Monday, September 6, 2010

Rocking Horse Prose Pasture

Escape Artist Me

Once upon a time I rode a horse, and then a plane, and then a train. I was fleeing my former habitation and needed to do so by several different means. Those fierce enemies I was compelled to outwit and outrun were both clever and brash, and it was all I could do to stand against them, but I have a fighting spirit. I’m glad to say, it prevailed.

I arrived relatively unscathed in New York City, the land of autonomy. Sadly, autonomy only works for people who trust themselves, and I don’t. I have outrun many a foe, but it’s me that I’m really trying to elude. It’s hard enough to get away from others, but it takes particular planning and route-devising to escape oneself.

I came here in the first place because I needed to escape, and in fact, I’m still escaping every day. The train is the last means of transport I mentioned because it is the way I continue to devise my daily getaways. Each morning at precisely 7:15AM I leave my Brooklyn apartment to walk 1 ½ blocks to the train. Thirty minutes later I arrive at the Lexington Ave. 77th St. station and begin my five-minute westward walk to arrive at my library by nearly 7:50AM, depending on the reliability of the train’s schedule, not mine.

I may give the impression that I am merely heading to work in a very old library for young scholars, but actually, I am a hopeless runaway. It’s compulsive. I run and get lost and recover myself only to keep trying to get lost again.

I find I am only really happy during those brief moments of unbridled athleticism and acrobatics when I can’t find me anywhere in sight, and I finally have room to see others, to take in the ideas and joys and concerns other people express in their intense old-man conversations, Peruvian flute street music, paper-cut silhouette art, or sidewalk break-dancing. I am suddenly wide enough to hold it all and let the vibrations they cause rattle me down to the soles of my shoes. It always has made the back of my neck tingle when that happens: those moments when I’m gone.

But there are other moments when I feel incredibly locked in and bolted down, unable to defy gravity. I get stuck rehearsing all my disappointments with different failed enterprises, and I think, “God! Why is it so easy for everyone to suck up mediocrity and label it glamour?”

I feel the weight of all I’ve tried to practice at and shine and exude. Then, under that heaviness, I crouch low and whine, “what is the point of learning difficult things when it’s not what people care about because it’s so much less snazzy than rap stars and iPhone apps and American Apparel and TV talent competitions?” And I’m left wondering why I suddenly really feel the need to change my hair and wear skinnier jeans.

I didn’t arrive here empty handed and expect the city to deliver happiness into my lap. I really worked at finding something to legitimize my self-expression—to trick myself into thinking there really is such a thing in the first place. I have a Master’s degree and I’m still in my twenties. Does that make me ahead of the game? Not anymore? Well am I at least in the game? Barely? Well that explains why I’m so out of breath.

I walk past a shabby but bustling bakery and think, “I could do that. I could be really good at baking delicious morsels to titillate the masses during every breakfast rush and lunch break.” Would that be a fulfilling use of my gifts? Well I would re-decorate for one thing. This shop on the corner of Lex is less than eye-catching. It needs more blues and softer assorted materials draping its windows instead of stark maroon polyester.

Now listen to me. I’m talking and thinking like a true artisan decorator. Well after all, interior design was my first imagined vocation when asked during those elementary school “career days.” Maybe my MA would lend sufficient credibility if I tried to land a job with a design magazine. That way, I could help rich people bolster and defend their aesthetic sensibilities, and—I’d hate myself.

Well hoodiddily, now that I’ve passed the bakery and am approaching the garden nursery, I don’t care so much anymore anyway.

I’ve moved on to plants, yet another interest, maybe even passion of mine (mind you, “passion” is a word I throw around far too liberally). I am living in the city, but my time in more rural settings fostered my familiarity and folkloric “expertise” on plant varieties and habitats. Could I possibly lend a hand amid the cool foliage hanging under the awning? Maybe dawn an apron and duck around misting branches and dusting leaves till they glisten with a tropic luster? I would be good at it. Like baking. So why not?

