Monday, April 28, 2008

Saturday night we went to see Carla's show at College of Marin, called War and Peacemeal. It was an eclectic mixture of improv, musical theatre, Greek tragedy, spoken word/rap, video, and a bunch of other stuff. Maclen, her fifteen-year-old son, wrote great chunks of the show, memorized every word he wrote, and performed it all with total committment.

I am too close to the drama off-stage to be able to see the drama onstage with a pure vision. In the archetypal hero's journey search for Peace--who is standing right there, embodied in a living statue--I can read Carla's own search for inner peace as she walks through the raging fires of fear and grief. In her including her son so intimately as a collaborator in this process, I can see her teaching him in every way she knows--and being an artist, through art--about that quest for peace, not to give up, and not to forget to look inside, in the simplest, most obvious place, the place we often overlook.

Maclen moved me more than anyone else onstage--his intensity, and also, in his height, his mop of dark curls, and his body language, he reminded me so much of my dead ex-husband Alan. Alan was 23 when I met him, just seven years older than Mac is now, but he retained a boyish quality well into his thirties. Like Mac, and like Carla, and like C, he always threw himself totally into whatever he was doing, balls-out. I am attracted to people like that, full-on, no-holds-barred committed people, even when that committment extracts a difficult energetic price. And I find it impossible not to be moved by Mac, and by his and Carla's connection, so multi-faceted, strong, and vulnerable; mother-son, teacher-student, fellow-artists.

There was also a missing-parent/lost child theme in the piece; there were scenes that took place in Iraq, and a delightful scene of the gods--Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and Hanuman, playing video games together. Carla being Carla, there were cheeky, outrageous jokes in very bad taste, there was pushing of the envelope, there was beautiful visual poetry anbd a heartbreaking song which she composed and sang (via audiotape) herself, while two of the actors danced a duet.

We were stunned, moved, amused, aroused, disturbed. As she intended. Carla was there, looking beautiful, if a bit tired. Despite all the jokes about having a fatal illness, I still find it impossible to pierce through my shield of denial. She is way too alive to be dying.

Yesterday, was the celebration of our completion of the 24 hour clourse in women's self-defense. We had regular class for four hours, learned some new techniques to deal with extended fights--if we were fighting someone who was on drugs or psychotic, who didn't have a normal pain threshold-- and techniques against oral rape (hint: bite.) Then our loved ones came and watched us go through the line two times, taking turns fighting the mugger on the mat. Marci and Ellen and C all came; all of them cried (although C said he was trying not to, as he feared it would distract me.)

I felt happy and proud and a little anxious. I hoped my loved ones would be alright--it's more difficult to witness this stuff than it is to be in it. I remember that from watching my girlfriend's graduation, long ago. When you are watching, you have all the adrenaline and no place to put it. You just have to sit there while your body is flooded with chemicals, watching your loved one fight.

I feel much more confident about my technique. My last fight especially, I landed my kicks with a lot of power and precision. It only took about five hard strikes to knock the guy out. I ordered the video so I will get to see myself fighting, and I am sure I will see things there that will make me cringe, but that's okay. It's all just learning.

Graduates can take the class over for half price, and there's also a weekend class that deals with multiple assailants and weapons. If my check from MORE comes in time, I will sign up for that. I've already volunteered to be an assistant at the next Basics. They are looking for male instructor/muggers, so if there are any men reading this blog in the Bay Area who would like to volunteer, they should check out the web site at (I believe the pay is between 25 and 35 dollars an hour, after you've completed your training, plus 200 volunteer hours.)


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Ali!
I'm proud of you,
Love, Emily

Ellie said...

Hi Alison!
After reading your blog and your article in the most recent issue of "The Sun," I can relate to you on many, many things. But I write this morning with a main purpose, and that is to introduce you to a friend of mine named Ralph Bronner. OK, first, I would like to introduce myself. I'm a 3rd-grade teacher at a charter school in East Oakland. I've been teaching around the world for a few years now but my first career was as a journalist. I once wrote an article about Ralph, who is the son of a famously eccentric soap maker -- Dr. Bronner. Have you heard of the product? Anyway, his son and I have been friends every since. He is an amazing man. At 70 he is the sole surviving child of Dr. Bronner. A former inner-city teacher himself, Ralph now travels around the U.S. playing the guitar, singing, and bringing a lot of peace and happiness (and great soap!!!) to a lot of people! He has been a mentor to me and I'm sure many others. Well, a week ago he sent me a package containing a copy of "The Sun" with your article circled. He asked me to please get in touch with you so the three of us could establish a connection! This post is getting pretty long... I'll leave off with my email address: -- I hope to hear from you soon!

Alison said...

Thanks, Em--I love you!! And miss you, and the kids...

Thank you, Elizabeth, I wrote you an email.