Category Archives: geneology


[ Synchronicity ]

Our dear Administrator
has something in common
with Walt Whitman,
he having been
Federal Paymaster
during the Civil War.

She sings in a church
choir. He worked once
as a printer’s devil
while still a young lad.

Both eventually
pay-masters in various
wars on unfairness
both helping
their families,
both working, both
in service.

My own career similar
to the Federal service of
a young Jack Kerouac:
grandiose, never oriented to
a military regime; thus
left to find my own discipline.

But when I miss
my own Momma, I
can’t go see her, and I
don’t sing in any choir, thus
I am left to the devil.

There is probably a thick file
on me too somewhere, perhaps not
in any National Archive, but
perhaps equally filled by my
strange writing obsession.

Make the best of your service.

Colossal mismatch or not,
find a way to be helpful;
it is our only hope:
the rest is just The Road.


Bullies, Pimps, Meth-Heads, Pirates, Baboons, and Scoundrels: (not) a Fibonacci Series

You know who you are.  You’re special. Admit it. Otherwise so many books, movies, graphic novels, and so much study would never go on about you.

You are in a minority. You are unforgettable. You often manage to get our attention, at least briefly.

You are also not in charge.
You don’t rule the world.
There’s one of you (at least) on every block.
A bigger, more powerful version of you (perhaps only in your mind) helped create you.

You have choices.  Mine is to keep showing up. Keep saying ‘Hello!,’ making eye contact, walking, working, trying to make the world a better place. One day at a time. One step at a time.

I am not going to avoid you. Nor will I even be able to try. In spite of your minority status, you do some travel, you do manage to spread out. High exposure is your game. Rock on. One day perhaps you’ll be famous, if you are not already.

We are still here. We are the majority. We are not the canvas on which you get to paint. Deal with it.



The Magic Hands of Travelling Nurses Make Wonders To Appear

The Magic Hands of Travelling Nurses Make Wonders To Appear

One of the works of Cousin Cita King Smith, this quilt appeared in my life in August 2009.

The occasion?  We gathered for a surprise party for my cousins, all staying at the Blue Sky Lodge in Carmel in a small suite. Cita and Traci drove down the coast road from Washington. They took their time, enjoying the trip.

Boy were Russel and Karen surprised. When Todd and Karie led them in to the social hall and took their blindfolds off, they walked around the room as though they were dreaming.

Russel and Karen Wolter and their donkey on the ranch, Carmel, summer, 1968

Karen Dawson Wolter, Whoog, and Russel Wolter, Carmel Valley, Wolter Ranch, 1968

I felt like I was dreaming, too.

There were people at the anniversary party that I hadn’t seen since the days when the cuffs of my jeans would bring home a cup of good dirt from walking the rows between the ranch and ODello’s in my Keds. The days when there were too many blue bellied lizards to catch on the path near the creek side of the house, and everyone ran way too fast. The days of long twilight.  Aunty Myrtle would make me either unroll those dungarees or else take them off entirely before coming in off the porch.

We were at their wedding. We were really little, but pretty dedicated to being there. Marguerite had a horrible earache from doing too many underwater somersaults in the Blue Sky Lodge pool, and we had to leave the sanctuary with her in agony before the wedding ended — too much sobbing at any wedding is kind of distracting. We held her on our knees but she was inconsolable from the pain. She perked up a bit later, but it was awful to see her in such pain. Thus we missed the big finale.

Cita and Traci continue to be one of the best things that ever happened to our family. During the aftermath of the weekend of that party, Don Luce said that he was so glad to see how tightly knit we were.

Cita and Traci are like two sisters I never knew I had. I keep trying to figure out how to get all of them (and Owen) in the same room together with my two original sisters to see what kind of a party it will be. Lots of talking and laughing is what I imagine.

Rufus and I will keep cooking until we find the magic recipe. It has to happen eventually.

Anon-2009170 and the Next 8 Years

During the time I’d resolved that I was just going to do this for myself from now on, not with any other goal in mind, I got, ahem, lucky. That was over 8 years and several riveting games of BaDaBingo! ago.

Rufus Rastus FlyByNight KarmaRepair Brown Young, I am very lucky. So lucky. And Inshallah, shall remain so blessed.

We really don’t know what the next 8 years will look like, and yet we are committing to the journey. Right now, it is a design problem.

How do we design the idea of a shared future so that we can work toward it?


