Thursday, January 31, 2013

Girls Night Out


The annual night where only the voices of women fill the audience at Curious Theatre has come and gone. A long night, filled with chicken pot pie, chocolate meringue pie and other deep down delicious pies from the incredible Humble Pie set the tone for Maple and Vine. I bet you never thought you'd want to go back to the '50's on an serious level. Well, the play probably wouldn't make you eager to turn around to eat pigs in a blanket and drink dubonnet before dinner. Or join the women's club against birth control. Or go back to the days when gays married a woman and then held clandestine, fervid affairs behind park bushes. Nope, not a time for me.
And the fear that hits the little gated community when the strange word 'google' is painted on buildings...Facing one's fears...
A great play, and I was accompanied by great friends, Ginia, Roberta, Merrilynn, Andrea and Pam. I'd match the dazzling prose of any play with the discussions of these women. Girls night out in high style and humor.

Interestingly enough, several months ago, Curious decided to host a men's night out, an event that would be associated with the play about professional wrestling: The Incredible Chad Diety.  A real 'guy' kind of play, lots of grunting, wrestling matches, championship frenzy. (Hey, did I just stumble into some '50's stereotyping here?) Anyway, the night never came to pass because advance ticket sales were too slow and weak. Set some of us wondering why. Did guys just not want to say, "Hey, how would you like to go the the theatre with me tonight with another guy?" or did other guys not like being asked to a play by another male? Hard to know. I do know that men play golf together, play cards, play...other things, but I don't know why men's night at the theatre didn't work. Maybe next year. I'd love to see it work, think of a collective of testosterone bantering at the theatre.

In the meantime, I'm just going to hang around here in 2013, in spite of all that is imperfect in this world. We have to stay to deal with this ugly gun stuff, battle of the ages.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Drug of Choice

My week for going to the theatre. Saw Grace, The Art of Climbing, a world premiere and a good one at that last night and off to see Maple and Vine at Curious Theatre tonight for Girls Night Out.
Girls Night Out is a good-time fundraiser, with only women in the audience. Sponsored by Humble Pie, so good-time comfort food and the laughter and talk of 200 women - and, then the play begins.

The little I know about tonight's play is that, having experience a few bumps in the contemporary world, a couple heads back to the '50's for a 'better' life. Hmmm.

You know, back then when every woman was either Mrs. John Smith or Miss Ellen Smith. Identity was pretty clear. You're a winner or you are an old maid. Credit cards? Who needed one in one's own name? And so it goes. And the party room at Curious Theatre is called Mamie's Room after Mamie of Ike and Mamie. Atmosphere should be fine. Don't forget to put out the ashtrays.

With that context, I read the morning's paper - full of woe, indignity, and just plain idiocy. Drugs here, drugs there..What's a person of these decades to do without a little help from some friends. It was the '60's that brought mother's little helper to the forefront and its been full speed ahead ever since.

One section of today's paper was about our schools and the incredible amount of trading, borrowing, exchanging going on around Adderall. Focuses one's mind; gets a wrap around studying, writing papers, doing what needs to be done without distraction. Some might call it dealing. I don't know...All I do know is that for twenty years kids have been coming to college with their Adderall-type drugs, and kids without them are ready to get a step up also.
But not everyone's parents have the $$$ to shell out, along with tuition, for a diagnosis. So students trade, buy, whatever. (I'm not saying everyone with an ADD, ADHD, XXX diagnosis isn't legit, but not all of them are.)

So focus the mind on drugs and then move to the sports page. What's the topic?  Drugs.   Hmmm, I seem to have a focus going on.
What's my point? There were no easily obtained focus and be smarter drugs around in the late '50's/early '60's, so I can't say whether I woould have tried them. (At this point, I think being focused is highly over-rated so I'm not interested.) BUT I do remember chugging those no-doze pills with black coffee hoping to get something going to study all night. A year of high school French in a weekend? No problem. A high school paper on Eugene O'Neill - that forever wordy, morose Eugene O'Neill - coke, coffee, no-dose. Write like a maniac.

You choose; a handful of No-Doze and pot of coffee, or Adderall or similar.
No, you cannot choose marijuana. Too legal, too easy here in CO.

It's different now. Different, but the same. Everyone's still looking for that edge. Should be an interesting play, but, drugs or no drugs,  I can't see going back to growing up in the '50's for a nano-second. What about you?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Annie doesn't get her gun

