Christa Bell

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


the new year doesn't begin officially for me until january 17th, my birthday! so, on my birthday eve, let's take time for a little reflection on what i did last year: I WRECKED IT!!! woop!! woop! congrats to me for making 2006 a stellar year in the history of years!

1) i headlined my first international spokenword tour (wordmedicine 2006) and had my first patron who paid for the whole damn thing!
2) i wrote my first one-woman show, "COOCHIEMAGIC: A SPOKENWORD MUSICAL COMEDY featuring my beatboxstra
3) i fell in love no less than FOUR times (the last time was with a digital yogi i met on myspace, and the time before that was with this amazing poet via text!)
4) i reconnected with four of my bestest friends from my bay area days: lake louise, s. horton, and t'kalla as well as my ex-soulmate k.s.k.
5) i organized, by text message, and three days before i went on a ten day vipassana retreat, an entire spoken word benefit for the national orginization Common Ground for victims of the Katrina disaster, starring: rives, tallam acey, roger bonair-agard, xero skidmore, iyeoka, and new orleans slam master asale devon. WHAT??
6) i attended two, count 'em, TWO vipassana retreats and got my soul right for the new year.
7) i left pc world and bought a mac!
8) i lived in nYc for almost three months!
9) i vacationed in the hamptons (woop! woop!)
10) i watched every episode of the sopranos, lost, the L word, desperate housewives, prison break and the flava of love. what can i say? i'm a cultural critic.
11) i'm going to save the next few spots for amazing things i did but can't remember tight now.

shoutouts for a year well done go to:
-heidi jackson who single-handedly organized my tour and my life for the first six months of the '06. i couldn't've done it without her!

-all the slam masters all over the country who invited, housed, fed, picked me up, made sure their audience bought my merch, loved me and loved me some more and put up with my occassional bouts of divaliciousness! special thanks to kealoha of the hawaii slam who taught me how to swim, and in the ocean no less! also to taylor mali for issuing my first official invitation to feature in nYc way back in 2005! (nathan p., formerly of the nuyo, says that he was first but taylor wins cuz he put it in WRITING! which isn't a diss to the oral tradition...i'm just sayin, a brova was organized about it!! lol!!)

-my little sister who always let me know that if i ever ran out of money, i could always get down on my knees and beg her for it!

-imani and iyeoka for encouraging me.

-mo browne for being a great friend and for listening to me bitch and whine about other people being negative-lol!

-timeca briggs for agreeing to direct my show the moment i told her i'd written one.

-michael cirelli for having my back whenever it was time to cut a nyucka loose!

-thai freedom ford for her down-ass hospitality.

-mrs. mali for being a wonderful new friend and for making me feel special by including me in her bomb-ass world!

-my mom who housed me for two months during the summer when i couldn't take new York city anymore even though i'd sublet my apartment through august. and also for supporting me so much that she could write me off on her taxes if she wanted to!

-jennifer lisa vest for being crazier than me! lol!!

-denise cooper for taking care of my home while i was gone.

-THE DUMBA ARTS COLLECTIVE!! oh my god! the only place in nYc that felt like home.

-the spirits of the planes, trains, and automobiles that got me to and from my destinations safely and on time!
voici dance for writing a grant to bring me to florida!

-all of the amazing artists, healers, fortune tellers, spiritualists, intellectuals, memoirists, story tellers, lovers, yogi's, geniuses, foodies, musicians, professors, massage therapists, novelists and poets who inspired and supported me on my path.

RIP: alice coletrane, octavia butler, james brown, ronald isley, coretta scott king, ed bradly and lou rawls!!

this year is gonna be amazing and i'm very glad to be here!

more later...cbell

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Analog Love, Digital Yogi, Meditation, Grief and Growth

it's four am in seattle i am too heartbroken to sleep and have been up all night. ten days ago i returned from doing a vipassana satipathana retreat (the satipathana course is for old students only) to discover that everything in my life had shifted to the left and many things had fallen away as i let go of old sankara's (deep rooted complexes) while there, and in so doing, released a host of people and circumstances born of these complexes.

exactly 39 days before i took my ninth vipassana course in six years, and four days before the last mercury retrograde period of the year, i met a beautiful yogi via myspace with whom i fell madly in love. i should say here that we never met. he lives in shanghai (with my friends i referred to him as, among other things, "the only brother in china"), but the fantasy of spiritual partnership is a strong idea and he fed my craving with his beautiful letters and daily telephone calls and the promise implied by his insistence that he's been looking for me all the days of his life.

