June 3rd, 2009

Mengus Gives it an A+.

The Vermont Joy Parade, The Bonnaroo Festival, The Best Friend from Heaven, The Boy I Love, and The Breakup from Hell.

Ladies and Gents, behold the Vermont Joy Parade; the band I am to spend 10 days with come this Friday from NYC to Tennessee. While my time on the tour ends after Bonnaroo, their tour is only beginning, but allow me to explain this situation as I know it thus far.

(Fact: I designed the Vermont Joy Parade logo for them because I'm just that special.)

A couple months ago, during Night Two of the Grand Poobah Theatre Festival at the Bone Town Theatre, Lee Anderson, creator and head of the Radio Bean in Burlington (which I like to refer to as the Burlington Bohemian Hub) requested that Ethan and I come aboard the Bonnaroo crew, Ethan as a tech assistant helping build various concoctions for their performances, and I as the photo journalist for the crew and the experience in its entirety. Needless to say, this was the opportunity of a lifetime; attending one of the biggest festivals in the country with all expenses paid, a full trailer, golf carts, all access passes, and three catered meals a day, with the only expectation of me being "take as many photos as humanly possible." Of course we both agreed. How could we not? As it turns out, Lee and his posse of Burlington Bohemians have been contributing performers to the Bonnaroo festival for a good number of years now, and it seems that each year, he and his crew have their own personal stage, on which they perform outlandish acts of, well, pretty much whatever, each night of the festival. To be asked by such a well known and established character of Burlington to come along as the photo journalist for such a huge event was an opportunity I simply couldn't pass up. Only one problem (well, at least at the time): I was still terrified of my new SLR camera of which I knew next to nothing about.

(Fact: I spent six hours painting my logo on the side of that bus yesterday.
Dear Benny, you still owe me a T-Shirt and probably about thirty more beers. And a threesome sometime. You can reach me at The Bonnaroo Festival, Middle-of-Nowhere, Tennessee. Love, Raychel.)

(Fact: I made four different sized star stencils that we spray-painted for the roof and the sides of the logo.)

(Fact: Devon looks hotter when he puts on his hat-wig and dresses like me.)

Currently I am displaying a show of my photos at the Radio Bean, and its creation has been a stressful one. While scared to display past work and risk being accused of recycling photos from the same show for what is now their third round, I did however spend a good chunk of money picking out five prints to get blown up to 24" by 36", a size I can admit I have never seen my work at before, completely because of the lack of megapixels on all my previous cameras. Now at 10.2 megapixels, I can see my work in a new light that I must admit scares the shit out of me. On one wall hang five gigantic prints that face with intimidation my twenty favorite photos printed no larger than 8.5" by 11" and mounted on balsa wood. For a while I feared not adding any new work to the show aside from the oversized prints, but it soon became apparent to me that my Radio Bean show was not about the photos themselves, but the blatant contrast between the two walls of the space; Old versus new, big versus small, comfort in my camera versus utter phobia of it. I worried for so long that people would judge me for recycling and not providing at a time when my photographic career should be booming, but the truth was that I had only mastered my camera in very specific situations, which left me lost and confused when it came to taking pictures on the spot- something which used to be the basis of my photographic skill. Having brought this fear into my life and acknowledged its pressure upon my shoulders, it didn't help that the show was hung only five days before our departure for Bonnaroo, where I was expected to do exactly what I feared the most.

(Fact: These are the photos I got mega-printed. You can click on each thumbnail to see the photo larger.)

None of this process and anticipation of the adventure of a lifetime would have been a problem if it weren't for two things: My ability to take men's hearts and crush them in my bare fist, and my inability to feel pain or sympathy for them as their blood gushed from my fingers and left droplets in the pavement so toxic that they burned potholes in the sidewalk itself when all they expressed was pity for themselves. Two months ago, I was going to be on the receiving end of a marriage proposal to which I was going to say yes, and on this date, June 3rd, 2009, the very thought of the man I was to marry makes me clench my fists and simply wish I could mend the puddles of his heart so that I could crush them again, yet this time out of hate. From lovers, to wannabe friends, to trying and trying and trying, I find myself now at the opposite end of the spectrum, sucked dry of all my energy, exhausted of all feeling, tired to a point where even ten hours of sleep cannot cure my restless legs of freakish length, and drained of any clue as to what I am going to do now that I have to spend ten days on the road with, yes, my ex-boyfriend. You may know him as Ethan O'Hara. We'll get back to this momentarily.

