Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Yes,  I've been absent.  Well, I have reasons.  First of all,  I was gone for a week on a pleasure trip! (That phrase always sounds so hedonistic, doesn't it?)

Anyway, I went on a train trip, organized by Roots on the Rails,  from Los Angeles to Arizona and New Mexico.  Their trips are all about music and trains and they use restored train cars from the 1940s and 1950s and attach them to the end of an Amtrak train.  Then they invite a few musicians to play each night.  Jill Sobule, my dear friend and sometimes performing partner, was one of the musicians.  The others were The Handsome Family and Stan Ridgway (former lead singer of the Wall of VooDoo.)

Every night they'd sing and about thirty of us would sit around and enjoy it.  And there was so much joy in it too.   We did some off-train touring in Arizona and we visited the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon.

It was my very first time to visit the Grand Canyon.  It's weird that I haven't been there - I've travelled so much, all over the world, for months at a time, and yet never gone to the Grand Canyon!  Unforgivable, really.   Anyway, over the years I have this fantasy image of the Grand Canyon in my mind.   And even though the real Grand Canyon was as impressive as everyone says it is, and even though I was transfixed and mesmerized and have already begun to dream of and plan for my next visit - I have become aware that there is this other Grand Canyon that lived in my mind for sooo long, and it's now nestled alongside the real Grand Canyon in the file in my brain labeled: Grand Canyon.

It will take many more visits to the Grand Canyon to diminish the fantasy.  My fantasy Grand Canyon is more like a crater than a canyon - it's rounder and smoother and might even be deeper - it's more open and doesn't have the crevices that the real Grand Canyon has.

I have thought about this and realize now that there are many places that exist in my mind alongside their realer, truer counterparts.  For example, my husband, Michael took classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music for a long time and while we were dating, we would talk on the phone late at night after his classes.  He would drive through this area of Chicago on his way home that had a lot of Indian food and sometimes stop at his favorite places to eat or pick up some food.

Now I live here, near Chicago, with Michael and with my daughter Mulan.  She takes guitar classes at Old Town now and M & I sometimes both go with her.  We sometimes stop and get food at the same places Michael used to mention on the phone to me.

But the fantasy of what the Old Town was like - and the drive home for him - it lives still in this other universe of fantasy.  It's a different place than the real place that I know.  The school is darker and has more wood molding and it has more music rooms and the drive is longer and the roads to get there are narrower.  It's like a movie set - yes, it has the set decorations I would put there, that I have put there as I directed the images in my head.

This other place - Old Town School and Drive Home The Alternate Universe is a place that can sometimes catch me up as I inadvertently remember it exists from time to time.   I almost wonder about the people who inhabit the fantasy are doing - how they're faring - how that other place has kept up with the economy changes or even just the changes of the seasons.

In any case, this is true of the Grand Canyon too.  This was also true of Istanbul.  My friend Jim Emerson went to Istanbul about ten years ago and described it in vivid detail. It's not the Istanbul I visited, but an alternate Istanbul, Jim Emerson's Istanbul as imagined by me.  And this place has a spot in my memory almost as real as the real Istanbul I experienced.

Wow,  I am off topic.

In any case, I went on this train trip. Oh!  We stayed at the most astonishing and lovely hotel for the one night we were off the train.  It's called La Posada and it's in Winslow, Arizona.  It's one of those western train hotels that had the Harvey Girls for waitresses in the old days.  A wealthy couple bought the ruins of the place and completely restored it.  I was instantly in love with this hotel.  It's really fantastic, and probably looks greater now than it originally did.  The food was excellent.  Michael and I bought the hotel's restaurant cookbook and made a couple of the recipes from it for Thanksgiving dinner.  Both turned out well.

After the train trip Michael headed home and I had to stay in L.A. for a couple of days while I pitched this pilot I'm working on.   I flew back to Chicago and had 24 hours to get ready to welcome my mother and my two nieces and then my brother and sister-in-law for Thanksgiving week.   A good time was had by all.   We were busy - we toured around Chicago, went to the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium and the Chicago Botanical garden (three times to the garden!) and my mother just left yesterday.

