Monday, May 31, 2010

Problemo Solved

It's nice when something just blows over, isn't it? Living in Oaxaca for three years has taught me the beauty of waiting and seeing what will happen.

It reminds me of buying our patio chairs. We knew the chairs we wanted, the kind you see in Puerto Escondido made of rebar and plastic string. Yes, it sounds elegant, doesn't it? Everyone we asked told us the same thing: buy them on the side of the road that goes out to the Etlas. We knew the spot, so we pulled over one Saturday and had a look.

The chairs were lined up in a rainbow of colors. But they were expensive. I wanted ten chairs, so I asked the guy about a discuento. He said, not for these, but I have another style I can show you that's cheaper.


The next 15 minutes have him looking for his cell phone so he can call a guy with a truck who can pick up a chair to show me the style. Steve said, "Now we're here for an hour." I knew he was right, and I decided to be okay with it, even though I knew I didn't want the other style of chair. You just can't turn someone down like that.

The guy came, the truck left, the truck came back, and the chair was lovely. I told the men, "I really want ten of the other one, but I know you can't possibly sell them to me for a discount." Which they then did, all because I waited.

So the fury and the helplessness of yesterday's vague blog post just melts down the drain. Someday soon, when I confirm the particulars, I'll reveal the next great project of my life.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rage against machines

That's the theme song of my life, though I tend to reject or dismantle machines rather than raging against them.

I've had the great privilege of carving out my life. Circumstances and luck, both good and bad, had me cartwheeling to the situation of my dreams, living in Oaxaca, freelance writing, and having the time to appreciate life, my family, my friends, art, and my surroundings.

So when I get slammed up against a wall of hierarchy and negative energy, here in the place I've chosen, in the life I've fashioned, I look for the path. The path is not the corporate model, not a business model, not the capitalist, consumerist dream--it's the road less traveled by, the one that makes the difference.

The current problem I'm encountering is too sticky to delve into fully. In general, I find some people fall victim to thinking that people should not be heard, should not be represented. I know this type, the self-satisfied elitists who somehow think they know better, but what always surprises me is the type upon whom they prey, the willing head-nodders. Where do these people come from? Are they guided by fear?

I'm happy to realize I've shaken off many of my fears, my tendency to unquestioningly follow rules, in favor of doing what's right. In my work as an educator, I appreciated that notion of justice over law, just as I used to tell my students that fairness meant each student getting what she needs, not each student getting the same thing. I'll use this philosophy to guide me though the next phase of my life.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I will survive

I just walked by the neighborhood giant corporate grocery store, which blockades of protesters had closed down. Nearby, a driver was taking a snooze in his parked water truck as the radio blared "I Will Survive."

These both seem like signs, things that would have fascinated or delighted Jenny, so I'm writing about them here for her birthday gift. She would have been 41 today.

I had breakfast alone at my favorite cafe, Itanoni, but I imagined her there with me, and with out birthday breakfast buddy Meggie, amid stacks of gifts and the blah blah blahing of constant talk we always managed to produce. There was something about those birthday lattes, the caffeine made us superheroes (if just for one day) flying along to a disco soundtrack. We had ideas and inspirations, we were the new visionaries! So now, when I feel more alone in my radical meanderings and surreal musings, I envision Jenny's vote in my favor. She was always supportive, but her unconditional support of me increased tenfold when she died.

The thing about Jenny was the Jenny of her, how she recounted the plot of a "Mr. Belvedere" episode to us during intermission at the San Francisco Shakespeare in the Park. How she argued the merit of books she hadn't read, but she was always right. How she had picked a favorite tree to live in at Redwood Regional park. She wanted the mystery, the corn maze and the pictographs. She was open to experience and she pried me open, too. She knew things. She wasn't scared of love.

She hides in the tiny and the shiny, in the deep rich earth, in the leaves pushing around the wind, the backs pressed up against Soriana's metal gate, the beats between the lyrics.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Death of Marat

Jenny loved "The Death of Marat". We had both seen the image in Moira Roth's 20th Century Art History class at Mills College. Jenny invested a huge amount of time pushing me around the Louvre, trying to locate the painting, a fruitless journey, as it's hanging in Brussels. I think she liked the painting because Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison recreated the image in "The Doors" movie.

It turns out others were deeply affected by the painting as well. It shows up in an R.E.M. song "We Walk." But the painting makes me think about "Sheep Go to Heaven," the great CAKE song, (a favorite band of Jenny's), quoting Samuel Beckett:
And the gravedigger puts on his forceps.

