Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year in Mexico

You know it's New Year's Eve, or New Year's Day, or Christmas, or Dia de Independencia, or the week before them, or the week after them, when you hear bomb-level fireworks going off around here up until 2am and starting again around 5:30am. And so it is New Year's Eve, and Max demanded that we all wear yellow underpants because his Boing! Boing! magazine said that would bring money in the year to come.

Another tradition around here is to eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes 12 and to make 12 wishes for the New Year. So we all ate raisins around 7pm. I imagine that, if our wishes come to fruition, they may be dried out renditions of the original wishes because of the raisin substitution. So, instead of world peace, perhaps we'd get a treaty signed or something. And my wish/resolution to write every day might be watered down to writing grocery lists or emails. Not that I'm complaining. I'd love the raisin version of my wishes to come true.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How to get to Yagul

Yagul is a rather remote, less-visited archaeological site that is on the road to Mitla, which is a more major site. To get to Yagul, you take a MITLA bus from the second-class bus station, by the Mercado de Abastos. You ask the driver to let you off at Yagul, and then you climb up the mountain to the ruins, about 1.3 miles.
That's one way to get to Yagul, and how I did it 10 years ago. Another way is to wait forever for the bus and decide to rent a car and drive there, which is what Steve and Max did today, to my chagrin, because the car rental negated the money we were earning for getting the photographs.
But Steve tells me Yagul is as dramatically beautiful and eerie as ever. There is a labyrinth in the center, and the mammoth cliffsides around, all seeming to have faces and skulls carved into their recesses.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How do you bring back the dead?

I've been reflecting on the philosophy that, during Day of the Dead, the veil between this world and the afterlife is lifted, and the dead visit altars dedicated to them. I've always made altars for loved ones, especially for Jenny. I try to follow some of the traditions, incorporating flowers, candles, foods, water, pictures, and mementos. And I add my own elements, like alebrijes, paintings, favorite books, masks, vinyl tablecloths, Max's drawings, tissue-paper roses, and medallions from bread of the dead.

But it's an atheist's altar, beautiful and, in some ways, meaningless. It's a hedge, too, just in case I'm wrong about my belief that there is no afterlife. I know, though, that, if she could, Jenny would only visit something that I deeply believed in, so I've explored some options.

I rented a DVD from Netflix on how to communicate with the dead. They recommended writing a question and meditating on the the dead person and, somehow, the answer will appear. I went to Ecstactic Dance and tried the same thing--posing a question to Jenny at the beginning of class and hoping for some kind of inspiration in her voice, her persona during the class.

Recently, though, I rediscovered the best way to bring Jenny back. We were on a long drive and I started to sing to pass the time. The songs were all Jenny, all her silly fantastic Ethel Merman operatic ballyhoo and pathos and hilarity. It was her "Scrappy Doo" song, sung to the tune of "Desperado". And the themes to "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air". Old-timey stuff like "Red River Valley", "You are My Sunshine", and "Clementine". Jenny had a way of belting out a story song--"Killing Me Softly" "I Will Survive" even, sort of, "Like a Prayer". She always sang loudly, which made up for our shared trait of lack of staying on key.

So, I'll lift the veil and bring back a little of Jenny tonight. Here are the lyrics to her "Scrappy Doo" song. You must sing it loudly, to the tune of "Desperado":

Scrappy Doo, when will you stop chasing crim'nals?
And start singing hymnals,
Just like you used to do?
Scrappy Doo, you've got that pu-u-ppy power
to catch crim'nals by the hour...
But have you forgotten Saint Jude?
Scrappy Doo, you have left me in a lu-urch
So get your dog ass back to chu-urch
What do I have to do?
Scrappy Doo, when will you stop chasing crim'nals?
And start singing hy-y-y-ymnals...
Just like you used to do?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Los Arquitos

My new favorite neighborhood in Oaxaca is Los Arquitos, or The Archways. It is a colonia located beneath and behind the city's old aqueduct. All sorts of secrets hide beyond the archways, like the Friday and Saturday El Pochote organic market. Steve and I scored a couple lovely plates of fresh vegetarian enchiladas in mole sauce, for about four dollars.

There is also a free film series which, someday, I will attend.

