The Secret Order of the Hugging Nuns (and SHOWS in L.A. & SAN DIEGO + SECRET LONDON SHOW)
good day, my dear comrades.
before i tell you about the secret order of the hugging nuns, it’s time to go PUBLIC with my first two west coast shows:
OCTOBER 28 in San Diego, while Neil is at WonderCon, i’ll be at the birch north park theater. all ages. 8:30pm.
OCTOBER 29th i’ll be in los angeles at the El Rey with none other than Jason Webley (hooray!) and The Petrojvic Blasting Co. (jason says they’re AMAZING!!!)… (all ages. doors at 8pm.)
the tickets for san diego are on sale NOW at bit.ly/1028tix (you can RSVP at http://on.fb.me/1028rsvp)
the halloween spectacular at the el rey goes on sale july 14th (thursday), at 10am PST at bit.ly/1029tix (you can RSVP at http://on.fb.me/1029rsvp)
…or better yet, sign up for the mailing list so you don’t miss shit, next time: bit.ly/AFPemail
and as for the SECRET LONDON show on sept 5th…the secret is OUT (as tickets went up early).
it’s at the British Library. FANCY.
it’s just me playing ukulele acoustic, and the room, chock full o’ books, only holds about 200 people.
the tickets will fly. they’re on sale as of this very moment….get them HERE.
update 7/12: tickets for this show have sold out. very sorry if you weren’t able to get one, but perhaps we’ll tweet away one or two, closer to the show. follow @amandapalmer and @AFPwire on twitter to see if we do…
so last night i took the train from new york to boston. i decided at 5:30 to get on the 7pm train and i just barely made it.
i’ve been living between two cities and treating amtrak like a subway, trying not to nail myself down to any specific schedule…just bouncing where i think i need to bounce.
nothing new about that. i love the train. the train is a good place for thinking. people also talk to each other more and act differently than they do on a plane. they’re friendlier.
the staff make jokes. i now have a routine at penn station. a place i buy the paper. a little sushi stand where i buy food for the trip. and a tights and socks store where i reward myself for being a traveler by buying one pair of tights each time i commute. i’ve actually stopped doing that every time. my tights drawer has become overbloated.
the coast between boston and new york is actually gorgeous and the train hugs the shoreline, rolling along through neighborhoods and marshes, alongside boat docks on one side and forests on the other. planes give you up-perspective, trains give you through-perspective, traveling at the speed of life instead of at the speed of aliens.
looking out the window of the train makes me calm, especially in the late afternoon…my mind drifts and collapses, and if i’m feeling like i can afford to spend the time, i buy the paper and read it cover to cover. but usually i can’t afford it; usually i’ve promised myself that i’m going to spend three or four solid hours catching up on email.
which is what i promised myself last night.
when i boarded the train at penn at 7pm, it was packed enough that there were no single seats. only a long row of people having already claimed window seats, leaving a wide variety of companion options. i love this part. you get to pick your mate. some people absolutely emanate hatred to ensure their privacy, some people actually pile up bags on the empty seat to make sure nobody will claim it.
i always wonder how and why i decide how i decide. i try to pick people who look Nice and who won’t be irritated by me. this shit works both ways. there are people who take joy in watching me scroll through options for press photos in semi flagrante delicto, and there are those who are put off by the very idea that the Weird Chick With The Eyebrows is sharing their personal space.
so there i was, mate shopping, when i saw the asian monk. he was in his mid to late seventies, all bald and wrinkled and buddhist-looking, wrapped from head to toe in a monk-robe-wrap, you know, those browny-orange numbers they wind around themselves very toga-like. i like monks. i noticed that his robe, which if spread out was probably the size of a california king bedsheet, was spilling over into the empty seat beside him and i wondered if that was a monk symbol for Leave Me The Fuck Alone or if he just couldn’t contain the shit. so i approached him with some caution and made a subtle move for the seat to see if he’d move his bedsheet robes or give me the evil look. he saw me make my move and rushed to gather up his bedsheet to make room for me.
when i sat down, he grabbed my hand. i gave him a big smile. he could barely speak english. but we chatted for a second and i managed to make out a few facts. he was 73, from thailand, and headed to connecticut. fair enough. he reached his fingers up to my eyebrows and touched them and broke into a big smile. we kept holding hands and he read my palms. he told me my fortune, using his basic english skills: “good family. good job. good money. good life.” word! i thanked him and we kept falling in love with each other. i looked out the window and he rested his head on my shoulder. the sun started to set. i kicked my sandals off and turned off my phone.