"Something will happen...No doubt about it."

Stay tuned. Relationships in your rear view mirror may actually have been different than they appear.  The close relationship you are in now is the one to keep your eye on.

Toward the fun, away from the pain, carpe diem, and all that!

Grandpa’s Employment History (before Death of a Salesman)

My Dad once told me that he thought “Death of a Salesman” was one of the saddest plays ever written. Told me that Grandpa had bad luck like Willy Loman; Dad said that he’d cried and left the theater the first time he saw this play (as a young man), that he couldn’t sit through the second act. It reminded him too much of watching his father struggle professionally.

I’ve certainly had my own struggles with reinvention of a professional nature. I can relate to difficulty in watching the struggles of people I love and admire.  While I understand this play is a tragedy, I agree with my cousin Don Luce; older people have a different take on the arc of this story than young people. To young people, it looks like a life wasted. To older people who have struggled more, seen more, fought harder — it looks like a drama of a different kind.  Perhaps the real tragedy is giving up hope, or of not learning from the mistakes of the prior generation, or from your own mistakes.  It may be possible for me to sit through the play without bolting the theater in the manner of my ancestors.

This script may not have aged as well as some of Arthur Miller’s other works.  Perhaps Willy Loman would never have gotten angry or occupied Wall Street. Perhaps he’s lost in a way we no longer understand. But I don’t think watching this will devastate me at this stage of my life, in spite of how raw any ongoing struggle might be for me. Hope dies last. Today is a chance for change, another opportunity to learn and move on from mistakes. If we give that up, what are we left with?

What I understand is that my Grandpa worked hard and wrestled against the odds, much like everyone else did. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth.  If he ever had one in there, it was because somebody forgot to take it out after the photo opportunity. He had some breaks, and perhaps they didn’t pay off. At some points, the struggle was too overwhelming for one person — and Dad was a witness to some of those times.

My Dad had his own struggles. I’ve got mine. But in these pages, I read resilience, I read curiosity, I read initiative, and I read some double dealing on the part of Fate or other so-called Managers. I don’t think this makes Grandpa’s life a tragedy. Your life is a tragedy if that is all you define it as.

I remember Grandpa as a man who loved to go fishing, and who generously took us along. Kenelm Tracy Winslow was a man who loved buckwheat pancakes; he loved putting Barbasol® on his Christmas tree to simulate snow in winter, and who would play with us on the Slip N’ Slide® in the backyard in summer. Grandpa taught us how to shoot cat food cans off the back fence in his yard until Mom got mad and took the beebee guns away.

Some of the Winslow Tracy Clan, Chico, CA, August, 1960

Tracy Winslow Family members (August, 1960): Chico, CA

He taught us how to be on the road on an adventure, since every time he drove us to Paradise we thought we were actually visiting Heaven.  He taught us how to skip stones, to have fun, to relax. He held us close while he watched a game on the television. What may be tragic is that he didn’t grow wealthy from his hard work; but does that take away the fact that he did the work, that he loved us, and that we got to share in his life?

My Grandpa, Kenelm Tracy Winslow, wrote the following piece probably as part of an application for something sometime after 1944.  I’m not sure what he wrote it for, nor am I sure exactly when. We found the pages of typescript tucked into a scrapbook of my Mom and Dad’s wedding photos. More on that later. Grandpa’s bio / text follows the picture.

Photo of my granddad, KT Winslow

Kenelm Tracy Winslow, circa 1948

Personal History, K. T. Winslow.
30 (b)
1. Worked as a bank clerk with the Tracy Loan and Trust Company, Salt Lake City, Utah. Mr. R.L. Tracy, President of this company, is my uncle and I entered this bank at the wish of my mother and uncle. My salary was $125.00 per month. Resigned because of my desire to work independent of relatives.

