A lecture delivered on October 16, 2023 at Trampoline Hall in Toronto
A lecture delivered on October 16, 2023 at Trampoline Hall in Toronto
My astrologer tells me that Antonio Banderas, when he was in his mid-fifties, said: I need to quit acting and I need to go to fashion school because I need to bring back capes. My astrologer tells me this because I’m not like Antonio Banderas, who has a night chart. She wanted me to know that I have a day chart, like Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore who maybe never quit acting, who has a daytime talk show, and a cosmetics line, and a clothing brand, and a signature wine. Day chart people are rewarded by capitalism, my astrologer tells me, they are action-oriented, like go-go-go, do-do-do. Night charts, on the other hand, are basically every auteur filmmaker with the exception of Stanley Kubrick. And I’m upset by this news because I want to have an auteur filmmaker chart, and additionally, I don’t identify as someone who is rewarded by capitalism. I say to my astrologer: I don’t even have a career to quit in order to begin making capes.
Feeling like you haven’t done anything, or don’t have anything, is not a way you’re allowed to feel, among friends. I have a dog and intimate relationships and a great body and a published play and a shared bathroom at the end of a long hallway. I’ve done so many things, and my friends want me to know that. A lover says to me about our relationship: What more do you want? And I would like to be happy with what I have. But I am also compelled to say to the lover: I want to be in a relationship less based in unconscious gender roles where I am both the sex object and the mother who exists simply to reveal things to you while I in exchange don’t learn very much. Like a goal that you optimistically think is just around the corner from what you currently have. A goal that many others seem to have set as a baseline, like an apartment with their own bathroom. But friends, lovers, they only want you to dream of things you are likely to get, or go get. This is why they want you to be happy with what you have.
I don’t know if Antonio’s friends think he’s done enough already, as an actor, or if they’re like: why didn’t you also make those capes you talked about? Because Antonio Banderas did quit acting to go to fashion school. He did release a collection of menswear in 2016. But the collection had no capes.
Is it possible that the things we don’t make haunt us more than the things we do? For me, yes. The things I do make are a welcome, present-tense haunting. The things I don’t make are a scarier haunting by far. They exist in the past or the future, but aren’t real in the present. For example, I will enjoy being haunted by this lecture far more than being haunted by a lecture I thought I was responsible for but never delivered or a lecture I thought I deserved to deliver but never got the opportunity.
Does Antonio care that the capes didn’t work out? Does he have many personal capes, or various failed capes, unreleased to the public? Did he release capes to the public but myself and the internet do not know about them, which can feel similar to the capes not existing at all? Does he imagine the capes are still coming, that everything he’s done up until now, like the films and children he did make, are not enough, because they were not capes?
I don’t know. He’s a night chart. He’s different from me. But I think his friends would think it’s enough.
I advise myself: why not experience your body and your close environment, which are both doing fine in this moment? No striving, just noticing and gratitude – like being retired. But the feeling of being retired is horrible when you are relatively young and have not saved any money. You want the feeling of Things Happening. As perceived decision-makers about how our lives go, we find ourselves in a paradox: it is sad not to intend anything but it is also arrogant to expect anything other than what you’ve been able to come up with so far.
What I understand from my astrologer about the night chart person is that they have an impulsive and romantic nature. They are not necessarily interested in what makes sense in terms of money. In Antonio’s case:
Capes are perceived to be frivolous. A piece for superheroes and royalty, capes are extra. However, I’m having trouble drawing a hard line between Antonio’s capes and Drew’s cosmetics. Capes are useful. You can wrap them around your body if you are travelling a long distance and have to sleep on the ground, or in your car, in a cold climate. Capes are vulnerable, because you got dressed up, and it’s an expression of your inner self. As a camp counsellor, I used to wear my swim towel as a cape to show off my pubic hair and my unshaven, muscular legs. It made me and everyone around me feel more amazing than had I worn my swim towel normally.
Antonio, in an interview, explains that capes are easier to take off than a jacket. There’s a scene in Tombstone where Val Kilmer shrugs off his cape before a gun battle, simply with his shoulders. I’ve thought about this moment hundreds of times. Envisioned my body in Val’s body. Capes are about aesthetics: how something feels, like an aura-amplifying blanket that extends from where you might have wings.
Making capes, then, is not just an inquiry into the value of making what doesn’t need to be made. Making capes asks: how do we know what needs to be made? How do we read the value of our lives? Is making a cape rather like producing a play, or raising a child? A thing that doesn’t need to be made, but once we begin, we must make with all our might, and thereby it becomes godly – a thing happening that makes all else happen? In David Graeber’s essay On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs, he writes: “There seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it.” If actions are frivolous only because they are not rewarded by capitalism, which is a violent form of subservience to a system we did not choose, should making capes, children and plays not be the highest achievement?
I tell my nephews about the situation I’m in. One said: Just tell us what capes are! The other said: I think they are food. Of course, in real life they know what capes are. They just don’t know what capes are in the context of this lecture. If making capes were actually making capes, it would be for only for those who could afford it, which would be almost no one. I am asking whether any action in life is possibly making capes, and if so, how to take one step further into that world.
There is a parenting style that is like: “you get what you get”. My parents were more like: “you can get anything you want but you have to go get it”. This is a popular lie told in the culture I grew up in. It puts a lot of pressure on a child, who takes life as seriously as I did. You can grow into an adult who feels like you cannot, or should not, go get anything.
A friend recently posted on Instagram about their father who died: “he would stop at nothing when he had a dream”. My friends, too, speak of having a dream and how they will achieve it. I am in wonderment at how this works.
People might say to me: you wanted a kid, but you didn’t want one at all costs. I would say: that’s correct. As a person who had an abortion at a time in my life when I wanted to have children, had I wanted a kid at all costs, I would likely have one. But I am not a “stop at nothing” person.
I would like to be Making Things Happen but I’m more of a What’s Happening? kind of person. Like, doing something not at all costs but considering the circumstances. Most people, myself included, cannot stay very long in “What’s Happening” because what’s happening is distressing. We like to feel like we have a plan. We can’t just see what happens next. We have to hustle.
But Making Things Happen is becoming harder to devote oneself to, in our current world. Not only are we perhaps newly aware of how little we control, but going out and getting what we want “at all costs” just seems too costly.
I have a Virgo midheaven, which means I like to be useful. When we’re in a state of emergency, our personal agency is eclipsed and we don’t worry about making capes. We are in response – embodied, present-tense – no longer centered in our own individual narrative. This is a state in which many of my qualities are most functional. It’s why I became an Emergency Care Worker with the Canadian Red Cross. I like when what to do next is very clear. I like having to consider our bodies in our surroundings and just having to decide the very next step. However, I am fortunate not to be in an emergency most of the time. So for me, in my apartment, I have to luxury of feeling an urgency about capes: what are they, and how do we make them?
A friend thinks I should make just one cape to be here in front of you tonight. But I didn’t want to. If I made a cape, I would want it to be a cape I love, not some random cape. Anyway, that’s Antonio’s dream. When expectation empties out, and I stand here in my own body, I am not actually completely capeless. The capes I didn’t make are here. And also other real capes. Like this lecture. And your being here, listening, turns all of us into cape-makers, in real life, and simultaneously complicit in the lack of capes. We’re making things happen, and also seeing what’s happening, experiencing our bodies and our close environment, which are mostly okay in this moment, and no one’s making money.