Steve and I wound through several of the alleys in an attempt to find a house for sale. No such luck, but we did meet some friendly neighbors who admired Jenny's wild hair.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Looking for the Light

When things go wrong around here, it exhausts me. It's not just the language that gets in the way, but figuring out how things are done.

Last Sunday, turning on the coffee maker caused all the power in the house to go off. And stay off. We called our landlord's assistant and they immediately sent a maintenance man (on a moto) to check it out. On a Sunday afternoon. So I was feeling very fortunate for how things work in Mexico, with people available immediately on a Sunday afternoon.

The problem was, Juan Carlos couldn't fix it. He tried and tried, scaling the side of our house and teetering along the roof by the wires. He plugged and unplugged things. He removed fuses and changed them. He took apart the refrigerator. He called around and decided we needed a looked like a cable in a box. He asked if I could get one and I said I probably couldn't because, well, how could I? And what would I do with it if I got one, anyway?

So we tipped him and he returned the next day with the thing. But still it didn't work. We had half our lights and no refrigerator.

Four days later, all our food went bad and stinky and I felt a little desperate. In the darkness of the late afternoon, we accidentally locked ourselves out of our own bathroom and had no key. Max was doing homework outdoors, trying to catch the last rays of sun.

The mommies at Max's school, who I cherish and who love to advise and chide me (thank goodness), told me I would have to visit The Commission. Oh god, I didn't like the sound of that. It's the Electric Company, but Mexican government style, surrounded by guys with big guns.

Instead I called my landlord's staff again. They said to be patient. I went next door to the little store I love that is attached to our house. I shared my troubles with Julita, the proprietress, who said, "For the rent you're paying, you should get better service."

She gossiped about my difficulties to a neighbor, who took it upon herself to come over and instruct me in how to call The Commission. Which I did. The repairman came within an hour of the call. He backed his immense truck and crane into our driveway, trotted up to the wires, and had all our power on in five minutes. And just like the difficulty of having no electricity had loomed so large in my life for five days, having it fixed seemed nothing short of a miracle. Even though, all told, I had involved twelve people in my problem. Gossip--that's my kind of Google.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Dead Head

It's Dead season around here, and I'm lucky to have a 6-year-old son who can show me the ropes for some of the more key traditions. First: chocolate. Oaxaca is known for its chocolate factories, and they hit full hum around Muertos. The chocolate is other-wordly--perhaps that's why it's put on altars. At the factory, you can see the cinnamon, chile powders, nuts and such that they add to the various flavors. I also love to see the mole sauces, many made with unsweetened chocolate and ground pumpkin seeds.

We had a feast at Max's school. It was very challenging to stop myself from eating a mountain of tamales, pumpkin in cinnamon sauce, arroz con leche, homemade chocolates, and fresh tortillas in mole. All of this at an elementary school party; it really puts my old days of hot cheetos and Hawaiian punch to shame.

There was a calaveras poem contest where the children had to write about their dead selves. Although it sounds macabre, the children find this practice very entertaining. Max: Habia un calavera Maxito, quien fue bien chiquito. Tuvo un gatito que tambien fue calavercito.

Oaxaca is trying very hard to woo tourists back and had many extra frills for Muertos this time around. The zocalo was the stage for a series of altars, each representing different regions. And there was a giant sand tapete, essentially a brilliant painting done in sand, flowers, seeds, and glitter, depicting Frida Kahlo, in the grand Municipal Palace.

We made visits to a couple of cemetaries and set up an altar for Jenny. I made sure it has popcorn and Mayordomo chocolate. Max added an orange and marbles. The cemetaries were filled with families and flowers, orange and maroon, flickering candles, copal incense, little framed pictures of saints, and children drinking soda and running around the gravestones.

Riding the bus home last night, I thought about how I have happened upon one of the world's most beautiful places, at one of my favorite times. It's such good fortune that I sometimes feel as if I am rising out of my body, like I can't quite touch the ground. Jenny called it "living life like you're in a movie", and she was right.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Just because you wear a sexy bikini doesn't mean you don't have gas

Genevieve had a fever, so we took our first foray into the Mexican health system. That's right, a visit to Farmacia Similares, also known in these parts as "Dr. Simi", a chain of pharmacies with doctors on staff who will do instant consulations.

