clutch my flesh for days at a time, if I were inside, even outside if I could manage a baggy enough, hidden enough look. Outside clothing’s been judiciously chosen to say “I am not trying to look nice for you,” and “leave me alone,” and “F off I am none of your business!” except when I’m going to see a girl I like or a friend I trust. Sometimes it’s been the same clothes to see my local friends, but the same clothes with with a very different attitude: hey, y’all know I’m a train wreck right now, so you’ll see me in this faded hoodie/baggy sweater, these pants of my tall ex’s hacked off to no semiotically intelligible length just above muddy salt-damaged black combat boots, and go, “yep, she’s a train wreck,” and that’s cool. I thought it best to just let myself be a train wreck for awhile, because damn it seven years, that’s longer than lots of marriages.

I didn’t catch any pix of the crocuses today, but I might tomorrow, because I have a beautiful little digital camera that’s new. I haven’t fully figured out my new camera or put it in communication with my laptop yet, I almost forgot I had a camera, because I got the camera as a gift from my ex mere days before I moved out, it’s bright red and beautiful and fantastic and I have no idea how or why she gave it to me for Christmas (while with her I eventually gave up on celebrating Chanukah though this was in no way her fault; she got me a pretty chanukiah and candles the first year, and the second or third, a light-up plastic 1/4 size miniature donkey we called Zev the Chanukah Donkey). I mean, I know we got it at an indistinguishable suburban Wal-Mart, we were making a lot of late-night trips to indistinguishable suburban Wal-Marts (“Bourses des Murs”) in the last couple weeks before I moved out, for things like more plastic bins and duct tape, but I hope I didn’t somehow get her to give me the camera by being manipulative. Why I was so afraid of being manipulative I don’t know, as clearly she was not changing her mind about taking away my partner/life/home/marriage/cats/car/garden/lover, which mind-change was the one thing I would have wanted to gain from successful manipulation if at all possible.

I was so horrified and devastated that she’d broken up with me (that was back in September, or maybe October, I can’t remember how it fell with respect to what would have been our seventh anniversary). I flatly insisted there was no way I could possibly move before December first because of all the organizing and packing and judicious, intelligent paring down of my clothes and art supplies (two categories equalling most of my earthly treasure) that’d have to be done for a sensible, rational move. But, then I just cried all day for weeks, couldn’t sleep at night, and didn’t really do much of that clever stuff at all. With makeup, however, I did an excellent job of organizing. I have tons of it, mostly good, because I had, when life was whole and normal back long ago and far away, done makeup for performers and wanted to get a license and join whatever union necessary and do it for a living. Also my clothing, to a great extent, was carefully organized; except any clothing I hadn’t worn recently was bagged and I got rid of it without even opening the bags. That might sound like a pretty insane move, and perhaps it was, but the only item about which I’ve had the least twinge of regret is a black suede 70s vintage miniskirt with metal buttons, and I’ve been losing so much weight by being vegan again (also forgetting to eat at times) it would be falling off of me now.

Now my ex and I send each other funny emails. We wish each other to get well soon if sick. We have friendly conversations. She calls me “darlin” during these friendly conversations, as she used to do her just-friends-friends in my hearing, which I now realize shot jealousy-adrenalin through my body. I know she was right, I repeat to myself, she was right to break up with me, I wouldn’t go back, I wouldn’t go back for so many layers and dimensions and concentric quantum shells of reasons. Knowing that, I still let myself cry or sleep whenever I need to, because that has got to be the way to get any last vestiges of grief sickness out of my system faster. Well, healthy diet, hydration, exercise, vitamins, flossing, brushing, rinsing, canine communion, maintaining friendships and activities whenever possible. All this means I am SOOO determined to survive, survive and succeed in living my own life, not a satellite existence, trading all autonomy and free choice for the feeling of trust/protectedness/safety I had with my ex. Besides the obvious point that all of those nice feelings were delusional—i.e., the person I thought was providing that protection was in fact going to dump my caressable shapely ass—safety itself is a joke, when a car or an aneurysm could hit any given day.

