Goddesses of Stage and Screen and of the Universe
Chapter from upcoming sequel to Memories and Musings of a
Post-Postmodern Nomadic Mystic Madman
I met Fran fairly soon after I returned to Laramie from my time on the Hudson. A lissome and lovely blond, Fran was often observed baring a piercing inquisitive gaze, head and neck bent slightly to the fore as if she were leaning forward to gain a slightly closer look at whomever or whatever she happened to be assessing. Fran seemed always poised to proffer some acerbic commentary, but never quite came across as anywhere near so venomous as her somewhat serpent-like form and intense gaze might seem to indicate, and in fact proved to be rather sweet. Fran was/is in a Laramie/Ft. Collins based punk rock band, Sunnydale High, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer themed punk rock band.
Sunnydale High played a show one evening in the summer of 2016 at The Great Untamed, Laramie's best and only mead bar. I went to the show and enjoyed the song, Fran on the keyboard and vocals and some other dudes I didn't know on drums, guitars and vocals.
The Great Untamed is not a particularly grand venue, just a simple and cozy meadery on 3rd Street in Laradise, with a bar with a well stocked shelf of chocolate, marsh rosemary, heather, basil-mint, basswood show, bochet, ginger, cranberry and cardamom mead, amongst the selections. Scott is the proprietor, one of a number of well loved Scotts that have owned cool storefronts in downtown Laramie over the years. Another Scott has run Laramie's longest standing head-shop and hippy mercantile, Terrapin Station, for decades, and another Scott just recently retired to his hacienda in Mexico after having been proprietor of Laramie's best retailer for custom-made mountain gear and sometimes absurd yet fun and useful bric a brac, Atmosphere Mountainworks.
I sat on the floor towards the back of the first room, my back to the bar, and as a conspicuously single man I was admittedly perusing the audience at least as much as I was attending to the music, noting and perhaps catching the eye of some of the conspicuously single women present. One particular woman who was standing in the broad passage between the two rooms and across from me piqued my curiosity, as she was likely the only person in the room who I had never seen before, save for some of the band members. She was quite attractive and fairly tall, had long brown hair she wore in a pony tail, and appeared to be at the show alone. As the show ended said woman approached the band and seemed to know them, or at least seemed an over-attendant groupie. Of course, she would be girlfriend to someone in the band! I thought.
I went home to my studio apartment and as per my habit turned on my laptop and started a video to entertain myself before going to sleep. As I had just been to see a Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme band, I of course played an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as I had the whole series downloaded. I chose an episode from season 5. As I viewed the video, it suddenly occurred to me that the woman I had seen at the Sunnydale High show earlier in the evening was “Dawn,” played by Michelle Trachtenburg, introduced in season 5 as Buffy's younger sister. Like most of my celebrity encounters, it was only later (often while watching television shows or a movie) that I was conveyed to the realization that I had encountered one of the stars of the show “in real life.”
Dawn's character figures rather like Lalitha in Hindu mythology, by my reading anyhow. Dawn is manifest into human form by the chanting of three monks sitting in a circle and facing each other. According to one myth, Devi Lalitha is manifest when Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma all focus their respective third eyes together to allow Her to manifest from formlessness to physical incarnation. Devi Lalitha is the Goddess of Divine Play, and is Maha (Great) Shakti, the most transcendent expression of Shakti or Ma Durga, the Most Powerful Goddess of them all. Buffy very much thus fits the archetype of Durga, I might also note. Buffy says of Dawn,
“No. She's more than that. She's me. The monks made her out of me. I hold her ... and I feel closer to her than ... (looks down, sighs) It's not just the memories they built. It's physical. Dawn ... is a part of me.”