i didn't know how i would write about the end of our romance, which was also the end of my attraction to unavailable men, until a friend wrote to me today to give his condolences around the crashing of my digital love and to inquire about the process that led up to it. following is an excerpt from the email i sent to him only a few hours ago regarding what happened for me while i was on my retreat and what i found when i returned home:

vipassana is the meditation i've told you about that
you learn at the 10-day silent retreats
( it's ancient therapy that goes
deeper and is much more efficient than psychoanalysis
or any of the modern therapies i've experimented with.

there are three parts to the technique: ana pana,
which is a meditation on the breath that is done for
three days so that you can sharpen and quiet the mind
enough to learn vipassana. then there is the
technique of vipassana itself which i will explain to
you by phone (although it's experiential and pretty
much impossible to get intellectually.) and then
there's metta which is a healing balm you apply during
the last two days of the retreat which acts to sew
you back up after the extremely intense work of
digging out sankara's.

sankara's are, in essence, deep-rooted complexes you
have about yourself and they are related to the karma
you've acquired over many lifetimes. during the
practice, these sankara’s, which you have stored in your dna, manifest themselves as
sensations on your body. the technique teaches you to
be highly aware of these sensations and to observe
them equanimously, that is, peacefully and without any
aversion, as they come to the surface of your body and
pass away (for example, a sankara might manifest itself as an itch on your nose that is so itchy it is painful. you must observe the itch peacefully without doing anything to quench it. with this observation comes an experiential understanding of “anica” which means change. everything changes. all sensations are transitory. nothing lasts forever.) in this way, you are able to allow old
karma in the forms of hurt, abuse, trauma, neglect,
addictions, abandonment’s etc. to come to the surface
and pass away. this is the basic teaching of Jesus’
"turn the other cheek" philosophy.

to elaborate further, the usual habit pattern of the mind is to react to the
old karma, that is, slap me and i'll slap you
back! the fundamental problem with this is that
everytime you make an action, whether it's "good" or
"bad" you plant a seed (as you sew, so shall you also
reap) and the basic karmic doctrine is that every seed
manifests as fruit when the conditions are ripe for it
to grow. so what you do with vipassana is create a
still place free from both craving and aversion to sensation so
that your deep-rooted complexes have an opportunity to
come to the surface and pass away without any
interference from you.

next is what is most glorious and beautiful about the
technique, but what is also sometimes the most
confusing and painful, although ultimately beneficial:
as you practice and let pass these deep rooted
sankara, your external circumstances automatically
change to reflect this, immediately and often in unpredictable ways.
for example, a major sankara that i passed during my
last retreat was the belief that my father never loved
me. now, whether this belief is actually true or not
makes no difference to my BELIEF that it was true.
i've believed this for many many years and this belief
has resulted in me attracting a particular kind of man
(and there are quite a few other things this belief
attracted, but that's another email). my beautiful
john (shanghai surprise) was this kind of man and when
i got out, he had been, in essence, removed
from my cipher because the deep rooted complex that
had brought us together has now been removed. i knew
while i was still at the retreat that he wouldn't be
in my life anymore because i felt him so entirely
dissolved, but it is still difficult for me in the day
to day reality to know that i will most likely not
ever talk to him again. it's like someone i loved
dearly had a terminal disease while i was on retreat and has died. even though it was the best thing
for all parties concerned, there's still an adjustment
period to the new reality.

at any rate, over the six years that i've been
practicing, i've been able to release many, though
certainly not all, of the complexes that i've
acquired over the years and built my reality around.

i can explain this better if you like the next time we

love (and some tears and sniffles),


Monday, September 18, 2006

The Mind of Christa Bell

here's everything i've read so far this year. please note the absolute randomness:

the secret book of black girl magic, by christa bell
peace & blessings for dummies, by christa bell
enlighten your coochie!, by christa bell
proverbs (from the bible)
all the websites and blogs re. beyonce
liner notes to all the ROOTS albums (?love is hilarious)
lyrics to "spirit rap" by astarius reiki
seeing the unspeakable: the art of kara walker, by gwendoloyn dubois shaw
a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, by dave eggers (better late than never)
the bone people, by keri hulme (again)
pathologies of power, by paul farmer (sike. i bought it and read like, three chapters, because i saw that roger was reading it.)
woman, an intimate geography, by natalie angier (ibid-but this one i'll finish at some point)
godel, escher, bach: an eternal golden braid, a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of lewis carroll, by douglas r. hofstadter (DOUBLE SIKE! note to self: ignore all book recommendations from jeremy richards. this is his "light"reading.)
at least 20 entries from the women's encyclopedia of myths and secrets, by barbara g. walker
lots of entries from witches: an encyclopedia of paganism and magic, by michael jordan
song of solomon, by toni morrison (again)
fat girl (a memoir), can't remember authors name
kindred, by octavia butler
fledgling, by octavia butler
parable of the sower (again), by octavia butler
writing down the bones (natalie goldberg)
wicked (but only the first few chapters)
the selected poems of james tate (poems)
my mother's body(again), by marge piercy (poems)
the moon is always female, by mary oliver (poems)
the subtle art of breathing by asha bandele(poems)
said the shotgun to the head, saul williams (long-ass poem)
the abundance book, by john randolph price (40 day prosperity plan included)
writing with intent, essays, reviews etc. by margaret atwood
a clockwork orange, by anthony burgess (first time. horrorshow!)
the prodigal summer, by barbara kingsolver
enchanted love:the mystical power of intimate relationships, by marriane williamson
some book of essays about rumi can't remember the name of it
the fifth sacred thing (a novel), by starhawk
wild like that good stuff smellin strong, by tish benson (poems)
the autobiography of benjamin franklin
the alchemist, by paulo coelho
on the art of poetry by aristotle (weeeeelllll...not really...but i have it. stole it from a friend)

not very impressive-eh? maybe there's more...will let you know...cbell

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Family Part One

my family is hilarious and the funniest thing about them is that they think i'm the one with jokes. i'm in san francisco right now because two months ago nonnie, my grandma who is 81 years old, decided that she needed all new furniture. her entire house is baby blue and white, her two favorite colors, from the carpets to the faux french blue velvet sofa's, covered until very recently in plastic, to the dining room, bedspreads and bath towels. my mom begged me to come with her to help get rid of the old furniture, clean out granny's garage and keep her company partly because granny, who is evil as the devil, is the bane of everyones existence, except mine. lawd chile she LOOOOOVE her some "princess christy-love," a fact that mystifies everyone in the family as i'm the pagan slut with no children, marriage prospects or mortgage and who, they all suspect, is a flaming lesbian because otherwise, wouldn't one of them have seen me with a man in the past 10 years, not to mention she's always talkin' about women?

so my mom booked our non refundable tickets and two days before we were to fly out, nonnie mentions casually to my mother that she's changed her mind, she doesn't think she needs new furniture after all but she's mighty glad that her only child and favorite grand daughter are kind enough to visit an old woman like herself who's kinfolk all live in n'awleans, that is they did live in n'awleans til that hurricane came and wiped everybody out (keeping in mind that all of my family fled the area before the disaster hit). ARRRGGGHH! so i'm pretty much stuck here until next thursday. am trying to make the most of it, furiously recording the hilarious diatribe against the world that my grandma spews with her every waking breath, bless her heart.

things you should know about my grandmother miss mayola maybanks-davis-simon;

though she's black as a bowl of prunes, she's been using bleaching cream for the last 60 years and expects to turn "light skinned" any day now.

she spends $80/jar on anti-wrinkle cream that she slathers on at night and attributes her perfect wrinkle free skin to lancome. i once tried to explain melanin to her, but she just pretended like she didn't understand me. this trip, my mom and i convinced her that oil of olay works just as well.

her first husband, my grandpa louis, who lived 85 years on planet earth, never believed in space travel. he believed that the US travelling to the moon was a big hoax on the american people. (to what end, he never explained).

her second husband, whom we all called "uncle sy" said to me on his deathbed, "when i die, i'd ruther come back a white mule than a black anything! that's just how bad they treat us. you don't know how they treat us."

granny not only believes that jesus was black, she also believes that he was lynched and "crucified" is a word white folk today use to cover that up.

she's cut my dad out of all the pictures she has of him and my mom together.

she subscribes to ebony, jet and essence and cuts out all the articles in the newspaper with pictures of black people next to them and sends them to my mom.

she makes pralines so good, your teeth fall out when you eat them.

but the best thing about her is that when the student loan people call her looking for me, she always says she doesn't know who i am or where i live. THAT'S LOVE!

and now, wisdom and words of advice from grandma:

"you too old to be marryin' for love. y'need to find you a man with some money!" (an interesting bit of trivia: about eight years ago, she tried to fix me up with a mortician who went to her church and i actually went on a date with him to shut her up!)
"i hate to say it baby, but you prolly gon end up wit a white man. ain't no nigger out there good enough f'you..."
"what? they don't sell girdles at victoria secrets?" (granny has been trying to convince me for years that i need to wear a girdle)
"you'd be so cute if it weren't for dem nigger knots y'got in y'head!" (referring to my dredlocks)
"y'know, you could make a good livin' as a (choose one:) post office employee, hair dresser, teacher etc."
"you a writer, ain'tcha? am i gon die befo' ya book come out?"
"as long as you happy, you can do anything you want to do."
"you don't need no man."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Things You Might Think


christa! it looks like you're getting FAT!, flow, "just keepin' it real" mentalz, my second favorite jersey poet (sexy ass BIG MIC is still my hands down favorite) last night at the nuyorican. so as a special guest, i read a new piece called, "she takes up space" that was inspired by a poet friend who saw me reading the memoir, "fat girl" by judith moore (a ferocious read) and who groaned, oh my god, you're not about to write a fat girl poem are you? please don't. you're too good for that. and the world doesn't need another fat girl poem...whatever. will post later...cbell

ps-in my honor, using only her eyes, rachel mckibbens threw a hood over flow's head, dragged him into the woods, tied him to a tree, poured honey all over his body and left him for the bears...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Moth Slam, NY, NY

went to a fantastic storytelling slam last night with a super-secret-famous-in-his-world friend who's name i will not mention because he's regularly and intensely stalked by crazy female fans of his love poems. as a matter of fact, i've been stalking him myself for months under the pretense of just "getting to know" him because his work is "so charming, so natural, so utterly without pretense..." a little flattery goes a long way with the famous-in-their-own-world types...but i'm a little nervous that somehow i'll slip and he'll recognize me for the crazed fan that i am. but hopefully by then it'll be too late and he'll already have eaten his daughters boiled bunny.

but back to the slam: i came in dead last, booed the hell out of the judges and was a very sore loser in general but had the best time! i'm not nervous anymore when i'm reading or otherwise performing on stage but last night was about unpracticed storytelling. no notes, no memorization and no one knew me. there were a total of ten contenders, pulled out of a hat and everyone told a first person story. for some reason i couldn't think of a first person story that wasn't already a poem and so i retold a fairy tale.

the theme was, "busted" and so i told the story of rumplestiltskin. remember the little elf (i made him a dred elf with a trinidadian accent which would've been hilarious if i hadn't been so nervous), who spun all the straw into gold so the farmers daughter wouldn't be killed by the king? well she eventually promised him her first born son but didn't want to give up her child when it came time to pay the piper. the dred elf decides to let her keep her child if she can guess his name, which she does by catching him in the forest singing (and i made this shit up on the spot!):

(to the tune of no woman no cry)
no woman no win
no woman no win
lil darlin gon shed much tear
my name is rumplestiltskin


i went WAY over time (the story slam has a five minute time limit as opposed to the three minute/ten second slam time limit), i probably went on for ten minutes (there's this freaky little whistle thing that they blow when you've used your time and it totally made me lose my concentration). all the story tellers were fantastic! there were first person stories about going on an internet date and ending up in jail because the date lunged at a police officer, accidentally mooning parents through a van window, not defending a senile relative who swore she heard the story teller sneaking out of the house to smoke a cigarette, and getting caught shoplifting in the store of a client and then being rescued by the store manager!

the host, who's name i'm very sorry i don't remember, was absolutely hilarious once he got warmed up, but i think he'd be even better if the crowd gave him more energy to work with. for the most part they laughed and clapped politely, but my secret friend and i were the only ones in the audience crackin' jokes (when i booed the judges for my low scores, secret squirrel was like, "i'll cut you! do you know who I AM?") and generally being silly. and jennifer, the vannah white/ed mcmahon-ish co-host was a great sidekick, very sweet and wrote me an email asking me to come again.

good times and a round of drinks for everyone! more later...cbell

Monday, July 10, 2006


somebody stop me. yesterday i bought rat traps at the dollar store to set in the subways here and am hoping to start a movement. i don't know if we just don't have rats and roaches on the west coast (i saw my first roach in california when i was 12 years old and i have NEVER EVER EVER seen a west coast rat!), or if they are simply well mannered enough to hide themselves when a lady approaches! the other day, a rat stared me down on the stairs leading to the union square f train. i was like, Shoo! Shoo! i stamped my foot and tried to scare it away then i walked up on it all big and bold, thinking that it would back down and let me pass, but the little MF just cocked it's head and stared at me as if i were trespassing! if he had a rifle, he would've shot at me! so i was like, fine, you can have your ol' fonky stairway, i didn't want to go home anyways, but then this man comes up behind me and he's laughing at me like, BWAHAA! don't you know that here, we share space with the animals? and then he walked right past the rat as if it weren't even there! so i scurried behind him (like a rat) and the whole time the lil bugger is just like, yeah, that's what i thought!

but i will have my revenge. and i know that's not very buddhist, killing rodents and all, so thank the lord i'm not a buddhist!!!...more later...cbell