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Friday, July 30, 2010
War and Creation.
Pictures from top to bottom: Adrian, Lam, and Melanka Joy
"The opposite of war isn't peace but creation." -Jonathan Larson
One night in February I had vision. In this vision I saw lots of color, I heard lots of laughter, and felt lots of hug. In this vision I had a family, a family, not of blood, but of pure love and acceptance. I couldn't see their faces, but I could feel their energy….
Sometimes, in moments of solitude and quite, my mind will drift back to a year ago. To a time when I was heartbroken and scared; a moment in my life when I was convinced my journey on this earth would be spent alone with no one to trust and no one to love. This time last year, out of my own personal darkness, I decided to move. With sadness in my heart, I decided to start over again. Only one year ago, everything was different. Only one year ago, the people I have grown to love and cherish, were complete strangers to me. But as they say, a lot can happen in a year, and as I learned in my 12 month journey, if I let the universe do what it needs to do, nothing bad will happen and everything will be as it should. Twelve months of massive change in my life. Twelve months of massive growth, and only 12 months to find a massive amount of happiness, love, and family. Ironically the relationships that mean so much to me now, came in the form of an octopus with 12 tentacles called Dodekapus.
Dodekapus, an Atlanta based art collective consisting of artist in every medium, is a group of revolutionaries. With most of its members young people in his or her 20s, Dodekapus has become a resourceful family who laugh, love, and create. A peaceful group of bohemians who not only desire change, but work to make it happen. A group of young people, who in rejecting what society has taught them as truth, moved on from these said teachings to seek truth for themselves.
Within this group there are three people, three friends, three artist, with three stories of their own.
The first time I REMEMBER seeing Adrian, I was standing in line to go to the bathroom at the Dodekapus April 9th show. As I’ve since looked back at footage I recorded**(see below) at the show, I realize now that it actually was Adrian’s fault I had to wait for 20 minutes to use the bathroom in the first place, and seeing him while waiting for the bathroom was, in fact, NOT the first time I had laid eyes on him. While the sun was still up earlier that day, the show had started, and I arrived in Castleberry Hill, late. When I walked in, two men were doing a dance called Capoeira. Of course, me being ignorant to this type of dance, I pulled my flip out to record what I was seeing. They all had yellow shirts on, and Adrian, as I now realize, had a green bandanna wrapped around his head. Bongo drums, tambourines, and other instruments played beside the dancers as they did, what I would call a rather mystical yet somewhat gymnastic inspired form of movement. As the dance progressed, the beats of the drums intensified, and before I knew it, the spiritual world awakened. As I held my flip recorder, I felt the familiar feeling of spirits touching me. I could feel my hair tugged and my shirt pulled. Spirits or no spirits, I was not going to miss this show. So doing what any normal person would do to escape the reality of his or her own personal situation, I turned to Haley (who at that point was also experiencing paranormal pulls and tugs), and simply asked, “Where is the beer?” Haley grabbed my hand and escorted me to the corner of the room. Haley and her boyfriend had a cooler full. All three of us grabbed a can, popped them open, and drank… a lot. I had no intention of drinking at all that night, and if Adrian’s group had not danced, I would not have had to use the restroom. But to be honest, I’m glad they danced, I’m glad I drank, and I’m glad I stood in line to go to the bathroom.
While waiting, with the sharp and intense pain of a full bladder, I stood amongst strangers cursing myself for wearing my skinny jeans, and thus, feeling like if I didn’t pee soon, the button of jeans was going to snap right off. To distract myself from my misery I looked through the crowd to people watch. Directly in front of me stood a Latin looking, rather attractive man doing a live painting. This man had on a red tailcoat, the arms cut off, a red hat, and face paint. I watched as he drew this perfectly straight line across the canvas. Watching the intensity coming from him as he focused on his piece was a pleasure to see, and my focus was only broken when it was my turn to go to the bathroom. This man in the red coat, as it turned out, was Adrian.
A few weeks passed, and the memory of watching Adrian paint became just that, a memory. It wasn’t until a few meeting into my arrival in Dodekapus that I got to know Adrian, and realized who he was. After getting to know him I’ve learned that not only is Adrian a talented painter, he’s does amazing sculptures, dances, plays the guitar, plays the drums, and if I do say so myself, is an incredible writer. He is what one would call “A Jack of All Trades.” But not only is Adrian an amazing artist, not only is he Dodekapus’ Revolutionary leader, but he’s also a great man. One that opens his home to his Dodeka family all the time, one that always greets his companions with a hug, one with a great sense of humor, and one with a kind heart.