The next day was Kirtan at Blossom Yoga, which is owned by my friend Miguel, one of the stars of the world-renowned punk band Teenage Bottlerocket. I slid my boots off in the hall and slipped in about five minutes after the chanting had begun. As I placed a cushion under my butt at the end of one semi-circular row of kirtan singers, I noticed that the woman I had determined was Michelle Trachtenburg was sitting right next to me to my right. She glanced at me only briefly and continued chanting “Hare Krishna” or “AUM Namah Shivaya” or a Goddess chant or some such Sanskrit mantra. I pulled out my phone to record the chanting, as I had tried to do at a previous meeting of Laramie Kirtan, but immediately considered that Miss Trachtenburg might think me trying to get a photo of her and so slid my phone back into my pocket else set it on the floor. After the last mantra was intoned and Ron, the kirtan leader, started to recite the Hanuman Chalisa, I went out to sit in the hall and put on my boots. I was intending to try to talk to miss Trachtenburg when she came out of the yoga studio hall, looking up toward the door and waiting somewhat anxiously for her to emerge through the open door. As I tied one set of laces, she walked rather briskly out of the door and past me and very swiftly made her way out the front door before I could finish putting on my boots and endeavor to inoffensively and respectfully approach her, to ask her if she enjoyed the kirtan or something.
Ever since I started to watch the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, sometime around 2008 or so, I noticed startling coincidences between the show and various Hindu mythological figures. Whether by Joss Whedon's conscious intent or no, any number of parallels seem clear enough, and there is enough reason to assume some of the parallels were indeed intended. In the dream sequence that introduces the first episode after the credits, visions of tombs and crypts are followed by a sequence showing a Shiva Nataraja murti (sacred statue). The same murti sits in a prominent place in Giles's (Buffy's supervisor or “Watcher”) office in at least one other episode. To my eye, the whole of the series did seem to very well if somewhat subtly archetypally present at least some semblance of Goddess Ma Durga, if she were a high school cheerleader. Both the first “replacement Slayer” and the later introduced “First Slayer” are, in said guise, clear multiforms of Kali Ma, “Black Mama” to put it in the vernacular.
Several months later Sunnydale High held an EP release show at 8 Bytes Game Cafe, just a few storefronts down from The Great Untamed. 8 Bytes was crowded, as fans of the band and of the TV series filled both the bar and the room with the stage, and the video game and pinball room in the back, too. I was very much expecting to see someone from the cast of the series, and danced near the back of the crowd to look over the scene, admittedly scanning the audience for Sarah Michelle Gellar or James Marsters (“Spike”) to appear amidst the throng. I soon enough noticed an attractive not quite middle age woman with dark blond hair dancing just a few feet to my left, and determined that if anyone I had noticed in the audience might be a BTVS cast member, it would be said woman. “Tara!” I thought to myself.
She seemed to notice me or my moves, glancing my way with a slight smile granted as I turned my head to look her way, perhaps briefly making eye contact with me and getting down to the beats and the groove and at times even slightly brushing against me as she swung her arms and hips to the rhythm. At set break I went to the bar for another beer or some such, and when I returned noticed the woman in question was standing by the entrance with a relatively short fellow who looked to me like so many twenty or thirty-something Laramie punks, Teenage Bottlerocket fans and the likes who generally wear leather or denim jackets and short spiked or subdued mohawk hairdos, and so I immediately questioned my assumption that the lovely woman was “Tara,” or Amber Benson rather, as I would later determine the actress's name to be. I enjoyed the rest of the show, having decided I must be conflating some random graduate student with “Tara,” and then did go home to my apartment to watch an episode or two, and readily determined that it had indeed been Amber Benson at the Sunnydale High EP release show, and that the fellow with her was almost certainly Adam Busch, the actor who played Warren, a wannabe “supervillain” in the show, who the tabloids did tout was once in a relationship with Amber Benson and is still good friends with her.
Fran told me she didn't know of either of these cameo appearances, of “Dawn” and “Tara” and “Warren,” though she said that the other members of Sunnydale High were the BTVS fans, and that she'd only seen a few episodes. I might also add, almost as an addendum, to add to the absurdity and unbelievability of my telling, that I am not disinclined to believe I saw Sarah Michelle Gellar sitting in front of Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse shortly after I had first arrived back in Laramie, fresh from encounters with two BTVS vengeance demons, Emma Caulfield and Kali Roche, on the patio at Bank Square Coffee in Beacon, NY.
