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Archive for November, 2009

By Buzz
for Rich, September 23, 2009








Hoops



Pass the ball Kansas
bend it low
like wind
hoops wheat

twin soles thrash old grain
splash window see the floor
cold ash burns with pain
twist sap from maple core

pour-sugar-brown syrup down
cough up crack in tree
shinny-slick draw-and-kick
school those milk-fed feet

don’t bubbachuck that shot
jack-brick hoes shuck corn
shoot silk breeze smooth round knees
rim-blown dust bowl storm

plain people use the back-door
farmers sense the rain
screen spills from its spline
but still the spine remains

drive faded Chevy off the blocks
pick-and-roll crash paint
sweat cuts thick in thin socks
gnashed gears slash years change lanes

lace sneaks between hard lumber
post sets wing on high
stolen prayer banks on glass
no free throws paid in life

juke the movie cowboy
look inside for dimes
slip time’s string past tin ring
thread the needle through the pine

score your game in limestone
spin leather seam from rock
drop it soft as chalk Jayhawk
echoes dribble out our clock




Chevrolet, photo © 2009 by Linda Lupowitz. All
rights reserved.




Shoes Homework, drawing © 2009 by Max Lupowitz.
All rights reserved.





Buzz is a healer, husband, father, and friend, etching ethers in New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley since 1979. He wrote this poem in the fall of 2009, as a birthday gift to his good friend and fellow basketball player Rich Jamison. Buzz had this to say about the poem: Rich asked me to write a poem for his birthday. The poem is about basketball, which we both share a love for. It’s about the pass, not the shot. While the shot carries the glory, the pass, or the assist (“dime”) gives the game its rhythm. So it’s also a metaphor for healing, where the practitioner assists, steps back in the shadows, and allows life to flow.

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Question Mark, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


A few weeks ago, I watched an interview on Bill Moyers Journal and was mesmerized by the work of Anna Deavere Smith. It is tough work. She takes on controversial subjects most would not touch in our sanitized, politically correct language of the day. Her 1992 one-woman performance Fires in the Mirror explored the violence between Jews and Blacks after an August 1991 civic disturbance in the New York neighborhood of Crown Heights in Brooklyn. Her solo performance in Twilight: Los Angeles dramatized the 1992 riots that broke out in L.A. following the first Rodney King trial.

For her current one-woman play Let Me Down Easy, Anna Deavere Smith interviewed Americans from all walks of life about healthcare, medical, and end of life issues. After 9 years and 300 plus interviews, she chose 20 people; through their words, body language and speech, she transforms on stage into each one. I’ve only seen snippets of her 90 minute performance on TV. And from bullrider to politician to Buddhist monk, I could hear the voice of all America inserted into the healthcare debate, leaving little room for doubt — something has to change.

We are trying to bring disparate worlds together, not so that we can all get along, but so we can see out of the ‘me’ into ‘us.’

– Anna Deavere Smith

__________________________________________


Highlights


Below are few notes I jotted down while listening to her conversation with Bill Moyers. A few may seem cryptic, but will make more sense when you watch the interview:

  • The title Let Me Down Easy came to her almost out of a dream. There are two songs with the name. Of the title, James H. Cone of the Union Theological Seminary said they are the words of a broken heart and can be interpreted as broken love. “Don’t do it harshly. Not too mean. Let it be easy.”
  • Let Me Down Easy is a call about grace and kindness in a world that lacks that often —  in a winner take all world.
  • Death is the ultimate form of loss, the ultimate form of abandonment
  • It broke her heart to know that we, with all of our money and technology, believe that we can afford to leave people so alone
  • Are we afraid of being poor, afraid of losing, afraid of being sick? Is that why we distance ourselves from that reality all around us?
  • She chose these 20 particular people because they are very connected to the life cycle – death and life
  • The most important thing you can do is be with someone when they die
  • Art comes in when the official language falls apart. When things fall apart, you can see more and you can even be part of indicating new ways that things can be put together.


What seems to be important to Anna Deavere Smith is the art of listening. And letting what she hears soak into each cell of her body. Words matter. People matter. She believes something she learned from her grandfather (who was also the inspiration for her method of theater) — if you say a word often enough, it becomes you. In a New York Times article Through 1 Woman, 20 Views of Life’s End she says, “I try to embody America by embodying its words.”

Near the end of the interview, Bill Moyers asked, “When did you begin to listen to people so acutely?” Anna said when she was young, she lived next to a woman who weighed 400 pounds. The neighbor would ask her to go to the store to buy her fatback and she’d love to sit on her porch and listen to her stories —  that’s when she started really listening.

