Category Archives: truth

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Wesley and Haven Music: Singing at Smith

When I rule the world, everyone will have a nametag... (rant)

Art comes from being in an alpha state for me, in water.

I learn things backwards sometimes. This was the year I learned about how to really conduct independent study. This was the year I learned about friends and how you don’t always agree. It was a year of listening to music together, and jokes, and studying hard, and working endlessly on projects or papers or dishes (see apron) or figuring out next moves.

I spent a lot of time in the bathtub at Wesley. I didn’t have enough clothes. I could not seem to get warm and stay that way. There was not one I could get to easily on the 2nd floor of Haven. I felt like one of the prune people when I got out, but warmer for a little.

I miss them, even though it has been so long. We learned how to mangle the lyrics to songs we listened to together in our rooms (on stereos! … remember stereos?) including “City of New Orleans” and “Lulu’s Back in Town.”

We heard the Smiffenpoofs (was that what they were called?), and the Princeton Nassoons sing in this house. We heard annoying housemates screeching up and down the halls in their nightgowns very late. We heard the singing and showering and coffee pots and papers of our fellow students and occasionally even their boyfriends.

 

If they were in San Francisco today. I would take them to Lovejoy’s Tea Room for some beverages and reminiscence. Ply them with truffles. Spoil them with love.

Perhaps it was Carole McSheffrey who invited the jug band to sing in our living room. I will never forget the banjo. I memorized the words to ‘Barnyard Dance’ during long cold walks across the campus to the studio. I think this is the year we were snowed in. People were skiing cross country in to work in Boston. Robert J. Lurtsema was still alive. A heck of a long time ago.

The radiator clanked, so I named it, but it still would not shut up since pressure and cold in 100-year-old houses do funny things to steam heat. Its a wonder I did not burn all my hair off sleeping next to it. I sure did burn my elbows and knees a few times. That sucker got hot!

Remember the Fire Rope Test, team? I felt grateful we didn’t have to dress for it silly gym costumes like I did in elementary school. They were sort of like… rompers.

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The Age of Raconteurs is Not Past

I listen to a lot of radio. Today I was thinking of Jean Shepherd, Robert Lurtsema, and the names of raconteurs I currently know among the living.

Who are your favorite living raconteurs?

My current favorites include Ira Glass, Davey D, Christopher Welch, Sistah Souljah.

Sam and Henry: the real names of things

I was a pretty solitary kid, pretty shy. Mom was always telling me to go outside. ‘Go out and play in the street!’

“Take your sister!” she would yell at my older sister, and she always meant me.  Bringing me along was a lot like dragging an anchor; eventually I figured out how to peel off and go on my own. I didn’t want to be where I was not wanted. Mom wouldn’t listen to these protests, I had to figure out how to separate from my sister, to give her air, room, her own life, her own friends.

Luckily, not far up the hill from where we lived, there were some twins my age, girls born a few minutes apart.  Both parents were architects, and were not around so much; neither were the teenage brother and sister.  We hung out in their driveway and in their backyard amongst the hollyhocks with their lovely English Grandmother.

It was okay with Mom if I went up there alone to play, as long as I told her where I was going. We had lemonade stands, we tried to sell our dolls, we played with trolls and creepy crawlers. We skipped rope, did a little hopscotch. On command from the grownups we attempted to stem the tide of bamboo shoots flooding up between the Japanese style river stones in their yard.  We took knitting lessons; we drew. Time passed.

Those were the days when Captain Kangaroo’s bangs and his smock were funny, yet we admired Mr. Green Jeans and his good humored skill in handling a helicopter. Popeye was my hero; we both liked spinach. Jackie Gleason wasn’t drinking coffee apparently, but he crooked his pinky, he wore a nice suit, he advertised coffee, and the Folger’s man lit the San Francisco skyline near the Ferry clock tower while sipping from his own bottomless cup.  Broadcast TV was still partially live and we had very limited access to anything like it on our own. You didn’t use the Hi-Fi without close adult supervision, either. We played outside, using our imaginations, some garden tools, some toys, rocks, dirt, water, bugs, and each other. And away we go, indeed.