(Fact: I definitely thought I would marry this guy.)

At six months and a more intense relationship than any I'd ever imagined could exist, I broke up with Ethan. I felt that over the previous months, the confident, heroic, able-to-fucking-fly-if-he-wanted-to man that I had fallen madly (MADLY) in love with had turned into a self-doubting, obsessive, and overemotional black hole who could do nothing but talk our relationship and our feelings into the grave and then feel sorry for himself because I could no longer stand being sucked dry by his doubts. I broke up with him and suddenly realized that the entire group of people I had been spending every day with for the last six months were a bunch of circular holes, and that I was simply just a square peg. I connected with none of them despite my need for a friend and someone to talk to. I admired them and appreciated them to no end for all that they had accomplished and were yet to pursue, but I simply didn't belong with them. I suddenly found myself nowhere. I had no friends except the ex-boyfriend who I was trying to befriend despite his inextinguishable love for me, and the hoard of bohemians rushing to my aid (because they really are genuinely good people), but none of whom I felt I could really connect with, or whom I would ever have any desire to call when the work day was over or when all I needed was a shoulder to cry on.

I suddenly became uncontrollably reminiscent of San Francisco, and the family-away-from-family that I had when I was there. I realized that no matter how empty I was when I was there, Bunny LaValliere and her bosom practically built for crying upon, was only two flights of stairs up, and I could go there and sit in total silence while my batteries recharged, my psyche came back to life, and I eventually felt full again. My aha! moment came when I realized that I hadn't made a best friend since moving back to Burlington, and I was left now with an ex-boyfriend who had served as that rock until the moment I broke his heart; that was no longer a support system I could rely on and one that I shouldn't have depended on from the beginning. I found myself friendless, feelingless, and more lonely than I'd ever been in my life, sleeping alone (or trying to) on a regular basis for the first time in years and bubbling to the brim with frustrations, fears, regrets, loneliness, and nobody in all of Burlington who I really felt I could talk to about it. But before you start getting all "it'll be OK, Rachel" on me, let me tell you about my luck, because fortunately, only a few blocks down the hill, Sarah Catherine Golden was feeling the same way.

Within the same week, something clicked in both my mind and Sarah Golden's mind, and it only took a night of phoning for two acquaintances who had met only twice before to sit cross-legged at her kitchen table with an unnecessarily large bottle of cheap wine. From there, my friends, it all came out. All those problems, all those frustrations, all those fears, regrets, and phobias of loneliness came spewing out, and within a night we had both found exactly what we had been looking for. To both of us it was clear that neither of us had ever been the type to have ten or fifteen close friends, but one or two exclusively; those you call first when you've got a world of shit on your shoulders and yet those you call first when you've just got nothing to do- those who fill you up again when you are empty, even when not a word is exchanged. They certainly don't fall from the sky, so I wallowed in every wonderful second I got to spend getting to know this person who I felt was the same sized square peg as I, and I felt nothing but relief; nothing but weight after weight being lifted from my shoulders. It wasn't as if I had been expecting to find my Bunny or my Audra in anybody other than them, but I certainly found exactly what I needed, because within a few short nights, I had found my Sarah Golden, and I was already on my road to recovering from the breakup of a lifetime and the ever-growing list of stresses and anxieties that I had to look forward to. From the first moment we hugged, she was there for me and I was there for her- no expectation, nothing forced, just pure friendship of the best kind in the world.

(Fact: She became my friend pretty fuckin' quick 'cause she bought me Charleston Chews.)

I continued and have continued seeing Sarah on a daily basis, and she's helped me through tears, through drunkenness, through frustration, through stress, through panic attack after panic attack, simply by just being there, and I have done the same for her because I find no greater pleasure than doing for her what she does for me. It is the same immediate bond that I felt in the past with every other best friend I've had in my lifetime, and believe you me, they don't come in pairs or trios; there is and always has been only one who I devote that part of myself to. I called her because I wanted to and not because I felt I had nothing better to do, and she did the same. We wanted each other as much as we needed each other, and the dynamic could not have been any better. Until a couple of nights ago, when she announced to me that she would be moving back to Virginia at the end of the month of June. For good. As it turns out, there's one more thing Sarah Golden and I have in common: we are dying to get out of Burlington. Unfortunately, she can do it sooner than I can.