__________________________________________


Writing Topic — 3 Questions


How do we teach ourselves to listen? How do we get people to talk about what has meaning for them, moving beyond repetition or sound bites? In Anna’s words, “I say their words over and over. I listen and I wear the words.”

She said she also taught herself to listen by breaking up certain rhythmic speech patterns. She met a linguist at a cocktail party in 1979 who said she would give her 3 questions that were guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves:

Have you ever come close to death?

Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do?

Do you know the circumstances of your birth?


And that’s the inspiration for this Writing Topic — 3 Questions.

Choose one of the 3 questions above. Write it down at the top of your paper. Take out a fast writing pen and do a timed 15 minute Writing Practice.

Maybe 3 questions, combined with the wild mind of Writing Practice, will break patterns in our writing and lead us to listen more closely to our own voices.

__________________________________________


Epilogue


Anna Deavere Smith is on fire. In pursuit of her mission to translate art into social commentary about race, poverty, and injustice, she’s won two Obie Awards, been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and two Tonys, and is a recipient of the prized MacArthur fellowship. (Not to mention her role in NBC’s The West Wing, as National Security Advisor Nancy McNally.) You can read more about Anna Deavere Smith at Bill Moyers Journal. Or watch the full interview with Anna Deavere Smith and Bill Moyers at this link.

In November, the Moth Storytelling Awards in New York honored her as their 2009 recipient at the Annual Moth Ball. The Wall Street Journal blog Speakeasy covered the event which was also attended by writer Garrison Keillor. On the subject of healthcare, the blog references a compelling verbal account from Keillor that night about his stroke in September. He had the stroke while on a massage table, eventually drove himself to the ER, and waited 15 minutes in line before he was able to tell anyone he was having a stroke. Read the full story at Speakeasy: Jonathan Ames, Garrison Keillor and Anna Deavere Smith Headline Annual Moth Ball.


In some ways the most effective politicians are the ones who have the best verbal clothes that they manipulate the best way. And there is a gap between that type of clothing and where people walk and where people live.

Whitman was doing another kind of work for the country at that time. Speaking a different song. And I think the politicians can sing to us but I respect, in a way, the limitation of their language. I mean I guess it’s a part of our culture that goes back as far as Jefferson, that they have to be so careful about what they say. My only desire would then be that we would find other places in our culture to work out our differences.

– Anna Deavere Smith from Bill Moyers Journal, November 2009


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 29th, 2009

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Berth Of The Night Owl, outside Mickey’s Diner, St. Paul, Minnesota, November 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







drenched beads of lens sweat
black fog that spawns crusty rain
berth of the night owl







Sometimes the best shots are unplanned. A few weeks ago, Liz and I drove through St. Paul after going to see a music performance of Strange Attractors. It was almost midnight, rainy and foggy. We parked at different spots downtown and took a series of photographs. She stepped out into the rain; I stayed behind and shot from the car. I feel lucky my partner is one who loves the night (and art) as much as I do. It provides opportunities for creative sharing that might not otherwise take place. And we can spend downtime together in our art studio in Northeast Minneapolis.

The best part of this rainy shot of Mickey’s Diner through the windshield is the BlackBerry sitting on the dash. When the photo is viewed in its largest size, you can clearly see the raindrop reflections on the screen. They make it look like the rain fell through the glass. This time the photograph was not taken with the camera phone; she’s one of the stars.


Other Night Owl posts from over the years:



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, November 27th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), WRITING TOPIC — WINDOW

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The Turkey Who Lived, the story of Azul as told by the girl who loved her most,
© 2004-2009 by Dee. All rights reserved.




She was a blue so light she was almost gray. Jim got her at Miller Feed Shop in Albuquerque’s north valley after first buying and then losing a white baby turkey to a hawk. That turkey, we were later told, would have eventually grown so big that its weight would have broken its legs.

But Azul was a lean heritage turkey. She was made to roam fields. And roam she did. She had an easy relationship with our dogs, who seemed to know that she was as much a part of the family as they were. And she was docile with the girls, which put me at ease. A man I once worked with told me that you should never have turkeys around small children, as the turkeys would see the kids’ shiny eyes and peck them out.

Azul became famous ’round these parts. We lived within walking distance to the elementary school, and my daughters’ teachers regularly took their classes on field trips to our house. Twenty or so excited kids would stand at the fence around the bird pen to see Azul and the other turkeys, along with our chickens and Roosevelt the duck. We even had two bunnies, Diamond-in-the-Rough and Snowball, which if we could catch (they burrowed tunnels from the pen out to the yard) we’d let the students pet.

