Dime Novel Snippet: Chinatown

Dime novel snippetsI am not naturally sad. As a child, despite bad bouts of depression, I had completely clarity about what a free mind feels like. Then along came adolescence and gradually, that clarity blurred more and more with every depressive cycle. When I was in my mid 20s, I was depressed for close to a year and a half. I lost my clarity, but not the memory of it.

I get affect, I really do. I think that’s why by my thirties, I knew and developed the habit of reminding myself as often as necessary of the difference between myself and depression, myself and my voice, and, eventually, the difference between myself and mania’s bizarre effects.

By my thirties, I also had begun to remember better what a free mind feels like. But that was not clarity; and because I am not naturally a sad person, I decided to try to find out whether it was possible to regain my free mind. Sure enough, by my forties, I was able, whenever I wanted to, to time travel back to the exact moment when I was eight years old watching the sunset over the Rocky Mountains and knowing exactly what a free mind fees like.

It takes a long time – for me, apparently, about 50 years – to turn a moment of clarity into just the way you live. It takes allowing your freedom of mind to turn your insides out so that you truly experience life with presence, engagement and consciousness. And that is how I turned sad and angry for a year because I was suddenly not distracted by my struggle with myself, my environment and Society anymore. I was suddenly in the moment of being aware of the work-for-pay career that I’m sure I never would have entered if I had not lost my clarity. I was suddenly in the moment of being surrounded by people that I mostly do not understand and do not want to understand.

I was suddenly wide awake. That’s all there is to it. And it took a year for my eight year old’s clarity to grow up. It was very painful. But I am not a naturally sad person and now it is easy and simple for me to feel joy – easier than an eight year old could even imagine.

I have been trying for several months to write about an experience I had in December of going to a lab in Chinatown early in the morning for bloodwork. After almost 15 years of not having a period, I woke up with what can only be described as a menstrual migraine. If you know anything about migraine, the kind that throb all over your body and make you feel seasick, not like you’re on the sea but like you accidentally swallowed the sea, and now it’s trying to get out, surging up and down, zigzagging, rolling, jerking, pounding. If you don’t know about migraine, you might be surprised to know that once you expel the surging sea inside you, the real pain of the headache begins and that provides relief.

But first you have hold vigil on the nausea, figure out which pain reliever to take (the wrong one at the wrong moment will just make things worse), and you have to a work up the courage to vomit.

In this instance of this particular migraine, even though my instincts told me that I had a brief window in which Tylenol might make dent and would not make me sicker like it usually does, since I was having a fasting blood screen done, I was unsure whether the coating on the pill would throw off my cholesterol test. Yes, pain had made me insane and in zapping my sense of reality into surreality, made a wonderful experience possible that I did not understand and could not put into words until this morning – several months later after having to repeat the test so my doctor will know whether she wants to put me on an old lady diet.

The lab is in that part of Chinatown where I am a head taller than half the men and all of the women, and where, as I would in Paris or Mexico or India, or even Canada, I always fall back on the manners everyone learns about how to behave in a stranger’s home. This is the part of Chinatown where people take their time. This is a good place to learn the habits of an old person who has clarity.

The lab is usually not very busy and the first time I went there, the 35ish lab tech was very talkative and chattered and fussed to me like he would any of the other old aunties who come to the lab. It made me feel welcome. The second time, he seemed genuinely glad to see me and I was pretty sure why, because I could hear the man he was waiting on behind the closed door complaining about the lab, the building, the slow elevator, Chinatown, everything, the whole time. Once I was in the chair behind the closed door, the lab tech fussed and chattered to me again, but this time like he really needed someone to be nice to him and understand. And I left feeling not like I’d been listening to someone complain, but like somebody had trusted me just because he remembered he could do that.

A year ago, I would not have understood that. His trust gave me simple joy in spite of the pain of knowing I made a mistake in my career choice, of knowing I will have another horrible headache and I will be even older when it happens, of knowing my young doctor will not understand that I know what not-going-to-live-forever feels like and there are changes I will not make to try to defy that reality, of knowing that as much as I hate my career choice I will have grief and separation anxiety when I leave it, of knowing that in 130 days my weekdays will never be the same again and I will have to make the big adjustment to free time, which all the experts warn is not as easy as it sounds.

Dime Novel Snippets: Craft


Still, The Blue Lady Storyboard 1

When you finish a dress and it’s time to hem it, who’s going to know if you use duct tape and who’s going to see the duct tape? Me, that’s who, because I won’t be able to forget or get out of my mind that, even though the duct tape likely will not need repair as soon as my delicate slip stitches on a garment I crafted as well as I could – so well that I probably turned it inside out to show someone because I was so proud of my work – that that handmade, unique garment is a failure in my mind if the hem isn’t crafted.

Why wouldn’t a person with my background feel that way? I have spent (and have expected to spend AND have BEEN expected to spend: hours and hours and hours spent alone drawing my hand in order to learn foreshortening; hours and hours and hours spent alone singing and exercising my voice in order to make it work as well as it could; hours and hours and hours spent alone drawing all the muscles and bones in the human body until I knew them by heart in all their conformations; hours and hours and hours of lighting, shooting and editing to make magic happen on camera.