To my recollection, I’ve never told Adrian about the first time I saw him. I never thought it important to share, but I am thankful I got to see him work. I am thankful for this growing friendship, and most importantly, I am thankful for his presence in my life.
I’ll absolutely NEVER forget the first time I saw Lam, but with Lam, I think that’s true with anyone who crosses his path. How could one forget him? At 5’3,” sharp, skinny, and lean, Lam walked into Java Lords on a Sunday morning in April with tight black pants on, a tight black shirt, and a wide rimmed black hat to block the sun. As a collective, we were going up to the main corner of Little 5 Points to feed the hungry. We weren’t just handing out food left, right, and center. In order for the hungry to eat, they had to either a) draw something on the sidewalk, or on paper provided by us b) play a musical instrument, again, provided by us or c) do some sort of performance art. As we all left Java Lords, and walked up Euclid to the main corner of L5Ps, I noticed that Lam was holding a scarf that wrapped around a deck of cards. Once in the courtyard, Lam sat down under a tree and unwrapped his cards. They were tarot cards. While everyone dispensed art supplies, and set up the food table, I watched as Lam, very quickly start reading the cards for people passing by. My curiosity about Lam grew as the day progressed. After finishing up a Tarot card reading for Haley, she told me that Lam was, also, in a burlesque troop with her. As the only drag burlesque performer in the group, “Lam with a B,” acts were always a huge success, and I looked forward to seeing him preform in the future.
A few days later, Haley and I wound up at a friend’s house for a small get together. We arrived a little late because Haley had just come back from a photo shoot with her burlesque troop. At the house, our friend had transformed his front living room into a fort, with sheets stapled to the walls and pillows lining the floor. Haley and I took our shoes off and climbed in through the manmade, tarp tunnel around the front door. We started talking and laughing with the others at the gathering, and after awhile it came out that I, like Haley, could communicate with the dead. Many people wanted me to do quick readings, and I agreed only if we could step outside, one at a time, so I could focus on the one person’s energy and not be interrupted by other energies in the space. Once outside, I started to read for people, but as I was finishing up one reading, I heard a click, click, click of high heels coming down the street. I turned around, and there was Lam in a beautiful silk dress with high heels, a wrap around his head, and in beautiful make up. Because he is in the same burlesque troop with Haley, he too had just arrived from a photo shoot, and he looked magnificent.
“I’m Lam,” he said, extending his hand to me once he got to the front door. Lam and I never formally met that Sunday in Little 5 Points.
“Brice. I’m Haley’s friend. Nice to meet you,” I said taking his hand.
Lam and I spoke outside about my gifts as a paranormal, and he told me about his gifts reading palms and Tarot cards.
“Who’s my spirit guide?” Lam asked me, as he pulled me over to the side. I read for Lam that night, and in return, he read my palm and cards for me.
In the grown up fort, in East Atlanta, Lam and I became friends. With our growing friendship, I’ve learned a lot about Lam. As a trained Operatic singer, Lam’s voice brings me tears at times. As a dancer, his moves on the dance floor make we want to take dancing lessons. As a drag burlesque queen and women’s study minor, his understanding of a woman’s fight in the world teaches me compassion and helps me feel less alone. Probably one of the best, most fun, and draining things Lam and I have done together is the Dodeka Spirit Tent. At any Dodekapus festival, with the loving support of our fellow collective members, there will be a tent set up with Lam, Haley, our Reiki guy Kregg, and me ready to do readings.
In reality though, the highlight of our friendship transpired in the men’s room at Estoria Bar one evening. After walking from a show on the beltline***(see below), I had to use the restroom (again). The line for the ladies room was very long, my friends suggested that I just go into the men’s room. I walked in. The other men in there looked at me funny, but pointed me to the stall. After sitting in the stall for a moment, the stage fright crept it. I left the bathroom, and saw Lam waiting for me outside.
“Did you go?” Lam asked.
“No! There were too many men in there. I got scared.”
“Come on, Baby,” Lam replied back. With that, Lam grabbed my hand and walked right into the bathroom stall with me. He held the door closed and talked to me as I went the bathroom leaving me with a memory I will never forget.
Lam and I will not only spend our lives laughing together, playing together, and creating together, but we will spend time, with Haley, growing together within the gifts the Universe gave us. It’s no coincidence that we met. It was no accident. I always laugh and say, “When our powers combine...” And no, Captain Planet does not arrive, but something does. A mystical force that the three us can’t even explain, and in a time of change and Revolution in the world, Lam is someone I am happy to call family and have by my side.
“Girl! You don’t need a man,” were the first words Melanka ever said to me.
