Sunday, August 31, 2008

catching up

Crickets are creaking away in the back yard. My son sighs in his sleep (and who knows what sort of night it will be, since he dropped off around 6:30pm -- an occasional habit of his.) What sounded momentarily like thunder turns out to be distant fireworks, though it's hard to tell in this particular geography (hills on three sides and a broad plain to the west) who's doing the celebrating -- Ron suggested the Republicans, but they're piously pausing in their RNC festivities so as to not appear eager to upstage the potential round two disaster in New Orleans. And, St. Paul is well southeast of here. (See today's Digg posting on McCain's hurricane preparedness speech.)

I've updated the site somewhat -- I meant to add a slideshow of the thumbnail images on the right, but won't get to it tonight. I'm still working on pages from "what i did on my summer vacation," and my girl on a bicycle is missing an arm, a leg, two hands and a foot. I hate drawing hands and feet - I can do them well as a detailed object, but the essential graphic gesture of "hand" tends to elude me; so small figures pose a challenge. Bicycle Girl is case in point. ANYWAY, I'm avoiding a variety of tasks by surfing and site-tweaking; my only justification is that I haven't done much of this over the past two weeks. Between the household projects and Texas.

Ah Texas. I could write a few pages on this but I won't, since no one would stay awake for the whole show -- it's more than likely a you-had-to-be-there thing, and maybe a you-had-to-be-ME-there thing. Meanwhile, back in Dallas I imagine my sister is looking at the hurricane landfall projections and anticipating some welcome relief from the heat; pray for those poor souls in N.O., what with the levee repairs 80% behind schedule. I remember packing unused sheets and blankets in a box to send down to the Superdome. Bigger problems by far down there -- though artists are as affected as anyone -- cops, soldiers, grocery store baggers, janitors, clerks, pastors, musicians, builders, waitresses, writers, reporters -- "who will you vote for" being replaced by "are you evacuating?" and "where will we go?" Hopefully they still have all those extra FIMA trailers stored in Florida or wherever they ended up.

Sure enough, it's after midnight and my son is awake. After a snack, he's watching a show. Crazy. But he can't sleep, so we may as well act normal for a while in the hope that this will soon pass.

State Fair Trip #2!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

back from Texas

Hoping to post some more journal pages -- I had an incredible trip, and while I did more talking and drinking than drawing at night, it was all worthwhile. I was genuinely transported, and still feel a lingering sense of inner peace and hopefulness. And it was a combination of influences, an overlapping of conversations and images and ideas, that make it what it was -- it will be a challenge to distill some of that, to make changes with and to preserve. More soon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

new journal cover

Finished Saturday, Aug. 23, 2:30pm. Taking this with me to Texas tomorrow, along with whatever materials I can bring through security, in the hopes of art-journaling some more while I hide from the Texas heat.
I'm attending a "church planters" conference, with the added bonus of seeing my sister in Dallas for the first time in two years.
Promises to be a whirlwind trip -- I'll have to stay up late to maximize my creative time! But I won't be bringing the ol' laptop confessional with me, given the weight and my carry-on hassles, so no blogging until after I return Thursday night. And then: State Fair Trip number two!

Friday Aug. 22nd: State Fair Trip Number One!

Thursday the 21st, 8:30am

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Somebody from Indiana -- possibly Smithville Indiana -- read every entry on my poetry site. That's amazing. Hello out there, Smithville! And thank you...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

fear of death

Carole is home from the hospital. Her MRI showed several small strokes -- both she and her husband said they stood out plainly on the scan as white areas -- "here, here, here..." While we were visiting her, several hours before she was released, another friend of theirs showed up -- a former nurse and neighbor, who let it slip that in fact she had suggested Carole head to the ER immediately on Monday of last week -- and that maybe next time Carole wouldn't be so stubborn. Monday. They didn't admit her until Friday, when the speech slurring made it obvious that something was wrong. She lay in her bed puking sick for days and wouldn't go in.