Thank God. Denver lawmakers k.o.'d a bill put forth by Republicans to let teachers carry weapons.
Who do these Republicans know that I don't know? Many, I guess.
Many, many of my best friends are public school teachers. I've been a teacher and a professor.
Many of my best friends/teachers share similar qualities with me: we lose our car keys, our pocketbooks, and wonder who has stolen our sunglasses on a regular basis. We've lost our selves on bikes, foot, trains, planes and automobiles. We've left luggage, computers, pocketbooks in airports or at bus stations. What we've brought to Good Will, on purpose and by mistake, would outfit several villages. We are, alas, consumers. We are also, alas, finders and losers. We don't weep for long, as things are for letting go. We're on the run, with a modicum of organization that has gotten us places all over the world in an 'I once was lost but now I'm found' mode.
So about those teachers and guns. I get to hang with some brilliant people, people who could teach Annie Dillard's stone to talk, people who have changed many a life for the better.
There's nary one soul, in my cast of characters called good friends, who should carry a gun. Or would want to carry a gun. What schools and universities did these guys promoting teacher-toting guns attend that makes them think any teacher wants to carry a gun? Carrying those endless assessment charts is more than enough for a person of intelligence. A gun. No thanks. My brothers and sisters don't want one. And I'm hoping most people don't want teachers to have guns.
Briefcase, I-Pad case, phone case, pocketbooks, stuffed pockets, cups of food, slices of apple, hot coffee, whiteboard erasers, hand sanitizers, and a gun case. Don't burden Annie (or Arnie) with a gun.
Don't even let us know you are thinking such thoughts. Send them down the first black hole that comes your way. In that black hole you might even find my key to the lock from Bob's Bikes in Rehoboth. Or the chicken breast that somehow didn't make its way home from the store.
Disappear those thoughts.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Here's Popping To You

One of those Mondays....and it's already been a lazy one. Found out on FB quiz that I only own 21 of the 100 Most Influential Albums. How can that be? I've been hanging out with enough time to buy records from old-fashioned record stores, big-fashioned record stores, once held a sucker of the month record album mail membership. I've been in-line, on-line, off-line and underline buying albums, and what do I have? 21? And truth be told, some of those officially belong to my sons Rob and Chris, so I probably only purchased or traded for 12 - 14. Failure. And just in case you are interested, I've been to Woodstock, seen Bob Dylan way too many times, saw Tina when she was still with Ike, stood next to James Brown bus in Newport, bumped into Bo Diddley at a long ago fraternity party in CT, danced with the Dead, fell in love with the two Davids-  Bowie and Byrne - and feeel a lifelong affinity with Eric Clapton. Oh, yea, what about my time with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, and the ever whining Neil Young? And more. That still only gets me 12 - 14.  And no U2 in most influential??
The list must be too short. Maybe that's it. I still buy albums, but I don't think Norah Jones, Roberta Flack or any of the Taylors or Swifts are influential. Deva Primal? Why not?
So that's the bad news for the morning. Get a job, create a job, write a poem, run a mile, but don't go taking that Influential Album test.

The Good News on a day when there is obviously no news to print: It's National Bubble Wrap Day. As my friend Cheryl would say, Here's popping to you.  That's it. Don't take the Influential Album test, find some bubble wrap and pop all that album anger smack out of the room.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Wildlife

A prize winning Nature video -- good way to start the weekend...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Equal Rights

Strange how different roads come together. Back in another century we were protesting for several things at once: Civil Rights, Women's Rights, and Against the War. Each of those movements had its string of successess. So here we are today with the announcement that women can serve in all capacities in the military. The military will provide equal opportunity deployment, danger, and defense.
So we got what we wanted - equal rights. And I guess for those women who have chosen the military, this is a great day. Of course, it's the way it should be. And I am happy for those women who get to pursue their chosen careers with as many opportunities as any male out there. It's just a bit of a hollow victory, or so it seems to me, to win the right to fight. No, I'm not that naive twenty-something who thought all war could and should end. Life persuades some of us otherwise. Still...in some dream world out there it would be nice if there were no war to attend, if the Woody Allen scenario in 'What If They Gave a War and Nobody Came?' occurred.

On another note, I watched some women organize an intervention last night - not a war-type intervention, but an intervention to check on the social and mental stability of a friend. This was strategic planning at its best - 'you get the coffee, you bring the xx, we'll just stop by for a chat and make sure everything is okay.'  Apparently the woman's memory has become less predictable and she has some overwhelming tasks confronting her right now. The coffee meeting will just enable the women to assess how much help she needs and how they can best support this woman living on an edge. Quite beautiful, the human spirit when it is unleashed to do good and do well. There are many wars to be fought, and this will be a good one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall


Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall - three words, places and events that will reverbate for a long time after Obama's Inaugural speech yesterday. As well they should. Some pollsters will probably come up with the percentage of people who don't know the significance of those words, and I suspect we'll be appalled.

 I wonder if all those folks charged with putting together textbooks, tests, and daily class lessons think those are historical events worthy of the 'need to know' list?

Kudos to Richard Blanco for his poem, My Story is America's. Yes, the on-going narrative belongs to all of us, and he crafted the tale with magnificance.

But after the inauguration itself, the pundits and reporters have a lot of time on their hands; there's just so much one can say about a packed ballroom -- so much to say, that is, until Michelle Obama shows up. Yes, she has great arms, great shoulders and is beautiful. But after that - how much time do we need to dissect the dress choice, the shoes and her new hair style? Why Jason Wu again, why Jimmy Choo, what do the bangs really signify? And how many reporters does it take from CNN or any other channel to cover this stuff? Sometimes if appears as if the smaller the amount of content the larger the number of reporters. Maybe it's just me.

In the meantime, it was my second inauguration yesterday. Began another bout with chemo, the first of six rounds. I don't plan to make this a major topic on the blog...If I don't show up for a day or two, I will probably just be playing the role of a slug. But I did learn yesterday that the body 'remembers' one of the drugs, so the reaction (a stronger reaction) might be as if this were the 7th dose, not the first . It has been almost two years since I last had the drug, so I'm in awe of the body's ability to recognize and continue as if no time has passed. Sort of like phoning an old friend from college and picking up as if no time had passed. This is a less friendly picking up, but still one of interest.