It's a later lyric in the song that captures my mood as Jenny's would-have-been-birthday approaches.

I don't wanna go to sunset strip
I don't wanna feel the emptiness

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

She got the beat

Jenny loved beatniks, the poets, the counterculture performance artists of Greenwich Village, the pulp fiction novel covers warning of the dangers of being beat, and, most of all, her own cartoon The Beats, starring Beulah and Bart Beat, and their dog, Kerouac. Sometimes they played bongos or recited poetry, but the Beats typically talked pop culture, current events, and daily life kind of stuff. My favorite Beat cartoon has one admiring when the other throws a pencil across the room and the pencil lands in the pencil cup.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mexico destiny

One of Jenny's favorite things was Mexico, of course. We came at least once a year as adults, I'd estimate. Cheap SunTrips packages to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Zihuatanejo and such, but also flying our favorite dodgy airline, Taesa, to hit Guanajuato and explore its alleys and tortilla offerings.

Jenny wanted to figure out the secret of how to live in Mexico. She thought we could sell the Oakland house, buy a cheap beach house in Bandon, on the Oregon coast (they were cheap when we were contemplating this idea), and have enough left over to live in Mexico part of the year.

What we never realized was how to let go of keeping part of our lives in the United States. If we had seen that possibility then, maybe we would have made the move in time to shift the line of dominoes leading up to her dying. But it seems that it took Jenny dying to push me into the realization that I could give up the U.S. part of my life, except for the loved ones who I do visit when I can and to whom I write.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Magritte Postcard Museum

Jenny loved Rene Magritte. When she first came to Mills, to Orchard Meadow, she discovered the prior resident of her room had played a practical joke, covering the ceiling and walls with glow-in-the-dark messages and paint that you only saw when you turned out the lights at night. She hated it, and called me up in tears.

But, after she got used to it, she discovered it had sparked the interest of her friends. People began visiting the room to see the glow-in-the-dark messages. She decided to turn her dorm room into a museum, and posted Rene Magritte art postcards throughout the room. She kept a book at the entry for visitors to sign.

When Max picked Rene Magritte as his research topic for a project at school, he did so because he found her old postcards in a basket. He said to me that he could tell before checking which images were by Magritte. He laid them out carefully and set them by his bed when he slept. When he presented his Magritte project to the class, he brought those cards. I watched as each child held each card, as if it was a work of art itself, turning it, considering it, and telling others the joke, puzzle, or other interesting visual trick to find.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pirate Jenny

I met a Gemini Jenny at a party last weekend, and I thought how right that is, with Jenny's birthday coming up this May 27th. She would have been 41, which seems like a just a speck of time, really.

Jenny made lists of her favorite things. She was inspired by a zinester that published lists and drawings on the subject, so she maintained her own. I thought I would post one of Jenny's favorite things here tonight.

She loved Bertolt Brecht, and took a class about him and his work at San Fransisco Freeschool. Maybe she had a little bit of Pirate Jenny in her, which inspired her to collect Ute Lemper and Lotte Lenya albums.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Sometimes, when I'm between inspirations, I wonder what will be the next concept to captivate me and drive me, to keep me up at night, researching, interviewing friends for any last bit of information. Well, I'm onto the new thing now: unschooling. I've always felt suspicious about homeschooling, having met many a homeschooled child in my education career. Their social skills, emotional maturity, and sometimes academic abilities were...odd, like they just couldn't cope with the whole school entity and how to enter it. Now I'm thinking, why should they?

And so I'm researching unschooling, at least as a philosophy if not as an actuality, not yet. The organized curriculum-free, child-led education. Imagine! Imagine if the things that interest Max most--filming short monster movies, writing magazines about toys, drawing treasure maps, building a Tiki fort on our roof, riding his bike for hours, hiking, reading art books at the Graphic Arts library--what if that was his education, maybe supplemented by art class, day trips to archaeological ruins, gallery visits, organic gardening. It's very appealing. It's all about flow, in my mind, how his motivation pushes him deeper into concepts. Of course, then I think it's also all about "flojo"--Max's lazy approach to life, how he loves to sleep in, wake up and read books in bed. But, maybe that's not a terrible thing. Maybe it's what he needs. Or maybe it's the kind of activities children do because they need to decompress from the pressures and boredom of school.

I'm wondering where this will take me.