Image of a silver spoon from Russel Lord Tracy's bank in Utah

Tracy Loan and Trust 8th Annual Dvidend

2. Worked as clerk in the San Francisco offices of the Reliance Life Insurance Company, where I made $100.00 per month salary. Left this position in an endeavor to better myself.
3. (a) Worked as distributor of kitchen aluminum in the San Francisco Bay Area for the Dilver Aluminum Company of Pittsburgh. This lasted about six months, when a defaulting partner ruined the business.
(b) Worked for Durant Motor Company of California as car order clerk for a few months, at a salary of $100.00 per month.
(c) Left this position to sell automobiles for Durant dealer in San Rafael, California.
(d) When this dealership folded up, I sold real estate and rented houses for the D. L. Jung Company, Berkeley, California. During this period my salary and earnings ran about $1200.00 a year.
4. (a) Started working for the Engineering Sales Company (C.A. Watts) of San Francisco at a salary of $125.00 a month. I was a stenographer. This was about 1926.
(b) Three months later I was handling the sales of this employer who as a manufacturer’s agent, handled such lines as Waukesha Motor Company, Waukesha, Wisconsin; Racine Radiator Company (later the Young Radiator Company and the Perfex Radiator Company) of Racine, Wisconsin; Pick Couplings, and Palmer B. Speed Reducers. My salary was increased to $150.00 per month. At this point I became interested in mechanical engineering, it being necessary to have a good working knowledge of design and performance characteristics of the Waukesha Motor Company’s truck and industrial engines, and to understand proper installation of the Racine Radiator Company’s truck and industrial plant cooling radiators.
(c) After I had been with company a year my salary was increased to $175.00 per month, and I was given a 10% interest in the business. During this period I traveled up and down the Pacific Coast soliciting business and assisting engineering departments in their installations of our products in such concerns as Fageol Motor Company (truck and bus manufacturers) of Oakland, California; the McDonald Truck Manufacturing Company of San Francisco, California; the DeMartini Truck Manufacturing Company of San Francisco, California; the Rix (compressor manufacturing company) of San Francisco, California; and other manufacturing companies in Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle. I also assisted in the installation of 300 horsepower engines in the “Yarders” and “Donkeys” for the logging industry of the Pacific Northwest. At the request of the Waukesha Motor Company, I left this position and took a position with them.
5. (a) I started working for the Waukesha Motor Company as an order and production clerk at a salary of $250.00 per month. I had under my direction six clerks. With the assistance and direction of Mr. J. B. Fisher, Chief Engineer, of the Waukesha Motor Company, I did home study on engine design and combustion characteristics.
30 (b) Con’t.
(b) Up to 1932 I alternated in the shop, office and on the road in sales and service work. During the depression years I took whatever salary cuts as were made throughout the plant and at the lowest ebb my salary was reduced 50%.
(c) In 1932 I was one of the five men chosen by the Waukesha Motor Company to assist the Co-operative Fuel research (C. F. R.) committee in research work on a method of determining the Octane number of gasoline. During this time I was constantly in the laboratory, or attending scientific lectures and meetings and at the same time, carrying on private research along these lines. During my association with this committee I wrote several papers on the fuel research work and delivered them before the Society of Automotive Engineers in Chicago, Baltimore, at A.S.T.M. meetings and at various universities throughout the country, including Purdue, Notre Dame, Lehigh University, etc. At Lehigh University Mr. H.V. Cummings, Chief Automotive Power Plant Section, U.S. Department of Commerce, and I were on the same program. We also worked together in C. F. R. work.
(d) At the end of 1932 when the C. F. R. engine design and fuel testing procedure was established, I was placed in charge of this variable compression fuel research unit, which by this time had been adapted to both self ignition (diesel) and spark ignition (gasoline) units. In promoting the sale of this unit I visited and sold the unit to large fuel distributing Companies, fuel refineries, and at each place demonstrated and explained the principles on which the tests were conducted. When the American Society of Testing Materials adopted the C. F. R. unit as a standard, its sale became automatic.
(e) In 1933 I was placed in charge of sales for Waukesha truck and bus, as well as industrial engines in the southern states, headquartering in Birmingham, Alabama. In this capacity I called on such manufacturers as used engines in the products they manufactured. This included pump, truck, shovel, and other manufacturers of construction equipment, boat works, etc. In all of these instances I assisted in the engineering of products which were being manufactured in so far as the engineering problems concerned the proper installation of the engine. I made installation of irrigation systems, drainage systems, and pumping plants, also power plants for creameries, ice cream plants, and stand-by units.
(f) During this time the Waukesha Motor Company developed the Hesselman spark ignition diesel fuel burning engine and I became so familiar with the design of this unit that I was called upon to make installations and to service them, both from a commercial and experimental angle. This gave me a full and detailed knowledge of gasoline, natural gas, and diesel engines. I continued to read and study gasoline and diesel engines under the direction of Mr. J. B. Fisher and Mr. Arthur Pope, Chief and assistant chief engineers of the Waukesha Motor Company.
(g) In 1935 I was asked to teach the design, the care and operation of the Diesel and Hesselman engines which the Waukesha Motor Company were then building. I was given complete charge of this work and carried on classes which were attended by engineers, mechanics, and executives of the various customers of the Waukesha Motor Company. I resigned in 1935 for a better position. At the time of leaving my salary was $250.00 per month.
6(a) I accepted a position as Industrial Branch Sales Manager in the Tractor Division of the Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