I had just filled my mug inside, and stepped out to take a seat at one of the sidewalk tables to enjoy the sunshine. As I rolled a smoke, I turned my head and eyes a bit to the left to noticed that a woman sitting at the table to my left was wearing a pair of black pants, not quite what I suppose are properly called “yoga pants,” as they were loose fitting, with two or three white stripes running down the seam of each leg. At my first glimpse of her slacks, my Hollywood star radar kicked in.
“Those are Hollywood pants!!” I thought as my gaze then rose to notice that the woman sitting at the next table was blond, and that she wore very large dark sunglasses. I at first considered that the seeming star somewhat in disguise might be Emma Caulfield, as I had twice encountered her under curious circumstances in Beacon, NY, but upon reconsideration determined that the mysterious woman who sat at the sidewalk table to my left was Sarah Michelle Gellar, as at a glance the two Hollywood stars do bear a similar appearance. I haven't told so many people about this encounter as I neither had someone else to vouch for my assessment, perhaps to look up Sarah Michelle Gellar's latest internet photos on his or her phone to compare, as I had done when I asked James, the barista on duty at Bank Square in Beacon when I first saw Emma Caulfield sitting on the patio at said establishment, nor was there another overt reason for said star to be in town, as there would be when Sunnydale High (likely the only active BTVS-themed band in America—though I'm guessing there might be one in Japan) was playing a show in Laramie. For those factors, and as I didn't have very long to thoroughly yet inconspicuously examine her visage, obscured as it was behind large dark sunglasses, and as said suspected Hollywood star soon departed from the sidewalk seating at Night Heron, never again to be seen by me in Laramie. Certainly one of the tellings of my Hollywood star encounters that I am myself least certain of, nonetheless it seemed worthy of inclusion, with the aforementioned caveat, in this telling of one of my many twisted tales to tell.
And yet another odd addendum . . . Walked into the Buckhorn Bar one evening in August of last year and noticed a woman with bleach-blond short hair, cut rather like Miley Cyrus's was a few years previous, who was wearing a mid-length form-fitting dress and flitting about the bar. One of the woman's companions had two-toned past shoulder length hair, blond towards the end and brown towards the roots. Though it was her companion, a less petite doppel with the short blond hair, that inspired me to look up images of Miley Cyrus, when comparing pictures from the internet it became apparent that the woman with the two-toned hair was in fact the real Miley Cyrus.
I was at the Buckhorn the next evening for Sunday Open Mic and noticed the taller doppel who wore the short blond, pre-two toned Miley hairstyle, was sitting at one of the booths. I approached her and after a bit of small talk I inquired if her friend who had been there with her the night before was Miley Cyrus. She looked both ways and said that her friend with her the previous night was indeed Miley Cyrus, then asked of me, “Please don't tell anyone!!” Well, I do apologize, but it's been well over a year since then, and said vignette does fit far too well in this telling to ignore this intriguing Hollywood star encounter. If Miss Cyrus herself had requested of me to keep my mouth shut or my keyboard from clacking, I would certainly have respected her request, but as it all did manifest, this stuff's to good to forego adding to these true tellings of this “nobody” at play (being toyed with?) by the stars, and seemingly and contiguously, sometimes by veritable Goddesses or Gods.
Though the abundance of bizarre stories of my encounters with Hollywood stars might lead the average reader to readily conclude that I am quite delusional (not to mention so many other scarce believable tellings I've told and have yet to tell), I must note that I am exceedingly self-critical regarding my own assessments of the amazing and the unlikely that I encounter and observe, always ready to give ear to a “rational, scientific” critique of my interpretations of the fantastic I've seen and experienced. Certainly there is some particular point to this particular lila, these uncanny encounters, this seeming grand Hollywood production that uses no cameras, that is projected onto the screen of the day-to-day of my experiencings.
