A Russian Empress and A Prehensile Penis

The next piece is a cobbling together of two essays I wrote over the last few days. I write nearly everyday, but as you can see I rarely publish. As a promise to myself in light of New Year’s sentimentality, I’ve decided to share these. Love you all.

Happy New Year! ¡Feliz año nuevo! с новым годом! سنه جديده سعيده! Bonne année!

I’ve never read Oscar Wilde before. Perhaps I’ve stumbled upon a quote here and there but I’ve never actually read any of his works. So you could imagine how taken back I was when over the course of the last few weeks he’s made a presence in my life in ways that far surpass the realm of mere coincidence – which is appropriate considering Wilde’s famed proclivity for flamboyance. I’ll refrain from enumerating all of the strange instances that have happened but needless to say it’s been pretty neat. My dearest friend being privy to these events, thoughtfully gifted me “A Picture of Dorian Gray,” for Christmas.

I like it! But I’m finding the text to be a bit dense, the dialogue brilliant but at times overwhelmingly didactic and therefore best appreciated in small doses. I’ve gathered so far that that the character of Basil Hallward, the painter who depicts Dorian, creates his best work because he feels inspired by the beauty he sees in his subject. Dorian’s beauty fuels him, it energizes him. And you know what? That’s relatable; I have so been there. I’ve certainly felt so moved by another person’s beauty that it inspired me to be my best self and to produce my best work. No doubt, some might describe such a feeling as merely having a crush, but nevertheless it holds a strange power.

I find it fascinating that we humans function this way. We’re all just balls of biology but with a hint of magic. And I do believe that small hint is what makes all this worth doing. “This,” being art – music, writing, acting, dancing, painting, etc. Was it the bite from the apple that made us stray the course from remaining art-free, carefree, nescient mammals? Doubtful! But if it was, I’d say that it was hardly a sin. It was destiny…

Are you gagging? I’m sorry. I think waxing philosophical is one of the final symptoms of slowly caffeinating oneself to death. Moreover, as I stare at the bright gold hue that the sun is casting onto the street outside this cafe, I’m already feeling quite energized. If I were to ever be absurd enough to get married I think I would want a dress in that color – a gold so light that it borders on silver. Like my grandmother’s satin bed sheets. Hell, I could make the gown out of those sheets! Why not? Speaking of doing remarkably stupid things, I’ve started the process of trying to amend one of them. I’m going to get my tattoo removed. I don’t speak too kindly of my appearance but I think I have a lovely back (not to mention a darn good tush), so why did I put a big black splotch there? It’s just not me. And really, is there anything whiter than adorning oneself with an east asian symbol without truly understanding what it means? I’ve taken about twenty or so yoga classes over the course of my lifetime but I’m the asshole sporting a lotus on my back.

Of course, I’ve learned some lessons from the experience. First: don’t make decisions when you’re feeling especially depressed. Second: don’t let your friends pressure you into getting a stick n’ poke in Thailand… and lastly, when the artist offers you some of his cocaine say “No thank you, I quite like feeling my face this evening.”

So, indeed, I am very excited to get this procedure started. Next on my list would be getting some porcelain veneers. Having spent the majority of my childhood without a single front tooth (I’m not kidding), my chompers never quite recovered and nor has my confidence regarding them. Sadly, as I don’t have $20,000 lying around, my dream smile will have to wait indefinitely.

Let’s see. What else is there to update you on? Well, there’s music! I’ve recently discovered a latin genre from the 60’s called Boogaloo. It is wild. I’ve also been listening to Les Mystere des Voix Bulgares. Every few years I’ll revisit their 1987 album and it’s like I’m hearing it for the first time. If you haven’t checked them out yet I highly recommend it – they are an orchestra unto themselves, their voices both preternaturally ethereal and guttingly human.

Their music has inspired me to listen to a list of songs that conjure the image of royalty – cathedrals, crowns, corsets, jewels, wigs, white makeup, inbreeding. Okay, not the last part. But there is certain music evokes such imagery for me and it’s the swelling of strings over the towering bourdon of an organ. It just gets my imagination going. Throw the voices of a choir onto it and I’m melting into my headphones.

Which leads me to television. I’ve started watching, Екатерина, a show about Russian Empress Ekaterina II. While it’s visually stunning, I’ve realized that I’m deep into watching a series in which I cannot understand a single thing that is happening. No, it’s not because of the convoluted politics of 18th century European aristocracy, but because I’ve assigned myself the daunting task of trying to avert my eyes from the English subtitles. I’ve recently buckled down on teaching myself Russian and I like to think that I can keep up with the dialogue. The result of such an experiment? I catch about one in every thirty words. Although I’m giving myself a break as, (surprisingly), my Russian lessons have not included phrases such as “Her highness has banished him to the gallows,” or “Perhaps she’s dying of consumption?”

Still, I do my best.