30 (b) Con’t.
(b) I was immediately transferred to the Sales Promotion Department. Salary $225.00 per month. (A bonus of ½% went with the Industrial Branch Sales Manager’s position). In this capacity I carried on education work on the design and service and operation of the Spark Ignition Diesel Fuel Burning engine this company was using, and also upon the design and service care of the Tractors, Motor Patrols, and other items of road machinery they manufactured. During this time I visited every branch of the Allis Chalmers Manufacturing Company in the United States, sometimes carrying on classes of instruction to as many as 150 people. I also spoke before other organizations such as the Paving Engineer’s Club, Chicago, Illinois, and the Altoona Engineering Society, Altoona, Pennsylvania. My salary was increased to $275.00.
(c) In 1938 I was made Industrial Sales Manager for the Southwest Division at a salary of $325.00. In this position I had under my supervision, seven industrial Branch house organizations, totaling 50 people, and indirectly I had working for me the dealer’s organization under these branches. Their total personnel were around 300 people.
(d) In 1938 I was made Industrial District Manager for the state of Minnesota and North Dakota. In this capacity I worked directly with dealers in the two states who employed about 30 people. I assisted contractors in estimating their work, recommended proper machinery for the work they had to do, and assisted in setting up repair shops for both the contractors and the dealers where needed; checked parts inventory and service records. I was paid a salary and bonus and earned between $4200.00 and $4400.00 a year. In May 1941, I was discharged, no reason given, and was told I would be given a recommendation and listed as having resigned. Incidentally the company had just come through a severe strike, and their defense orders were such that very little equipment was available to the dealers.
7.(a) In June, 1941 I went to work as an expeditor for the Procurement and Expediting Section of the Zone Construction Quartermaster’s Office, Omaha, Nebraska. I handled construction machinery. I was given this appointment by executive order #3564 of October 8, 1940, and given a rating as Engineer (p-4) Salary $3800.00 per annum.
(b) I was transferred to the Omaha district office of the U.S. Engineers when the Zone Construction Quartermaster’s Office was absorbed by the Engineers, and was made Assistant Chief of the Mechanical Section. Had under my supervision six people.
(c) In March 1942 I took and passed a Civil Service Examination and was given a rating as Senior Engineer (Mechanical) P-5 calling for a salary of $4600 per year.
8.(a) On April 21st, 1942 the 8th Civil Service District, St. Paul, Minnesota wired me that the Office of Emergency Management requested my transfer from the U.S. Engineers. I accepted the transfer and took the position of Administrative Officer in the office of the State Rationing Administrator (Grant McFayden) Lincoln, Nebraska. My civil service classification in this position is an Administrative classification of CAF-12 salary $4600.00.

[ends here]

Day 2 of Visionary Mosaic Murals: show up, load Bubba, schlep everything across Fruitvale Bridge, unload, attach blobs, learn how to stick tile, and then stick all day…

Day 2 started bright and early, I got up with the birds and did my routine and sort of could move normally. I shambled in to the school at 9:40 a.m. There was a lot of activity in the garden. Bubba was also parked in the garden, loaded up to the gills when I arrived.

Somehow I missed the memo on getting there at 9:30 a.m.  I was not alone! Nobody wore name tags consistently after Day 1, so it was a bit stumbly asking questions. Everyone was pumped with adrenalin, either from loading Bubba or from just missing the fun.

Many a mermaid has slipped away without telling me her name... so tragic!

In the land of Mosaic, people you are trying to talk to are frequently hunched over something, loading/unloading something, trying to cut / break / lift / glue / wiggle something, looking for something, or otherwise distracted. They aren’t totally ignoring you, in fact usually at least one of their ears is pointed in your direction, but they aren’t looking at you, either. They are working! Its that obsessive-compulsive thing at work, or the mastic is gonna dry, or the mortar, or the sun is going down, or something.