She sounds as if she's just returned from the dentist, when she speaks -- you can still hear her words clearly, even on the phone. They say that with PT, her speech and fine motor skills will improve. I'm worried that she's a wee bit addled as well -- a literal absent-mindedness. I don't know -- I've heard that blood vessels do regrow in the brain, bringing circulation to areas formerly cut off by blockage. I hope her PT and new medications will help. She'll be upset and impatient with any inabilities.

The husband really doesn't want to talk about these things. Mortality is not a subject he has comes to grips with in any way; not that I'm all that well-adjusted. But he has a strong emotional aversion to talking about these things. I hope to God I never become really ill -- I know he intends me to outlive him -- I just can't imagine how he would cope. When my father died, from an aneurism, the husband spent days pretending he could just go on with business as usual, as though nothing had happened. And we can't ever talk about suicide, not even in the abstract, because of his own history -- he gets really upset, angry, when the subject appears. Not often, but often enough -- I lost a cousin not long ago to suicide, and of course it's a news feature from time to time. And because we can never talk about it, and therefore never do, I occasionally forget and make some unfortunate reference -- to my cousin, to someone who steps in front of a train as reported on TV, to the death of some celebrity -- and then we always a confrontation. Because it's Not To Be Discussed. Ever. People who do that are horrible, selfish, quitters -- that's his take on it. They abandon their spouses, children, responsibilities. My cousin died for reasons very similar to the ones in play when the husband lost a family member himself -- mental illness. Bipolar disorder in my cousin's case, untreated schizophrenia in the other. And because my man doesn't seem to have gotten past the anger stage of his grief, it's all the same to him.

Which brings us around to mortality, and his mother, and the fear we all feel in the face of this knowledge. I want him to have the inner resources he'll need to deal with this, when the time comes. But there's nothing I can say -- after almost 11 years, I've said everything. So we have to find other ways.

Right now she's good, and that's all that matters.

the visual journal

Inexplicably, these images don't want to load in the proper orientation. They look fine on the computer...
Here's what I've been up to on my "summer vacation." I started a visual journal, just a small one, a page a day. Something creative yet portable, to offset a fairly busy week away from the office. If only you could see them right side up...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

So, here it is, late at night once again. The rest of the family went to bed very early. So I watched "A Chorus Line," and enjoyed shaking my head at the hairstyles of the late eighties. And those super-high-cut leotards that made every woman look as thought she'd had her hips removed, and her crotch elongated. Of course, the story is good too -- and the rest of it. I had to learn "One" in high school choir, as I recall. "Singular sensation, every little step she takes."

My mother-in-law is in the hospital -- she has had a stroke, or several of them, we don't know. We just found out today, though she was admitted on Friday -- the reasons no one was called before today are a little obscure, but it's another issue. I spoke with her on the phone for a few minutes, and her speach is slurred. She complained about not being able to write, but indicated that her large motor skills were intact. They have her on fairly strong sedation, and she hallucinates a little. She also thinks she'll go home tomorrow, though we know that's not the case -- she has two days of tests ahead of her at least, and we won't know until after that what course they'll prescribe. She seemed lucid when I spoke with her, by and large. R. is of course pretty upset, but we got the call late enough this afternoon that there wasn't any point in driving east -- she slept all day yesterday, according to her sister, and she sounded quite tired when we spoke. We'll check on her schedule tomorrow and try to pick a time that works for her. She realized earlier today that no one had called her kids -- she must have asked her husband if he had done it, and she made me promise not to get mad at him for neglecting it. So it was her sister that phoned us. We'll have to find out how R's stepdad is handling things while she is hospitalized -- he knows how to clean, but not so much how to cook. We might need to tend to him a bit.

She's been ill before -- eight years ago her kidneys nearly failed due to chemical damage, caused by ibuprofen overdose. She's too heavy, smokes a little, takes many medications. This may or may not effect some change in her habits -- she isn't all that interested in self-care.

