sunday, july 13, 2003 dawned like pretty much any other day. i was busy getting ready to go to Burning Man and my car needed the brakes fixed, so i got together with a friend who fixes cars and we went down to Big Building to work on my car. it was pretty uneventful, and i got to wander around the south end of the SODO district, near the water for a few hours as the expert tangled with my brakes. when it was done, i went home, had dinner, checked my email and prepared for bed.
i was getting undressed, and suddenly i fell over to the left, and started drooling. i never felt anything apart from a sudden sense of relaxation, but almost immediately i began having trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality. through the increasing mental fog i heard monique say something along the lines of “I think I’d better call the ambulance now” and I was thinking that it was pointless, as nothing was wrong with me, but I was unable to speak, so I just decided to go along with it and we’d all have a good laugh about it later. I was fading in and out of normal consciousness at this point, but I have a clear recollection of being carried out of the bedroom because the gurney wouldn’t fit around the corner, and another of being in the ambulance and the guy telling me to stay with him, to which I thought “where would I go?” – but, again, I was unable to get the words out. Then I was dropped into the middle of what turned out to be a multidisciplinary arts presentation which amounted to a strange opera, which I had apparently written, and which was being given it’s premiere performance.
THE OPERA (subject to change)
introduction: about cars and trucks, how they are used every day, how they break down and who the people are who fix them. music is ragtime/dixieland/marching band style. tuba, 1 or 2 trombones, 1 or 2 trumpets, 1 or 2 clarinets, keyboard, guitar, drums, possibly flute.
the chorus is in all white tuxedos with hats (top hats for men, berets for women), bow ties, and canes and are doing complicated semi-tap dance steps in a grid pattern, on multiple levels. there should be a way to show a view from the top, so that the audience can see the grid patterns. if it is shot as a film, there should be a “camera over” view as well as a “camera in the audience” view. if it is for a live performance, perhaps a large mirror or something like that, hung at an angle over the stage, so that the audience can see it both from a front-on perspective and from an overhead perspective. the chorus shoud be at least 50 people.
introduction of the young, eager, idealistic person of indeterminate sex: how s/he wants to be one of those people who help people with broken vehicles.
the person should be clean-shaven, with a blonde pageboy bob, and slightly chubby, in a white uniform with a tie (long tie, not a bow tie), and a floppy uniform hat with a bill. throughout the performance, it should not be made obvious by costuming, dance style or voice, whether the person is male or female.
the introduction ends with a flair, featuring the person of interminate sex tap dancing with a chorus of at least 50 men and women in white.
the song of the somewhat-sleazy used-truck salesman.
music is solo keyboard, possibly minimal drums and/or percussion.
the somewhat-sleazy used-truck salesman should be a short, skinny person with a pencil-thin moustache and greased back hair in a grey pinstriped suit that’s slightly too big, and shoes that would match if they weren’t clown-sized. his vocal quality should sound sort of like Rodant Kapoor from Ruby 1, but with less slurring. he should be holding his arms with his hands at his chin, and his hands should look like they are fondling something, but nothing is seen. he should have a simpering, eager-to-please, but slimy personality. it should be really obvious that this person is not “one of the crowd” because he is grey and so far everything else has been white.
duet between the person of indeterminate sex and the somewhat-sleazy used-truck salesman: combining his/her interest with becoming a tow-truck driver, lack of skill and desire to learn with the somewhat-sleazy used-truck salesman’s desire to sell something, anything to anyone at all.
music is ragtime/dixieland/marching band style, which grows in instrumentation and grandeur as the song commences.
an small, alcohol-powered tow truck appears: alcohol versus gasoline – the differences and similarities, whether gas or alcohol has more power.
the truck is sold, much to the amazement of everyone. exit the somewhat-sleazy salesman. the person of indeterminate sex is seen waving his/her hat, driving into the distance down a dirt road lined with trees.
we are left with an image of the truck lumbering off into rolling hills in the distance, on a dirt farm road, lined with trees, with the person of indeterminate sex waving their uniform hat out the window. music is played by a large orchestra, with an air of finality and triumphance.