Winslow sisters did irrigation on the scale of large civil engineering projects out on the rosebushes back by the gazebo in our yard. Watering was a collateral duty of playing outside. Inspired by a sump pump sporadically shooting water out from the sub-basement into the mini aquecia lined with baby tears traversing the width of the back yard, we built diminutive but efficient trenches. We dug holes to China if left on our own long enough; Bugs Bunny did it, so why couldn’t we?

Our house and all the houses nearby were built on fill in the 1920’s, right on top of a creek bed; Bret Harte Creek, according to the maps. So when it rained our sub-basement filled with water. The sump pump kicking on meant the water table was high and the furnace was in danger of flooding if we didn’t pump. It filled the ditch temporarily. It was water we could wade in, it was as clean as any local creek, since it was creek water. Sometimes we swung on the gate, watching; other times we took off our shoes and socks and explored with our toes.

T-Tiger was the family dog. He and Kiki the cat were some of my earliest buddies. A fierce temple guardian of a babysitter; T-Tiger once saved my younger sister when a neighbor’s German Shepherd Bootsie (a dog tortured by loneliness to the limit of sanity and trained to attack anyone except Mr. Hunter and Pearl who came to the gate and tried to enter) got out and charged down on the side of our house on the path where we were playing. Bootsie lunged, clamping his jaws around M’s face. She was a tiny child with a big crown of curls, and we all stood frozen for a moment in shock. T-Tiger lunged right in after Bootsie and locked on, seizing the exposed flap of neck near the big dog’s jugular; holding on until he could be persuaded to slowly unclamp his jaws from my tiny sister’s face in exchange for his life. What a fright it gave us all.

There was a lot of crying that day, but everyone survived. I don’t know what eventually happened to T-Tiger, but Bootsie’s unprovoked attack did not earn him a trip to the Department of Health to get a rabies exam, which seemed odd. T-Tiger deserved a purple heart. Why we don’t have a statue of that dog I will never know.

M. has since forgotten the incident.  No child died, but T-Tiger was the reason for that: loving instinct with Lhasa Apso teeth standing behind it.

My best friend was the younger twin. My Dad could never tell them apart. Once he was talking to me about the twins and he couldn’t exactly remember their names to differentiate. I didn’t have that many friends, I couldn’t believe he couldn’t remember. This seemed like a scam. After all, this was the guy who convinced us that you could not order a chocolate Sundae on any other day of the week. I waited, not helping at all.

They were fierce in correcting him when he mixed them up. He would try tentatively to call to one of them when they were over at our house. If he got it wrong, not only would her feelings be hurt and would she stomp off after scornfully correcting him with her true name, he would still not have learned to tell them apart, but would be trying to apologize to empty air.

To me they were quite different. The older one was bigger. She was brassier, and hung out with my older sister more.  The younger one was quieter, sweeter.  She is still in my life; she carries pieces of me in her memory that perhaps no other living person has. I am still so blessed by this friendship.

Dad solved the problem the same way he would later solve many a problem with confused proper nouns: he renamed the twins. While he stood there in the kitchen, trying vainly to name the one he wanted, the one which was my friend, perhaps to invite her on an outing, he was struggling even for both their real names. He was blocked. He kept saying “You know, the *twins…*” He not only couldn’t seem to think of the name he wanted, he couldn’t think of their names at all. I didn’t believe it. I hardly knew enough to forget stuff, knew nothing of whether grownups ever really do that.

I have this problem now sometimes. You remember the other parent’s name, but not the child. Or you remember the other child’s name, but not the sibling’s name. Our brains get full, and can only hold so many names. Now that my Dad is gone — I unwittingly sometimes rename people. I don’t mean to. I manage to map the wrong name onto them once, and it’s hard to get it off later, as though names have some kind of glue attached to them, wrong or not.