Rituals and ceremonies finished, Washington is back in business. Aren't we all? Proud to be thinking about the epic American tale, with stops at Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Overcoming, a day at a time


Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Day. Barack Obama is sworn in as president of the United States for the second time. Plenty to reflect upon today, as we move forward. One step at a time, one day at a time.  We've overcome a lot, but lots further to go on this journey for peace and justice.  It's probably best that I just show a few images, make available a few speeches and a poem to commemorate the day.



I'm adding this video of Bobby Kennedy announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. because in all its power and call for peace between and among people the video foreshadows the impending assassination of Bobby Kennedy. For me, and for many, the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy brought an end to an era of hope - hope for equal rights, hope for opportunity, hope that love and human kindness would prevail. For a while, we just sucked it up, sure that violence and madness had won.

Well, it turned out that violence and madness didn't go away, but hope came back, the dream came back, the urge to liberate the human soul continues. The President being sworn in today (and yesterday) comes to office on the backs and votes of Blacks, Latinas, Women - the once disenfranchised held sway. Big money took a beating. Got Hope? You bet. As for violence and madness - those twins still lurk around the corner. Lately, it's been more than lurking, they've showed up in movie theatres and schoolhouses. Still, Hope prevails. The Dream prevails. Thanks, Martin Luther King Jr. and everyone responsible for bringing this Celebration Squared today.


And a poem from the poet chosen for today's Inauguration. I'm not trying to make a point about identity politics, and am often irritated by the descriptors assigned to people, but how can it not feel good to know that Richard Blanco, Inaugural Poet, is the youngest poet ever, a Cuban-American poet, a gay man chosen to represent us with his words. John Kennedy had Robert Frost and today we have Richard Blanco. Hope in abundance. Richard Blanco born in 1968, the year Martin Luther King Jr. died.


I.
Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half a dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.
II.
There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year’s Eve,
even on Thanksgiving day—pork,
fried, broiled, or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
friend plantain chips, and yuca con mojito.
These items required a special visit
to Antonio’s Mercado on the corner of Eighth Street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—“Ese hijo de puta!”
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another’s lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.
III.
By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parent’s didn’t.
We didn’t live in a two-story house
with a maid or a wood-panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on the Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke’s family wasn’t like us either—
they didn’t have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn’t have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.
IV.
A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain’s majesty,
“one if by land, two if by sea,”
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the “masses yearning to be free,”
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.
V.
Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamá set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolas,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworth’s.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
“DRY,” Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—“esa mierda roja,” he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Heroic Spirit again

As you can imagine, I am still awash with the beauty of the Journey of the Human Spirit performance two nights ago at the Newman Center.
The ghetto and concentration camps stretch us to the very edge of collective horror; the creativity and collaboration that produced the opera in that context stretches us to the opposite edge - the edge of creativity and courage.
I have had the opportunities to visit sights of horror,a concentration camp, some Holocaust museums, the Anne Frank house, the building in Prague that displays the artwork of children in the ghettoes, but somehow this particular experience of the musical performance struck a deeper chord, provided more resonance for me. Somehow, I felt transported into a community of people for whom there was no hope, no rosy future to imagine, no anything other than a dark and painful end. Yet those little collectives brought as much beauty and light into their lives and the lives of others as humanly possible.
One step at a time, one day at a time, people did their best to be present in the moment. I doubt anyone was thinking their art, poetry, music, kindness or creativity would make a difference in their personal lives. I suspect they knew that their talents would not make a difference in the final outcomes of their lives or the lives of people with them, But they made a difference every day in the lives being lived one day at a time. All that is good and right in the human spirit helped people transcend, if only for moments, the deepest and darkest holes of the human spirit.

 I'm still overwhelmed by the experience, can feel it in my bones,  and by the collaboration that made it all possible. Every once in a while we are fortunate enough to be touched, to be moved from an intellectual experience to an emotional one and feel connected to the world in a profound way. It is not an easy experience to put into words, but I continue to be grateful for it.

On a more immediate, more pedestrian note: Found myself sucked into the Oprah-Lance Armstrong vortex last night. First, kudos to Oprah. I had no idea what channel or network she owned, and had never watched anything on it. Well, I'm thinking she got thousands, maybe millions like me to tune into her network. Job well done, even for just a night.
Lance Armstrong? Well, buddy, I hope you know how long, dark and unpredictable the path to redemption is. Making amends isn't just about saying 'I'm sorry, so let's move on.' Too much to be sorry for. It's one think to scheme and take drugs; it's another to take people down, one by one, relentlessly, to ruin people's lives because they told the truth. Oh, no, that's not a quick job, taken care of by prime-time television. And - just my opinion - that smirk that makes its way through every once in a while doesn't help. The "hey, I might have called you a bitch, but I didn't call you fat" line should have brought psychiatrists to the edge of their chairs. Real heroes don't break the hearts of millions, don't strip people of their beliefs that heroes don't lie...Mr. Lance Armstong, the celebrity, has taken one step on the journey to redemption. Hope he keeps walking.