I myself want neither to think nor to sleep. And I don't have anything in the house to treat that particular malady. Except movies, like "A Chorus Line." The reasons are varied, and not restricted to Carole's condition. More later.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

It's Gone!

The awful carpet is gone!

We were planning on ripping up the Awful Carpet on Monday, after moving books off the shelves and emptying corners, taking everything out of the old wardrobe, cleaning up weird accumulations under the couch etc...Instead, Ron had just about finished the living room when I got home from work today. Yikes! And with the 4 1/2 year old's help. Just a bit left under the aquarium (which takes special effort to move) and the chunk in the hallway (an irregular square really.) After a brief adjustment period wherein I came to grips with the fact that I wouldn't be relaxing anytime soon, I got busy. We finished scrubbing and oil-soaping the floor, moved everything back to its proper place (and left a few odds and ends out of the room, just to enhance the new look), and Ron hauled the rolls of carpet and bags of padding up to the garage. I fixed dinner, R. took a shower and a few ibuprofin, and voila! A brand new living room. It's great.

We knew there was wood flooring underneath; our bedroom and my studio have the same wood, though it's obvious that the living room has been carpeted for the better part of the age of the house (which was built in 1955.) The other rooms show lots of wear, but the living area is still in good shape -- except for a handful of random disappointments. There's a bad stain near the front door, where wetness was obviously allowed to stand long enough to cause mildew and warping in an area the size of a luncheon plate. And at some point before this latest iteration of carpeting, some asshole removed an old carpet by slicing it out in sections without lifting up on the pile. So there are five knife-cuts running across the grain, evenly spaced down the length of the room. Argh! So we will probably have it refinished, eventually. It still looks pretty good though.

The husband has been especially productive this week -- he started fixing the holes in our retaining wall as well. Give that man a Klondike bar. I'm impressed.

Friday, August 15, 2008

So what about John Edwards?

Interestingly enough, the Edwards Infidelity has become a topic of conversation around the house lately (or it was before Olympic swimming started.) It's interesting in part because my husband usually saves his condemnation for world leaders (and guys like W), economists and the ignorant offspring of suburban Republicans. He has to go out of his way to get down on someone else's relational issue, a moral one albeit, even if the headliner is a man some considered VP material for Obama.

I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to prevaricate somewhat. Is it wrong, what he did? Yes. And I find Edwards' actions pathetically self-destructive, considering the likelihood of a political figure getting caught at this -- cheating on your taxes is the only surer way of being shot down (sorry Franken.) And yet, I'm not certain it's any worse to cheat on your wife when she has cancer -- it makes her even more sympathetic in the public eye, of course, unless we find out she has actually cheated on John as well -- but either way it's a crappy situation. In this case, Elizabeth Edwards' cancer was already being used against her husband -- despite her endorsements, many people felt he was wrong to campaign as her prognosis became less optimistic. This just confirms the rather well-crafted depiction of Edwards as a heartless festering cad, particularly in the eyes of embittered Hillary supporters who might have been asked to vote for him as part of the team. I think the set-up that exposed him was a cynical action on multiple levels, and the media blitz is pure election-year opportunism (guys in the House and Senate get caught cheating all the time, and men are generally singled out for attention on this matter more than women, though there's no evidence that men are more likely to cheat.)

Again, was he wrong to do it? Yes. But like Hillary, I'd bet Elizabeth could leave him if she wanted to -- and cancer or not, I don't think she will. Maybe she has good reasons. And how did I miss the statement of support and wry wisdom Hillary could have proferred at this moment? In Hill's calculations perhaps there simply wasn't anything to be said that could benefit Hillary. Cover probably looks best to the Clintons just now. In Elizabeth's position, any fury I felt would find plenty of easy targets -- it's John's mistake, but we're a good nation of lazy finger-pointers, eager to judge, leaning into the colliseum to enjoy a media beheading.