It was Sunday afternoon when we circumnavigated the giant inflatable doctor and arrived at the closed door of the pharmacy. "Why did I think it would be open?" I asked Steve, and then decided to ask at the drug counter if there were any doctors on staff. The women told me to knock at the door and wait.

A few minutes later, Dr. Simi (really Mario) popped his head out and invited us in. He interviewed me extensively--using far too many irregular verbs and indirect objects--about Genevieve's symptoms and then went into rapid-fire explanation about what he was going to do if I could only, unblame him please, wait five minutes, unblame him, while he ran over to the store.

While we cooled our heels, I inspected the room and found an interesting framed certificate on the wall. "Steve, our doctor is licensed to kill cockroaches, fleas, flies, and mosquitos." Alas, it wasn't so--the room had recently been fumigated and received a certificate of approval.

But Steve was otherwise absorbed with the Dr. Simi advertisement hanging from the ceiling. It was a cardboard mobile of a sexy bikini lady sitting next to an inflatable Dr. Simi. In the corner was a small box of medicine for indigestion. "This," decided Steve, "was the low point of her career."

Dr. Simi came back with batteries for the ear inspection tool and spent a long time peering into screaming Jenny's ears, checking her pulse, listening to her breathe (and scream), taking her temperature, all the while asking about her sleeping, eating, drinking.

In the end, he wrote two pages about Jenny's little cold and reviewed the information with me. He jotted down his home number in case Jenny got sick during the night and I wanted him to pop by. He warned me, though, that his mom might answer the phone, but that she would be sure to give him any messages.

Then we paid him the 25 pesos ($2.50) for the visit. We love you, Dr. Simi!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Walking with the Bulls

I'm not the Ernest Hemingway type (though Jenny always cited a favorite Hemingway passage about his lamenting eating hot french fries too soon and burning the roof of his mouth, but being unable to wait for them to cool down). And the whole "Running of the Bulls" tradition in Pamplona is unappealing to me.
But, yesterday, as I was taking a shortcut to get to Maxito's school, I found myself on a dirt alleyway facing a couple of bulls. It was somewhat astonishing to see them on the open road, rather than behind a fence or in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Bulls! They are massive and extremely muscular--I certainly entertained the idea of running away.
Then I saw the man walking alongside them. He fell into step next to me and began a conversation. So it was that I wound up walking with the bulls to get to Max's school. They pulled at roadside vegetation as they walked, dragging down branches, even uprooting small plants. Sometimes they wandered into the middle of the cobblestone road and, once, they kicked up a little dust trying to chase a red VW van that chugged by.
As my party and I approached Colegio Teizcali, the man pointed to a pasture, filled with detritus and bramble and barbed wire. He told me he and the bulls were heading through the pasture and, if I wanted to, I could join them. He assured me that it was a short cut. I looked at gnarly tangles of roving weeds tied around bits of trash and thought of how Hemingway and company were so macho and bold on those winding thoroughfares of Pamplona. But I'm no Heminway. I took the long way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Teachings of Don Juan

Now here is something I remember from living in Mexico before. You become desperate for casual reading material. So it has come to pass that Steve and I are both reading old paperback copies of Carlos Castaneda books about...transcendence? Vision?

I'm halfway through mine, in a chapter about water rats, but my mind keeps wandering. Ah, but maybe Don Juan wants it to wander because it is in that sideways movement of thought that you encounter the great epiphany!

I'm excited to report that I've just unearthed a couple of Vanity Fair magazines, and one of them is from 2006--pretty recent! In the meantime, Steve has shared one of Don Juan's teachings from A Separate Reality in which our protagonist expresses fear of eating street food in case he gets sick. Don Juan responds, "Once you decided to come to Mexico, you should have put all your petty fears away."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Agua Fresca

When our big move to Oaxaca got put off due to my diagnosis, I felt my strength flowing away from me, like water. It was if I had lost the power to decide what to do with my own life. We were put in the position of waiting and wishing but never knowing what was going to happen.

So I began visualizing agua fresca to transcend the confusion. I saw myself walking down the cobblestone streets of Oaxaca, going through the stucco arches of La Michoacana, approaching the counter, and looking into the silver tubs of "fruit water" to choose my flavor. That's what I used to do 10 years ago, and that's what I planned to do again, as soon as I could get back. It was a kind of promise to myself.