But Azul’s fame derived mostly because she survived an attack so severe that her innards were exposed. She had flown into the neighbors’ yard, not knowing that their dogs were unfriendly. Immediately a Bassett Hound and German Shepherd cornered and jumped her. The daughter was inside alone but had the wherewithal to call the police. She then went outside and chased the dogs away from Azul until Animal Control arrived and took the wounded turkey to the village offices.

Normally, with injuries that grave, Azul would have been put to sleep. But when the mayor of the village saw our daughter, who with Jim had pulled in seconds behind Animal Control, crying her eyes out when she saw how gory Azul looked, the mayor ordered Frosty, the head dog catcher, to rush the turkey to a local veterinarian. This mayor, who was also a sometimes-actor in Western films, then told Jim that the village would pick up the cost.

Lo and behold, Azul pulled through. She went on to live a relatively long life, giving birth to and raising three or four poults, a combined 20 to 30 turkeys.

Just a couple of weeks ago, however, Azul went missing. We looked high and low for her. She was always the leader of her flock, until this past year. We were down to four turkeys, one being Azul. The two males had plucked out large patches of her feathers. We let her stay outside the pen, being as how she roosted high in the trees to sleep.

One night we heard a commotion and chased off whatever it was that had come around. The next day Azul was gone. There were no feathers, no sign that she’d been taken or hurt. We searched for her for several days, thinking she might have laid eggs underneath brush and was hidden, safe and sound.

We still like to think she just flew high up into the trees where we can’t see her. But she was old for a turkey, and in our hearts we know that she’s gone for good.

Here is the story that Dee wrote about Azul back in 2004, just a few weeks after Azul was attacked by the dogs. Dee was 8 years old, and Azul was just over a year. I’ve corrected typos for ease of reading.



The Turkey Who Lived



One fall day, my dad, M., and me were shopping at K-Mart. We got a lot of stuff. Finally we were headed for home. When we turned on Mockingbird Lane, we saw the Animal Control leaving the road. My dad had a feeling something was wrong!

When we pulled up at our green gate, my dad saw a note left from the Animal Control which read “Your turkey has been attacked by some dogs next door. Sincerely, Frosty.”

My dad told us and I cried, but then I said, “I’ll kill those dogs!”

We met up with them [Animal Control] just in time. Before my dad got out of the car, he said Azul might be dead or dying. While my dad talked I could not tell if Azul was dead or alive, so I got out of the van and went to my turkey and cried when I saw her.

“We will put her to sleep,” the man said. “No!” the mayor said, “you will take her to the vet.”

So they did. The vet stitched her up. We had to put red medicine on her for a week. Now she is better, as if it never happened.





In Memoriam



azul azul and baby in fall

fall humps goodbye azul





Azul and her flock on red Ravine







Postscript: Even though she’s no longer with our flock, we are grateful this Thanksgiving holiday for having had Azul in our lives. She taught us that turkeys were not just some dumb bird you eat once a year. They’re regal and sociable. They’re funny, and most of all, they’re tough.

We’re also thankful today for our family (including the furry, feathered, and scaly), friends, our readers, for nature, writing, art, and all that inspires us.

Happy Thanksgiving, QM and Liz, and both your families!

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Georgia Pine Over My Grandmother’s Grave, BlackBerry Shots, Augusta, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






visiting Estelle
gravestones outlast the living
markers for the dead


all that’s left behind
a letter, a horseshoe ring
lasting love and luck


face of a pine tree
warm thoughts of the Grandmothers
hover over me







It’s the time of year when I think often of family and loved ones, living and dead. One of the highlights of my October trip to Georgia was visiting my Grandmother Estelle’s grave for the first time. I did not know her well, had not seen her since I was 2 years old. I knew none of my blood father’s family. It was synchronicity when in 2007 my paternal aunts ended up in the insurance office of my maternal uncle and asked the question, “Are you related to….?”

It happened to be two weeks before Mom and I were scheduled to travel to Georgia. After 50 years apart, the question’s answer led them to me.

It turns out, my paternal grandparents are buried down the hill from my maternal grandparents in the same cemetery. I’ve been visiting the cemetery with my mother for years and never knew. These photographs are of the pine tree that grows high over their graves. My Aunt Annette told me that my grandfather loved pine trees. So do I. When I was a child, I would spend hours sweeping pine needles, the scaly bough of a branch curving to make just the right shape, a prairie-style home.

The thing about cemetery trees is that they are many times old growth trees, never to be cut. I like to think this pine is a guardian for my grandparents, its long roots extending deep underground, branches tall and proud (reminds me of another pine in New Mexico that I’m quite fond of, the Lawrence Tree).