Craft is not a skill. It is a value that is acquired during all those hours that are often full of blistered fingers, bruises, eyestrain, headaches, swollen wrists, fatigue, tears and lots of frustration plus feelings of failure and worthlessness. But one day, on the way to work while you’re drawing a difficult pose in a Moleskine, you realize that because you can translate bones to the page, you’ve mesmerized the old man who’s looking over your shoulder on the subway. And you feel like a medicine man or a witch doctor or even a priest – that is, until you get to work and are asked to “tape up the hem” because the project is winding up; and now it’s only about the cash.

That’s when you feel uneasy and seasick and futile, because once again, you have to go against your own nature formed by half a million hours of practicing craft.

It’s more complicated than “not working in your field.” It’s about having to leave your own values outdoors like they were muddy galoshes.


Affect, 1st official trailer

First cut of trailer for a short movie I’m targeting to publish on Amazon by summer 2015.

“A manic depressive shops for a therapist.”

This movie is made up of monologues created as part of story development for VOICE, a movie about the experience of psychosis. They are improvised scenes – sketches – of therapy sessions showing a frustrated patient trying to make her therapist understand her problems. It is very interesting what happened when I chopped up my “sketches” and put them back together.

Music by the Dallas String Band, “Sugar Blues” (circa 1920s)

it’s a dough thing.

Originally posted on Pupcaked:

Sometimes when my mind is full and overwhelmed, I will pull out that wrinkled bag of flour, that’s been torn open impatiently before, and then resealed by hand-rolling and rubber-banding, and sprinkle flour clouds in a pile on the counter and then slice thick hunks of butter and smear it between my fingers and against my palms like something slick. I’ll make a pie crust, because it requires a fine attention to texture and moisture and it has nothing at all to do with CVs and adult decisions like, “When and where will you move to from here?” and “How and when will you meet the people, the person, that you are meant for?”


In fact, all that matters is in the palms of your hands; all that’s decided about that dough and its flakiness and its delicate butteriness is imprinted by your thumbs, by the firm skidding of your…

View original 120 more words

Leaving Dayjob: The End

Back in the day (the 80s), paralegal was the ideal profession for a liberal arts major who didn’t know how to do anything, didn’t want to go into social services or otherwise get her hands dirty, was too timid to go to law school and or couldn’t get into/stay in law school. For women of my generation, it was dignified, proper and clean, and made one feel like she had standing.

The whole time that I have been a paralegal, I was a struggling artist. I got a foothold in the visual artworld when I was forty; I got a foothold in the small theatre community before I was fifty; and by the time I was 60, I had completely switched gears and was being curated as an international video artist.

You cannot expect a woman in her sixties who has almost 300 videos on YouTube, whose primary demographic is millenial-aged men and who is selling avant garde performance art downloads on Amazon to fit into the shoes of a 35 year old paralegal whose employers treat her like an Honor Roll student who never gives anybody any guff.

I have always had a different set of values and goals than 99.99% of people in school, the business world and the greater community. If I had not accepted that I would feel like an outsider most of the time, I could not have pursued my goals as well as I have. But I have done dayjob as well as I could; I have a rule that I cannot call in sick to do art instead that day and I am really strict about following that rule; I did not quit my job when I got an out of state residency, I used my vacation time every year for 5 years. I have been respectful and usually the only person who got along with everybody in the office. I have done my time.

It’s that simple.


Lucy, the First Human (on Amazon)

Sylvia Toy Ⓒ 2013 The Blue Lady-Scenes 1 &  2 b

Sylviatoyindustries (on YouTube)



Dime Novel Snippets: The pigeons come home to roost

Dime novel snippets“‘Because I’m so different from -,'” she said, pausing just before ‘from pigeons’ flew out of her mouth. She counted to ten quickly to calm herself and could not help noticing one of them, the one wearing nicely fitting gray silkwool ladies’ menswear, was staring gaped mouthed at her like a pigeon chick, waiting not for crumbs or offal but for an explanation. (How could she calm herself and refrain from saying ‘pigeon’ to someone clad in soft, iridescent urban camouflage and why should she?)

But she said instead “people like you,” gesturing the world with excellent port de bras. The gray silkwool pigeon rose up, standing like a woman, possibly for the first time our heroine had ever seen and the pigeon chick mouth morphed into very human, Botoxed, trembling lips trying to speak for the first time our heroine had ever seen like a human instead of a monotonously pleasant, whirring voicebox.

“‘Like me?'” said the pigeon woman. “Who the hell do you think you are? Special? Cool? Hip? You think you’re so different? In your Doc Martens and your Raybans? All your coolness that you bought with cash that comes from the same place mine does? Who the hell are you?”

Our heroine gasped in unison with herself as one by one the pigeons’ beaked, sleek heads morphed into expensive haircuts and well groomed, beardless human indignation. And she stared back at them, gapemouthed as a pigeon chick, waiting not for crumbs or offal but for their shrill protestations to morph back into a chorus of monotonously pleasant cooing and ah’ing.