Yesterday, we were on our way to Benito Juarez market because I had somehow misplaced all my shoes and my flip flops were wearing dangerously thin. Shoes in Mexico are quite a conundrum for me because I wear Size 11, just freakishly big for Mexico. We were almost at the market entrance when Steve said, "Let's stop for agua fresca."

There it was--La Michoacana, home of the vision that had carried me through a lot of self-doubt. And they had agua de jamaica, one of my favorite flavors. It seemed as if they had just been waiting for me all along.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

From Oaxaca

I titled this entry "From Oaxaca" because that's where I'm writing it from, and because it's now where I'm from. I can't believe the moments leading up to our coming here:

1. A mastectomy with a little added surprise--removal of all my lymph nodes because the sentinel node had two borderline miscroscopic foci of cancer. Madonna really said it best: "Borderline, feels like I'm going to lose my mind" because I keep almost having invasive cancer and almost having complications, but no test really commits. But they "round up" on my diagnosis and go for more aggressive treatment.

2. Coming down off the Vicodan a couple weeks later, I picked a fight with Steve at a new vegan restaurant called Nutshell. What a shame to D.T. at a cute cafe with wall-sized paintings of Bigfoot painted by...Bigfoot. We're trying to be vegan-ish now because milk products are some vile stuff according to my favorite book on cancer, The China Study, given to me by Andrea, one of my wonderful Portland friends.

3. We got our asses kicked at the Mexican consulate in Portland and couldn't get our FM3 documents to live in Mexico. So, like many who have preceded us, we will attempt to get the papers in Oaxaca instead.

4. Our car did not sell until 10 hours before our flight out of the country.

But now we're here. In less than a week, we've enrolled Maxito at Colegio Teizcali for first grade, stood in the long line at Provedora on Independencia with his list of school supplies, met my future employer, made some new friends, met some old friends, visited the Zocalo, stalked the location of our apartment from 10 years ago, went to our old favorite veggie restaurant El Manantial, and, most importantly, found a favorite produce stall and staked out a lady selling fresh tortillas, both near Max's school.

I'm already feeling the pull of daily life redefined. We rush around, do typical over-planning, worry over trivialities, but it's all in Spanish and it's all in Mexico.

Our adventures to come: Steve finishes covering all 7 of Max's required notebooks (of different sizes, with different interior papers) with the required yellow laminated paper; I locate some agua fresca de tuna fruit; Genevieve turns 1 and spends the day wrestling and high-fiving; Max runs up some pyramids at Monte Alban.

My deep gratitude goes out to all who showered me with love and support during this dramatic month. You brought me here, to Oaxaca!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another Test before Oaxaca

What I want to know is who started that metaphor of fighting cancer? It's in my body, and I don't want to fight my body.

I want to take the cancer cells to tea and talk to them about the situation. Could you just sit there, in the ducts, not doing anything? I won't burn you and you won't go forth and multiply.

Megan said that, when she worked at Hospice, a patient told her he visualized a gnome in his body, stacking the cancer cells in his arms and carrying them out of his body.

She said maybe I could imagine a Swiffer sweeping the cells away. Yeah, I do love Swiffer. But have you ever noticed that those microfiber pads don't really clean? Try Swiffering the floor, changing the cloth, and then Swiffering again. The second cloth comes up dirty.

And breast tissue can't be dirty. That's what I've learned in the past whip-fast week and a half, when I had one foot out the door to go to Mexico and found myself at Kaiser for a routine appointment.

My aunt had said that I was supposed to get a mammogram when I turned 40. I had an extra hour between my appointment at Kaiser and when the prescriptions were going to be called in, so I wandered over to the mammogram dept. to make an appointment. I didn't think they'd get me in before August 4th, my date of Oaxaca departure, but I thought I'd try.

"Your lucky," the receptionist said. "We've just had a cancellation. Come back in 15 minutes and come on in."

I did and they did it and the next day they called me and since then I'm on a whirlwind tour of stage zero microcalcifications which cover my mammogram film like a starry sky. It could fool you into thinking it was beautiful.

Tomorrow is my surgery. But that's not what I want to write about. I want to thank that woman, wherever she is, who cancelled her appointment for her mammogram. You may have saved my life, and you have certainly saved me much trouble and sorrow. I'm sending you my gratitude and also my wish that you never have a starry sky inside you.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

We sold the house, and nearly everything in it. We are reducing our lives to checkable luggage, USPS M-bags for books, and 10 boxes to ship to Oaxaca.

