Gero-punk progress report: Always better late than never (right?)

I’ve missed you. Have you missed me?

I’ve been trying to write for the past couple of months but I haven’t been able to. It isn’t writer’s block. I know what that feels like and I know the remedy for that. It isn’t that. I’m still sussing what’s been holding me back from engaging in something that is so important to me — writing. Writing about our travels through the life course. Something which gives my life meaning, which actually keeps me alive.  I have some ideas about what’s getting in my way but, as I said, I’m still sussing.

Don’t fret, though, because I have been doing other Gero-Punk stuff. I’m happy to report that I convened the first ever Gero-Punk Salon this past Thursday evening. Twenty fine-folks covering an age-range of 7o years (the youngest participant was in her 20s, the oldest in her 90s), and representing other positionalities and life experiences, gathered with open hearts and curious minds to be mutually entertained and educated, in the grand tradition of the salon.

The question I posted for our first salon was: What kind of ancestor do you want to be?

This question inspired a wide-ranging and quite beautiful discussion about legacy, history, memory, heritage, indigenous knowledge, wisdom, hope, despair, discrimination, closed-mindedness, open-mindedness, generational patterns, resistance and cross-generational collaboration and activism.

I invited participants to capture any thoughts that emerged from our discussion, as well as ideas for future salons.  Here’s the collage of what they offered:

geropunk salon

If you were going to come to our next Gero-Punk Salon, what would you like to converse about? What’s on your minds?

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Gero-Punk Contemplations: Clutter

 By Guest Gero-Punk

Melinda E. Pittman

GuitarGoddess

(Guitar Goddess is by Owen Carey Photography)

The cellar is damp, crepuscular. Corners, crowded with form, seem to shift while waves /particles swirl in the wintering sun. Matter and energy, momentarily captive, are freed to waft across dozens of piles of time. Boxes and boxes of paper, symbolically essentialized by dyes from rock and plant and squid, sequenced dance steps, footprint patterns across slivered tree pulp, arcane yet familiar. The paradox of years of experience and reflection synthesized, concentrated into a demi-glace of insight, pan drippings from a feast of life and art.

All I have is metaphoric.

As our appearance-oriented and materially socialized culture boxes me in, I hear the demands: “Pick up! Clear out! Clean up this mess!” I imagine each of us universalized, pressure-washed to remove the “past” and get on with the “future,” as if those states existed apart from each other. As if they had no cross sectional vibrancy. The past’s jumble to be disposed of. Now.

Why does clutter make us nervous?

From the Online Etymology Dictionary, we learn the word’s derivation arises from English sources in the fourteenth century C.E., “to collect in heaps,” as a variation of clotern “to form clots, to heap on (from the 1400s C.E.)” The additional meaning of “clutter” suggests “to litter” emerged in written records from the late seventeenth century C.E. Used as a noun, clutter arose in the late sixteenth century C.E., the Dictionary informs me, with the meaning”things lying in heaps or confusion.” Heaps. Confusion. Clotted litter. (www.etymonline.com)

Clutter.

Dozens of brimful boxes heap in the basement, the attic, the garage. Sixty plus years of mementos, show programs, newspaper articles, photos, posters, cassette tapes, even vinyl, the ephemera of a life in art. Each phenomenon covered by dusts and musts of time, sullied by a litter of titles bespeaking diminishment and unimportance. Trash-Stuff-Horde-Mess-Ash-Rubble-Confusion-Clutter. OR- When labeled with a slightly gentler language-symbol: Recycling.

Such meaning-word-symbols reveal our socially conditioned privileging of newness, individualism and simplification and our forgetfulness of what and who has come before. Who and what sculpted my memories and experiences? Whose craft added splashed colors, gifting a spectrum of tints and thoughts to these beige paper piles? Which sheen glossed the next? What pentimento hides beneath the Bic? How deeply dynamic does inspiration delve?

It’s one paradox of being an aging artist. These moted, dusted pages conjure essentialized, uniquely unoriginal inspiration.