Thus the two girls names became Sam and Henry, and were known as such ever after in our house.  _We_ all knew who Sam and Henry were:  the twins; our friends.  Eventually we either told them about it or they busted us calling them that in front of them one day by asking us who Sam and Henry were, anyway.  They could never tell afterward between them who was Sam, and who was Henry. My Dad was thus saved from their righteous indignation, and from seeming to be ignorant, callous, or rude.

Over time, Kenelm Fayette Winslow renamed restaurants, television shows, food, cities, people: you name it. This was his way. If you wanted to keep up, you had to learn the lingo.

I remember the day they asked him to clear it up, once and for all. We were all in our kitchen again. My Dad was working on something over on one of the cutting boards. I think it was C. who went over and asked. “Mr. Winslow, which one of us is Sam, and which one of us is Henry?”  We had been upstairs having an argument about it, and all came galloping down to ask.

My Dad looked up from whatever he was working on. He bent down and looked at her and said:  “You mean to tell me after all this time, you … _don’t know_…?”

He went back to what he was doing for a second. We all thought about it, waited, watched him. C. said she didn’t know. She looked at us, and we didn’t know either. What were we going to do?  Then he started slowly started to laugh. We started to laugh. Everyone laughed. He looked up at us again.

Any questions?

E. had forgotten all about those names when I finally found her again after many years by way of a lucky search.

By the real names of things we know our future, but whether we call them beloved, call them Sam, Henry, T-Tiger, Margie, Liz, Kiki, Col, Karen, Grandma, or Mom, the names we give them in our hearts are the only ones we must remember in the end.

Thanks, Dad. For this knowledge we have received, we are truly grateful.

Social Media Makes Me Weary

From a post by David LeeIn a few years, perhaps many of us won’t care about it any more and we’ll have our own zone where grown people make eye contact, talk to each other politely, and hold hands (for safety, as they used to do when I was very young — in the days when people still wore white gloves on occasion) while crossing the street.

I am weary of virtual reality, and concerned about the viability of other kind.

Neptune’s Daughter, Part 1

{ Neptune’s Daughter }

Once upon a time there was a Woman who
wanted her own home. She decided it would be nice
to live on a houseboat. So then she wanted her own
home with a slip attached. Just a small slip. A yacht slip,
if you please.

Men heard about it, when they asked.
They were duly horrified. They claimed that
all of the time they lived in such a place,
they would be worrying about the next time they had to
haul their home out of the water,
to scrape off the barnacles or to paint the Bottom.
Then they began gibbering like frightened
monkeys, asking her had she thought about weather, about
old King Neptune.

The Woman scoffed at such questions, wisely knowing these Men and their ilk would never cohabit with her under any circumstances.  Neither by stealth nor  invitation, neither by insinuation nor brute force. Nope.

Mosaic on Stairwell, Bridgehead studios, Day 2

Neptune's Daughter Thinks Barnacles Are Overrated

Still, she didn’t own a houseboat.
She had a landlord. She also had no live in boyfriends, paramours, nor roommates.
She had a cat.
She had a job.
She worked.
She dreamed.

She also worked with a Lady who wanted to know why this Woman always knew more than everyone else about everything (about 90% of everything, by this Lady’s calculations).
‘Ah,’ cried the Woman, ‘Just because I have lived, because in living I have done many things, and because I have always had to pay some Landlord.’
‘I don’t own any property, and I always have to pay some Landlord, just to live.
You work, you learn things, you pay the Landlord. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. That’s Life.’

Thus she knew a lot about a lot of subjects.
Thus her Teenager despised her company as any good teenager would do, for being a Know it All.
Thus she worked. Thus she struggled.
Thus she soldiered on, alone and Houseboat-less. Over-Educated.
Ah. Well, then!

Since she still knew so little about Houseboats, this Woman felt free to continue dreaming. When she slept, she dreamed.
Ownership, Home, Yacht Slip. That kind of thing.

One day, this Woman got near the end of her Rope.
She was Angry, Fed Up, Tired.  She had a Hissy Fit. It scared her. She cried.
Then the storm passed, the sun came out, the birds sang in the trees again.
All was well. She ate an apple and took a nap, this Woman.

