Alice in Pondland
by Yvonne Erlichman
Prior to 2001, I led a relatively uneventful life. As a card carrying member of the Directors Guild of Canada, I reported to set at 5: 30 am and put in a 14 hour day cranking out TV series and features for mass consumption.
Toronto was a production mecca by virtue of the fact that our dollar was low, labor was dirt cheap, and tax incentives had the Hollywood bean counters laughing all the way to the bank. In between pandering to producers and stroking celebrity egos, I was quietly prepping to shoot my first independent feature, and researching shamanism for a screenplay I’d been writing.
Oddly enough, the Aboriginal elder I was interviewing for the script began interrogating me instead, and had me convinced that, were I a tribe member, as a child I’d have been whisked away to apprentice with the medicine woman of their clan. We agreed to meet again after a Vision Quest was done on my behalf, to retrieve my ” medicine name”. That was the tenth of September , 2001.
Next morning at 8:18 I got a phone call from my shamanic mentor who had had a powerful image of a burning feather and told me my medicine name was “dancing phoenix”. I thanked her, and pondered the significance of this revelation. I didn’t have too long to deliberate, because at 8: 26 while walking my dogs by the pond , I got a call from my location manager insisting that I get to a television ASAP. Pretty hard to do in a park, so I asked what the urgency was for the call.
The voice on the phone said: ” A plane just smashed into one of the twin towers in New York.” While I stood frozen in disbelief, the voice on the other end said, “Dear God. Another one ! “.
A burning feather had, in a matter of eight minutes, become the collapse of a financial landmark in North America – and with it my entire future built up over sixteen years of hard labor was reduced to a pile of smoke and ash. Alice was in Wonderland and the white rabbit was standing in a corner looking at a watch and mumbling ” You’re late. Too late. ”
No financing, no feature, no foundation – just a big rewrite – so penniless, homeless and with a 10 year old son to support, from that moment on I had to reinvent myself more times than Madonna, but without the capital and marketing team.
Skip ahead to 2006. My marriage, thankfully, is stronger than ever. Hubby jumped from the NABET union to the IATSE brotherhood, and has built another stellar reputation as a dolly grip. I have switched gears, focusing on the fire and embracing the alchemy of change – I turned my back on big budget filmmaking and discovered the power of sound as a shamanic tool.
In this information age, where technology is advancing at breakneck speed, some would have you believe it is better to be seen and not heard – at least the folks at YouTube are betting on it. But many civilizations have based their entire culture on oral tradition. When my 16 year old son said he wanted an iPod for Christmas – another fire was lit.
I had fallen into a dark rabbit hole of shattered dreams, dissolved expectations and staggering self-doubt. The tumor developing in my throat , mirrored to me an urgent need to express creatively – so Alice jumped into the looking glass and discovered that sound was her salvation.
When my son explained what an mp3 was, I downloaded every song in my CD collection and subscribed to no less than 50 podcasts after six months of intense listening, I bought a copy of ” Podcasting for Dummies ” , invested in a high end microphone and portable recording device, put up sound blankets in a corner of our apartment and started on a new adventure.
New technology, new medium, new freedom – I found an affordable creative outlet for my storytelling passion, without the pressures of tanned L.A. execs wailing about budget constraints, scheduling conflicts, and ego driven stars having hissy fits over whose Winnebago was bigger.
I even wrote and produced an audio drama as a Christmas offering to my listeners, and that was when I encountered another beasty, lying in wait. Some podcasters refer to this character type as “trolls”. These are people who have far too much time on their hands, and are incredible unhappy, bitter, and angry with the whole world. They surf the net and target those of us who lay it on the line publicly, and proceed to tear down our efforts, often assassinating a target’s character for good measure.
My initial reaction was a playback to September 11th : I was devastated.
A complete stranger who clearly hadn’t even listened to the episode, let alone understood that the audio drama I wrote was intended to serve as an allegory – accused me of misspelling an historical figure’s name, getting the gender wrong, and not having a clue about my subject matter. A twist of the knife was added by calling me a ” flatulent faker ” .
Many seasoned veterans in podcasting advised me to ignore and avoid engaging with this “sad excuse for a human being”, as this is precisely what they feed on. I was told to focus on the ample praise and positive feedback. One controversial podcaster told me that he got death threats regularly.
So Alice finds herself in a room that’s rapidly shrinking – or is that her ego?
My solution ultimately was a two – fold approach. It was clear that my lesson in this instance was to:
1 ) Refrain from taking myself too seriously no matter what activity has my undivided attention at any time. Losing your sense of humor is the death knell for hope and inspiration, and is the first step toward unhealthy fanaticism in any arena of human endeavor.
2 ) As a former competitive fencer and archer, I decided to give my alter ego a voice, and am launching a second podcast that allows me to vent my spleen with verbal parries if the need arises, since a well executed, civilized cathartic release saves the internal organs a lot of stress.
My original foray into “podland” in October of 2006 spawned the esoteric investigative playground I christened , ” Godbox Cafe” ,which is still airing more or less on a weekly basis at http://godboxcafe.com. The second voice – which will be an edgier analysis of world events and cultural norms from an unabashedly neopagan, shamanic perspective, will be entitled “Alfabet Soop”.
I have Celtaur to thank for certain graphics on both of these sites, and the members of this amazing assembly never cease to inspire me to raise the bar on my personal journey. It is a joy to be among such genuine seekers and refined souls here at the Esoteric Arcanum.