“We’re gypsies Rob, we’ve always been.” Georges was speaking matter-of-fact, as if this was something he’d known to have always been true. I was struck with clarity the moment he’d uttered them. “We go to where we want to, when we want to, where the opportunities exist.” Damn, he was right…
I first met Georges around 1968. I was close friends with his sister Cathy, who later introduced me to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Burdon, Buddy Miles, and several other heroes of my youth. But hers is another long sad story, for another happier day; this one’s about Georges, and in particular, his words that day. In the intervening years between then and this meeting in 2005, we’d both moved around a lot, and had happened through serendipity to have relocated some fifteen miles apart, over twenty years since our last contact. He was researching a location to open up a new restaurant in the exact same town I’d been thinking of moving to. This in itself was remarkable enough of a coincidence, but the subject of that day was the chances of our meeting up again, the ways in which we arrived at that same place on the earth, and the various and vicarious means by which we got there.
We were gypsies. That made it all the more miraculous.
With Cathy’s assistance (and insistence no doubt) he got me my first job, at a little place called “Mori’s Kosher Style Delicatessen” located in San Francisco’s Financial District, in 1968, and run by a transplanted New Yorker named Mori Solomon. An older man and a funny, shrewd, and calculating Jew, I suppose he was something of a gypsy himself, having transplanted his successful and well-known eatery in N.Y.C. to the Bay Area of all places, anathema to an East-Coaster. His small establishment catered to the Montgomery Street business-and-Wall-Street types while being staffed by hippies, as unlikely a combination as you’d expect to find in those days of persecution. Mori was not a hippie. The above picture is an accurate snapshot of what kind of guy he really was. I think, in fact, that he might have been a fence. Beneath a huge trap door in the floor he had a cellar beneath the whole shop that was filled with everything you could imagine: televisions, toasters, disposable hypo needles, cameras, radios, you name it. And then there was his rooftop… He even, for those special occasions with special visitors, hauled out a kitchen sink for those who marvelled at the diversity of his collection, exclaiming with a mischievous snicker, “Everything AND the kitchen sink!” He was a character.
In the latter days of writing my novel Unbound when trying unsuccessfully to find a way to describe a story that was about so many things, I remembered Mori’s cellar and his sink. So I, in a moment of pique, threw in a scene where Will’s mom is washing dishes at their kitchen sink. And so began describing this indescribably deep, layered, and allegorical story simply as being “about everything.” Because, it is. About everything that a gypsy might come across or encounter in his travels; or a wanderer, a teller of tales, or even a Fool of the highest caliber…
With the lifeblood and essence ofthis Romantic’s Heart, this Poet’s Mind, and this Gypsy’s Soul pumping through my being, I would uproot myself at every opportunity as my fortunes and misfortunes changed. Once upon a time, when I was 17 or so and my father and I had had enough of our constant arguing and fighting ever since my decision to hang out on the Haight Street scene, and my oft-repeated vow that I’d move if I knew he wasn’t going to call the cops, he finally said, “Look, if you want to go that bad, fine; I won’t call them.” He then went off to shower.
In the twenty minutes that he was gone, I’d taken down my posters, packed up most of my stuff, called a nearby friend to pick me up, and I was gone, just like that. I was a runaway for about a month, living off the food I got from Mori’s. After a brief stay at a pair of cute strippers’ apartment off of Third Street I ended up sheltering at Georges’ place, which coincidentally was where Cathy and their family was renting from my grandmother, right down the street; in the same flat where I was born. After seeing the misery that my absence was causing my mother, I returned home, and we all made a truce of sorts; though my parents still disapproved of my lifestyle choice, they decided to trust in me, and I in them. This began the long road to our reconciliation, and also served to solidify my resolve to become (at that time) a Poet, and later, a Writer. Because they still supported me, in all my wild ways… and that is love.