You might be wondering – why Russian? Why not some other language? Well, darling. Chekhov! Dostoyevsky. Tolstoy. Stanislavski. Balanchine. Tchaikovsky. Vodka! Need I say more?

*Okay, the above explanation is absolute bull – of the authors mentioned, I’ve not completed a single book. But I dated a Russian for four long years and deeply envied his effortless bilingualism and that feeling remained with me even after we separated. About six years ago I taught myself to read Russian Cyrillic when I stumbled upon a PDF of an old textbook originally intended for use in the military. So I can read it pretty well, but that’s proven quite useless as being able to sound out a word doesn’t equate to actually knowing what the word means. Not to mention, grasping the intricacies of grammar! Oy. I should note that I do speak Spanish, but as far as I’m concerned, Spanish is (or should be) America’s second language, so I don’t really count it.

And I don’t just want to speak Russian! I want to be a polyglot – I make no secret of that. When I was in high school I spent a summer at Yale and was housed amongst a gaggle of very rich European girls – all of whom would slip in and out of two, sometimes three different languages when conversing with one another. As an American, I was in awe of this. I’ve long since decided that I want to have a solid grasp of Russian, Arabic and French. Then who knows, maybe Chinese or Korean.

See? I set attainable goals for myself. Although maybe I should do my laundry first…

Or go to the gym. I purposely situate myself at this cafe because it’s only two blocks from my gym, yet sometimes I still can’t bring myself to go. There is just nothing appealing to me about a windowless rubber room clouded in a miasma of testosterone sweat in which I begrudgingly force passionless movement for the sake of self improvement. Ha! Self improvement. Of all the phrases we humans have coined I find it to be among the most irritating. Self improvement. What a ridiculous thing to say aloud. What is life but that?

Ever wake up with a word or phrase that just plays in your head like a disembodied voice? Well I do, and this morning the word was prehensile. As I’ve only ever heard the word used in a very specific context, naturally I answered this lexical-calling by researching various types of animal penises. Folks, Google does not disappoint; our planet is inhabited by many a strange and wondrous thing. Ducks, dolphins, elephants – they’re old news, baby! I went far down the penis rabbit hole and learned about echidnas and argonauts. I now feel like calling someone an echidna dick would be an excellent insult… were it not for the fact that no one knows what an echidna is. Allow me to give you but a small idea: They’re round and spiny, resembling a cross between a porcupine and an anteater. They’re native to Australia (in fact they can only be found in Australia, like most of the world’s most bizarre creatures), and they’re one of the only two living members of the monotreme family left (the other being platypuses).

They’re mammals, technically, but they don’t have nipples. They extract milk through their skin so their weirdass babies have to lap it off of them as opposed to suckling. But, alas! The best part – their penises. Male echidnas have penises with four heads. Yes. FOUR heads! If you’re having trouble imagining, they look like little fists.

It is heinous. And I am utterly captivated.

But let’s not forget the beautiful argonaut (also known as a paper nautilus). The female releases a large, paper like “sail” (hens the name, Argonaut), that moves like a ghostly veil, flowing terpsichorean through the water around her. It is hypnotic to watch. But! It’s not really a shell! It’s actually quite delicate and its purpose is to house her babies. How are those babies made? Well! Let me tell you… first of all, it is essential to note that female argonauts grow up to 10 centimeters and make shells up to 30 centimeters, while males rarely surpass 2 centimeters. To put it in other terms – the females grow up to 600 times the weight of the males.

So to impregnate them, the males… well, they just basically throw their dicks at them. Yep! Sex by dismemberment. Of course it’s a bit more complex than my lazy description but I’m not about to deep dive (heh heh) into the morphology of these creatures as my brain is currently interested in about fourteen other subjects at the moment. Argonaut penises will have to remain on the back-burner.

It’s true, John Lennon could not have said it better – my mind really is like a restless wind inside a letterbox. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to just embrace this rather than hate myself for it. Today is the last day of the year and for the first time in a very long time, I actually feel good about what’s to come. I’m kinder to myself. And perhaps more importantly I’m not so afraid of myself. In my past, any time I began to feel the power of what’s inside me I would shut down. I would run from it. I hate that I feel every little thing and so deeply at that. But I’m not running anymore.

A couple of weeks ago I auditioned for a small acting workshop at a studio that I really respect and therefore find very intimidating. As recently as a few months ago, I would never allow myself to do such a thing. And although it was terrifying, I didn’t run from my power – I embraced it (do you find this rhetoric to be nauseating? Me too. Bear with me).

The point is, I got into the course. It starts in February. And I truly cannot remember the last time I’ve felt this right about a path that I’ve chosen. I am so excited to see what this next year brings. Fear be damned. And as I’m rushing this piece along to have it finished by the end of the day I will not be able to end it with any sense of cohesion or resolution. I just want to say that I love you all and I wish you the same exhilaration of allowing you to be yourselves – it’s what I am finally feeling in my own life. And there is truly nothing like it.