GeGe & MeiMei, Part One
ZOELAB DAY 66
In honor of his visit, I want to write a post about the person who had the biggest idealogical influence on me during my coming of age--my older brother, Alexander. Just last night, we were having an intense conversation about how freeand authentic I feel in our new life in the desert, and how strange and surprising it is that my life has taken this direction. I found myself confessing how deeply anti-capitalist I’ve become. At first, I sensed a hint of defensiveness on his part--as he had just confessed to his recent shopping spree in LA. But then, the more we talked, he started to remember how it was when we were kids. When I was a young teenager, and he was an older teenager (he is three and a half years older) he would talk a lot about his alienation from American culture, and he would criticize not only capitalism, but the whole bourgeois way of life. There was a part of me that saw what he saw, and agreed with him, but I still loved shopping, American television and all the wonderful mass marketed consumer goods that America had to offer. To show how I grappled with his influence, I will quote from a section of my journal that I had called “Unorganized Thoughts.” My journal during that phase was a small 3 ring binder that had several sections separated by tabs, they were called: diary (a typical girls diary detailing dramas with friends, crushes, and reports of basketball games), Miscellaneous: Unorganized Thoughts, Writing, Vocabulary, and Lists (to do lists, Books I want to read, Famous Good Looking Men (formerly cute boys)). I was fifteen, a sophomore in high school, and he was eighteen, and was in his first year of college.
April 22, 1989:
[This started out as a poem, but kind of became a diary entry.]
I am an observer
I am a poet
or am I?
Is it critical to be clever
when writing poetry?
yes, I mean that in both senses.
Alexander is a bohemian intellectual
Is that what I sometimes
think I am?
Though I do no hate all T.V. except Channel 13
and I don’t only watch foreign movies
and I am not totally against
Though should I be?
I am allowed to be different than him.
I wondered at first, where did this drive or interest that I was intellectual or anti-America, or at least against some of the things that America represents like: Capitalism and well I don’t know exactly. But my point is that all this thought was instigated by the influences my brother has on me... I can’t align myself in this world. What the hell am I...
EARLY TEACHINGS: ALEXANDER’S SUMMER SCHOOL
The summer before 5th grade, Alexander decided that he was going to teach me how to play basketball. He took me every week to one of the schoolyards in our neighborhood, and showed me how to dribble and shoot. Sometimes we’d play “around the world” or “HORSE”. If there were other kids his age around, he’d play a little one-on-one, while I watched. Afterwards, he bought me a Welsh's Strawberry soda. There was only one store I knew of that sold it, and it was across the street from PS51-where the court was. I felt pretty cool playing basketball, and ended up playing on my school’s basketball team for seven years.
The summer before 6th grade, before I was to enter a new school, a private school that didn’t have grades, but written reports, and taught subjects like painting, poetry, modern dance, Latin, Chinese, where you were encouraged to think for yourself and write essays, Alexander decided that I should learn Latin. He knew I would be learning Latin the upcoming year, but he wanted me to have a head start. We spent the summer at our house in The Berkshires, and Alexanderheld daily lessons on the grass. He even gave me quizzes. My first lesson was to memorize the conjugation of love: Amo Amas Amat Amamus Amatis Amant. I repeated over and over until it became an automatic mantra. And I still remember it. Though I never did study more than one year of latin--the next year I switched to Chinese.
The summer before 10th grade, Alexander decided it was time for me to learn algebra. Again, he wanted to me to be prepared for the subject when it was to be introduced the following school year. I don’t remember what instigated this, perhaps it was a compassionate response my expressions of insecurity about new school subjects. In Elementary school, I had had low self esteem and school anxiety. Every summer I would fear that I wouldn’t be able to handle the next grade. My parents had to reassure me by saying that everyone was going up a grade, and we would all be in it together. I don’t know if it was because of Alexander’s teachings, but I ended up loving algebra, and even though it was difficult, I did well in the class. There was something about the abstraction and the perfection that appealed to me. I really surprised myself with that one.