we need some repair: music is high woodwinds; flute and oboe, possibly clarinet, but not picollo. tentative, without time signature, two or three note chords building to a confident sound with french horns, baritones, and muted trombones added: the person of indeterminate sex and the truck are put to use, much to the amazement and delight of everyone… or could it be that the tow-truck itself needs repair? we may never know, because:
psychedelic morph: the music changes, the uniform and tuxedos change from white to red and everything is overlayed with movies of angiograms. exit the person of indeterminate sex – the last remaining white uniform on the stage.
the music changes gradually from ragtime/dixieland/marching band style music to heavy rock with screaming guitars
introduction of the two repair men: one is a doctor in blue scrubs, with a mask, occulus and stethescope, the other is a car mechanic in a grease stained, pin-striped coverall (the return of the somewhat-sleazy used truck salesman?) and cap, with a wrench and hand rag, but for the most part they move, speak/sing, and act as one person. this should be done so that the audience can see that there are two people, so they should be offset from each other, but their movements, dance steps and singing should be as one. the voice quality should be deep and sonorous, with a ringing quality.
music should be loud, heavy, rock-style beat, with prolonged notes (e-bow?) on guitars. bass, drums, keyboard, 2 guitars.
the repairmen: auto-mechanics and brain-surgeons are essentially the same thing; both make things broken things work again.
the repair: the hood goes up and we tinker with the engine. the skull opens up and we tinker with the brain. the hood goes up and we tinker with the brain. the skull opens up and we tinker with the engine. many auto-mechanics perform brain-surgery on cars while many brain-surgeons perform engine maintenance on humans. the movies change to stills of angiograms but there is still an overall red cast to everything.
music should be a mix of orchestral “tinkering” and a heavy, rock-style beat with prolonged notes on guitars.
the repairmen part 2: complex, indian-style pas-de-deux with repairmen. center stage, with the many doctors and repairmen behind them, the repairmen dance/operate calmly and deliberately, as one, with multple arms all holding different tools: scalpel, clamp, wrench, socket. if there is a way to do it, it would be best to figure out a way to give the repairmen 16 arms, each of which is holding a different tool. image of multi-armed, dancing Hindu God Ganesha overlayed with a static angiogram in the background.
music should take on a bhangara-like feel.
finale: has this performance been about auto maintenance or brain surgery? with entire cast, chorus, full orchestra and indian orchestra.
what actually happened, according to monique, was this:
7/14 Mon 12:30 am Taken to Valley Medical Center by ambulance – CT Scan showed Brain Hemorrhage, initial consult with Dr. Wright, who ordered an Angiogram
7/14 Mon 9am Angiogram done by Dr. Bowen the radiologist. He discussed the results with Dr. Wright, who transferred your case to Dr. Balousek because of your AVM and Dr. Wright was going on vacation.
7/15 Tue Dr. Balousek re-evaluated and recommended Angiogram embolization of the AVM on Wed and Surgery on Thursday
7/16 Wed 8am Angiogram Embolization performed by Dr. Balousek, with CT scan afterward. Based on CT results, Dr. Balousek recommended surgery that same day instead of waiting.
7/16 Wed 2pm Taken to operating room for Dr. Balousek to perform brain surgery (AVM resection) assisted by Dr. Schlitt
7/18 Fri 1pm Moved out of ICU to 2 West private room
7/19 Sat examined by Dr. Hasanoglu from rehabilitation medicine
7/21 Mon Repeat Angiogram to check surgical success by radiologist Dr. Bowen. Dr Balousek reported excellent results and that the Angiogram looked great. In the ATU, speech began returning with “Alright” for Dr. Balousek and “It feels strange” to Monique.
some time in the middle of all this, although it was probably tuesday or wednesday, for some reason in spite of the “opera” fantasy which was so real, and so prevalent, somehow i came back to “normal” consciousness. i was in a hospital bed with tubes and wires leading to various different parts of my body, and my son was there. i somehow managed to get it together enough to say “i love you”, and then it was gone – more a hallucination than the reality that i was currently involved with – and i was back in the middle of the opera.