Hope you encounter a hero over the weekend. Chances are, most of us will. Chances are, we won't know we had that encounter. Enjoy

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Other Kinds of Heroes

Heading off to see/hear A Journey of the Human Spirit at the Newman Center last night, all I really knew was that this was a world premiere of a 1944 opera and a 2013 ballet. Wasn't quite sure what that meant; after all, if I wrote a play and my friends acted in it, that would be a world premiere. I had decided not to look for a description on the Newman Center's webpage or anywhere else. Sometimes it's better to be surprised.

This was a heady and inspired collaboration - a world premiere worthy of the title. The opera, Der Kaiser von Atlantis (The Emperor of Atlantis) was composed by Viktor Ullman and the librettist was Petr Kien, both of them were prisoners in the Theresienstadt ghetto, and both of them with their families died at Auschwitz later in 1944  The short opera was a thinly veiled satire on Hitler, but the veil was not thin enough - it was never performed because the German officers attending a rehearsal banned its performance. But the opera was performed for a packed house at the Newman Center this one night in January 2013 at the Newman Center in Denver. Just hard to imagine people living in a ghetto, knowing the next stop was on to the camp and death, composing and creating art and music to fill the hearts and heads of the group.

A new ballet (From Darkness to Light) was performed after the opera, choreographed by Garrett Ammon and performed by brilliant dancers from Ballet Nouveau Colorado, set to music (lots of it Klezmer music) by Ofer Den-Amots who is composer and Chair of the Music Department at Colorado College. Add Central City Opera, the Colorodo Symphony, Mizel Arts and Culture Center of Denver, and the Newman Center at DU -- and the result was a one and a half hour performance that had the audience spellbound. I'll admit that knowing just a little something about the collaboration beforehand might have helped, but my lackadaisical pre-performance lack of preparation didn't interfere much in a grand night. Actually, I somewhat enjoy being a bit puzzled, then coming home and reading about what I just saw. (That's my modus operandi often when travelling: skim ever so quickly the guide books before and during a trip, then come home and re-create the pleasure bey reading about where I was).

One night and the show is over...one night and too many hours to count of collaboration among first-class artists. The audience only stopped clapping when hands became sore from coming together over and again. This was a true sensory experience of the journey of the human spirit.

There's more - so much more - lingering after the stage is cleared. For example, as the program explains, Victor Ullman - composer, pianist, conductor - was an Austrian of Jewish descent, but was baptized three weeks after his birth in the Catholic Church in the town where he lived in Poland. At the age of forty-five he and his family were transported to Theresienstadt Ghetto where he and a Czech composer, Hans Krasa, were given the task of co-organizing the 'permitted' leisure activities within the ghetto. One result was the collaboration of composer Ullman and poet Kien to create the never (until last night) performed opera "Der Kaiser Von Atlantis."

That's my musical review, but I want to leave you to ponder, as I will all day today and into the future, the journey of the human spirit. How many heroes of the human spirit are unknown to us? How many have brought the human spirit into ghettos, prisons, war, and unthinkable places? Too many heroes to name as givers of grace to the world.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Celebrities and Heroes


I have the new tower, which translates into a new computer, so am ready to see if all the old glitches are gone. Already found a new one, but think the glitch is in me, not the system.

Caught up with the last of of Oliver Stone's Untold History series. The nice thing about Stone is that he is attempting to tell the 'truth' of history to his children and others. I'm sure he is spot on for most of it, but just don't have a great enough sense of history or historical context to be a judge. I'd definitely recommend the series to everyone I know. If you don't have all those extra channels or on demand, I'm sure the set must be available at libraries.

As I was about to click off the television last night, Ken Burns appeared on screen, so I stayed with it. I have no idea if he was promoting something new or something already done, but he was talking about Fred Rogers. You must remember Fred, the man who brought peace to the house for half an hour every day.

Well, Ken Burns was talking about Fred Rogers ("Mr. Rogers?) as a great man, a hero for the ages. He also suggested that when kids outgrew Fred Rogers' show and no longer watched, they had lost their one big connection to spirituality. So, post-Fred Rogers, sooner or later, the quest to regain spiritual connection with the world would have to begin again. Ken Burns suggested that Fred Rogers was one of the most spiritual men he had ever known. Given the people Ken Burns must know, that is saying a lot.

For me, I was watching the promo, or whatever it was, in the context of a discussion about what passes for a hero today. It's those sports hero/thugs that make me crazy and they always show up around championship time - doesn't matter the sport, at least one major hero/thug shows up for glory. Sure, there was the Tim Tebow exception last year, but, poor guy, look where he is now. So we are in the season where someone who throws a great pass, blocks a big guy, or wins a game is a hero - regardless of the past. Don't get me wrong - I too love the excitement of good games, competition, and I love a winner. Long may he or she stand in Subway ads or whatever. Celebrities rock. But they aaren't necessarily heroes.

Anyway, I had spent some time yesterday thinking and talking about Joseph Campbell's (Myth of the Hero and so many other books, etc.) message to us a couple of decades ago, warning that we had lost the distinction between hero and celebrity. How's that for calling out a truth? We've got celebrities galore. Few heroes. Of course, Joseph Campbell is the same man who saw all those young wanna-be tough guys riding the subways in NYC as Oedipus, searching for home, for identity. Joseph Campbell is one of my heroes, just in case you hadn't noticed.