analytic musings

Ah, Google. The longer I play with Analytics, the easier it is to get a fix on who reads the blogs, and how often. Al has been helping me experiment a bit by telling me when he's been on and attempting multiple comment posts (thanks Al.) And it's not that I'm trying to pinpoint the presence of particular individuals -- there's no reason to do so -- but it is interesting to note the network locations of visitors and speculate just how some of the more unusual sources are picking up certain blogs. For example, Alan travels quite a bit, and explained that sometimes he visits LC using a hotel ISP -- which explains a few oddball addresses from places like Montana, where I know no one. I get a sense of geography within this exercise -- not only am I becoming familiar with the common Midwestern ISPs, but search engines have brought me some out-of-the-country visitors as well (though sadly I'm not what they had in mind, and they don't tend to stay.) Checking keywords from referrals lets me know what people are searching for when they find me; and Google pretty much guarantees that if I mention Phelps the Olympic swimmer in a post, someone is sure to hit my post in a search within the next few days. Internet marketers are bored by this kind of data, but my small-time operation makes this a fascinating subject for me. And as someone quoted to me recently, "I'm not much, but I'm all I think about."

Monday, August 11, 2008

the Song of Songs

Why doesn't the Song of Songs ever come up in the Lutheran lectionary?

Given the 2009 ELCA-wide vote on the draft Social Statement On Human Sexuality -- and the number of individuals and legalist groups lobbying the church for conveniently "literal" interpretations of Scripture, in their quest to exclude active gays from a full share of life in the faith -- why not look more deeply into the Bible for a response on those terms?

I recently read an interpretation of the Song of Songs, by Marcia Falk (with illustrations by Barry Moser). In the book Falk ascribes lines and passages to male or female speakers (or in some cases both.) Familiar up to this point only with the King James version of the Song, I was struck anew by the perspective of the Song as a real dialogue between women and men -- not as a metaphoric poetic tribute to God and the church.

Falk's "The Song of Songs, Love Lyrics from the Bible" (1990 re-release by Pennyroyal Press, originally published in '73 by Brandeis) is the careful work of a poet and scholar in search of a Hebrew text containing genuine women's voices. Further the translation doesn't assume fixed characters -- the male voice is not necessarily Solomon's, nor the female his lovers'. "It is finally simpler and more illuminating to view the Song as a collection of different types of lyric love poems spoken by a variety of speakers -- poems that did not necessarily derive from a single author or serve a unified function in their original milieu."

"Although God's name is not mentioned even once in its lines, the rabbis of the first century chose to include it in the biblical canon...Women speak over half the lines in the Song -- an exceptionally large proportion for a biblical text...In it, women and men alike share a range of emotional expression..."

"Even the descriptions of the lovers' bodies challenge the stereotypes we encounter later in Western tradition. Only later, in the poems of Petrarch and the Rennaissance sonnetteers, do gender roles become fixed, with men acting as the suitors and women as the objects of their praise. Taken as a whole, the poems of the Song express strikingly nonsexist attitudes towards heterosexual love and, by implication, toward human relationships of all kinds."

Falk's respected translations bear out these assertions. Why the avoidance of a discussion around these themes in the Song in the context of both daily worship and larger issues? Should we ask, does the Song embrace a vision of love and equality in the context of the physical, relational human existence into which God has delivered us? Why not use this most lyrical segment of the canon to reach those who would exclude with or feel excluded by other passages in different books of the Bible, proving if nothing else the possibility of another reality -- and the illogic of the literalist rationale against gay unions, gay love, gay families.

"Scripture cannot be used in isolation as the norm for Christian life and the source of knowledge for the exercise of moral judgement," reads the Draft. "The Lutheran tradition, then, is open to human knowledge insofar as it encourages the good of the neighbor, protects against harm, and does not make false claims about God." The Draft of course says a lot more about sexuality in general and same-sex relationships in particular. I'll pause for now at advocacy for open study of the Song of Songs in this and other contexts.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

dining out

So yesterday was clearly Food Day for me, starting at the Farmer's Market and ending at Figlio in Uptown. Cathie and I went to dinner, to celebrate not being at work -- and to recognize all the things we've accomplished together this year. Here's to us.