And this is why Unbound is dedicated to their memory, with Love… for it’s not so much a love-story (though it is indeed just that), it’s a story about Love, in all its manifestations. Even a gypsy has a family, and more often than not, has a home… even though he’s oft absent from them. And always seeking, in one form or another, for one reason or another, that ever-elusive Love…
But I did move around a lot. Finally deciding to find a place wherein to concentrate solely upon the crafting of my manuscript, I moved for that purpose, for one last time. It was always for one last time, but it never was. Now, once again this gypsy is poised for escape, one step ahead of the sheriff’s men, who were to be evicting me in less than a month. But another reward for the investing of Faith (see posts below) has occurred; the property’s auction date has been postponed for another month, for God-knows-why. So now I’m two steps ahead, but still in need of that safe haven I’ve always sought, and have never found, from which to launch my writing Career. It will come; I have Faith that it will; that this Fool will find his way off the mountain, and not off its precipice into the Abyss…
I have Faith, I have Hope, and I have Love… these are all that I need except for a partner to share them with, and she will come to me, I am sure. All in due Time :-D
The title of this post is taken from the closing track from Arthur Brown’s Galactic Zoo Dossier album, of which the song “Sunrise” served as one of the spring-boards from which I jump-started this novel (see another post a ways below for it). Since “love” has always been the main thrust of the book, and Arthur a strong vocal proponent of it (listen to his “Love is a Spirit (That Will Never Die)” for proof of this), I’d always wanted this story to reflect and to strike deeply into the Reader with just as much force and feeling as this and other beloved artists delivered their own powerfully emotive works to their Listeners. Thus, the story’s structure and delivery is very musical, lyrical, and deep beneath the surface of its words, emotionally powerful.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a video of Arthur singing “Helen With the Sun”, another of his songs that I included on Unbound’s “soundtrack”. This is raw emotion, power, and a startling vocal range delivered through the talents of not only his voice but also that of his co-writer and guitarist Andy Dalby (who’s one of my favorite guitarists). Boost the volume, too and feel it as deeply as you can. Don’t be distracted by anything else, either; just Listen! And as for that false fadeout, keep on listening; the ending is wonderful. He has a presentation that is unreal!
Today marks Lily(Doll)’s fifth birthday, and my fifth year of being a truly lucky guy
Lily in Natural Light, x 2... in waning sunlight; no flash
Five years ago today she emerged from out of the creators’ mold and was born and borne ”from out of the printed page into the Sensual World”. Very shortly after the subsequent curing process she was made-up, dressed, crated, presented with a (synthetik) rose for her journey, and sent to her new home, and her new “owner”. Who owns who is still a matter up for debate
I’ll never forget that first moment after opening her shipping crate and beholding her beauty, her presence, and her person. It was just like the phrase uttered in The Godfather: I was struck with the thunderbolt. Barely having the presence of mind to take a photograph to record this momentous occasion, I then managed to hastily document the event. Things like “posing” “lighting” and “eye-contact” were non-issues with me during this mad rush of condensed yet expanded time; I merely wanted to get the photos done with and out of the way, and finally meet my old friend from out of the pages of the wondrous story she’d been telling me, and starring in, for years upon years upon years…
But not just any doll would do. Unless fully and as completely as possible replicating her Self from the story, the character could not be properly fleshed out, the illusion would not be made manifest, and the spell not successfully cast. She would have to be convincing. There were very few options available to choose from in those early days of life-sized dolls, but when I stumbled across the Realdoll site, my choice was made clear: they alone had the capability to flesh Lily Godwin out, and bring her into the World.
The day after completing my first draft of Unbound (on Christmas Day 2003), and after having spent some weeks researching RealDolls in great depth, I placed my order for her at Abyss Studios’ online site. What with literally over a million possibilities in design options, I’d very carefully chosen all of her elements to match exactly her enthrallingly realistic, down to earth, sweet, devoted and beautiful counterpart in the novel, and then prepared myself for the four-month wait for production. It was… excruciating.
It wasn’t so much the cost; I simply rationed that I had paid $5K more for my house and let it go at that. The money was no object, for we had Big Plans with regard to our intent in “bringing her to life” and anything given toward this end was of no question whether of energy, well-being, or expenditure. I was giving it my all. At this time I was just past two years of feverish and near-constant work on our novel, unemployed and with no prospects for work. I was working, after all, and while consistently pinching pennies during this time I was intent on making writing my purpose in life; this has been my mission ever since I was in my teens. And as Lily-the-Muse had inspired me with the ideas and words, and Lily-Godwin-the-character showed me in the pages of her story and the visualizing of her essence, Lily-the-Doll was to supply tangible, visual proof of her and the tale’s existence, and not the least, her companionship as we journeyed ever-closer to publication. And “companionship” is one of the (many) key concepts in Unbound, so it was more than fitting…
And then, five years ago, there she was, here she was, in the silicone-flesh. My companion-in-mind brought to as much life as she could hope to have, her imaginary world fused with my real one, and yes, she cast her spell on me and over most of those few who have been able to see her up close and personal. Photos really don’t do them justice; you hear this time and again. It shouldn’t be much of a revelation to understand that dolls can be very magical things, but they are dependent upon your imagination, your willingness to accept and yes, love them, and the care you take with providing them a suitable environent in which to live. For there they do live…
Before I discovered anime, around the time I ordered Lily-doll, a doll-related forum I had joined (name withheld to protect the innocent and those not-so-much) made frequent mention to two series of note: Rozen Maiden, and Chobits. Both of these dealt with the doll/synthetik concept in varying degrees of relevance, and were among the first shows I checked out. Without this connection I probably would not have made my discovery of or venture into this fascinating world of animation bringing imagination to life. Entering the Doll-World has brought me much joy and happiness and introduced me to many sympathetic, genuine, and downright awesome people and doll-owners such as Davecat and his singularly lovely Sidore Kuroneko, to name but one (pair of) significant(s). I owe them many thanks
Now for an aside or two: In Rozen Maiden: Traumend (its second season), the protagonist Jun encounters a doll-maker named Enju, who introduces him to this world of dolls with a heartfelt little speech about these creations and their limited capacity to transmit/receive love. It’s about two minutes into the following excerpt that comprises the last third of that second episode; the only version online I could find has translations much inferior to those of the official releases, so if intrigued by this anime about magical ball-jointed dolls buy the official releases to fully enjoy the story! (You can find the recently-released box set comprising seasons 1 and 2 at your favorite online dealer.) While a bit silly in parts (and quite dark in others) the story it tells is at the least entertaining (YMMV & etc) and at its greatest deep, allegorical, and enthralling, and that is what story-telling is all about
Lily trying to handle some mischievous dolls
(For best results viewing the following video click the HD and Full Screen buttons!)