Back to Fred Rogers - and never in my imagination would I have seen me writing a post about Fred Rogers...too cynical for that. But isn't it a Fred Rogers message that went viral after Sandy Hook? Wasn't it the face of Fred Rogers telling us to remember the helper?
Good luck, for me - catching the Ken Burns talk about Fred Rogers came at a perfect time in the latest television promo activity. Three days and running CNN and others have been caught up in what Lance Armstrong is going to say (has said, it's been taped) to Oprah. Seriously. Ten years of lying and now seeking redemption. Those lyin' eyes. Yea for Lance Armstong the celebrity. Cross him off the hero list.
Don't you wish we had more heroes and fewer celebrities? And don't you wish we didn't confuse the two?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Word Up

No new computer tower yet, but a major de-fragging of this one as a start. I don't really know what defragging means, but you probably do. So, other than reporting on the political drama of the new year - Clarence Thomas was actually caught talking at Supreme Court after seven years of silence. Alas, it was such a shocker that no-one caught the actually words on tape.
Celebrity drama - Lance Armstrong is talking on Oprah TV, allegedly going to tell the truth. Clarence Thomas and Lance Armstong talking are the big news bites of these cold days.
But there is a long, talking piece by Ann Sieben on her Winter Pilgrim page, so am copying it here for you all to catch up with her on the pilgrimage through South American to Mexico. it's been over a hundred days now, so thought you might enjoy lots of words from South America.

Day 119 Calling all pilgrims...


Calling all pilgrims, Peru is a great place for an adventurous foot pilgrimage, for Spanish or Quechua speakers, in really good physical condition, who can comfortably divorce themselves from giant yellow arrows, and can come to enjoy/endure the ubiquitous bone-in guinea pig that appears at every meal. (Describing without cultural judgement: these guinea pigs are generally raised in the kitchens, free-range on the packed mud floor, reproducing at will, dozens scurrying around, pooping, cooing incessantly, nibbling grass strewn about twice daily, and suddenly, a few are missing and it's time for dinner...)

This region either side of Cusco stands out from all the other places I've walked because there is a sufficient number of villages for periodic rests and reliable potable water supply, the people are kind and welcoming (though not so inclined as to offer refreshment without first being asked), and the history and culture rise to meet your feet. The altitude and daily elevation changes add challenge.

Before the pilgrimage, I had the idea that Peru in particular would be a place similar to Mexico, since they share a common history of having a strong empire and complex culture in place when the Spaniards arrived - the Spanish colonials arrived in Mexico City in 1521 and in Cusco in 1531. However, other than the similarities of the general appearance of the colonial-era towns, they're quite different from each other. I have the sense that the divergence of the Spanish cultural impact in Mexico was the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The experience of the Native American, baptized as Juan Diego, in 1531 in Mexico City sparked a mass conversion of the natives. Once converted to Catholism, the Spaniards intermarried and established a firm mixed culture. In Peru, there were several apparitions in diverse localities before the end of the 16th century, but none had the widespread impact as OLoG. While the work of the missioneries resulted in many conversions, there wasn't the emotional devotion in Peru as in Mexico. Today, not many people in Peru know who OLoG is, there are relatively few practicing Catholics, few shrines, annual feast days aren't centered around a patron Saint. The present culture of Peru is fascinating and diverse, but not as similar to Mexico as I had thought it would be. Interesting. And for this reason too, a particularly savorous place to make a village-to-village pilgrimage.

Walking village to village as I do, without a map to speak of, I tend to show up in unexpected places to the shock and amazement of the locals. I ask the shepherds for the footpaths and sometimes just take their vague advice - 'over the next mountain is another mountain, over that mountain is a stream...follow the stream down to the village, there you can meet my cousin and stay in his house for the night, or better, rest there for a week'. Though in this sea of mountains, of course over every mountain is another mountain, but good enough direction for me, and off I go - the worse that can happen is not so bad. Often enough I find remnants of the Incan trail - a properly engineered path wide enough for two to pass, zigzagging up and down the high mountains. Sometimes, though, the non-Incan paths aren't engineered beyond a hoe-scraped line traversing a steep slope making for a rather daring passage. Don't look down. I climbed one a few days ago, in a light rain, passing a young goatherd... the little boy and I had to take hold of each other as we delicately passed so neither would risk the 1,000-foot can't-see-the-bottom deathdrop - ok, so on the list of qualities for the appeal to pilgrims above, add that it's not a place for acrophobes.

And I walk with joy and happiness...

Oh, and just when I'm comfortable speaking Spanish without having to think about it first, I'm now in a region where Quechua is so engrained that not everyone I meet during a given day remembers their Spanish from their schooldays...I'm picking up some words, can ask for water and almost discuss the location of paths, but to my dismay, the language apparently lacks a word for 'pilgrim', so it's not possible to say 'Hi, I'm a pilgrim!' in the local idiom.

Monday, January 14, 2013

High Drama

With a little bit of luck, I'll be on a different computer tomorrow.  I have a new tower, which I assume means new computer. Whatever I have now is old, erratic, and spontaneously (especially during the night) changes the microsoft word system. I swear it's nothing I do in the morning, but things that go bump in the night invade, make a few changes, and then return to invisibility. I'll have the same old screen, the new keyboard (gift of last week's spilled coffee), new insides, and the hope that everything meaningful transfers to the new system. That's enough drama for me.