i started thinking that the opera might be a dream or something like that when it started to get unreal – the brain-surgeon/repairman with 16 arms was a bit of a give away but it wasn’t the thing that convinced me, i’ve seen some pretty miraculous theatre – i started figuring that if it had been a dream, it was taking much longer than normal. in fact, i figured that, if i had been a dream, i would probably have had to be “asleep” for two or three days. it was really a shock to me, and i still don’t fully comprehend the fact that i was actually having this “opera” hallucination for eight days. it still amazes me that the opera, in all of its minute detail (what is written here is what i can put into words; there was a lot of the opera that was musical or visual which is not possible to put into words), was “cued up and ready to play” in my brain, just waiting for some “trigger” to set it into motion, and all that minute attention to detail had to happen at the same time as all of the details of my tremendously detailed, conscious life, to which i, apparently, had to pay conscious attention.
the part of the opera at the end, where the entire cast, chorus and both western and indian orchestras are playing, i started returning to “normal” consciousness. the first thing i remember was the angiogram on display on a computer screen near where i was, and remembering that it was the same angiogram that had been a static overlay in the opera. i also remember not being able to move my head – because of the device that they used to make my head immobile so that they could take the MRI. then i remember being in the recovery ward and the doctor coming by to check on me, and saying “alright” to him, to which he was surprised enough that it made me a little worried.
four months later i wrote in my first web page describing the experience that it was “almost as if I had woken up inside of a Bruce Springsteen song: ‘It’s like someone took a knife, baby, itchy and dull, and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my skull’”. i finally made it to Burning Man in 2008, only five years later. when i told my story to people who had been to burning man, they said that going to burning man and having a brain injury were very similar experiences. i was skeptical, to say the least, but i had never been, so i couldn’t know for sure, and i had recovered sufficiently to go, and i had always really wanted to go to burning man anyway, so i went this year. now, having both been to burning man and having a brain injury, i can, with authority, conclusively state that going to burning man is a very similar experience to having a brain injury – the main difference i was able to see is that fewer people actually die from going to burning man. what is also important to realise is that neither one is an experience that i would like to have again, although going to burning man – and having a brain injury – were big parts of my development as an artist.
i had a realisation that my injury was a colliding of my lives in two separate dimensions. there was the life i am more-or-less familiar with, but don’t actually feel connected to, and the life i am connected to but don’t remember, more than bits and pieces. it came to me while i was thinking of palmistry and the fact that my life line is dramatically different on my left (potential) hand than it is on my right (actuality) hand. on my right hand, the life line is intersected very strongly by a line that comes down from the middle of the palm, but on my left, the life line stops abruptly in the middle of the ball of my thumb, and the rest of the “life” line is actually the line that comes down from the middle of the palm. it struck me that, since my injury, i have more or less become left handed, and i realised that, according to my left hand, my life as it was has ended, and what i am experiencing now is a different thing all together: not exactly “life”, but real enough that it passes for life to people who don’t know.
it’s entirely possible that “The Opera” was somehow connected to my “other” life – the one i am familiar with but not connected to – and my “current” life is the one i’m not familiar with, but connected to. now i’m left to wonder which is the life in which i also was a high priest of a babylonian temple by the time i was 13, and – strangely enough – excluded from that same temple when i was 15 because of an “evil omen in my hands”, something which i have never been able to figure out. perhaps this is also why so much of the memory of my childhood, until i was age 18 or so, is totally outside of my memory, save a few “memorable” events, usually when i was getting in to trouble for this or that. perhaps this is why i don’t remember it: because i was actually in another dimension, living that life, not realising that what i was doing in this dimension would get me in trouble, or realising it, but not caring because the “real” me was away in another dimension where i couldn’t control what was going on in my body…
i then became enlightened…
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111201 – this is an ongoing project and will be updated from time to time until i feel it is done.