I don't regret my move back to Burlington. I am here for all the right reasons. Friends, I am not six months yet out of college and my career as an artist is exploding. I have currently one of the most awesome jobs in the city, for which I design for a gallery that I have loved since the days I was no more than a townie at age 15, and an organization which is focused entirely around local art and promoting art throughout this beautiful city. There isn't a better entry-level job I could have asked for, not to mention the pay and the fact that I can work as much or as little as I please. I work with great people, and in my small little office, I get to design things for events and art openings that I actually give a crap about. On top of this, as of August when my time at Burlington City Arts is up, I have an open door at JDK, which is presumably the best design firm in New England, as an intern (they feel I have the skill and talent, but lack the actual experience, so they want to offer me a full-time paid internship so that I can gain the necessary experience and they can offer my a designer position immediately afterward [hopefully]). I've been having photo show after photo show, at different style joints around the city and attracting all types of audiences, and eventually I hope to be able to have a Lower Level (Community Darkroom) show at the Firehouse Gallery, being that I work there and am developing the right connections. It's clear to me now that the reason I moved back to Burlington was certainly not to improve my social life, but I must admit that I didn't expect that I wouldn't have one to speak of whatsoever. I'm here for my career, and I'll be here for at least another year for the sake of my future as an artist, and I know that when that year is over, I won't regret what I've done to make it happen. In a year's time, I hope to be able to move to any city and get any job or show I want, but if I bailed now and ran away for the sake of my social life, I'd be giving up a fair share of opportunities that I'm sure I would regret running out on. I'd give anything to run away to Chicago with Sarah Golden, be with the man I love, share an apartment with the most valuable friend I have, and leave the town so small that I can't even have a ménage à trois with two beautiful people whom I fancy because of the connections that everybody has to everybody in this place. But the fact of the matter is that I know what's best for me, and what's best for me is to stay here and stick out the opportunities placed before me that hundreds of people I know would kill to have placed in front of them. When it's time for me to leave, I will be officially unstoppable; that's the way I've always been and that's the way I was meant to be.

(Fact: They did this. Yup.)

Unfortunately, the only thing I can feel any comfort in is my knowledge of this, and as for the meantime- it's a great unknown that I fear from the bottom of my heart. The love of my life, Mike Paro, who responds to my "I love you"s with nothing more than a "Yeeee" is coming to Burlington from July 7th till the 14th, and I fear I will have nothing to show him except what once was the Burlington that made me thrive, the Burlington I bragged about, the Burlington that didn't make me want to curl up into a meatball in front of my computer and do nothing but crank out poster after poster, banner after banner, postcard after postcard, brand after brand, and picture after picture. I make great art happen here, but can I make love happen here? I fear unrequited love and I fear the brutal letdown of the city that I've been talking up for the last four years seemingly only because it's been over four years since I actually lived here and realized its unfortunate size and its unfortunate tax on cigarettes. I guess that besides keeping Sarah Golden in my life, the reason I want to run to Chicago is so that every night I can sleep in his arms and inspire him the way I once did, and vice versa.

(Fact: I am madly in love with this man and fear I will let him down.)

So I'm here. I'm here for at least another year while I solidify myself as an artist and as a designer, so that when I leave I have no restrictions. I know that my options will be limitless if I can just wait out the time it will take me to accomplish the things in store for me. The problem in that is once again the small size of the city I live in, and the breakup from hell that I am currently in the midst of. Getting back to Bonnaroo, you may remember me mentioning that Lee Anderson offered a position on the crew to both Ethan and myself, which we both accepted, not expecting a breakup any time in the near future. Unfortunately, shit happens, people change, love disintegrates, few things last forever, and now we are in a state of utter turmoil that seems almost impossible to rectify. In an email I wrote to Ethan, I explained our communication skills as one straight line drawn on a piece of paper, with a dot placed perfectly in the center. While he is completely convinced that the dot is halfway to the left, I am completely convinced that the dot is halfway to the right. And while neither of us are right or wrong, so continues a battle of who hurts who, who insults who, who is out of line, who should stay, who should go, and the battle of figuring out how exactly to coexist on a ten day trip to Tennessee as two members of a well-established posse of artists.