Figlio has been a dining fixture in Uptown since forever -- since I used to date. Since they built the Calhoun Square shopping center where the restaurant is located, most likely, which makes it late-Eighties. The food has never sucked. There's always something really yummy on their over sized menu, which hasn't deviated much through the years -- great pastas, great pizzas, pretty basic meat entrees and sandwiches and salads but always with a twist. The Polla Mattone is a classic -- a pressed chicken breast cooked with 20 cloves of garlic served atop spaghettini. The Carpaccio is probably my Favorite Appetizer of all time -- thinly sliced raw beef with olive oil, a hard and fragrant cheese (I forget which, frankly, but it's something common), capers, and a little toast and lemon. MMM. I love raw stuff -- most of my other Favorite Appetizers are served at Origami, the Twin Cities' best Sushi restaurant.

Anyway -- we were headed for the Black Forest, a German place that neither of us has been to in a while, but Cathie's car had other ideas. After looking around for a parking spot for about fifteen minutes, we found a broken meter in an ideal location, a meter that turned out to be just pouty rather than broken -- we fed it an extra buck, and it relented, the "failed" display suddenly replaced by an increasing account of allowable minutes. We banked 2 hours 30, and still used it all up in our quest to be Utterly Fed.

Cathie had the Tagliatelle, and I had the Capellini. Carpaccio of course, and some sweet potato fries (calorie counters be damned, because if you're going to shell out $50 per person you may as well get your money's worth.) I had a Lake Street Lemonade, the only disappointment of the evening -- a weak-ass mixed drink. After dinner we refused the dessert menu (there simply wasn't space left inside us) and instead Cath had coffee and I had a glass of Port. I love Port. I suspect it's a Grandma drink, but I love it. And I love the little glasses it's served in, which display the drink the way a beautifully designed setting holds the gem in a ring. It wasn't a particularly special Port, a Cockburn in fact, but still a lovely end to a satisfying meal. It should be noted that our entrees were a bit speedy and arrived ahead of the appetizers -- and the service was just standard -- but none of that seemed egregious.

It occurs to me that two or three of the people who occasionally read this blog have probably been on dates with me at Figlio (oh such a long time ago), and that it might seem quaint and funny that I'd get so excited about a Figlio meal. What strikes me though is that here and now, we can't expect a restaurant to remain the institution such places once commonly were -- Minneapolis isn't a Chicago or a New York, with so many potential customers in a concentrated area that a good kitchen could conceivably lure generations of diners. There are only a handful of such places in this town, and I suspect most of them are steak-and-seafood joints. And I think I've found a number of them. But certainly not all, particularly in St. Paul where I never go. And I don't think any of these restaurants has outlived its founder. But I could be wrong.

My father knew where all of these places could be found, I think. He was a public accountant, a small businessman and a salesman of his services. He knew where the guys with the money ate and drank. He'd worked for a liquor importer for years at one point, and I imagine that's how he drew some of his clients when he struck out on his own -- club and restaurant owners. I remember visiting him on the weekends when he'd have to do the books at a big club -- 8am, the deserted back bar where I could filch marachino cherries and stack rolls of quarters while he counted out a deposit and paid bills, or whatever he did. Later on, when we did lunch a few times per year, he would always suggest a place in town that turned out to be frequented by men of a certain generation -- businessmen, retired businessmen, and their aging but elegant wives or young upwardly-mobile fiancees; and only a few times did we eat at a random "place" that I recall. Actually, one of our last meals together happened while I was pregnant, at an Indian place just up the road from me now. He'd been eating more vegetables I think, and watching his diet.

