Saturday, January 29, 2011

P.T. for the Brain

i. The Stiff

I thought I wouldn't care if my physical therapist was a man or a woman, but the other day when the p.t. turned me over on the table, climbed on top of me, and thrust full-weight onto my spine, I was glad she was a she.
I don't want any resistance, any impulse toward self-protection on my part to get in the way of the work.

P.T. is the best therapy I've ever had.
Everything my therapist says applies to my emotional and writing life as well as my body.

Like, "You need to practice breathing." My rib cage is so stiff, she says, it's as if I underwent some trauma, like a car accident.

"How 'bout grief?" I ask.
"Yeah, that'd do it too," she said.

And, she says, "Stiffness is compensation for weakness."
You sustain an injury and instead of strengthening and stretching it, a tendency is to not move or to favor it, use other parts. They're not as well designed for the work and can tighten up in a knot.

My writing is as stiff as my muscles. It feels like an engine block to me.

Yesterday I got my author's copies of the Frindian War book from the publisher.
[This picture isn't in it, but close...]

I knew the marketing department had turned into a book about George W., but actually seeing him on the cover was like tearing a muscle. My original title was "Who Fired First?" and GW was one of several characters. Now the title focuses on GW and he's front and center, the hero.
In truth, the war was important to him, but he was not important to the war.

By changing the emphasis--mostly through title and picture choices––it's like history got castrated.

ii. The Cypher

By incredible luck, I couldn't stay home and stew. I had arranged to interview the amazing Tish Jones at the Spoken Word open mic she hosts, for the communications book.

Turned out we didn't get much time to talk, but in the few minutes we had, she gave me what I didn't even know I needed:
she told me about Hip Hop cyphers: performance circles of rappers and dancers and beatboxers.

I stayed for the open mic--second time I have. There's always an accomplished featured artist, which is wonderful, but I almost get more out of the high schoolers who get up and read their stuff. Their body (of work) is so new, the wounds are fresh, and there's so much bravery and honesty in how the kids get up and show them and just outright say, "This hurts!"
Or they come on strong with defiant celebration.

They're still limber, and if they keep writing, they might stay that way.

I went home and watched The Freshest Kids: The History of the B-Boy a doc about the history of break dancing and Hip Hop culture. (Streaming on Netflix, or it's also on youtube.)

I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading about writing rap.
How to Freestyle Rap [free-flowing it off the top of your head] says:
First step. start easy.
Write silly stupid easy stuff. Like, the bunny is funny.

This morning I called bink and got talking about how we used to do this, though we didn't think of it as rap. We just used to make up silly rhymes, and she is especially good at fresh rhymes.
Let's do it now, I said.

Here's what we came up with.

with Baby Flakes
ease my aches.
Then, melon cakes.

This is a true story:
Maura was making pancakes for bink,
"Baby Flakes," a rhyme bink pulled out of the air, must be Joop, whose doggie brain is sadly getting flaky from Alzheimer's or something;
and later today bink & I are going to a Chinese bakery for melon cakes.

I can feel my brain expanding like my ribs.


femminismo said...

OK: Sorry about the re-write on your book's focus. Ouch! And what a revelation that stiffness hides weakness. That's info I can use. I just had the PT work on my neck and back and she said "You are so tight, like most women who tuck their stress away instead of screaming." Yeah. Well, I'm ready to limber up. But first tell us, what are melon cakes?

ArtSparker said...

Looking at that cover, yeah, it's adults talking down to kids- it's been made to look like a comic book. It seems like they changed so that less thinking is required.

Rhyming has to be a good thing.

momo said...

Gak! how painful to see your work changed!
how amazing to be connecting with Tish Jones and the young people writing/speaking. I'm currently struggling mightily with how the students in my classes resent and resist my attempts to open up space for their speech. The negative conditioning has been so powerful

Fresca said...

FISMO: Thanks.
Heh, yeah, if I'd been screaming, I wouldn't need to practice breathing--gotta fill the lungs to scream.

A "winter melon" cake, (properly speaking) is a flat circular pastry with a pale, sweet almost chewy filling of winter melon. Similar cakes are filled with sweet red beans. The closest (but not very) American thing I can think of is a fig newton.

SPARKY: I truly don't know why they this book went so badly off the rails. Usually the publisher tries to be more accurate. But they used several such illustrations by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930), the guy whose painting "The First Thanksgiving" made millions of school kids believe Eastern Woodland Indians wore war bonnets like the Plain Indians.
Thankfully, a couple got swapped out when I complained, but not all.

MOMO: Being slashed-and-burned is always hard, but I can take it if the end result is OK.

The student/teacher r'ship is a tricky thing, eh?
Students might want to open up but resent someone with power (grades) doing it TO them...

My memory of being a student is that if that space isn't opened up with *love*, it can feel like abuse.

Margaret said...

My high school English teacher said he never taught anything he loved for the first decade or so, afraid students wouldn't appreciate, or would downright hate and abuse them. It takes a lot of energy not to love where you love, or care where you care. I think the word he used was "suffocating".

Turns out most of my class DID hate and abuse David Copperfield, but . . .

Fresca said...

MARZ: "Suffocating"--that fits my need to breathe.
In fact, I forgot, the p.t. did suggest work unhappiness can make the breath shallow too.

I want to learn how to love stuff and weather the fact that others won't or will even step on it.

momo said...

Well, I sure hope my students don't feel abused :(

Fresca said...

MOMO: hopefully they feel your love and enthusiasm