[ Any hope of eye contact with any of these tile geniuses was futile after Day 1. Name tags on our backs would have helped me, at least. Its hard to get someone’s attention when you don’t know their name unless you get up in their face. Perhaps the next class requirement should be to name tag each other with tape on the back between the shoulder blades with whatever name you want to be called by that day, first off each morning. ]

We all knew Isaiah, Julia, Amber, and Laurel’s names by then. The dog is Jack. We knew Celeste: she’d registered all of us for class. That was almost it for me for names, and all I drank after class the night before was mint tea!

Our crew for the next five days (not including Chuck DiGuida, the property owner of 2516 Blanding, and the men he hired to help put up the scaffolds) included:

  • Karen Byars (Texas/Mendocino/Oakland);
  • Nancy Kint Cook (Arizona/Bay Area);
  • Anha Fender (Sausalito, and Kristin’s cousin),
  • Jamie Joffe (Lafayette; Nancy Cook’s daughter);
  • Nancy Keating (Indianapolis),
  • Kristin Olsen (Berkeley, Anha’s cousin);
  • SueAnn Bettison Sher (Petaluma);
  • Sherry Tobin (San Francisco);
  • Rob Tobin (San Diego, no relation to Sherry);
  • Judy Toupin (San Francisco);
  • Monika Tucker (Sausalito/Berkeley, a calabash cousin of Anha’s/Kristin’s);
  • Lynda Winslow (you-know-who)
When I rule the world, everyone will have a nametag... (rant)

We had to chill while Laurel got everything else ready for her departure for a few hours, as she needed to do the formalities of getting us started at the work site. We went in the IMA library and the kitchen and drank coffee / tea and hung around and tried not to fret. It was 10 a.m. It was a beautiful day. We were about to make a bodacious mosaic. What could be bad?

Meanwhile, Laurel was getting ready, loading buckets, mortar boards, mastic, more mirror, drop cloths, and other things which were not going to fit in Bubba. She iced her sciatica. We all took deep breaths. Then we all caravan-ed over to 2516 Blanding Avenue: our work site for the next 4 days.

I rode over with SueAnn Sher in Stella (my trusty old truck). You can see SueAnn on the lower left corner of this photo I took of her on Day 3… she’s working on a Mermaid’s Belly.

Sue Ann and One of the Mermaids of 2516 Blanding Avenue: Day 3

See the 4-Armed Tile Setter (the nose of the Mermaid)?

When we arrived, we found a nicely painted grey cinder block building with a giant roll-up door, a row of corrugated fiberglass sheeting over that and a row of windows over that (all on the right), and 3 windows on the left (one down, two up), separated by a little vestibule  / stairway leading up to the inside in the middle. Its industrial, all right!

Isaiah’s line design (the cartoon) was painted all over the building in black latex paint. There was a delighted person (Chuck) alternately hovering and running around the site.

[ One of Chuck’s buddies, Gary from Acorn Elevator (yes?) was there helping too. Gary helped us out of a few tight spots in the early mornings over the ensuing days. He’s not experiencing an economic downturn right now, and was working each day at a real, paying job. I wish I knew how to fix elevators! ]

SueAnn and I brought some more bling in a small box and our bags and stashed them under Ed’s Monster Truck, which was parked in front of the building. Its big enough to mosaic, that thing. (Go get em, Amber!)

[ Ed is Amber’s sweetheart (is that his name? Maybe I don’t have his name), and he does seem to be a sweetheart, too. On day 4 we also met her Grandma, who is an artist. The monster truck took Ed off later, to go surfing, I think. ]

Isaiah let us look around a few minutes while he and Laurel and Chuck did some choreography / logistics. Then he and Rob went into this furious flamenco dance with the ladders and the power screwdrivers and started attaching blobs everywhere with masonry and sheet rock screws. There was much moving of vehicles parked near the site.

[ I love power screwdrivers. Save your wrists for flamenco: get one and use it when you can. ]

Julia helped unload and set up a table. She’d seen this kind of insanity before. Nancy and Jamie worked on getting most of the stuff out of Bubba, and we put some of it in the roll-up door area. I missed the tour (where the head was, etc.) because SueAnn and I had to park a ways away and walk on over.

More images of our insanity here….

[ Up until that point we’d all been calling Chuck by the name only his Grandma was allowed to use, and he corrected Isaiah gently but publicly so we’d all learn he didn’t like that. Laurel explained that some lady paying her rent had used it in front of them, that was why we’d used it, and apologized.