So when I dine out, which is rare, and I'm not eating Sushi (more rarely, as it were) I look for a few telltale signs: heavy stemware and coffee cups, wood paneling and deep cushioned booths, a certain age to the decor, a certain smell of stale cigar smoke left over from the days when men could and did smoke at the bar. Not so many windows, maybe; and the smell of steak cooking, liver and onions, wine in the glass. Figlio isn't all those things, true -- it's a restaurant of my generation, not my father's. But it has that peculiar endurance, and while the bar there is too trendy in its listings, the food will probably always be great.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Late summer.
I'm only just ready for the summer to begin now, and maybe that's normal -- the State Fair is coming, the Farmer's Market has hit its stride, and most of my friends have already taken one or two trips to the lake.
I'm ready for something I won't get again this year -- the sweet salty smell of the ocean, the briny smell of the beaches (it's the smell of dead fish, really, from a distance); and the heat soaking into my bones as my head empties out completely. Contemplating that blurred blue horizon between sky and sea always fills me with quiet. But, not this year. Maybe next. I've had invitations to head out West, but I'm not quite ready for that -- we haven't once gone on vacation as a family yet, just us. And that should come first.

meanwhile, it's that time of year when once upon a time, if I didn't have a boyfriend I'd be on the make now for sure, since summer couldn't back then go by without something like romance.

Instead, I will now attempt to secure some daylight hours of privacy, some time in the next few weeks -- now, it's privacy that holds the most allure. Not because I want to be alone, specifically -- it's just that I need attention, rather than demands for my attention. And I can give myself attention, if I'm also given a few consecutive hours of peace and quiet. And things are calming down a bit, a short reprieve -- I've actually started remembering my dreams again, something I haven't said for weeks and weeks it seems. And I've noticed too that I want (conversely) for people just to talk to me -- just to tell me about themselves. I want to socialize, too, in a way that isn't about meetings and tasks to accomplish, or even visions to articulate. Maybe that's what made dating as enjoyable as it was -- just the getting to know someone, like a surprise package: open it up and see what's inside.

Beach mind. That's what I want.

another trip to the market

What do you eat for breakfast on a Farmer's Market Saturday morning?
First you have a big cup of coffee, because it's too early to be awake.
Then, you head out.
After you've gotten a good whiff of all the fabulous market odors, which would smell just like the State Fair if you added in the scent of manure, then you decide where to and what to get. See the pickle man -- buy crunchy ginger sweet pickles and balsamic calamatas. Buy some candied almonds with cinnamon, and while you're at it pick up some healthy produce (today it was new potatoes.) Once your four-year-old starts complaining about the crowds and the heat, give him your digital camera and let him snap lots of documentary-type shots. Wait! You haven't eaten yet, and you're starving. (The kid is fine, you fed him before you left.)

So you buy a roasted ear of corn, with lots of butter and salt. Delicious!
Now you're really hungry. You're thinking about the pickles, though it's only 9:30am.

You ease out the packed parking area, trying not to run anyone down with their bundle of dill or their bag of greens. The kid expresses a desire for fresh, cold, red watermelon --- his favorite. So when you get home, you chop up a bunch of melon for him; then you break into the sweet pickles and eat three, while reheating last night's quiche. While the quiche is cooling off, you eat a bunch of cherries (because you accidentally bought an extra bag last week, out of pure greed, and now you have to eat them up before they spoil.) Then you eat your piece of quiche, and drink another cup of coffee (because the two do well together.) And then you eat three more sweet pickles, because they're GOOD and who cares.

Then you hope your aging digestive system doesn't take this brunch too personally.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