we hugged for a while, awkwardly cuddling in an upright position, which means a long embrace without kissing crammed in a couple of train seats, which means it was sort of unusual. he was so happy. so was i. i’ll hug anybody, pretty much, but this was the perfect train cuddle. i couldn’t help thinking what a crazy world it is where the simple fact that he was wearing monk robes earned him an instant cuddle from a (relatively) hot (relatively) young womanthang. if he’d been wearing a suit, i wouldn’t have gone near him with a ten foot pole. he would have come off as a sleazy skeezy businessman with nothing but evil on the menu. but this was a MONK. monks are so safe. i would stop cuddling him every once in a while to look at him, and the eye contact spoke volumes.
i’m an old monk, his eyes said. i’ve been meditating for decades in mountainside temples, trying to find the compass of zen.
i’m a young rock star, my eyes said. i’ve been meditating in shitty dressing rooms covered in beer sleaze and cigarette butts but it doesn’t matter, right?
his eyes said: i have the wisdom of ages. i come from far away and have traveled deeply to the inside.
my eyes said: i know pretty much nothing, but i’m wide open.
so, here we were, me and the cuddling monk. he got an idea, fished around in his big orange monk sack and produced a little necklace, which he slipped over my head and straightened around my neck. he nodded approvingly and clasped my hands in his. i kissed his fist.
he lay my head in his lap and i took a nap that was half real. this was so much more fun that answering emails. i opened my eyes and looked at our hands intertwined, his pudgy, cracked, soft, beautiful monk hands grabbing tightly around my folded fingers. he rubbed my shoulders. there was no doubt in my mind where this was probably headed, but i let myself believe this relationship was purely platonic.
i watched the sunset from the monk’s lap, i thought about a lot of things, and nothing at all.
sometimes i get ideas. sometimes i get ideas like this: if i could quit my life and go in a quantum direction, all i would do would be ride amtrak and find people who needed to be loved, and i would hop from train to train like a cross between a social worker and a cuddling fairy. if people just wanted to talk about their shit jobs, i’d let them. but if they needed a cuddle, i’d be right on board. this wouldn’t work on a plane. planes are too uncomfortable and plus there’s that awful feeling of surveillance from the flight attendants. on a train you can pretty much do what you want. nobody’s going to come up to you and tell you to stop cuddling a monk and put your seatbelt on and while i’m over here what the fuck are you doing cuddling this monk?
i also think i’d like to run a juice bar that’s also an alcohol bar that’s also a yoga studio that’s also a rock club and cinema and art gallery. you know, like a multipurpose venue.
i also think maybe i’d like to take a year off and just move into a cabin with neil somewhere in india while we both work on books inbetween trips to the fruit tree and the neighborhood well.
also i wondered how offended the monk would be if i pulled my phone back out and took a picture of myself taking a nap in a monklap because really how awesome would that picture be. and that thought is always followed by the thought that that’s a terrible thing to think which is always followed by a thought that goes what has happened to my brain (and is it just me? it can’t be) that when i’m in a monklap i’m not really in the monklap but i’m thinking about taking pictures of myself in a monklap and posting them on twitter and really at the end of the day isn’t that the opposite of enlightenment.
also the merchandise for the european tour needs to be designed and i’m not sure what it’s going to look like. also i need to call my lawyer but it’s saturday night, so i’ll have to wait until monday because he doesn’t work on the weekends like i do, and like everybody on my team does, and isn’t it weird that we’re technically adults and he’s technically an adult and the only difference is that he has a realer job with a realer office with a real secretary but is that the only reason he doesn’t work on the weekends and we do and maybe i’m a terrible person and boss for assuming that my whole team doesn’t really care about weekends because i don’t and maybe it’s all in head and anyway i know i’m PMSing because i’m supposed to get my period on monday which is the day neil is coming which is actually really great when you think about it because by the time he gets in i won’t be PMSing anymore which means i’ll be nice to be around and we’ll love each other way more easily and also we’ll be able to have sex without a condom which is great and probably i’m just upsetting myself for no reason. these are the thoughts that go through your head when you’re in a monklap.
then the monk wanted to make out.
i mean, i could say i was totally shocked, but come on. good things like monk cuddling just don’t last and are never meant to be.
so i let him suck on my neck.
i mean, what else can you do?
this is one of those moments where you truly give in to your situation and let the present moment dictate.
but when he wanted to fully make out i stopped him. i just was NOT going to actually full-on make out with a monk.