Perhaps it was some curse (else consolation prize?) for my failed marriage to Holly who is now Holly Wood? Certainly some subtle esoteric principle or plot is at play in the presentation of these strange cameos, vignettes directed and produced and written by an as yet undetermined crew, i.e., undetermined save for the abiding recognition that it is certainly somehow Ma Lalitha Sahasranama, the Playful Mother of the Universe, behind the whole production, but that's always true of everyone's life in some guise or other. The particulars and the point of this peculiar production do still evade me, to whatever degree, though there is certainly some rhyme and likely some reason to this strange screenplay in terms of karma and dharma, in terms of action and justice, but some of my theories are perhaps indescribable and probably too bizarre for the current likely audience, so I shall spare those details at least until I've a better grasp on said absurd story's subtleties. In the meantime, Jaya Devi Shri Lalitha !! Victory to the Goddess Mother of Divine Play and of the Universe !!
Twelve years and eight months had passed since I spent my 33rd birthday with her at the Omega Institute on May 1, 2005. She asked me to meet her at the picturesque lake that is centerpiece of the interfaith and yoga retreat center. We embraced and exchanged greetings, then she briefly left me to go to the kitchen and returned with an apple to give me, I suppose in some guise else inadvertantly to grant an offering to the mendicant sage I was playing since our last parting, i.e., since I had first come to the Omega Institute to bring to her a pillow and some other items I was carrying for her since we left Montreal together with Zunaka, my wolf-dog, on an Amtrak train.
The lake on the Omega Institutes grounds is purportedly the lake that is featured in the film What Dreams May Come, as Robin Williams had apparently spent some time there and was rather fond of the lovely little lake in the hills above Rhinebeck, NY. Their are subtle and rather personal implications to that fact, in terms of the plot of the film and my own life experiences and relationships the which I shan't elucidate and to which I shall only allude. I watched the film with erstwhile girlfriend Meghan and her family, and she touted it her favorite movie. Leslie found something therein quite disturbing, and too much for random chance many elements of the Hollywood film seemed to oddly coincide to certain obscured occurrences having to do with women I've loved and lost, if not overtly to death or suicide.
Our meeting on my 33rd birthday was rather brief, if still symbolically rife. We talked for a while. She told me her malaise was subsiding and that she was healing in the nurturing environment at Omega. We embraced again and then I left, walked and may have hitched a ride back to Rhinebeck, and likely went to the Starr Bar or Pete's Famous Restaurant or the Bread Alone Bakery to have a beer or a coffee, pondering the purport of my faltering Quixotic endeavor.
I returned once more to the Omega Institute a few months later to see Leslie and check on her well-being after a failed attempt to return to Wyoming took me only so far west as Port Clinton, Ohio, as I had not heard from her for some months nor received any responses to a number of emails I had sent her. She was not particularly pleased to see me without having been granted proper notice, and I did not see her again until just last Winter Solstice, 2017, or rather the day after, which happened to be her birthday.
As with many of my mornings, I made my way to a coffeehouse to have a cup and maybe write and research some of the topics regarding which I've taken or found a vital interest, scarce even giving thought that the solstice had just passed. As I walked into Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse, I glance to the left whilst walking towards the counter to get a fill for my cup and noticed an auburn haired woman with a scarf covering her hair, save for her bangs which were wrapped or braided into a number of separate locks or braids, her beautiful brown eyes painted like an Egyptian princess. It took a few moments for me to realize the woman who sat between two others, one older woman with silver highlights in her curly dark locks and one younger woman with lighter hair, was really her I had said goodbye to at the Omega Institute a dozen years previous, who I'd hopped trains in the middle of winter to find in Montreal and subsequently shared an apartment with. As noted, it was the day after the Winter Solstice, which fell on December 21, and thus it was her birthday, approximately twelve years and seven months since I had spent my 33rd birthday with her on May 1, 2005. Auspicious in more than merely a European Pagan guise (May Day and the Solstice and all), I'm sure, and well fitting the love story, if might be called that, at play in our relationship, if might be called that.