He almost blushed when she told him that they’d heard one of his tenants (“that lady!”) calling him Chuckie. Client relations…. names are so important. If he wanted to be called Il Padrone, I’m sure we could have arranged it. ]

After most of the blobs were up, Isaiah gathered us up and showed us how to stick mirror.

Prepare Your Stance:

Stand at an acute angle to the wall to start sticking, not parallel. You need to be able to see where you’re putting tile (sliding it into place), but not stand in right front of it. You’ll get carpal tunnel if you do that, from cocking your wrist and pushing on tile all day. Don’t do that.

Begin Sticking:

  1. You hold a bucket of mirror under your non-dominant arm, on your hip.  A small bucket.
  2. You hold a mortar-board in that same hand (your elbow bent through the bucket handle, if you like, for safety), and it has a bunch of white library-paste-goop on it (mastic).
  3. With your free hand you reach into the bucket (reach across into the bucket) and get hold of a tile or mirror bit.
  4. Holding the mirror with your thumb on top (the side meant to face away from the wall, the shiny side) you scrape down from the blob of mastic, you scrape across the board, and lift up. You’ve just scooped up some mastic-dip onto your bit of mirror.
  5. Assuming you got only a little bit of mastic along one edge, and only on the back side,  put the side of the mirror (the long side, usually) down onto the wall close to where you want it finally … sort of parallel to the lines in our case, and then push it down, across, and wiggle it into position next to the line. Now the back of the tile with the goop smeared all over it has good sticky contact, and it is pasted in place. You are only trying to hold it there till you grout. Its sort of like tacking it up there. You don’t need a lot of mastic.
  6. Wiggling is crucial to positioning. You don’t press down on the mirror and put it in place; you wiggle it into position so that the mastic gets smeared across the whole block of mirror. If you need to move tiles over a little and fit one more in, you can wiggle them all around while the mastic is still drying.
  7. Keep breathing.
  8. Be nice to yourself. Just put the tile where it fits, don’t fuss over it. Its not fussy, this technique.
  9. Go back to step 1.

“Now, ” he said, “Get busy! Stick mirror on both sides of all the black lines! You’re going to have problems; come and see me. If you need little pieces, or crooked pieces, here are the glass cutters!”

So we did. It was like a spell was suddenly cast on everyone, and they were all sticking tile madly on the wall, and I was standing in deer – in – the – headlights mode, lined up for mastic, wondering what-all I missed. Agh.

Black lines were everywhere, with people hovering over them. There were several mermaids, some men in hats, a hand, some ships, but it was hard to see it all, mirror was going up on the wall so fast, with at least 10 or more people bellied up to it — sticking tile.

I went into the vestibule down low and tried to stick mirror in some of the Mermaid’s tail. I had no idea what I was doing. Mastic got all over everything. Everyone who wanted to get in the building for one reason or another (and that was everyone) needed to squeeze by. There wasn’t a lot of room on the stairs. But there was no logical other open place to work, so I went in there.

It took me about a whole day of trying this technique to master a well-stuck, clean-faced tile, with just the right amount of mastic stuck on the back of it, in the right place. Isaiah had to give me another demo just so I could really figure out what I was doing wrong. Then another. The penny finally dropped on the morning of the next day, Day 3 — I’d been sticking tile for at least 6 hours by then.  I’m slow to catch on, but once I’ve got something, that’s it.

Anha worked nearby. I think she was on a ladder already. She was on a ladder in that vestibule for what seemed like over 50% of the job, working on this section, making it pop.

Kristin came in later and buffed some of my messy mirrors. She, Monika, and Anha had all collaborated on a tile mermaid (a giant black one) on a Sausalito houseboat earlier this year: they bonded over that Mermaid Queen. She had more experience than I, and knew it would be too much work to get the mastic off once it was dry. I wondered if she was getting fussy on me.

Laurel did warn me not to freak out if Isaiah came by and said it was all wrong. But nobody stopped and took time to show me exactly what I didn’t get; they were all obsessed with their own thing.

[ Actually what he said was more along the lines of:  “You know what you’re doing wrong n-o-w?”  Laurel came by right after him, laughing, and repeated it.  I was still struggling along on the stairs, moving out of the way every 30 seconds.