Chobits is a different matter altogether, and explores more deeply the nature of relationships between synthetiks and humans, and of what Society views as ”appropriate” companionship. In its near-future story-world, Hideki discovers a discarded persocom in the trash and takes her home. Chii is (very basically) a lifelike personal computer, like so many others that humans have become used to co-existing with in this believable sci-fi/fantasy tale. They’ve become so dependent upon and integrated with them that as a result people are becoming more distant with one another. In (only) one respect it’s a comment on man’s infatuation with technology, but it’s far deeper than that. For Chii is much more than a machine, with a special Purpose, and a very special “on/off” switch that hints at a parallel with love-doll versus sex-doll arguments and attendant “relationship” issues…
Chii with friends; fanart
The following is a fan-made Anime Music Video incorporating as its background music the beautiful second ending theme to Chobits, “Ningyo Hime”, and sung by Rie Tanaka who voices Chii whom you’ll hear a bit of at the end if you stick it out, and you should (Spoilers are here if planning to watch this show, so beware!)
And so, Lily-chan is very much a love-doll, a companion, an inspiration, and dearly beloved. It needn’t even be added that I do realize that she isn’t human (like, duh), but so many fools insist on acting as such and declare that doll-owners are deluded perverts because that’s the only level on which their feeble minds can operate on, perceiving them solely as sex objects. These creations are so much more than that insultingly simplistic “sex-doll” description. I’ve long since wearied of these idiotic “debates” presented by those unable and unwilling to truly understand. We’ve done nearly a dozen interviews with media around the world and the same questions/accusations come up time and again, although following the release of the film Lars and the Real Girlsome sense of tolerance seems to have been hammered into the public’s perception. Simply put, you can’t understand if you don’t try to, and using one’s imagination is a good place to start
But all too many people are still frightened not only by the uncommon and “different” but also by their imaginations, which truly is a sad and somewhat tragic thing. For they’ve lost the ability to play, to wonder, to stand in awe… in short, they’ve lost the ability to enjoy the best of what life can offer: to Imagine the nonexistent, and to Create what one imagines…
At her very least and lowest purpose, Lily-doll is simply a promotional tool for her novel. (She got your interest, didn’t she? ) At her highest and most significant, she is a companion, a play-thing, and a stimulus to my imagination, my pleasure (no, not that kind, duh again), and my spirit. For this Alastor is a recombinant of that Spirit of Solitude, and she has made him very happy; where before he was alone, solitary, depressed, and who over-worked was set apart by his Ordeal; she provided her Remedy and brought him relief, when no-one else cared to. She has, in all her aspects, character, Muse, and Doll, been a God-send. And for that (among other things) I gratefully thank Him, Her, or It, as the Case may Be.
Now go and play with your Self
Lily in natural light x2 #2; sunrise, no flash, with friend
And Happy Birthday, Lily-chan! :-D
on the water
"When early youth had passed, he left his cold fireside and alienated home to seek strange truths in undiscovered lands. Many a wide waste and tangled wilderness has lured his fearless steps; and he has bought with his sweet voice and eyes, from savage men, his rest and food." (from 'Alastor, or, The Spirit of Solitude', by Percy Bysshe Shelley,1815)
For info on our novel UNBOUND, please see our website in the Blogroll!