Speaking of drama, plenty of it showed up on Saturday in Denver. But there was no catharsis for the Broncos or their fans. Don't know if it was hubris that felled the potential heroes, but any potential redemption is a long year away. For the spectators who sat in four degree temperatures to watch the four parts and the dismal encore, it was bitter. Nothing but bitter. All those fans have today is should have, could have, would have. And plenty of that to go around.

We did find some great drama in Zero Dark Thirty. Brilliant film, brilliant directing, brilliant acting. It did make me question why we know the names of all sorts of male generals and heroes from the military theatre, but have never gotten to know the name of one female strategic leader in that high drama world. Definitely worth seeing.
As for the many critics who don't like the suggestion that the American military engages in torture, I'd suggest they stay home and save their rose-colored sunglasses for something else.

As for the last of the weekend's drama, the Golden Globes was a great reminder of all that is good about the movies and television. Once the wheat is separated from the chaff, it's all good.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Delinquent Writers

So, that coffee spill in the keyboard caused a problem. Tried to post yesterday and only some letters would show up on the screen. Maybe two or three letters per word, so it made for a bizarre paragraph before I gave up. Don't know if it was the coffee or the water I dripped on/in the keyboard to remove the coffee, but it turned out to be a far more expensive cup of black coffee than any monstrous coffee design I could have ordered at Starbucks.

New Keyboard arrived. So I started up again early this morning. But some gnomes or twerps, someone or thing that was not me (I, as we would have said way back when we knew that sort of thing) caused a glitch in microsoft word. Fortunately I live with someone who overrode my resolution to go to the Mac store at 10:00 and buy a new computer. The resident philosopher solved the problem, saving me the cost of a new computer...and the later humiliation of learning the computer wasn't broken at all.

I had gone to my IPad to post, but just can't get myself into the two-finger poking of keys to write more than a few sentences.

Going to meet up with the Delinquent Writers Group - we've been delinquent for about a year now, so it's time to see if we can resurrect our creative juices and push each other to complete some narratives begun long ago. There are some incredible stories begun by members of this group, but we all seem to share several common problems. We're all prone to edit the hell out of a paragraph or page before moving on. Not a one of the five of us seems to have the ability to push on, put the whole slobbering, messy tale together and then go back to edit. Some of us can't do that because we're waiting for the characters to tell us where the tale is going; others just a tad too obsessive.

But we managed, for several years, to meet faithfully once a month to critique one another's prose. That kept at least one person a month on track, presenting a chapter or essay to the group for review. We did the reviews seriously and carefully. I'm not sure there are many other groups as talented in the writing or editing areas. But, as with all good things, life gets in the way and skipping one or two meetings led to fewer lines written. We, like many others I know, need the structure and expectations of a group to keep us disciplined. So it'll be a call to conscience today to see if the Delinquents are going to return to the creative writing world or not.

Patrick sent an article early this morning that suggest we need storms, dark days and nights, to huddle in and write. Actually, one of my complaints about CO is that it is just too sunny. Even when it's freezing out, it's sunny. That's all fine if golf is your game; not so fine if you are trying to make writing your game.
How can one go to the movies when it's sunny or hover over the computer and write when the sun is shining. Living in CT for so many years, one could count on rain, snow, cloudy skies often enough to go to an afternoon movie on a weekend several times a month. It's not that I go out and plant gardens, run marathons, or bicycle across town every day the sun is shining. It's just a big whopping excuse for lack of discipline. But it works.
On the other hand, I'll give it over to the Denver Broncos tomorrow and hope for sunshine. But I'll take a couple of days next week of gloomy weather as a trade-off.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sticky Fingers


It's already been one of those days. One of those days where I got up late, decided the milk was too old for a bowl of cereal and the big local news is that Peyton Manning has started wearing a glove in football games. The number of printed pages and conjectures about the significance of this new addition to the football costume are overwhelming.
Speaking of football, having just learned about RG111, football hero of the year, I watched him on television last weekend, watched until his leg just gave way beneath him. Even Maureen Dowd has something to say about his playing injured, the coach' responsibilty, and his uncertain future. Have to figure the politicians aren't doing too much damange these days if she can take time to write about football's ethical dilemmas.
Also, on a national level, after spending many millions of dollars, the Gates Foundation has released its study saying that measuring student test scores, observing teachers teaching, and assessing student satisfaction will lead to more effective teaching and learning.  Hmm. Why didn't I think of that?
On an international level, a new buried city has been found in Turkey, the city of Saint Nicholas, the man associated throughout the world with Christmas. After visiting Pompeii way back, I've been a sucker for the sunken or buried city. And Turkey, with its history of invaders, captors, wars and struggles is probably going to provide us all with a gem. For me, a story worth following.
Back to the local level - local enough to be right here in the study with me.
After failure to find fresh milk this morning, I poured my second cup of coffee and brought it up - figured I could both post and sip coffee rather easily. Not so. I managed to spill the cup of coffee over and into the keyboard. Now my keyboard and fingers are wet and both getting a tad sticky, so with nothing exciting to discuss and without a philosophical thought in sight, I am signing off. We'll see what the world holds after the keyboard washdown.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Are You In or Out?