There is more to the story — a letter, an obituary, a ring. Perhaps another post. This week I give thanks for all who live, and those who have come before.


Skin Of A Pine Tree, Pine Trunk In The Graveyard, My Grandmother’s Grave, Cemetery Pine, BlackBerry Shots, Augusta, Georgia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Post Script: the day Mom and I met my aunt at the cemetery, we also visited the Gertrude Herbert Memorial Institute of Art in Augusta. That’s where my Canon G6 battery died; I had forgotten to charge the backup battery. These photos are all taken with the BlackBerry cell phone camera.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

-related to post: haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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Liz Really Liked It!, BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

It’s almost Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude for our many blessings. And a time for good food. I walked over to the fridge this morning and under a Morton Salt “When it rains it pours” magnet was this faded recipe card for Chicken L’Orange. Liz’s mother (oliverowl) mailed it to us after a discussion on Memories, Writing & Family Recipes.

She told us that Liz’s maternal grandmother, Frances Oliver Biggs, loved that Liz liked the Chicken L’Orange. So much so, that she handwrote her comment on the back of the family recipe card she sent to Liz’s mom:

Does Liz remember the recipe for “Chicken L’Orange” that her Nana sent me? I still have the card in my recipe box. At the end is her comment, “Liz really liked it!” (Sent after Liz’s visit to CA.) It is probably similar to what you had on the Cornish game hens.

My contribution to yesterday’s meal was Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad (OLD family recipe) and a Cranberry Sauce that had orange juice and a whole jar of Orange Marmalade cooked with the fresh berries!

Now the recipe card with Liz’s grandmother’s handwriting hangs on our fridge. I told Liz I want to try Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad this year. It reminds me of my family’s version of Jell-O salad with whipped cream. Below is the recipe that Liz’s mom Marylin dropped into the red Ravine comments.

__________________________________________

 
 

Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad

 
 

1 large box of Lime Jell-O
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 14-15 oz. can crushed pineapple, including juice

 
 

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge, so it begins to soften. Prepare the Jell-O, using 1 less cup of water than the recipe calls for. Chill it until it begins to thicken, but don’t let it solidify, or you’ll have a mess!

Since I only have one mixer, I whip the cream and place it in a small bowl. Then I cut the cream cheese in small chunks and place them in the mixer bowl and beat it well. When the Jell-O is a thick syrupy consistency, I add it to the cream cheese and mix until they are homogenized! (You’ll have to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times.) Next, the pineapple is mixed in and then the whipped cream, both at the slowest speed. Refrigerate until firm. Enjoy!

_____________________________________

 
 

We’re going to stop at the store today for last minute ingredients. What traditional recipes will you be sharing this Thanksgiving week? Are there any that have been passed down by your grandmother? Bob mentioned he’s making Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters. ybonesy’s family always makes tamales for Christmas. And my family makes Southern Banana Pudding for almost every family gathering. Old recipes are invaluable to memoir writers. Family flavor.

Hope you enjoy Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad. And if you put together the two front and back photos of the recipe card in this post, you’ll have the Biggs family recipe for Chicken L’Orange — two great family recipes, one post. And any leftover turkey? Try Amelia’s Soft Dumpling Recipe.

 
 

Chicken L’Orange, When It Rains, It Pours,  BlackBerry Shots, vintage recipe card, November 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

Post Script: The Morton Salt girl has always been a favorite icon of mine. She’s officially called the Morton Umbrella Girl and according to the Morton website, the slogan, “When it rains it pours” first appeared on the blue package of table salt and in a series of Good Housekeeping magazine advertisements in 1914. The slogan is adapted from an old proverb, “It never rains but it pours.”

You can read more about the history of Morton Salt, view vintage ads, and see the transition of the Morton Umbrella Girl from the roaring twenties to the 1968 image that we still view on packaging today. They’ve also got a recipe section with Winning Kosher Salt Recipes.

 

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

-related to post: Reflections On The Other National Bird*

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Moms are the best
to hug and to nestle
My mama’s bad ass
She can arm wrestle







Bobbi goes up against MOM...

Bobbi versus Mom, in the First Annual Arm Wrestling Holiday Championship, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





...and the winner is MOM!

And the winner is Mom!, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





The holidays are just around the corner. We have tamales to make (after Thanksgiving) and biceps to beef up. Last year Mom beat at least five of us—my two daughters, myself, Dad, and my sister Bobbi—in a jolly game of arm wrestling. Mom is 83. (Did I mention she’s bad ass?)

What’s on your list of things to do before the holidays? And, what family traditions are you most looking forward to?

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