Tag Archives: invisibility

Ghost Dog, El Verde, and Karaoke

I love this movie…urban asian fusion of RZA’s music beating in the background, the meditation of it.

And everyday without fail one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the way of the Samurai.

There’s a bit of the opening scene, during the credits, ghost dog walks down the street, hooded and menacing and invisible, a man comes out of a restaurant to dump the trash and ghost dog passes by him unseen in the seconds that he dumps the trash before turning around to go back inside, un-noted and it seems an impossibility and yet so easily done. I am so fascinated by invisibility. It is the skill of the assassin and the thief. It is a power and a weapon, an advantage in times of war. It is the fate of the poor and one of the things that allows the wealthy to live with themselves. It is carries such contradictions in its meaning.

I love how every detail of this movie is perfect. I love the tawdry velvet paintings and plaster figurines on mob walls, I love the beauty of the pigeons in perfect formation swooping across the sky, I love the narrow-mindedness of some and the great-mindedness of others. I love the deserted city at night, the sweat-suits, the collision of systems of honour and dishonour, the amazing character of each and every one of the people in this movie.

I love the round-table of the old mob guys, they’re all crazy, brilliantly crazy and to watch them cope with a hit-man named ghost dog who communicates with pigeons and is paid once a year on the first day of autumn… no, you really can’t get better than that.

The mix of mob and 17th century Japan and…damn, have to turn it off now.

We went to see El Verde, Luke’s play down at casa0101 in Boyle Heights, and it was phenomenal…it is one of a series, and this series I am sorry to say is sold out for the rest of its run but you can catch future episodes in…the future. You should, you will, you must. El Verde is a spectacular hero who fell into a vat of corn and cleaning chemicals and emerged without any superpowers whatsoever…unless you count belief in your superpowers a power, in which case he has loads. As do I. He battles la evil quinceaneara, with her two chambelanes…and god damn, you know they are going to show up because Chayanne singing tiempo de vals comes up and there they are, the are so funny they made me cry. Chambelanes uno y dos, dressed all in black, their waltz moves down to a perfect T, attending la quinceaneara as any good chambelan should, moving in perfect time. The other bad guys were Frida Kahlo with her unibrow and ray gun that turns people into monkees, and la…cabron, se me ha olvidado, but she roams East LA trying to give people makeovers. And La Cucaracha, the Cocka-roach king with his sidekick the Gnat, and Luke as the Gnat was fantastic. He was also fantastic as the evil pinata created to crush the world…the world was only saved because his colours clashed…

So I laughed as I have not laughed for a long long time, my stomach hurt. And then we headed to the gold room and I listened to some German girl tell her mother about how she had a $1,000,000 overdraft on her bank account…what the fuck? How could such a conversation happen in an Echo Park dive bar? But it did, I bear witness. We left el gold room, and headed for karaoke at the Smog Cutter…the waitresses are vietnamese, ours saw me and Celine, and pulled out two shot glasses, she spat out at us, “what, what are you drinking?” We didn’t go for shots, we won the battle and got a couple more beers. And the songs were rocking…Bon Jovi who I love to sing along to, a very large man singing Pat Benetar’s Love is a Battlefield absolutely brilliantly…how many times did I sing her songs into my hairbrush while standing seductively on my old bed and staring into the mirror? And the someone sang Aqui Estoy and that really made my night, no words on the screen of course, you sing in Spanish and you don’t get words, but I love that song.

We piled into the old volvo when George Michael came on…and had Jimi Hendrix, the wind cried Mary by my request and I was happy…another brilliant LA night, a bit short perhaps as Jose is up early to work this morning, but brilliant all the same…

Colour and Invisibility

A man came up to me today while I was waiting for the blue train, leaning against my bike and reading. He nodded towards the handful of people who shunned the shade, and launched into friendly conversation – some people just really love the sun, huh? They’re crazy, the sun makes you blind, they’re going to go blind…I thought about skin cancer and freckles and wrinkles and the way I love the Arizona summer where the world is all white light and heat that wraps around you so heavy on the air you can feel its comforting weight. Of course, the only thing I like to do through the Arizona summer is read while drinking long cool glasses of anything with ice, it’s been a hell of a long time since I was able to do that. Amazing how much can go through your mind in a split second. I love the sun.

I was lucky. He required no response to continue: the sun makes you disappear. My mom was upset when I moved out here, I’m from the East coast and when I went home they thought I was ugly, I was light skinned there but here you stand in the sun and you turn the colour of charcoal, no one can see you at night, you become invisible. He lifted his arms and they were a dark dark brown, and the wiry hair on them a very bright white.

I thought about this means of becoming invisible. You become the colour of darkness, you walk along unperceived and hidden against the backdrop of night, I thought about what it means to disappear. An arcane power of sorts, the ability to become one with the dark, to travel unseen…who has never dreamed of that? With the power of flight, invisibility is pretty high on my list of unfulfilled desires. The train came then and I shall probably never see him again. I wanted to ask him if he had read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, I wanted to ask him if invisibility were really a function of colour and camouflage, or of politics. I wanted to ask him about the invisibility of South Central and all the people in it, the invisibility of the poor to those with wealth, the invisibility that comes with a skin colour approaching the night. The invisibility you endure when you wear an apron or a janitor’s uniform or a name tag proclaiming your willingness to serve. The way that so many people I have known and loved have disappeared. It was not the sun that disappeared them, and I rage that they could have left this world with so small of a ripple. I wanted to reconcile the challenge, and the promise, of the gulf between invisibility in the world of my imagination, and invisibility in the imagination of the world.

I have lost much of my substance behind the name tag and pinned smile of the service employee, the painfully unfashionable clothes and bad haircut of that embarassingly poor kid who really wants nothing more than to disappear (luckily I’ve grown and fought my way out of both for the most part)…but my experience is limited as someone who will only find camouflage if the night becomes the colour of pale sand. I yet sit uncomfortably poised between several worlds none of which seem to be visible to the others, and I could not imagine myself anywhere else…and so this problem of how and what people can see seems to be one of the keys to resolving the injustices that have pushed these worlds apart. And so a blessing on the old charcoal gentleman who disturbed my reading today and set my mind spinning, may he find beauty in his skin…