Along with getting my resolutions in order, I always like to check through the Washington Post What's In/What's Out List to see if I'm still part of the pop-relevant world.

But that list also has a brief timespan. For example, a week ago #YOLO was out and #HTTR was in. Just wondering who is still singing 'Hail to the Redskins' after this past weekend. There's a quick delete for you, a half life halved. And lived only by Redskins fans who tweet. Was/is that a really big universe?
TEDx is out; SpaceX is in. Had to look that one up to remind myself that there's a new company heading into space. Space entrepreneurship is in; too many lightweights have entered the world of TEDx (still a brilliant concept), pushing it into the background.
Then there is the world of entertainment. I'm just never quite on top of the latest country singer or tv series star. I thought Desperate Housewives had disappeared, but not.
I'm guessing Nate Silver worship led us to the emergence of the term psephologists [psēphos is the Greek word for "pebble"].Love the word and love being reminded that the Greeks voted with pebbles...and loving the fact that Nate Silver became an oracle for us last year.
The rest is not much more than benign distraction.
Speaking of  distractions, I noted in the Denver Post this morning a local Republican lawmaker has a bill to propose for the new legislative session.
Senator Greg Brophy is proposing that parents be able to buy alcohol at a bar for their children who are eighteen or over. Seems poor Mr. Brophy and his wife took their daughter out to celebrate her 20th birthday with them and they were appalled, saddened, miffed, distraught - you fill in the adjective - that the daughter couldn't have a drink with them. Oh, the tragedy of it all.
Guess I had the crazy idea, especially as the facts of the Aurora movie massacre are being splattered across the front page of the paper that the legislative sessions might be focusing on banning assault weapons, tightening up on buying bullets on line, mental health....Somehow a bill giving power to the parents to buy their 18-year olds a drink in public never crossed my mind. You'd think legalizing marijuana would have been enough for CO this year.
 But what do I know? Watching Oliver Stone's Untold History these days is a good reality check on what's in and what's out...or what was.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Resolved to Write

So begins my artifically imposed new year's day. I always think the extra week gives me extra time to be thoughtful and reflective as I refine my list of resolves.
I'm trying to be a tad more quantitative this year. For example, I started out with one that's probably been on one of my new year's resolution lists at least forty times: Be kind in the new year.
Sounds simple. Not. So I decided to be more precise by saying "Say or do somethink kind every day."  You would think that comes without saying - who doesn't say or do something kind every day?  Been paying some attention to myself, and find that isn't necessarily true. Long ago, I had a friend who, at the suggestion of a marriage counselor, made an intention to say something kind to her husband every day. Beverly was the kindest, nicest woman I knew at the time, and still ranks in any all-time 'nice' person. She struggled to make good on her intention, but she kept at it until it became a pattern to notice and comment kindly every day about something John had said or done. Part of me figures I don't have much of a chance if the lovely Beverly had such a hard time of it, but I'll give it a go anyway.
A more modest resolution I'm making is to stop complaining about the weather. It's cold. Even when it's sunny, it's cold. It's dry. Bone dry. It's too dark in the early morning. It's, it's.... Just shut up. What's the point? And it is true that older people are always yakking about the weather or some impending storm. Enough.
Sugar. Less, much less.
The Body. It's not going to get any better, so get over that also.
Exercise. More, not less (as has been the case in this pre-resolutin week).
WRITING. Here's one I can actually do something about. Write every day.
You're probably thinking, "For her to say or do something kind, stop talking about the weather and/or her body, and write every day fills the day. No time for anything else."
Probably. But I am going to write something, even if it's just an old-fashioned five-minute freewrite, five times a week. Posting on the blog doesn't count for this resolution. There. I committed myself.

 

Friday, January 4, 2013

That Emotional Slut

About that emotional slut from yesterday. I heard from several readers that they thought I was referring to myself as an emotional slut. Somehow my organizational style of unpacking boxes, perusing everything in them, suggested I was an emotional slut for being so attached to those items.

Thinking about it now, I concede it's a good interpretation and for all I know it might be an accurate one. But...I think the 'Beware the emotional slut' random note to myself in 2012 meant 'beware the person who asks how you are doing, then sits down and dumps his or her emotional baggage all over you.'  And it's not all about you, about your special ability to understand problems, pain, to show compassion. No....that emotional slut will move from person to person gushing tears, laughter, worry lines, whatever that person is feeling. I think we've all had the experience of sitting on a plane and suddenly knowing more intimate details about the life of a complete stranger than we do of our brothers and sisters or best friends. I've had several coffee shop or bookstore experiences where I've learned about relationships gone amuk. Alas, at least in my experience, the emotional slut all too often is female.
Just my perspective.

Not much news in the news right now, but the new political year started yesterday. New senators and representatives, filled with optimism and hopes for big accomplishments, were sworn in yesterday. Kudos to the Dems for looking a bit like the population - lots of women. Ethnic and religious diversity. I don't know about you, but I'd like to see the first act be getting some money to the survivors of Hurricane Sandy. Life must be pretty grim for those people smacked down by an erratic Mother Nature.