a big night

I've had the most wonderful time tonight.
It's odd, because in fact what I did was spend three-plus hours painting faces at the church's National Night Out event. My hips hurt, my back hurts and I suspect there's a mess I'll have to clean up at work tomorrow. But I had the most amazing time. In part because, in the background, three other churches were doing their part to make National Night Out an amazing event -- with lots of food, great local entertainment, park-run games and fun, a series of prize drawings... and of course the face-painting. There might have been even more, but I was only able to glance over my shoulder occasionally as the night unfolded. I could hear the awesome music of Leonard Knight & family, and the puppet performances from Bethel Christian Fellowship that everyone apparently loved -- and maybe there was more, again, I don't know. Kids were running and laughing and having a good time. No one seemed unduly stressed out. Hundreds of people attended. It was everything we could have hoped for. I give my thanks to God that I'm so blessed, to be so ridiculously overworked these days, in the service of love. Face-painting beats bookkeeping any day, but I'll take all that and more -- if we can keep giving out food and care for so many, with such success. I'm grateful too for all the hard work of so many volunteers from my church and others -- the Churches of Logan Park. Without every single person on hand tonight, it couldn't have gone so well. I think we can be proud of this event, and I particularly think NECL can be proud of how far we've come in just a little over a year. We are truly blessed in this work. What a joy it is to see the faces of so many little kids -- children of every hue and background -- eating and smiling, having a good time -- and to see their parents smiling too. How wonderful.

Monday, August 4, 2008


It's midnight and rainy in Minneapolis.

After a week of promises, and a parched disappointment made bearable only by the cooler-than-predicted temps, it finally rains. A good soaker. "Tornado watch until 6am" warns MyWeather, though the lightning is distant in the south and the winds negligable at the moment. I opened my window here in the sewing room, just so I could listen to the dripping water as it falls. It sounds like bamboo chimes and birds chirping. It's one of the perfect sounds, ranked only by my son breathing calmly as he sleeps.

As usual, at this time of night, I think of all my friends who live nearby and wonder if they are sleeping. It's an open proposition, since most of them are night people by habit if no longer by lifestyle -- and just as I typed that line I had a brief recollection of a dream -- a flashback to a dream. Last night I think I dreamt that JJ had returned from San Diego, finished with grad school and a real architect at last. I miss her.

As for the nearer-to-hand; I can imagine their beds or their sitting rooms, their wet yards in the dark and maybe a bright window still glowing into the street -- I wish some of them lived closer, imagine how nice it would be to just walk across the alley in the night for a quick chat, leaning against a garage or propping open a gate. Instead we each return to our islands at night.

A few live on mountains of volcanic height, a few in more modest hilltops, one or two underground. Islands in a small sea of neighborly influence -- neighbors being those people who always stay the same distance from you, each house separated by a moat of sanctity, each apartment a denial of the unit next door. We have new neighbors here on Taylor; the rental unit to our south was vacated last week by the two Matts and a guy we referred to as Skeeziks, a pre-med student whose name I forget. Now it's Juan and his fiancee, not long out of Long Beach, hanging out in Northeast for a few years while they plot their careers. They have a little dog who makes my son nervous, and chews on rocks. No fence between our yards, and not much yard for them at all, so the husband and I are welcoming but watchful -- we aren't keen on dogpiles. But the newbies seem nice, and they moved here for the quiet they say. We agree that quiet is good.

Night in the night -- rain and wet. Warm and dark. Intimate in the way that summer nights can be, a warmth and humidity that brings out our sense of the nearest body to hand -- everyone damp and somewhat easier to find by scent alone, all of us connected by the thickening of the air, molecules bridging the distance between one body and the next. It's reassuring, in a way. Air conditioning on the other hand will freeze-dry a person if not mindful, and makes the soft air outside seem smothering by contrast. I remember the days of long talks in the dark -- late nights outdoors where the only privacy could be found.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Aztec Dancers - as promised

A few of the dozen snapshots from the Ketzal Coatlique performance this past Saturday at Logan Park:
The performers make their own costumes after studying the appropriate references, though their spokesperson (on drum) explained that "trends change, and artists change." The feathers (including some Chinese pheasant feathers that must have been five or six feet long) are hand-stitched into head-pieces by the dancers; the costumes include a variety of materials, some inexpensive, though obvious attention went into the construction. The leader delivered her introductions and info in both Spanish and English. It was every bit as engaging as watching U.S. Native American performances, the beauty of the choreography matching the costumes' appeal. Maybe more interesting for me, since I'd never seen this particular type of dance before.