Sometimes I wonder if Steve and I are just too similar, egging each other on to greater and greater adventures, with no one to check us. It's not the worst thing, I guess.

Today was our 10th yard sale, tomorrow our 11th. Then, we cart stuff away and sell the car that carted it.

I have a lot I could worry about, like how I still haven't received my renewed passport, so we can't finish our residency applications at the Mexican consulate. And how Genevieve, having finally begun walking at 21 months, has now been targeted for speech therapy (but does say uh-oh, wow, look, dat, mama, dada, mimi, bubba, woof, hello, uh uh, no, and vroom to distraction). And how my Oaxacan teaching job I was semi-offered is seeming more and more semi rather than offered.

But I turn 40 tomorrow, which means I transcend much of these piddling concerns because I'm tougher and more free! I have glittery lavender toenails, am writing a movie, and ate Peruvian tapas for dinner. There is no need to stay up wondering about the highest interest rates on savings accounts and finding a charming rental in San Felipe del Agua...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Send in the Clowns

There are milestones in life and, while Maxito graduating kindergarten was lovely and unbelievable (and came complete with the cute performances and the cake riot), his graduation, last week, from Clown Camp was monumental. You can see him getting his groove on in these photos.
It is increasingly clear how much of Steve I can see in Max. It was Steve who, while shaking his thing at a Dirty Dozen Brass Band concert, inspired one of the musicians to shout, "That boy's got a rhythm all his own!" Right on.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Blur of Birthdays

Jenny's birthday is tomorrow, and I'm trying to remember 34 years of celebrations past.

She called May her "birthday month" and wanted to go out to dinner as much as possible. In recent years, it was Spettro or Dona Tomas or Cha Cha Cha or TiCouz or Cafe de la Paz.

When we were little, we celebrated with pinatas, treasure hunts, peanut hunts, and cakes with those ballerinas-in-tutus candle holders. We'd play Spanking Machine, Hot Potato, and Strut, Miss Lizzy.

There was the dark year when, in a fit of jealousy, I scratched her "Free to Be You and Me" record that she got for her birthday, reducing "The Helping Song" to "Some kinda help, some kinda help, some kinda help..." I spent years trying to find the replacement LP, which she finally scored at a Friends of the Library sale.

For her sweet 16, I rented out the multipurpose room at our condo complex in Santa Rosa, The Land that Time Forgot, and threw her a surprise party. Ants attacked the cake. Mr. Crutchfield, the grouchy manager, got very anal over Jenny's lovely friends wreaking havoc with the swimming pool rules (had we learned nothing from his response to the shampoo in the jacuzzi incident?).

Nana would cook Jenny a homemade lemon meringue pie, which I found grody.

There were at least a couple of quick Mexico trips as birthday presents. During one, she parasailed over Mazatlan while mamacita drowned her worries in a Coco Loco. We typically enjoyed a birthday repast at El Shrimp Bucket.

We always managed a spring/summer house party in Oakland, usually with the cocktail of the moment (a while back it was Mojitos) and tiki decorations. Steve's artist buddy Jeff Roysden would stay late and wax rhapsodic over current obsessions ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or painting rocks), and then we'd send him home with the leftover booze.

One of my favorites might have been the most recent. We hiked to the waterfalls and swam under them. We sat on the sunny rocks and ate white peaches, which was my way of admitting I was wrong in our argument about there no longer being any good peaches in the world.

Jenny loved a party and lots of public attention. She was the type to wear a crown (actually, when she was little, a tiara and a faux fur stole) on her birthday, to broadcast the uniqueness of the day to as many people as possible. Whenever I meet a May 27th Gemini--and I've known a few--I know she is going to be a very punk rock individual. Feliz cumpleanos to my righteous, ass-kicking sister! Nobody is as brave as you were. I know that if you were here right now, we'd be laughing about something.

Friday, May 18, 2007

D.E.P. Jose Fernando Pedraza

Anti-immigrant sentiment is so deeply ugly, and the incident reported in the following press release makes me feel such shame for this country.

