Henna Party Memoir
"By Thy art, O Spirit, You overcome the cunning withering of Death"
by Catherine Cartwright-Jones, PhD
I worked a helluva henna party last weekend. It was not polite or respectable, but very, very, henna and grand fun! It was in a ragged grubby Cleveland neighborhood where young professionals are starting to buy old houses for a pittance to renovate them ... this party was at one of such, overlooking the huge industrial section of Cleveland, with a fine view of the sinister ancient steel works that once set the Cuyahoga River on fire. That part of Cleveland looks a lot like the opening shots in "Blade Runner".
There was a pair of burnt men's shoes thrown meaningfully into the devil-strip grass next door to the party house.
The gig was a thirty-something birthday party for a lady who decided at one of my Brushwood lectures that any women's party worth having really should include henna and who am I to argue? She sent out 100 invitations for her "Hammered and Hennaed" party and her lady-friends began arriving at 8 pm with the intent of getting blitzed, stoned and hennaed, in a way that only thirty-something-vaguely-pagan-employed-in-dull-beurocratic-jobs-in-rust-belt-industrial-America women can do with such perfect determination and efficiency.
I started hennaing immediately, on a woman who knew exactly how busy I was going to be, and I didn't have a chance to get up thereafter. By 1:30 am I was having a difficult time keeping the henna lines crisply professional, as the bed was bouncing with several very stoned women drying their henna and trying to sing "Sweet Transvestite" and "We are the Champions". I don't imbibe when hennaing, because I try to respect the art by doing only excellent work, but between the inability of a baked client to hold still, friends falling over backwards laughing and me doing my damnedest to concentrate in a room full of pot smoke, some of those were NOT my most delicate and precise hennas. Oh well.
The wasted were so enraptured that they didn't seem to notice. It was a fantastic party!
I got my second wind about 2 am and hennaed properly again until past 4.
One lady kept trying to start up the "ahhhh this is all sooooo sacred" rant with me, and if I ever have any tact with blissninnies devoid of authentic scholarship, I certainly have none when I have just hennaed for 8 hours straight and have been breathing in second hand pot smoke for most of that time. Torqued and trashed: a brilliant combination for no diplomacy whatsoever.
Gotta love a party that makes you feel that full of fun!
When I finally finished and packed the boxes into the car, looking across the street at a vast, empty, derelict factory that used to be the "Gospel Press" publishing headquarters for church hymnals and such, I was really grinning about the cosmic implications of people's absurd vanity about "Sacredness”.
I fired up the rusty Nova, and the radio hit the first notes of, "Won't Get Fooled Again" by the Who. So I grinned larger. It was one of those great transcendental moments! I went flying down the freeway, buzzed from 8 hours hennaing, radio running the 9 minute version of “Fooled Again" on high overpasses looking down on the huge stacks from the steel mills spewing blue fire columns into the night air with high decibel bravado rock in the darkness.
Damn, it was good!
I giggled, thinking, that though this may be an infinitely meaningless existence, and the notion of "sacred" may be nothing but vanity, some nights, there is, sure as shit, MAGIC!
I'd hennaed up a verse from the Rigveda in Sanskrit on my leg as resume' for the gig, "By Thy art, O Spirit, You overcome / the cunning withering of Death.
.It did work as a metaphor for all the crabapple trees bursting into bloom out of industrial winter, and getting out and defying middle-aged grimness with a righteously rowdy women's henna party with Pete Townshend’s' apocalyptic scream, I came around a curve to a huge billboard lit up saying "GOOD-YEAR." Yes, indeed! So it is!