Why Arizona? By Maynard James Keenan

Why Arizona?
By Maynard James Keenan
Published Wed., Oct. 24 2012 at 3:00 AM

Since the New Times is moving this column to coincide with the print edition, I thought I’d take a moment to re-introduce myself and give you a peek into why I’ve resided in Arizona for the past 17 years. It has a little to do with the glowing gray area between synchronicity and fate. By this I mean something that goes beyond a mere coincidence. I used to believe that if I followed these events, these aligned moments, there would be a pot of gold at the end, or some sort of inner circle reward. But I’ve come to understand that these glowing little gray-area moments are themselves the reward. It’s the Universe giving you a tickle. An acknowledgment that you are in fact wide awake. Paying attention.

I was born an only child on the distant and awkward planet known as Akron/Canton, Ohio. (Also germinated/hatched here are the infamous fellow time and space travelers known to you as Devo, Chrissy Hynde, Brian Warner a.k.a. Marilyn Manson, Dan Auerbach, Dave Grohl, Glen Buxton — the list goes on and on.)

Only those of you who were an only child can truly understand this. For us, in any given conversation, there are at least two simultaneous conversations occurring. There’s audible conversation, and then there’s the conversation or conversations going on inside your head. As a young child with no siblings, I created imaginary friends and entire worlds where they lived and I visited. They were my inner voice and dialogue.

I lived in a small rural house from kindergarten to eighth grade. But for some reason, our local education system kept shuffling students from school to school. So although I lived in that same house for 10 years, I went to five different schools. The glass-half-empty view of this is one of isolation. Every time I showed up to a new school, I had to find a way to fit in with a group of strangers that had been going to school together their whole lives. The glass-half-full version of this is independence. I wasn’t subjected to the hierarchy that had been established among these lifelong peers. I wasn’t pigeonholed into some established social order. And being an only child, I brought my friends with me. All of whom resided in my head. And any tough decisions I had to make were made by MY set of peers, all with the same or similar agenda, as opposed to advice provided by the rotating local peer group, each with their own set of baggage or irrelevant perspectives based on completely different experiences. This helped me develop my instincts and intuition – and over time, taught me to trust them. No outside noise can penetrate a solid sense of self-trust.

Skipping through all the stuff that will someday appear in my biography, we arrive at my journey toward Arizona.

In late 1993, I had a strange dream. I dreamt I was flying above a small mountainside town somewhere in the desert. The town itself, although in the desert, was green and alive. It was a place I’d never seen in real life, but it seemed welcoming and familiar. And, in the distance, I could see a great wave consuming the large cities along the vast horizon. About a month later, I received a cassette in the mail from my friend, the late great Bill Hicks. He was in the middle of editing his third release and wanted my opinion on the musical portion of the piece. It was a rough mix of what he was calling his “Arizona Bay” CD. I felt that tickle again. The dream wasn’t specific about that place on the mountain side. But I now knew it had to be somewhere in Arizona. I described it to a friend who used to live there. He knew exactly where this place was and drove me there in mid-1995.

As we entered the Verde Valley, my heart started to race. By the time we got to Jerome, I was vibrating. We — my inner dialogue and myself — knew this was the place. This was like that moment when you realize you’ve just met your soulmate. You just know. Your heart swells to four times its size. You are equal parts panic and relief.

This feeling has never left me. This place continues to be an endlessly creative and inspirational crossroads for me. Still waiting to see that “great wave consuming the large city along the distant horizon.” Any day now. Chicken Little out.

Follow Maynard James Keenan on Twitter: @caduceuscellars, @mjkeenan, @puscifer. Read more of Maynard James Keenan’s columns at Up on the Sun.

What is Puscifer? By Maynard James Keenan

What is Puscifer?
By Maynard James Keenan
Published Mon., Oct. 8 2012 at 3:00 AM

What is Puscifer? (Besides being the International Multi-Media Project I’ve been developing since 1995?) Good question. We usually respond with the very dismissive and obviously evasive answer: “What is Puscifer is what Puscifer is.” A less evasive version of the answer is that it is an “uncertain creative space where almost anything goes.” In keeping with that moving target sensibility, I will attempt to go the long way around with yet another one of many possible elusive answers.
Stow away all your baggage and get cozy. Your in flight cocktail for this Air Bus cruise will include ingredients such as sarcasm, grossly unsubstantiated conclusions, assumed facts not in evidence, smoke, mirrors, and a dash of improvisational hogwash. Seat belts on. Electronics off.

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A quick note before we go wheels up. If you happen to be one of the .001% of the worlds traveling humans that was able to arrive at an airport with a valid plane ticket in your name with proper id and all that, but you don’t know how to use a seat belt, do us all a favor. Go back thru the security check point. Place all of your reproductive organs on the screening tray in a manner that will compel the extremely alert, understanding, hospitable TSA agents to run them through the X-Ray several times to get a better look. Once they’ve finished finger banging your personal effects, collect them all up. Go find your gate, and then go ahead & take a seat on the actual wing. Great views. Plenty of leg room.

So begins your in flight entertainment. At some point in human history we became aware of our own mortality. When confronted with the death of a companion, we had the epiphany that this was simply no longer just a pile of inanimate meat and bone. This was our companion and whatever energy made them who they were is no longer present. And then reality sinks in: Someday I will no longer be here. And for the first time we asked the question. Why? Why are they no longer here? What can I do to prevent that from happening to me? Or at the very least, “what can I do to put off the inevitable?”

We were now aware that our very survival was directly connected to and contingent upon how creative we could be. Our instincts to Fight or Run were not enough. We weren’t as fast or strong as our larger and ferocious opponents. Instead, we needed to use every fiber of our imagination, every spark of our creative energy to stay ahead of these daily threats on our lives. Otherwise the ever-present realty was this. Today could very well be our last.

Peanuts? Peanuts? Peanuts? Peanuts? Would you like a beverage?

So here we were, clever little talking monkeys trying desperately to type war and peace before the ink runs out. We began to observe, interpret, and chronicle what we began to recognize as patterns. Through trial and error discovered the appropriate responses to these challenges and threats to our lives. And we rehearsed these responses, these movements, these actions and reactions until they became skills. And in an attempt to keep these new found skills fresh, we would execute them daily. Not only in but also out of context. We rehearsed them in the form ritual and dance and prose. In essence, we would hunt, cultivate and build by day. And by night, around the central fire, we would rehearse, recount, re-live, and perform as well as celebrate another day of our survival. This was a time when the artistic and the utilitarian were in perfect balance. This was a time when we as a culture recognized the importance our creative power. So, what is Puscifer? Clearly Puscifer is a multifaceted structure with multiple cornerstones, 3 of which we’ll admit.

1.An attempt to reconnect with that seemingly lost balance between the Artistic and Utilitarian.

2.An attempt to reawaken our inner storyteller, and our ability to Observe, Interpret, and Report all the fun stuff we’ve witnessed.

3. An attempt to remind us all to dance before the inevitable End of the World. (Make checks and money orders payable to Chicken Little C/O…etc.)

Because we at Puscifer feel that Life is too short not to create something with every breath we draw.

Please return your seat to its upright and locked position. (Unless of course you’re one of those thumb-less hopefully now sterile types seated out on the wing.)

Chicken Little out.

Follow Maynard James Keenan on Twitter: @caduceuscellars, @mjkeenan, @puscifer. Read his column every other week on Up on the Sun.