The fact is, I am a misfit librarian determined not to be boxed in by a singular career. Which helps explain why, in the afternoons, I give part of my time to helping children with crafty pursuits like crochet and knitting. So to top it all off, should my evenings be spent pruning?

By the time I arrive at the library, my head is jammed full of just what I despise, and what I planned to flee from all morning: my ego. I am overloading my brain with a ridiculous heap of eventualities that have no bearing on making this particular day real, tangible, and gratifying.

Instead, I mindlessly plow through people at the crosswalk, and I am cross. And look, see? I am making them cross too. We are all cross with each other as we cross in front of the cross taxi drivers carrying the cross people across town. And we all sigh audibly and clench our fists because we can’t think of anything worse than each other. As long as I fail to break out and escape myself, I see everybody through the bars of my own cage, and all I can do is grrrrowl at them all.

But now listen. I’m standing still on the far corner, and here comes the wind, and there is the child laughing while her skirt and pigtails billow, and there are the tiny pink flowers planted in the Park Ave. median for nobody in particular. And I can see myself shrinking down to the size of the butterfly hovering over those tiny pink flowers. And my self is so tiny I could fit on that butterfly’s back, and let the wind catch us, and there we go, up above the apartment windows, and no matter how hard you squint against the morning sun, you can’t quite make us out because we are gone.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Rocking Horse Ranting

How Do the Hipsters Feel?

Instead of feeling overwhelmed and under-dressed around my colorful new neighbors in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I've chosen my favorite course of action: pondering.

I have given these scene-baskers some serious thought over the past twenty-four hours (arguably not enough time to concoct a serious value judgment, but I'm going for fast hard first-impressions here, so bear with me). And I have decided that I am here for my egregiously hip brothers and sisters.

I present myself as a supporter and defender of twenty-something (and secretly thirty-something) up-starters everywhere...those snug-jeaned, plaid-shirted, designer tattooed, somber-faced, kind-of-still-kids young adults resisting shopping mall fashion and setting the break-neck pseudo-vintage pace Urban Outfitters is forever trying to keep up with. I like you. Heck, I may just be one of you in a way, and that makes me happy because we're a colorful bunch of people with all different religions, skin-tones, amounts of money in the bank, and critical mass of chips on our shoulders, but the thing we all share is tastefulness.

In our headlong rush to eschew pop culture, we've transformed it and made it infinitely more nuanced and inclusive. Hipsters. Who are they/we?? Is that a derogatory term? It feels like one, but I guess it's the hipster in me trying to over-analyze my generation and pick a hyper-critical fight.

Basically, it doesn't matter. I like where I live, and I like the grand display of young urbanites who are bound and determined (for better or worse) to put as much energy into their fashion as they do their philosophies. Bless their/our hip little hearts.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rocking Horse Rhymes

Fighting for light

When Mr. Milton sat to write
his epics, did he have to fight
tradition or the obligation
to create, or further reputation?

Or did he see by inner light-
more vivid visions than his sight
allowed for in its degradation—
and daily digest inspiration?

It seems unjust to expect night
to yield to sudden noonday’s bright
exposure without hesitation.
We, daily, earn illumination.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rocking Horse Rhymes

For the Gentleman in the Champagne Mercedes

When you honked the horn of your fancy car
Because you were in a hurry to turn right,
And the woman jogging across the road
Was in your way,
I was watching.

I saw your face grow read
As you shook your head in disbelief.
Honking was your way of reminding the world
How much your time is worth.

The young woman in her blue running shorts,
Sweaty blond hair clinging to her neck beneath her ponytail,
Strode across the road in front of your bumper
And stepped cheerfully onto the opposite curb
Among the dandelions.