I proceeded to the counter and ordered a coffee, rather dumbfounded at the vision of my erstwhile(?) Beloved sitting with her mother and sister (I'm assuming) on either side, still to my vision the most beautiful woman I have ever been blessed to rest my eyes upon, and I dare say most who new her then, and likely now, would not disagree with said assessment. I soon recalled the fact that it was her birthday, the day after the Winter Solstice, perhaps the occasion compelled the three to come over the hill to visit Laramie as likely twas the holiday season generally that was the occasion of her visit from afar to visit family in Wyoming. Once my cup was filled and I poured a splash of cream into my mug, I walked past her table to the condiments counter and quite purposefully and intentionally slowly poured a fair helping of honey into my mixture of coffee and cream. I rather unabashedly gazed at her as the honey slowly started to flow from decanter to my mug, both to ascertain that I was not delusional, and as if expecting her to turn and raise her eyes toward me and perhaps smile, but she held her gaze fixed to the fore, not even glancing at her assumed mother nor sister as she conversed with them, and she certainly did not turn her eyes in the least towards me.
Upon the occasion of our final meeting and parting at the Omega Institute, she had told me that she was trying to cut ties to all save for close family and best of friends, and that she did not much appreciate my unannounced visit on that occasion, a few months after my birthday visit. She embraced me one last time and I departed with my white wolf-dog Zunaka (the dog formerly known as Zeus) and with the intuited understanding that she did not particularly want to see me again. I received one more email from her in which she apologized for harshing me, and that was the last that I had heard or seen of her, save for viewing a few YouTube videos of her belly dancing over the dozen years passed since our last communique, until that sunny if chilly first day of winter.
In light of her last response to my interest and devotion, I determined it would not be fitting to interrupt nor intrude upon her day unbidden. The move was hers, if any was to be made. I decided to go outside and sit at one of Night Heron's sidewalk tables to smoke a cigarette and reconsider and contemplate my proper response, if any:
Should I approach her table, look at her and quizzically if confidently pronounce her name with a slight bow of my head, and await a response? Am I to assume that she still wishes for “ties to be severed,” and thus that I ought go about my business as if she had not seemingly not so randomly appeared on her birthday, after our very meaningful if not (at least to my renderings) sacred meeting on my birthday twelve years and eight months previous? Maybe I should “play it cool,” whateverthefuck that is supposed to mean, and yet position myself to be available if she chooses to approach me and proffer a greeting? perhaps peruse the bookshelves not too far, nor too near, from where she and her companions sit, and . . . and, whatthefuck does this “mean”?! I don't come here every day, and indeed what are the chances we'd just randomly meet on this day of her birth, the day after the Solstice, so many years and days since our last blissful encounter on my birthday, May Day, Beltane or whatever?!
I went inside to get a refill, and I again approached the counter where the honey jar and sugars, natural cane and white, stevia and other sweeteners were kept. I still had an abundance of honey in the bottom of my cup, mind you, but I wanted to reassure myself again that I wasn't dreaming or delusional, and perhaps to grant her a moment wherein she might feel comfortable hailing me. As soon as I had reached the counter with the honey, directly adjacent to the table where she sat, however, she walked around the table and past me, glancing at me out of the corner of her eye as she passed and almost paused, then continued to and up the stairs to the second floor, Spirituality, Musicology, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Goddess, children's section, romance novels, and tables and comfortable armchairs to accommodate cafe patrons and students seeking an inspiring spot to study. Of course I did not follow, though the subtlety and grace of her movements in those moments as she walked past—almost but not quite brushing against me as she passed, supernal and beyond elegant with an air of the transcendent—did further whatever spell she already and still held upon me. I might duly note that when I first typed her professional name and “belly dance” into Google after I/we lost contact, one of two videos that appeared on the screen was her dressed in red bedlah doing a fire and sword dance to a fitting version of “I Put a Spell on You!”
I went back outside and smoked another cigarette with plenty of Cannabis mixed in, and perhaps poured a healthy shot of rum in my coffee. I am rather fuzzy on departures, as I cannot recall if it was her and her party or I who left Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse first. The surreality of those moments left me in a contemplative stupor, the rum in my coffee certainly notwithstanding, not unlike the dumbfounded state I found myself in upon our encounters those years before when she was a barista in Laramie. Whether our last encounter or no, I cannot say. Happy birthday and namaste anyway, lovely Leslie.