And now I am....

I am....

I am utterly and completely and totally and fundamentally and to-my-bones exhausted.  I am sooooo damn tired.

Every surface in my house is piled with stuff from two weeks of randomly throwing anything anywhere to get it out of the way.  Mail is unopened, receipts are tucked in sofa cushions, dust is wafting around doorways and laundry is about as high as my waist.  This morning I opened a hallway coat closet and a roll of paper towels bounced off my head.   I open drawers and half-eaten boxes of candy from going to the movies is spilled all over polly-pocket rubbery clothes.  The twins stayed with Mulan in her room and we blew up an extra mattress and now it seriously looks like a punk band stayed in there and trashed the place.  Even though the kids were good - they didn't trash the place, it's just - well... let's just say I really took a sabbatical from keeping the house picked up and how I am wading through the aftermath.

Anyway, enough of that.  This is what I really wanted to write about today...

I'm making some changes, I'm streamlining, cost-cutting, focusing.  I'm trying to reduce my web-presence.  Yes, just as everyone is getting in, I'm getting out.  Well, not completely!  For example I do love writing this blog.  I will continue with that.  But I'm going to redirect my web address to this blog, and try to get any necessary information on to it.  I can put my representation, my email address, and even put up my infrequent-performing-schedule in the header (as I just did as an experiment.)

I feel I'm headed to more writing and less performing and this change reflects the change that is happening in my life.  I'm not sure I want to be a public person anymore.  I don't want to promote myself.  That seems like the old me.  I like the new me.  Just writing my blog, and working on scripts and my book and that's it.  My website is managed by a company and I have been paying for it monthly and, y'know... it's been great and all, but it feels like a good time to break up. I know I could probably make a website or web-page myself - even though I'm really remedial with computers - but y'know, I just don't want to.

It's kind of odd to do this now because "Letting Go of God" - the movie - is premiering on Showtime tomorrow!  But it's not odd in other ways.  Showtime has a year to play the movie and will perhaps, if it's received well,  play the year after, too.  I'm thinking there could be an influx of people trying to look me up on the internet and I want to direct them - if there are those people - to a forum housed in a place that I do not administer.  There are a couple of forums that I think are really good and that can start a section for Letting Go of God.  One is at the Freedom From Religion Foundation and one is at The Skeptic Society.   These are going to take a few days to set up. In the meantime, I will have an announcement on my own forum that I'm not accepting new registrants and directing them to the new place for foruming...  All this should happen in the next couple of days.

I just spoke to Annie Laurie at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and they are going to set up a special place for me and Letting Go on their forum.  The only hitch there is that you have to be a member to be on the forum.  Of course I recommend joining, but if people don't want to, I believe the Skeptic Society does not require that.  Oh dear, much to find out today.

More tomorrow.

p.s. I am going to attend and speak at the Freedom From Religion Foundation meeting next October in Madison.  I had a blast the last time I did it.  Annie Laurie says Ron Reagan (who spoke at this year's convention in early November) was hysterical.  I wish I'd seen him!


Daydream Believer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ray said...

I, too, am glad that you'll be keeping your blog as I really enjoy reading your entries. I purchased the Letting Go of God DVD when you first released it. I think it's so great that someone as charming and funny as you can make becoming an atheist charming and funny too.

Keep up the great work.

SurprisingWoman said...

I know you don't want to deal with a lot of comments here but I had to tell you that I just watched "Letting Go of God" and it is amazing. It spoke to me. I made this decision over the last five years or so and it's been quite the journey. Thank you for filming about your journey.

The Fibers of Life said...

How did I get so lucky as to watch your film on Showtime on its second day? I realized as I watched it that I had seen "God said Ha", before. Even better to find you have a blog on the same network as I do. Of course you are way more famous than I'll ever be I enjoy reading your blog. What fun. Thank you for sharing your journey.

It is interesting that at this time so many people are re-focusing, consolidating, and rethinking their lives and the way we/they live. May have something to do with all the globalization, financial calamity and the unprecedented realization of how closely we are connect to each other globally.