Apparently you need your thumb on the outward facing bit of tile, or you’re never going to have a clean swipe at it.  “Where is your thumb now?”  Remember that, kiddo. ]

But by then, I had nothing to buff with, I was entirely covered with mastic (my apron, some of my jeans, etc.). I couldn’t get anyone’s attention, either. They were all obsessed. They all had 4 arms.

Mother and Daughter Sticking Mirror: Day 2

Jamie, Nancy Cook, and Monika, Sticking Mirror: Day 2. The blob near Monica's head is stuck up there with masonry screws, temporarily. Grout will hold it in there later, and you can remove those.

We ran out of mirror, and they started in with tile in certain spots while waiting for more mirror to come.

Laurel had to go rustle us  up some new mirror. We had been cutting recycled mirror before. SueAnn cut mirror for a few hours that afternoon. Julia cut tile and mirror and handed out mastic and tried to remind us not to leave the cover off of the bucket. Isaiah stuck mirror, walked around, told stories, and planned. Amber worked like a demon; so fast!

I eventually left the stairwell, looking for a less cramped workspace and some help after my first bucket of mirror ran out. Almost like a race: it seemed like they were going to have the whole building covered if I just got a cup of tea and watched. I needed hot tea, though. It was a cold, breezy day. Isaiah stood by, watching it all. We talked some story.

Anha Sticking Tile: Day 2

Anha Sticking Tile: Day 2

We heard the story about Isaiah’s Mom sitting with him in the tideline while the waves on Coney Island were coming in, supporting him so he wouldn’t be scared. This happened when he was so little.  (Somewhere near Mermaid Avenue?)

We heard some of the stories about how not everyone likes Isaiah’s art, but a lot of people do. (Chuck is one).

He said that Jeremiah’s movie (In a Dream)  was coming out April 17th (at the Roxie in San Francisco), so we can see it.

He told a story about taking care of his dying Mom … a story which ended with “You were such a beautiful baby!”  I told the dying Mom story to Rufus and Daniel that night. We all grinned. Moms are the same everywhere. Isaiah is still beautiful, but not in the way his Mom wanted to remember, apparently.  We heard some more stories from the Book of Isaiah. Never mind the movie, we had the living text (Julia, Isaiah, Laurel, Amber) with us.

I told some stories about my Dad’s way of answering certain questions, about the whoppers he used to tell us. How you can’t have a chocolate sundae on any day but Sunday: restaurants won’t serve them.

[ My Mom told us soy sauce was bad for us b/c it was made out of bugs, that’s what made it black. She called it bug juice.  She loved soy sauce, but thought it was bad for us. Even though she smoked cigarettes at the table, we were not encouraged to have any soy sauce. ]

My Dad told us the Easter Bunny kept his eggs in those natural gas tanks in the Richmond / Martinez hills, the ones that used to be painted entirely in pastel colors.

SueAnn remarked that my Dad had a real imagination. Yes he did. I would never have arrived on Earth otherwise. Him having tremendous charm helped, too. SueAnn later told me one or two whoppers she told her kids when they were growing up. One of them sounded handy; I wish I could remember it now.

[ I didn’t get to tell them the one about watching for the chipmunk who was supposed to be following our 1949 Chevrolet through Santa Clara Valley to my cousin’s farm in Carmel Valley. Another time.

My parents would have loved Isaiah and Julia. I am sad they can’t be around to see what we made under their guidance. My Father would take one look at the building and say:  “Wow! These are MY PEOPLE! Ahh!”  Some of the things he and my Mom gave me are now glued / grouted onto that building. He might love that, too. ]

I went around the corner where there were appliqués of tile going up, and worked there. I got on okay. Not great. I tried not to listen to Radio KFKD, which is what plays in my head almost any time I’m trying a new technique but am still way outside the bounds of simple mastery. It was work.

“If you are not careful, station KFKD will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo. Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, of all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything one touches turns to shit, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on and on.” –Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Julia was over there working on the appliqués, sticking tile. She seemed happy. I would see that tile-setting grin on every face at various times in the ensuing 4 days.

Beginner’s mind was an important place for me to hang out; I tried to notice all the beauty, tried to notice things I had never seen. There was a lot of it on site.

Karen was over there, also sticking on the appliqués. Besides having my sister’s first name, she also has a great laugh, a great spirit (like both my sisters), a Texas accent, and a durable idea of what is supposed to be really going on. We started to get acquainted with each other and with Judy, who works as an art teacher and is pretty quiet when concentrating, and who concentrates hard a lot of the time. So learning about who she was tended to take longer. She did come out of her concentration-coma a few times to tease Karen about Texas pronunciations, so we knew she was listening to us, though.