CONTACTS:Suzanne Foster: 310-486-8499Jose Calderon: 909-952-1640Veronica Federovsky: 818-515-0782.
Day Laborer Leader Killed During a Minutemen Protest in Rancho Cucamonga
WHAT: Press ConferenceWHERE: Corner of Arrow Highway and Grove Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga, CADATE: Monday, May 7, 2007TIME: 11 a.m.
On Saturday, May 5, 2007, José Fernando Pedraza, a day laborer, was struck and killed by a vehicle on the corner of Arrow Highway and Grove Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga, California. At around 12:30 p.m., two vehicles collided in the intersection, causing one to veer into the day laborer corner. Several workers were hit; two sustained minor injuries. José Fernando Pedraza was airlifted to a nearby hospital but died from his injuries. Though day laborers are typically not looking for work at that time of day, Pedraza and workers were present yesterday because the Minutemen and members of Save Our State, anti-immigrant, vigilante groups, were staging a protest against them.
José Fernando Pedraza, 57, leaves behind many friends and loved ones. He was the father of five children and the grandfather of seven. In the last five years, José Fernando was a leader at the day laborer corner, mentoring young day laborers. He fought tirelessly for the creation of a day laborer center. He attended several meetings of the Rancho Cucamonga city council to advocate for a day labor center and joined in numerous marches in the region to support the legalization of immigrant workers. The day laborers have lost a brother, a friend and a leader.
We are all deeply saddened over this tragedy. Day laborers and community members will come together on Monday to express their outrage and frustration that they continue to be targeted by groups such as the Minutemen and Save Our State. As one of Fernando’s fellow day laborers and friends, Carlos Mendez, stated, ” This would never have happened if we did not have to be there to respond to the Minutemen.” He continued, “This would never have happened if the City had provided us with a safe space to stand and look for work. It should not take a death to push the City to provide us with a day laborer center.”
The accident in Rancho Cucamonga is an example of the precarious reality for day laborers across the country. Vigilante groups, whose members shout insults at workers and use intimidation tactics to discourage employers from hiring them, routinely target day laborer corners and centers. Of high concern to the workers and their organizations in Rancho Cucamonga is the fact that the frequent protests by the vigilante groups cause a chaotic environment, potentially distracting drivers and leading to accidents such as Saturday’s deadly incident.
The strongly anti-immigrant nature of Save Our State and the Minutemen protests create aclimate of violence and hostility that encourage hate crimes against day laborers and migrants in general. Last week, a newly opened day laborer center in Gaithersburg MD, was targeted by arsonists and in the fall of 2006, day laborers at a center in Laguna Beach, California were injured when two individuals drove a car through the center’s property attempting to run down workers. Day laborers and their organizations also fear an increase in violence in the aftermath of the repressive tactics that the Los Angeles Police Department used during the May Day march and rally at McArthur Park. Groups also fear an escalation of violence, hate crimes and hate incidents as federal legislators engage in the immigration debate in Washington DC in mid-May.
Day laborers and their advocates call for an end to the hostilities against day laborers in Rancho Cucamonga and throughout the country. We demand that Minutemen and Save Our State members end their demonstrations against innocent workers whose only crime is to look for an honest day of work. If at all, day laborers are the victims of injustice, they don’t cause any harm to anyone in the community. Day laborers and their organizations demand a detailed investigation of the incident. We also demand that the City of Rancho Cucamonga establishes a day laborer center for workers and employers to meet and carry out their negotiations in peace and harmony with the community.
To the vigilante groups, day laborers and their organizations send a message of peace and reconciliation. We don’t hate you but we don’t fear you either. End hatred and hostilities now.
As part of the healing process, day laborers, their organizations and allies will join together in an ecumenical service on Tuesday, May 8, 2007 at 11 am to mourn José Fernando Pedraza’s tragic, untimely and unnecessary death. Press is welcome at this service.
A Bank Account is being established for donations for the family of José Pedraza. The account number will be announced tomorrow during the press conference.
José Pedraza Vive!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Full of herself

My baby Genevieve is a wild thing. She loves to steal underwear, pull it over her head, and crawl around with her vision blocked. She growls at me if I take the underwear away. Then she tries to scale Max's slide to his loft bed, with his Sponge Bob underpants in her teeth. She loves getting away with things.