So I am often up until four or five in the morning. Diurnality may reorient itself as I get better and better, more and more clear and happy and strong, or maybe nocturnality will prove a more personally workable schedule. After all, this way I get to enjoy the beauty of both sunset and sunrise. One of the most helpful things to remember after any personal setback: never compare the roller-coaster careen of one’s own life to anyone else’s, so often what seems devastating was in hindsight salvific.

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Identity, illusion, death

I was very honored recently to be invited by a brilliant and cool new friend to write something for a project of hers on the subject, “Identity.” What a big old steaming hot mess that one is for me, right?! The cartoon caption, were it atop a visual panel of my most enthusiastically gross-&-disgusting pen and ink work, would be something like, “Angela’s brain crawls through the wreckage…” I have been changing my so-called identity since I was five years old, choosing and discarding names and traits like old boots, and have never been sorry. When the T. Heads sang, “I’ve changed my hairstyle—so many times now—I don’t know WHUT I LOOK LIKE,” the line applied to me, only add hair color and clothing style as well. I’m not exaggerating when I say age five; it may have been even earlier. I remember deciding to adopt as my own a phobia of having my picture taken at five, changing my name at five or six, and chopping off the long hair my mother had never ever cut at eight. By eleven hair color changed all the time and by fourteen I had had maybe five different sequential names. (A number rather larger now.)

Identity and I have, clearly, waged an old war. When I read Carlos Castaneda’s dubious and delightful Yaqui stories in junior high and high school, devouring them all repeatedly and dropping whole previous sets of friends to be besties with the publications geeks into Carlos—yep, sorry, I do that too, but at least nowadays I’m trying not to be quite so much of an asshole—his stuff about erasing identity again and again, like the dirt and sweat of each day, made so much sense to me. I feared my ego, wanted to lance it like a boil as often as possible, to which end I never save my published clips and don’t have most of my comics, whether originals or published versions. What’s the point—another thing in Castaneda’s mini-library of chaos magic that made sense to me even then was the imminence of death. It was true when I was thirteen and driving on Southern California freeways with my Alzheimer’s-addled grandfather and true earlier today when a migraine made me nauseated and I wondered whether this time it would be the genetically and environmentally vulnerable much-abused ticker.

Death is always imminent even if Death is extremely quiet and unobtrusive about it, too, of course; turns out that many apparent crazies show up in ERs all agitated and hallucinating  when actually they’re mentally normal individuals having their self-concept, cognitive abilities, and the whole bundle of qualities labeled “sanity” undermined colorfully by nothing more than one or more previously undetected tumors. And people get hit by cars or otherwise felled without warning all the time, as my grandfather (while I was living with him, age six) and my mother (while I was living with her, age eleven) exemplified. My, was I the auspicious child with whom to reside, or what?! With ego that poisonous, and death that near, it seemed like a splendid idea to stock up on identities: an old Jewish custom was to change one’s name to Chaim or Chaya when critically ill so Death might skip your checkmark on Its list.

Then, behind the personal, there’s the political. Or under, or encompassing, or whatever your concept may be of that contested relation. Anyway, politics and identity are of course a whole nother can o’ worms. I know the lefties, red diaper babies, and other kind and hopeful souls may be thinking that identity is a politically necessary concept.  I don’t, because it isn’t any particular identity—or even a human identity—which entitles beings to justice and peace! As long as injustice and suffering exist, it doesn’t matter upon whom they splat!  If identity is a useful tool, in some places, times and situations, to alleviate injustice and suffering, by all means use it. If identity is a fantasy, so are the little imaginary lines on maps, which have been known to cause difficulties from time to time…

I use the word “fantasy” or “artifact” because a shift in context, or in time, can change everything: in a painting or fabric or mosaic, the same color looks one way next to green, another next to gray, then changes a lot next to orange! If identity is no more or less real than that color painting or that fabric—it’s an artifact of situation, time, place, and as cynical law students are wont to say about legal rulings, “what the judge ate for breakfast.”

Tsk. I was meaning to write about how funny the book I was reading is, it’s Tanya Huff’s Smoke and Ashes and it’s super fun, but maybe tomorrow…



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