With that done, I'm hoping the second act will be banning assault rifles and any gun that has purposes other than hunting in the woods. I'm not one for shooting quail, pheasant, deer, elk, bull moose or anything, but for now, I can let that one go. Saddest part of the new year so far is knowing that gun dealers can't keep enough assault weapons and other guns in stock to satisfy people. I don't know about you, but a massive demand for personal weapons suggests to me that we have far greater problems than worrying about which team gets the most points while winning the debt ceiling war.
Despite all that, enjoy the weekend.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

Beware the Random Notes


Beware the emotional slut. As some of you know, prior to the holidays I had boxed up papers, gifts, mementos, all things sitting out on desks, bookcases, etc. so the furniture could be moved and new carpet installed upstairs. Carpet is in, furniture moved back into place, but I left the box unpacking for post-holiday activity.

Those of you who have moved or purged things know what's coming. Thought I'd get things all back in place yesterday. Two boxes unpacked and infinitely more on the floor than when I started. The major problem? I skimmed through two of those little notebooks that can be used for short notes on the go.
Being who I am, there are no dates on any of the entries, no context, a few direct quotes w author's name, but mostly thoughts or quotes that must have seemed important at the time - including a note to myself,  'Beware the emotional slut.' 

It's a great suggestion, especially if you've ever spent time with one of those emotional sluts who sap your soul. Good warning for the new year.

As I have boxes to go and promises to keep, I'll just give you a random, small sample of what seemed important to write at some time in 2012:

"We are all guilty for all and for all men before all, and I more than others,"
-think it's Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment.

You're either Cinderella or you're not.

The prince turns into a frog is not a story. The princess is allergic to frogs is.

Full moon. Bulldog. Bull.   huh?

Who invented the avant-garde?

He was not a likeable kid and became a miserable adult.

I am of Irish distraction - must be talking about me. Love the distraction.

Here are a few I think are from Dennis Lehane:
'His hat still fit his head'
'The Irish forgive everything but success.'
'Irish are the greatest italicizers.'

There's more, lots more, but this is far more than you need to know. This post isn't totally random; I could have added to the ad nauseum sputterings about the fiscal cliff and what it does or doesn't mean. Fiscal cliffs come and go; emotional sluts are around forever.

But I think these random notes are sending me a message: Resolve to write a date or context next to whatever notes you write yourself.
Getting closer to nailing some resolutions.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What's Going On?


I always give myself the days following New Year's to get my head on straight and make some resolutions I can actually keep. A strange ritual, but as I ponder over a few days, something reasonable usually emerges. I had ONE smashing success on the legitimate New Year, decades ago, when I gave up smoking. So I have a big one in the books for the real day.

But after a series of failures following the great cigarette castaway, ...especially when I turned to 'being kinder' or 'saying something nice to three people every day' or the annual set-up for failure of losing xxx number of pounds....I decided to try something more reflective.
Now, New Year's Day is the beginning of sorting through the possibilities. Then my day for New Year's Resolutions begins the Monday following the real beginning of the new year. Whenever I try to explain this process to people, they sort of mutter 'that's nice' and slowly move away. Anyway, it's my tradition and I'm sticking with it.

 One resolution I am making, to be sure, is to make this blog more attractive and to focus a tad more carefully on content. It's not that I want to make this a full-time job or anything, but I want to be a bit more thoughtful in choosing what to write. So I am here today to tell you I'll be trying harder. However, when I noticed there was a comment from yesterday's post, I looked and saw it was about short-term loans. And there were several comments about short-term loans last week. I don't get it. Is a robot randomly choosing various posts to make short-term loan comments? Does someone think that anyone who reads this blog is desperate and must need money?  An annoyance indeed. Now what happened to my thoughtful content? Maybe by Monday, my official day of new beginnings, I'll be on top of it all.

In the meantime, welcome back and welcome into a new year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Holiday Happiness and Black-Eyed Peas


Welcome back - to all of us and welcome into a new year, filled with love and hope. It's been a long, delightful break and a holiday filled with an abundance of good things. Truth be told, I'm filled with all sorts of sentimental mush, my soul having been nurtured and nourished in so many ways for the past week. Christmas was a bit of a miracle, everyone in the family healthy and flourishing. All the travel plans worked, tables were filled with food, family, fun and friends. Count me lucky. I wish such bounty for everyone.
Just a few highlights:
Santa brought a trampoline that managed to get assembled in the dark and snowy night. A miracle indeed.
The Christmas Tree at the Children's Mass tipped over, sending the Good Father into shock and helplessness.
Cirque de Symphony is brilliant,
Only two people got locked out of a running car.
Emma (10) announced she is a ChristmaHanukkan.
Harry Potter still rules.
Jeremiah and Sierra announced they are no longer totally embarrassed by their families. Those pronouncements were followed by vigorous discussion of who still embarrassed whom. Not for public display.
Colin (8) once again proved that he has more facts and figures memorized about sports teams and players than anyone in the family. Pick your sport and he'll outmatch you.
You can never have too many mashed potatoes.
New England weather is....
Back in CO, the Broncos are gods.
Black-eyed peas brought the Broncos good luck and will bring good luck to you if you eat 365 peas on this new year day.

That was then. This is 2013. Here's to all things good for the coming year. All things are possible.

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
 
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible - W.S. Merwin