Which is why I feel for her, still not walking. She's nearly 21 months old and demands my pinky for support as she dashes around. If I withdraw my finger from her grasp, she collapses to the floor and flails around, grasping for it.

For a long time, it didn't bother me. I've never believed in rushing children and I know they have their unique gifts and qualities. But there was a girl today, a month younger, running all around, climbing on benches, scooting off and I felt almost ashamed that Genevieve was so incapacitated comparitively.

I know she wants it. No, that's not right. It's as if she thinks she is walking, dragging me around with her. She's so content. She loves clapping, jumping on Max's head, rolling on the lawn with her daddy, blowing kisses. She loves herself. I'm trying to let that suffice, for now.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fired by My Therapist

It was about a month-and-a-half ago. I was galavanting around Queens seeing "Not What Not to Wear" in the Bad Ass Shorts Festival. But, back in Portland, another drama was unfolding. My Grief Group had a mild confrontation with my therapist regarding time management issues. And the discussion turned emotional. Eventually, my therapist said that the group could do just fine without her, and that we should meet without her.

I came back into town with messages from the group members. I emailed my therapist, but she didn't respond. I never heard from her again. It made me wonder--who does that? I mean, what if someone had trust issues, or was deeply depressed, or suicidal? I also wondered if maybe she had done this before, with other clients.

I think I was disappointed because the three year anniversary of Jenny's death had just passed, and she thought it was fine to just scoot away. But I have realized it actually is fine. I have continued to see the women in the Grief Group, and we are now in a kind of hybrid Soul Collage/Grief/Star Chart group. And I took some of my sadness about three years without Jenny to Ecstactic Dance, and have had some questions answered while whirling around and peering out the windows. I'm finding there are multiple ways of exorcising the demons (or, perhaps, exercising them!)...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I'm it...

I got tagged by Dishy Duds, and here's what I now must do:

1. Someone tags you.
2. You post five things about yourself that you haven’t already mentioned on your blog.
3. You tag people you’d like to know more about.

Here's the five things:
1. I have deep phone phobia.
2. I am an Ecstatic fanatic! I have been doing the Ecstactic Dance thing (though I stop short of writhing on the floor or going nudie).
3. I am a big eater, and I haunt Extra MSG.
4. I obsess about money.
5. My favorite scene in any movie is when people walk into an unfurnished room, and it's crystalline shining empty gorgeous. I always think that's the life I want.

I tag:

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ya me voy

To the left is Max's work of art, a cartoony version of a Mexican altar. He walked down Alberta Street trying to sell it during the Last Thursday Art Walk. He had takers, but I refused to let it go.

It looks like we're in fast-forward getting ready to move to Mexico. Over the past few months, I have found incredible resources for preparing to move the family to Oaxaca, and I thought I'd share some of them for anyone else trying the same thing:

Getting ready for the move:
Rolly Brook gives all the details on applying for visas, moving your junk, and bringing all the right documents. He also kindly responds to emails.

For working and daily life questions:
I haunt the Mexico boards at Dave's ESL Cafe. They meander on about all sorts of delights, such as where to score olive oil, how to flake out of a teaching contract, and where to find the best airline deals.

For grumpy but ultimately helpful advice:
The retirees at MexConnect have kicked my ass more than once but at least I can outrun some of them...The discussion boards are meticulously detailed and address issues as diverse as medical insurance, monthly bills, favorite books about Mexico, and nailing the best exchange rate. The secret to all these discussion boards is the behind-the-scenes information you glean after posting a public message. Everyone starts PM-ing you with inside pointers, especially if they pity how poorly you're being treated on the forum. I've had to take my old advice I used to give my students and "rise above" a number of times.

For rose-colored-glasses swooning:
Well, I always find fiction can communicate more of the feeling of a place than guidebooks can and one of the better Mexico expatriate novels I've read is Harriet Doerr's Consider This, Senora.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bad Cop

Last Wednesday, a 2:10pm, I was driving north from Burnisde toward Lloyd Center when I saw a cop car blocking the left lane. As I passed on the right, I saw the cop pushing a young guy against the street. He had the guy in cuffs, he had backup, he had the guy face down, yet he continued to pull on the guy's elbow in a way that looked like he was dislocating it.

I was driving by, and I felt helpless. I unrolled my window and stopped for as long as I could, to bear witness. When the cop adjusted his grip, I could see the white fingerprint marks left behind on the guy's skin, and still he was pushing, pushing his damn elbow.