Your horn seemed too loud and too late.
She turned at its noise
And laughed at you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rocking Horse Ranting

Who controls the people who control everything?
Why is there no check or balance on greed at the end of the day?
Why is it always up to someone else to censor which art gets heard or seen?
Why are those people so pigheaded and always, inevitably, too late?
Why is the only answer given for these questions a pedantic, "life's not fair."
Does anyone else have a problem with this answer?
Is that really what we're all willing to settle for?
I guess a better plan just hasn't been thought up yet,
But I, for one, am sick of auditioning
Trying out for the team
Being led to believe whatever they feel like telling me.
I'm sick of it always being up to other people.
I'm glad all the big industries are failing.
I'm glad new technology makes it easy for anyone to put out whatever they want.
But there's still a gauntlet to be run, as far as I can see.
It's still not really a free-for-all.
Maybe we need someone controlling everything--for quality control
But I want quality control for the quality control because it's gone to their heads.
And they're still screwing us all.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rocking Horse Rhymes

New Poem by Whitni Roche:

Riff-raff in the Park

While riding around the lake
I take in what I see and pass by
a homeless guy—stopping to share.
I watch him tear some bread for geese--
His fight for peace begins here.
I fear those geese as tall as my waist,
trying to taste anything that moves.
What would improve this urban retreat?
A smoother street? Less geese? No riff-raff with bread?
Instead—we steer our bikes away from cars;
This park is ours even if built with others in mind
a fancier kind—the public deed
favors the need of people like him,
as well as the whim of people like me.
Parks are free for the riff-raff.
I am the riff-raff.

The Rollicking Rocking Horse Happening Hangout Herald

REVIEW of the Black Dub Show at Spaceland, Silverlake--last Sat. night 2/13

A soulful backyard garden of sounds that defied stereotype, last Saturday night’s Black Dub show at Spaceland in Silverlake surprised and delighted those of us lucky enough to be in the audience. Legendary producer Daniel Lanois’ latest project, Black Dub is just starting out on its debut tour after recording. The band blends Trixie Whitley’s gut-punching vocals (gut-punching in the most beautiful way possible) with Lanois’s grittier classic rock harmonies, tempered by the sweetest drumming and bass-lines that only two true-blue Southerners could conjure: Brian Blade and Daryl Johnson from Shreveport, LA and Memphis, TN respectively.

The band played such a tasty, well-timed set that I completely forgot all reference to time and space, and the crowd was so unanimously transported that the good vibes spread to even the most cynical LA hipster, and everyone swayed along all the way through the encore. Because each song was so artfully placed in connection to the others, creating that sustained music-induced euphoria every performer strives for, it is difficult to single out any one highlight from among the general high of the concert as a whole. But if I had to choose a moment of concentrated soul-love, it would be during Lanois’ and Whitley’s stark, haunting harmonies in the chorus to “Silverado.” If those two could do their singing from the mountaintop setting the lyrics invoke, the emotion they push into every note during that song would be enough to send a rocky avalanche sliding down from the San Gabrielles, and probably set off the big San Andreas earthquake everyone’s predicting. It was raw musical power.

The night ended with a slow acoustic build beginning with Lanois and climbing to the perfected synergy this newly-formed group has so rapidly achieved. They left us wanting more. Which is high praise from one such as I who is not so big on the typical ego-massaging encores squeezed out by so many songwriting bands playing smallish venues around town. The set was like a summer rainstorm in the Southern regions that inspire so much of Lanois’ music: it began with a few gentle drops, slowly gaining force and volume for about an hour’s worth of refreshment, then, before our boots had time to get soggy—it petered back to a gentle sprinkle of acoustic showers, sending us all off to bed with gentle dripping resonating in our ears.

The Rocking Horse gives this show a 5 o’clock shadow for rustic charm, a crisp dill pickle for satisfaction, and a shining silver horse-shoe for gut impact. And while we’re at it, “Spaceland” gets our Flying Saucer Award for classy ticket-sale limitation—you just can’t pack ‘em in like sardines and expect musical magic. Thanks for the space to dance “SPACE” land! HA.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rocking Horse Record Review

The Kings of Convenience have a new album out called, “Declaration of Dependence.” Which is also the title of a Christian-themed song by Dove acclaimed CCM superstar, Steven Curtis Chapman. I don’t know if the Kings of Convenience are aware of this, but I have a feeling the Norwegian duo may be inclined to quietly snicker about it if they found out.