On an April evening, not too long after the Dodekapus April 9th show, Haley and I found ourselves sitting on sofa, in a friend’s apartment, talking about the hardships of being paranormal. Haley, being in a very healthy relationship with a man that fully accepts her abilities as a paranormal, listened as I talked of my struggles with dating. Even though Haley’s boyfriend was ok with Haley’s gifts, she understands that the hardest part about this ability isn’t the attacks and constant visits, it’s frankly, dating. What man wants that bomb dropped on him? What man is willing to accept not only my gifts, but the weird, unexplainable phenomenon that tends to happen around me? For example, doors open and closing, to the normal eyes, by themselves. Who wants to sit with me and watch items being moved around, or my hair being pulled, or the TV turning on and off, again, by itself. Sure, some guys have found it “cool,” but then those are the ones that I tend to feel exploited by, and tend to only focus on that side of me and not everything else, which is not a healthy relationship. Other men tend to act like they’re ok with it, but the minute something “weird” happens or the minute I know something about them (the psychic part in me) that they did not tell me, it sends them running for the hills.
“Seriously! You don’t need a man!” Melanka said as she sat down beside me clutching a can a beer. Here she sat, this beautiful girl, long blonde hair with a red bandanna wrapped around her head, cut off shorts, glasses, and barefoot. She folded her legs up on the sofa to sit Indian style, rested her beer between her legs, and turned her face towards me. Looking dead into my eyes with her piercing, blue eyes, she smiled, and said, “Why do you think you need a man?”
Being completely caught off guard by this stranger, I smiled back at her, and sheepishly said, “I guess I don’t.”
I watched Melanka as she lifted her beer and took another sip. Really? Why wasn’t she freaked out about our paranormal discussion. Most people always have something to say about my abilities. She, for the first time in my life, was someone who honestly did not seem phased one way or the other. Instead, she spent the rest of the night reassuring me, someone she did not know, of my strength and independence as a woman.
As the night came to a close, and we all gathered our things to return to our homes, Melanka reached over to me and gave a huge hug. I have to be honest, it shocked me, but I was glad she hugged me goodbye. When I left, I honestly thought I would never see this girl again, but I was gladly mistaken.
The very next day, when we, as Dodekapus, went to Little 5 Points to feed the hungry, there she was. As it turns out, Melanka not only was she in Dodekapus, she, with Lam, was its creator. It was their brainchild. As we got to the corner of Little 5, Melanka greeted me with a hug again. She grabbed art supplies, handed them to me, and we, with the rest of the group, set up. Never once did she treat me like a stranger. From the minute I met her, in a very comfortable way, she treated me like someone she knew and trusted.
As time past, Melanka and I grew closer. Our conversations grew even more personal, and what started off as two people seeing each other twice a week at Dodeka meetings ended up as two friends talking to and/or seeing each other almost every single day. It wasn’t until one night at Star Bar, months after meeting her, that she brought up my abilities.
“I just want you to know I have a lot of respect for you,” Melanka said to Haley and me behind a crowd of screaming people.
“For what?” I said back to her.
“For your paranormal gifts. I think it’s cool you help people,” she said with a smile.
It shocked me! I honestly didn't think she remembered what Haley and I were talking about that fateful night Melanka and I met.
“Thanks!” I replied.
One Saturday, at Atlanta's Land Trust, there was a festival, Freedom Fest, and Dodekapus was there with our own booth. Next to our booth, we had our spirit tent where Lam, Haley, Kregg, and I worked with people. As the day progressed, Melanka pulled me aside to do a reading, but instead of reading in the tent, we jumped the fence and climbed into a tree house, and for an hour, I read for Melanka, deepening our friendship even more. At the end of the reading, I gave her my evil eye necklace to keep her safe, and told her that I believed she, too, had a gift of vision. I told her that, like my story, Dodekapus was something bigger than our collective. We are warriors for change, and we grow together with our change by creation.
Melanka, like Adrian and Lam, is someone I plan to have in my family forever. She is someone to whom I would give the shirt off my back. What started off as a random girl sitting beside me at a random party has not only become a true friend, but a very important part of my life.
For more information on Dodekapus Art Collective please go to www.dodekapus.org, http://dodekapus.blogspot.com, or visit us on facebook and twitter.
For more information in Lam's performances, please visit Minette Magnifique or "Lam with a B" on facebook.
***Atlanta's beltine is 22 miles of old railroad tracks that run throughout Atlanta. There are now art projects on the Beltline open to public viewing. Dodekapus has a structure, Wickerpus, under Freedom Parkway's section of the beltline.
"Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial art, music, and dance. It was created in Brazil by slaves sometime after the sixteenth century"- Wikipedia
**Below is the video that I recoded of Adrian's Capoeira at Dodekapus' April 9th show.