There's a million stories out there, I know, about who might have been wrong, who might have been right, but the story in my head had me wondering who I could call to intervene. Certainly not the cops. And I fantasized about a bad cop service, a person with a van that would rush to the scene and know all the right things to say and do, rather than just roll down the window and, later, blog about it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New York!

My play "Not What Not to Wear" is premiering in New York right now! All right, it's not Broadway. It's not even off-Broadway.

BUT--what if a theater bigwig just happens to be driving through Queens and her car breaks down and she straggles into the Creek and the Cave Mexican restaurant, only to find that the basement holds a stage and that stage is home to Ratutu Collaborative's Bad Ass Shorts Festival, starring my one-act comedy? It could happen.

And I got reviewed in the Queens Chronicle, baby!

So I'm headed to The Great White Way (where I will then get through the midtown tunnel, take a couple of buses, and walk a few blocks to my show).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

It's better to die on your feet

...than live on your knees.

Three years, Hennannabellamaria, so unbelievable. I've been singing your lullabies to them, and telling stories (but I'm still trying to accept the duck).

We'll see you at the ocean today--blue jeweled fish, JAWS t-shirts in Atlantic City, paying tribute to the mothalode, funneled into the sand in Melaque, body surfing in Puerto Escondido, foot headaches at Doran Beach, and, the week before you left, the playa at Barcelona at night. A life of oceans is not a bad thing.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Gaudi Plaza

When Jenny was in Barcelona, she fell in love with Gaudi's architecture. Also, a street of pastry shops and the flea markets. I've just been reading her emails to me from that time, and thought I'd post her last one to me:

Barcelona comes alive on Saturdays, and when it does, it comes alive as a Fellini movie! I mean big festivals with 12 foot tall puppets being maneuvered by human dancers inside, and musicians and jugglers and acrobats and markets. I think this is more than just the fact that it´s Saturday and Sunday, it is also the festival of the patron saint, and Ben and I keep accidentally coming upon another big weird thing, like a huge fire'breathing dragon machine fighting a ram in the middle of the busiest street in town.

I take back everything I said about no good shopping or cafes. There are so many cafes and I have found the cutest areas for shopping. Some of the shops are high'concept. In the student area, there are shops like The Air Shop, which seems to sell only inflatable pillows with things inside. Also an esoteric lamp shop, with beautiful handmade lamps made to look like flowers. i didn´t dare go in. In the medieval quarter are thousands of bakeries, gelaterias, adorable little stores, such as one selling puppets and carnival masks, oh it goes on and on. This morning, we went from bakery to bakery sampling pastry. you must come here. We must come here. It is nonstop fun in Barcelona.

Today we went to the picasso museum, watched festival fun, walked around the medieval quarter, and visited a couple of markets (a great antiquarian one, and one still to come, by the beach). Right now Ben is eating paella and I am back at the first internet cafe, since I had trouble getting my e'mails at the free one.

Miros! So many! So good! Tonight, we eat gelato for dinner as planned, and then tomorrow we leave. We should arrive at the airport at 9:10, and then customs. We will see you there, I guess! Can´t wait to tell you about it. I am glad Max remembers me. Last night, I thought of pink day and smiled.

Monday, January 29, 2007

She Speaks Some More!

At 14 months it was: Mama, Dada, Bubba (brother), here, he-llo, that (dat), and maybe just maybe book and cat.

Then it was the occasional bath and, maybe, "up dada". A month later we had "na na no no" and "Mimi" and "woof". Maybe "dere" for "there". She also repeatedly said "yook" while pointing at something interesting.

Now she's almost 17 months, and the "woof" has turned into a very German "voof". I think she said "dog" today. And she does a panicky sounding roar for a lion. She pounds her chest for a gorilla sound. She also says "vroooom" while playing with cars.

I found Max's baby book and, by this age, he was saying all sorts of intriguing things, such as uh-oh, buddha, and sock.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My mind is in Mexico

We're planning to move to Mexico! We have mucho details to work out (what to do with our art collection?), but it's falling into place. The only frustration in this process is that all the expatriate guides I encounter focus on retirees, or on teaching English in Mexico. Does anyone have any good resources on moving children to Mexico?