Art is creation and excrement. Creation by definition is new… something original coming into being. AND- Art is inspiration exhaled. Internalized in the inner cauldron and spit forth to lubricate the world. A concoction of air and aspiration, of psyche and symbol, of experience and vibration and awe. Excrement is what comes out when you’ve used the elements, combined them into a phlegm of energetic expression. The compounded result distilled, reduced to present time and practical space. Art is the left overs, the dust. Art is what remains after ideas and beauty agitate phenomena into form. Swirling motes in a wintering sunbeam.

So I trace my finger through the dust accumulated, vacuum hose at ready, recycling bag at my feet. Paradox in the air. “You’re only as good as your next show,” saith the adage of actors who add age. Older art and older artists appropriated to basements, or attics or footnotes. Done with. Detritus of what was once desire. Inspiration molded. Magic mildewed.

Older artists often dumpsterized as the dirt, the refuse, the clutter obscuring “young’” creatives. YET- All art is phenomenal, immediate, quantum, liminal, isn’t it? All art is young and old. Art is always the next step, always the past presented [pre’- sented AND present’-ed.] Every idea is cluttered by inspirations assimilated. Ingenius genius.

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Bio

Melinda E. Pittman is an essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, composer, musician, singer, theatrical director, producer, stand-up and sit-down comic, and community activist. She performed with the infamous parody comic quartet, the Fallen Angel Choir, then founded and toured the original comic musical theatre company BroadArts Theatre, serving as their Artistic Director for 14 years. Author of 15 full length musical plays, her work WonderBroads won the Angus Bowmer Oregon Book Award for Best Drama in 2000. She earned her B.A. in Theatre from Virginia Tech in 1975 and her Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies from Marylhurst University in 2013.

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Gero-Punk Trickstering-and-Treating

little ghost

Happy Halloween!

What was your favorite Halloween costume when you were growing up? A pirate? A forest fairy? A Disney character? A bumble bee? A vampire? A ghost? A ballerina? An historical character? A lady bug? A railroad engineer? A gangster? (There was a wee ol’ school gangster who just came to my door to trick-or-treat. He looked so very fine in gray pin stripe suit and fedora!)

If you are dressing up tonight to celebrate Halloween, as what or whom are you dressing up?  If you wish you were dressing up in costume tonight, as what or whom do you wish you were dressing up?

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This is the first Halloween I’ve spent without my daughter Isobel. She’s far away in upstate New York attending college.  She just texted me to let me know that she and her friends are heading out to an evening of parties. She said she’ll text me when she’s safely back to her dorm.

Isobel is going out into this Halloween night as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader  Ginsburg. I think she’ll be just fine.

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Hey, those of  you who live in and around Portland, Oregon and have been yearning for an in-person gero-punk gathering, please join me on Thursday, December 4th, 2014 from 6-9 p.m. in the Hemlock Room (how’s that for a provocative name!) on the Marylhurst University campus. I’ll be holding the first of what I hope to be many Gero-Punk Salons.  What is a “Gero-Punk Salon”? Well, you’ll just have to show up and see what happens, won’t you?

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Yesterday in my Embodiment in Later Life course I tried out something new.  I gave each student an envelope. I asked them to write their name on the envelope. Then I asked them to take out a sheet of paper. Then I asked them to write a love letter to themselves, a letter of gratitude or appreciate for their very own precious self.  I gave them about ten minutes to do so. I wrote one to myself as well. After we wrote our love letters and sealed them in the envelopes, I collected all of the letters. I’ll be returning them on the last day of class.

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Today is the last day of October. How about you write a love letter to yourself and seal it in an envelope! Tuck the envelope away somewhere and then leave yourself a little note on your calendar three months from now, on December 31st (which just happens to be New Year’s Eve), reminding yourself of where you hid the envelope. Then open the envelope and read your love letter to yourself.

I can’t wait to hear about your experience! A great start to a new year, don’t you think?

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