I remember going to the Grand Canyon as a 10 year old, maybe younger. I grew up in So.Cal. and my parents took me over spring vacation. I do remember seeing snow in Flagstaff which was amazing to a lil' kid from southern California. It was an amazing place to see and I'd love to go back now as an adult and see it again. Your trip sounds wonderful and I can't think of a better way to travel. Lucky you.
Looking forward to keeping up with you and your blog.

Anonymous said...

Just watched your film on Showtime and found your blog afterwards. Thank you for both.

I'm Jesuit-educated and when I studied Plato, I came to the same conclusion. The rational, awe-inspiring brilliance of the Greeks seemed more worthy of adulation than the Jesus of the gospels. For some Jesuits, it was a kind of sophistication to reject the piety of the "masses."
And they made sure that they had leaders who were fluent in the classics.

On the day of final vows, a select group met in secret to pronounce special vows. They were described as "the professed" and would be the future superiors and provincials. This process was dropped in the '70s but in light of your observation about the "lower classes" made me wonder if that wasn't part of the deal (so to speak).

harley72032 said...

I just saw Letting Go of God last night. It captured many of the thoughts I've had over the years regarding Judaism, Christianity, and religion in general. I was impressed with your quest for spiritual "truth". I appreciated your honesty and I think we can make the world a better place without the rituals of organized religion. And, by the way, I haven't felt like murdering people either. In fact, I feel more personal responsibility knowing that we must make the changes we seek in others.

Anonymous said...

Letting Go of God WOW...Thank you for your candor and for talking out of my head...Now I know I am not alone in thinking

Unknown said...

Hello Miss Sweeney, I would like to thank you for doing a great job with such a difficult subject; your show, "Letting Go of God". The design, writing, and your presentation were absolutely perfect. Not only did I find it persuasive, it was thoroughly enjoyable.
I'm not a blogger. In fact, this is my very first blog. However, I am so impressed by you that I feel compelled offer my thanks and praise to you. (Geez that sounded dangerously close to religion!) Nonetheless, I dare say that this is the finest piece of circumloquity of the 21st century!
Thank you!
John Barrowman

Anonymous said...

Don't be fooled by those who take the words of the Bible and twist them so they can sell DVDs. Specifically, remember when Julia remarked about Luke 14:26 (about "hating" your parents, sisters, etc.), the passage is really saying not to love them more than the poor man, the criminal, the lost, etc. It is saying that you can't just love your own life and serve ONLY your family. It means to be selfless and serve both, especially those that need to be made aware of God's presence in their lives. I challenge you to read the Bible and do some investigating. God knows we are intelligent and says some complex things. Anyone who reads it on the surface and mocks it because it suits their natural instinct to be selfish, is buying into the lies that the enemy whispers in your ear. I know, I believed them once too. Satan is the greatest car salesman on earth. he will make you laugh, stimulate you, REASON with you, and do whatever it takes to make you think that life should be nothing but EASY and FUN. But that's not reality is it? Life is tough, and God wants to give you the tools to navigate it, knowing your true worth. To think you already know it is false, because you doubt yourself sometimes. Not very concrete. But He ALWAYS knows! Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something. I mean, look at it! Sweeney is selling something just like Bill Maher! It's a trend to bash God because it sells! God doesn't want money from you or to brainwash you. He wants you to be free from yourself! Its human selfishness that's taken the freedom He's given us and turned the Earth into the selfish place it is! Look into the concept of free will. That is the next step in the investigative process. You are the princes and princesses of a kingdom greater than your own. Be broken of yourself, and be free!

Judith said...

I wonder why anonymous is anonymous? Go forth anonymous and enjoy your freedom and please allow those of us who believe differently to do the same. You imagine nonbelievers as ghastly demon ridden perverted lost souls. Nope, just people who have read much more than the bible,and experienced more than a life of indoctrination and fear mongering. I rejoice that your faith sustains you-I don't require it- desire it or find its' tenets believable.

~ T (grits) ~ said...

I cant quit singing 'Take it Easy' (Eagles) now after you said you were in Winslow, AZ - lol!

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