(I heard from the guy who booked them that at a different sort of event, they have also presented historical reenactments of traditional Mayan rituals -- Joel mentioned human sacrifice and made reference to the most recent Mel Gibson-produced flick, Apocalypto. Makes me wonder what sort of event calls for it, not that I'm much interested.)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

grab bags

A friend of mine has fond memories of a hometown event that always featured grab bags -- a few pennies for a mixed bag of who-knew-what obscured in brown paper -- something good, or something really lame or undesirable, maybe a bit of both. You couldn't know until you paid up, and grabbed a bag.

So far, that's been my week -- I put in my time prepping for an event, I cover my bases as well as I can, and when the time comes -- each of the past three days has been a slightly different "mixture" of nice surprises and disappointments. The time comes and you buy your ticket, and you don't know what you'll get, because my job has not yet reached a comfortable level of predictability.

I don't so much want to relive the details of each day, since the cumulative effect is exhaustion (and more to come this week); here are the emphatic points.

Thursday: Lists and lists and lists, beans and beans to count, this and that and this and that. I accidentally stood up an artist I'm trying to book for year's end (not a good move) -- my head is so utterly mired in minutia that I actually neglected to write the appointment down at all, terribly unlike me. I'm sure I overdid the apologies. I'm in a general state of frantic.
But then at day's end I went with some church members on a prayer walk. Which sounds really scary and evangelical; in fact it was neither. Five adults and three children, we literally walked the neighborhood, observing the folks who were outside and commenting on the houses we saw, greeting people, chatting each other up, growing thoughtful towards the end. We sat for a long time on the church steps afterward and debriefed: what is our neighborhood, how is it composed? Who sees us, whom do we see, how do we receive one another? It's not field work, we aren't looking for demographic data but rather, trying to get "the lay of the land." We opened and closed with prayer, and while I'd have been happy to do more of that as we walked, it was a naturally meditative experience. I do a lot of this same sort of walking alone, to and from work, or with my son -- and I do often think about the homes and the people I pass by: Wondering who they are, and why, at times saying a quick, quiet prayer for someone who looks especially aggrieved. So Thursday night was, for me, deeply enjoyable.

Friday was a stinker. After really working hard to tread water all week, I felt overwhelmed, and to make matters worse I was OBVIOUSLY striking out a second time at getting artists in the community interested in my latest project -- transportation as a political issue or a social justice theme. I had lots of inquiries, but nobody new came through by yesterday's deadline -- so at this point I have a great dance group, a nice little filmmaker, a poet and that's IT. I have to come up with some artwork FAST. And it can't all be mine. Dammit. Plus the last-minute prep for today's event incited an argument between my husband and I -- the subject, 300 hotdog buns. Don't ask. Friday was a stinker. It's possible the universe has thrown me a rope, per the exhibit that doesn't want to get off the ground -- an interesting email arrived last night that indicates some potential artwork out of South Minneapolis. Could it be that after eight years of genuine governmental disregard for the citizenry, artists just don't give a rat's ass anymore? Sitting at home smoking dope and drinking wine, while their paint brushes harden on the palette. One good thing: We got ninety percent of the food for today's picnic donated, by way of a pastor friend at the other end of the block, who has pals at Whole Foods.

Today, Saturday -- good things: lots of willing volunteers, 175 visitors during the first half of the picnic, the Ketzal Coatlique Aztec Dancers performing with their incredible feather headdresses (pics forthcoming), and all the new faces we saw from every walk of life. And lots of kids. Bad things: the sound guys were HOURS late, so no bands went on until after the crowd started to thin out. Things didn't pick up again much after that. Lots of leftover hotdogs (and buns). Sore feet from standing all day and shuttling things back and forth from the church to the park. And maybe one more good thing: we are helping the neighborhood to identify us with the park, which is a cool, happening place.

The grab bag is an adventure, in some ways. It's the mystery, the I-know-not-what (I'll spare you the French). It's the chance you take when you roll out of bed each day, that not everything will proceed as planned.