I think this album sounds like what I imagine it would feel like to rollerblade along a beach in Southern California, then follow the trail as it magically leads into an undersea tunnel through the deepening Pacific, where the dolphins and jellyfish dance gently overhead as I continue skating toward Catalina island, where I emerge inside a luminous cavern filled with phosphorescent moss formations. In other words, I have fun listening to it.

From the Rocking Horse Record Review this album receives a pinwheel for musical styling, a razor blade for truth, and a mermaid’s kiss for creative whimsy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Rollicking Rocking Horse Happening Hangout Herald

This week I recall....

“Running with the Night” at The Adventist Speakeasy

Last Tuesday, January 12, there was an excellent gathering of ladies and gentlemen from around Riverside, California, to sit in a cozy living room and hear amazing new music from local geniuses. The event was conceptualized by local artist and curator, Lee Tusman, who also played some of his i-phone mixes as part of the evening’s entertainment. This you had to see to believe. Lee wore a quilted poncho of sorts, while producing and dancing along to wild soundscapes projected from his i-phone through an old-fashioned boom box that served as his portable amp.

Before Lee, local songwriter and producer, Aaron Roche performed acoustic samplings from his new, fully orchestrated, soon-to-be-released album, “Plainspeak.” He even invited me, his dear wife, to join him on vocals for one of the folksier numbers.

The final act of the evening was an experimental guitar duo comprised of Monte Williams and Joe Hill of Spiderworks and Alien Ant Farm. They created an elegant layer-cake of sound ranging from mountain-music gentle to traffic-jam arresting. As they eventually rappelled themselves down from their wall of sound, the rapt audience stirred gently, looked around at one another in the dimly lit room, then gathered their things to head back out into the night.

Rumor has it, this won’t be the last we hear from “Running with the Night.” It’s a series coming to a neighborhood, street corner, or warehouse near you.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bully Book Review: "Why I oughtta MAKE you read....."

The Education of Little Tree by: Forest Carter

This is the book I have recommended to 3 different people this week, and that's saying something, since it has been 5 or 6 years since I last read it. It still lingers in my mind like the remembrance of a good, not embarrassingly intimate, yet cozy conversation with a dear friend. My husband, Aaron, finally got around to reading it, after my constant bullying, and even read one of the chapters aloud to me. Just one chapter brought back my unshakable sense of what a prize this book is. Just a warning to any naysayers out there: it is vulnerable to your naysaying both in title and opening...this book dazzles sloooowly. In order to savor the home-grown flavors of this story you have to be willing to walk along with the characters for a spell or two, as if you are on the Southern Appalachian mountain trails with Grandfather. Ok, I won't say anymore, for I fear I'm only going to scare off anyone already uncertain about the merits of a book with no readily apparent frills or thrills. Just READ IT...ok? Or I'll steal your lunch money.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Rocking Horse Manifesto

The Rocking Horse exists to bear witness to any and all artistic dealings and goings-on and general hubub that its writer, Whitni Roche, either initiates herself or discovers and finds compelling. It is a fact of said writer's life that she is a fated "jack-of-all-trades, and master-of-none." Although she will, in June 2010, be universally (or at least academically) recognized as a "Master" of English, she still feels uncomfortable with the notion of utter specificity. In light of the writer's condition, she cannot, though she would like to, seem to buckle down and focus purely on writing stories, poetry, books, comic strips, and the like...though she hodge-podgedly dapples with all of the above. Thus, The Rocking Horse provides a way to house various ideas on a multifarious range of subject-matter--all accessible to her friends and family with the click of a button (or touch of a screen--for all the fancy i-everything people). But if you lean in close, what follows amounts to ultra-secretive fine print about bigger and better plans for The Rocking Horse:

Eventually The Rocking Horse could become a physical reality in the form of an older, multi-story building with one floor as a venue, another as a tea-shop/lending library/yoga studio/ fiber arts collective, and another as recording space. This is, of course, a far off dream--but in the meantime we'll just keep rocking along in cyber space.