but first of all; people were watching. i mean, it was already weird that i was vertically cuddling this monk but i figured people probably thought i was some sort of monk-apprentice, pre-arrnaged to get on the train for a leg of his journey to cuddle him, as is the tradition in our sect. i felt almost holy, like a spiritual candy striper.
second of all; i did not want to see where a full on make-out sesh with this monk was going to actually lead. nowhere good, i can tell you.
i’ve been in my fair share of cuddling-for-love sessions and when that line gets crossed it’s a sure shitshow.
so i pulled the monks hand away from its reach towards my more personal regions, and made it physically clear that we were NOT going to make out.
but i didn’t get mad. i mean, how can you? my mind turned back to the situation of this monk dressed in a suit and tie. i’d be calling him OUT and switching seats for sure if suit-and-tie monk tried to make a move for my tits. why on earth am i so monkist? it really does seem bizarre. i assume i know his story. i assume that his horniness and his loneliness is somehow sweet, pitiful, sacred. how does that count for so much? how many men are there out there in suits and ties who actually have a deeper claim on this fucking cuddle? life’s not fair.
we held hands for a little while longer before he got an idea again and reached into his monk sack. this time he took out two little yellow bracelets. he tied one around each of my wrists.
i was starting to feel like i was getting a prize for each level of intimacy we’d reached – as if someday, when i finally hopped off the train with him and dragged him to the nearest super 8 motel and had sex with him, he would achieve orgasm and then magically open up the super 8 ironing-board & coat closet and there, bathed in a glow of soft light, would be a 5 foot golden statue of the buddha: the grand prize.
and we kept hugging, though i’d drawn my womanly line in the sand about exactly how far this relationship was going to go. i looked him straight in the eye, and i could tell we were still sort of in love but it was funny because the conversation (at least in my head, who the fuck knows what was going on in his….i sort of don’t ever want to know) was this:
i’m a lonely monk, his eyes said. god i need to be touched and there are always people monitoring my every move and this train and you is my only chance.
i’m a powerful lady, my eyes said. i’ll hug the fuck out of you but i’m not going to let you put your tongue in my mouth, ok? also i love you, and i see through into your humanity.
his eyes said: you win.
my eyes said: there is no win or lose, grasshopper. HA! now i’m a monk.
his eyes said: wow this is crazy kind of, i’m a monk, and i can’t control myself.
my eyes said: it’s all good, monk.
his eyes said:
my eyes said:
and together, we achieved whatever nirvana was available to a repressed monk and a cuddle-greedy rock star on a train from new york to boston.
we cuddled for a little while longer, and then his stop came and i helped him get his bags down. we’d been together for maybe an hour.
i carried his suitcase to the train door.
then he was gone.
after he got off the train, i ate my penn station sushi and talked to neil. i told him about the monk. together we theorized that i am a member of the secret order of hugging nuns, a sect so secret that you don’t even know who the other members are. sort of like a little guerilla cult of amma the hugging saint….except like “fight club.”
he made me promise to still let him suck my beck when he’s 73. i asked if he would dress in monk robes and stuff and give me buddhist jewelry. he said no, he’s british, he’d offer me a cup of tea and comment about the weather. i said i’d think about it. i love him so much, and this is why: he completely gets why i have to cuddle a monk on a train and even let him suck my neck. a lot of husbands wouldn’t get that. like, most ones. i think.
then train stopped all of a sudden near new london. the conductor came over the speaker and told us we were stopped unexpectedly for half an hour because of a fireworks display.
i thought how awesome it would have been if the fireworks had happened RIGHT when the monk tried to make out with me, but then decided that being me i might have taken it as some sort of cosmic signal to actually make out with the monk and really that wouldn’t have been a good idea, so i was sort of glad it didn’t happen. and i sat there, watching the fireworks, alone, thinking about the monk.
when i got home i took everything off and left his gifts on.
here’s a picture:
i wonder what he’s thinking about right now, that monk. i wonder if he’s ever cuddled another rock star on a train or ever will.
either way, i hope i made his day.
i hope i helped.
i know he did.
i love everybody
p.s. i have to thank sean francis. he forwarded me one of my really old blogs from 2006 or 2007 last week. it reminded me that i don’t write as deeply as i used to. i need to get back to doing that. that’s part of why i wrote this blog. i miss that me. maybe i’ll repost the vintage blog. it was a good, sad one. life has definitely improved since then, the bowels of dresden dolls touring with no end. and it helps to remember.