[ I found out Karen was from the Molly Ivins school of activism in Texas. Cut from the same cloth. How great. Then I found out she’s worked with Redwood action for years. My late-lamented pal David Nadel did a lot of advocacy work with them when Headwaters Forest Action really started to heat up.

I tried to explain to Anha later that day which activism school Karen was from, but she didn’t know who Molly Ivins was. I tried to find out if Karen had read Florence King, another Southern Belle / larrikin who originally charmed / inspired Molly. She hasn’t read her (yet). Context is everything. ]

It was a long day.

I had some fish plates from home, a honeycomb pitcher made in occupied Japan I was dying to smash and add in, and brass keys to the city for Isaiah, but he said that they all needed to go into blobs first. He didn’t seem eager to make more blobs. He’s a straight-line-to-the-future-kind-of-guy, sometimes, it seems. This was that type of day. He was also starting to look a little shocky when we talked, before lunch. I don’t blame him. I can’t eat lunch at 2 or 3, not when I get up at 6. He and Julia were still on East Coast time.

[ I gave the fish plates to Rob. He’s building a 2-story mosaic this week. I gave him some small ship’s prisms, too. All on a nautical theme. ]

Ross Elementary School, San Diego: before tile

Ross Elementary School, San Diego: before tile

Ross Elementary School, San Diego: during tile

Ross: during tile

Ross Elementary School, before grout: San Diego

Ross Elementary: before grout

Day 2: Skin of 'Mermaid Harbor' going on a 2516 Blanding Avenue

Day 2: Skin of 'Mermaid Harbor' going on at 2516 Blanding Ave., Alameda. Karen searching for mirror/mastic, stage right.

After a very fancy lunch (They broke sometime after 2, but Chef DiGuida was running around doing errands for absolutely everyone all morning, and his grill and kitchen are pretty far apart from each other), we stuck more mirror and tile. I tried staying away from the vestibule. I gave Kristin and Anha some bling to put in there: sparkly things, a purse, some rocks, abalone bits. All from home.

Anha spent at least an hour on the mermaid’s lips, another hour on her eyes/face. All on a ladder.

That mermaid’s face had only been painted that morning, when Isaiah and Rob were up in there on ladders, sheet-rock screwing into the wall holding up the blobs which would be her breasts. She had no head when we arrived that morning. Isaiah painted her head and face when they were up there on the ladders. He works remarkably fast.

Later that afternoon, the appliqué side of the building was in the sun. The street-facing side was in the shade, and colder, so I worked on the appliqué side.

Before lunch, Judy went and got Isaiah and asked him to paint a few more appliqués on the wall; we had time to do them and it was right. It seemed to take him 5 minutes. He painted everything at least to the right of the man releasing the bird that day. She worked on them.

Julia helped, Karen helped. I worked on filling in the others with small tiles. Julia broke more tile and handed it out, handed out mastic.

Applique Wall Mid-Section, Day 4

Applique Wall Mid-Section, Day 4

We started to break things down after 4 pm. People went across the street to look at the walls, to get a better view. The (retired) owners of the Pitchometer Propeller building stopped by that day. There were a huge number of people in cars slowing down, honking, pulling over, walking up, walking by to see. Several group photos were taken with several cameras. Chuck is a photographer; he did most of the honors.

SueAnn and I poured ourselves back into Stella and drove across the Fruitvale Bridge that afternoon when class ended; much of the tile was up — covering much of the mural, lots of places still needed to be filled in with smaller bits. We were pretty tired. She drove home to Petaluma from IMA that afternoon; she was commuting each day, a long ride.

I tried doing an errand on the way home at Long’s that evening and found my fingers wouldn’t really curl properly to get change out of my wallet.  I am nothing if not mortal.

[ Rufus called me later that evening after he and Daniel got home from baseball practice. They had gone by Pitchometer Propeller on the way home. He asked how much of the tile we’d put up that day, and I told him all of it.  We tranformed it in a single day. He could hardly believe it. I made some sexist remark, not knowing what else to say…. but there were 14 women on the team… and then corrected myself after he balked at my making it a big deal … and then we finished our conversation and I went to bed at 7:30 pm. Honest. I was cooked. ]