Ethan can't even bare to look at me because the love he still has for me hurts him, and I am consistently hurt by the fact that he refuses to even acknowledge my existence. Ethan can't talk to me or be around me because when I am happy it hurts him to not be able to be close to me, yet I cannot let his pain and heartbreak deter me from doing my best to enjoy this experience to the fullest, although it does. I try to avoid saying hurtful things to him because I know he is not receptive to those kinds of comments, but I find myself more often than not clenching my fists and biting my tongue as I try not to rebuttal with such against the hurtful comments he makes towards me. Again it seems as though neither of us are right or wrong, but our methods of coping, understanding, and moving on from a situation such as this one are so polar opposite that I feel as though I have never been through a more dramatic and draining breakup in my life. I feel often as though Ethan's sorrow for himself since I broke his heart has been consistently sucking him into a black hole, and I'm holding onto my rope as tightly as I can but he is sucking me down with him, and I am not the type of person to let that happen without a fight. I try with every fiber of my being not to get angry with him, not to say hurtful things to him, not to call him on all the ways in which he hurts me by refusing my attempted support, not to simply slap him in the face and tell him to get the fuck over it, but the fact of the matter is that I am not the type of person to stray far from my pride (I'm a Leo, after all), and I am unable to allow someone to constantly be insulted or offended by remarks which I feel are purely from my heart; I'm not making this shit up for the sole purpose of hurting someone else. I don't fabricate hurt, I don't make up solitude, and I don't invent my feelings from thin air, yet when I try to express said effects onto myself as a result of this breakup, I am continually denied with a polite "pajama," our safe word for "abort" without insult or abandonment. I fear that the torture I have been enduring throughout this breakup has not been because I feel any kind of loss by leaving a seemingly important relationship in my life, but because of my accommodations to Ethan's needs, and Ethan's lack of ability to accommodate my own needs, and therefore I am left with nothing but resentment, loathing, and a mess of other feelings, all of which Ethan seems to think I have no right to feel. And to that I say that feeling those things from the bottom of your heart, while feeling them without judgement and while trying your hardest to continue attempting a friendship with the person towards whom you feel them, the only thing worse is being told that you have no right to feel them.

(Fact: This is what I want to do to Ethan right now.)

On Friday I leave for Bonnaroo. The Vermont Joy Parade plays a show at the House of Yes in New York City on Saturday night that I feel I simply cannot miss, considering that this particular band of people are the only ones within the bohemian and gypsy crowd that I've felt any connection to, and also considering that they've asked me numerous times to come on tour with them as their photographer, which is something I'd do in a heartbeat if it weren't for my unbelievable job and my future opportunities in Burlington. While the Joy Parade buses left this afternoon, there's a van leaving on Friday to NYC to catch the House of Yes show, and there's Lee's van leaving on Sunday, simply to meet up with the Joy Parade buses and head off to Bonnaroo. I hate feeling anxiety towards being in a van with Ethan for a six hour ride to NYC, and part of a crew with him for a week at the festival, but I also know that this is my bon voyage to the entire crew of Bohemian artists and die-hard doers of the Burlington scene. I have nothing to offer them except my art and they have nothing to offer me except their unrequited support (and for the record I hope it is known that I appreciate everything that they have done for me in the past times when I have needed said support). I am no longer a visitor of the Radio Bean and no longer a member of the family that I didn't truly feel I was ever a part of in the first place. Ethan is clearly one who thrives off the energy and support of more than a dozen people, but I am not the same. I cannot try to fit my square shape into the circular holes of the Radio Bean, and I do no regret or mourn over the fact that I simply did not belong. I am more the type to rest my head upon the support of Sarah Golden; a rock filled with jelly. Tough on the outside, able to collapse into a heap if you pound too deep into it with your pitiful pickaxe of problems, because I cannot deny for a second that I am a rock of the same breed. Please stop pounding, I will break soon and there will be nothing left of me to love or hate, According to Ethan, they are the same, although I am sad to say that all passion is not created equal.