She worked on. She lived. Time passed.
The Storm clouds gathered again, and not on a 28-day cycle, either.
The Woman was concerned.
She found that every time she felt a Storm coming on, she worried more. She fretted.
How could she be So Angry? So Righteously Fed Up? How?
Since she began Worrying More, this Woman stayed far, far away from her Teenager. To preserve things, she said.
Her Boyfriend started giving her short, thoughtful kisses at the door, not demanding much, listening, trying to Be There For Her, bringing small occasional gifts. Tippy-toeing around. Trying extra hard to be affectionate, thoughtful, attentive, patient.

The Woman then suffered from Chronic Insomnia. She wasn’t worried about barnacles, either. She was worried about how to keep her mouth shut.
For really, truly, that is what this World expects from Women. Silence. Discretion.  That rot.
It was not how she was raised, not who she Was, this Silence.
It started to wear on her, this silence, this Insomnia.
She sought medical help, and eventually, medication.
She slept a little, sometimes.
She still worried, felt broken, incomplete.
Something was wrong.

The Woman found that every time the clouds gathered and the pressure built up, she needed to Speak Truth to Power. In fact, to the King.  It was a passion that built up silently, indescribably, and then overcame her. A storm. A crisis. A truth telling. A withdrawal, horrified, to consider Consequences.
It was frightening, really.
She came home sometimes, having saved herself narrowly from this truth speaking, and ranted to her Cat.

Her worries deepened.
She felt like she had her finger in a dike. She could feel the flood building.
Everything about her life, her health, her relationships with family hinged on being continuously and productively employed.
She knew that.
To speak truth to power is to risk destruction. It is the equivalent of raising your face to stare unblinking at the Sun.
She knew that.

The Woman sometimes wondered about the stuff other people fretted about. Neptune. Taxes. Death. Betrayal. Disease. Homelessness. Friendlessness. Barnacles. Old Age. Muggers. Abandonment. Rape.
She’d been through all that, nearly totally, and survived.
She wasn’t fretting about that, only Truth-Telling. Its consequences. Only that.
The Woman realized this one day and then realized she was on a Threshold.
She was about to Do Something.
She had stuff to Do. She was about to Make Changes.
She had very little to lose, but was still afraid, still a bit tentative.
She was like that with new things, this Woman.

The Cat stared, purred, made biscuits on the blankets, and waited for Treats.
She turned and slept. The Woman ranted on paper, on pixels, in thin air, in the bath, out in the yard, in her Dreams.  The Woman began to Worry Deeply. Her insomnia grew. The wheels began regularly to fly off her Little Red Wagon, usually manageably, usually one at a time. She would pause, bend down metaphorically, and put them back on. But still, she worried.

Then the Woman went to work one day and just Let Fly With Truth.
She didn’t know she was about to do it; she didn’t feel it coming.
The King simply asked her what she thought of something one morning.
She paused, drew a breath, and then told him. She told him thoughtfully and
truthfully, but not too Politely. He was a bit taken aback, and then he thanked her. He left. As he was leaving, he said he would get back to her with a Plan. Tomorrow, he said.

Her worry increased.
She wondered if she could get used to it.
It didn’t relieve the Pressure totally. Not all the way.
So she immediately told the Vizier. Then she told the Queen.
All when asked, all when on the same Subject of Which She’d Told Truth.
All the same Truth. All regarding them, their lack of leadership,
all about them making the same error over
and over for 2 years straight, and expecting different results,
and not even Failing Better, what did it prove?
How was it her job to help them patch things up?
What was the reward, where was her duty exactly? Was it part of career development? Where was this leading, anyway?
More and more, on and on, until this set of so-called leaders drew away from the Woman and her truth-telling, weary.

The men around her who heard about the Truth coming down that day… demurred. They said it was not their affair, that they were not sure it was a good idea. That it was in fact, probably something to
Never Do.

The Woman’s Boyfriend was silent, affectionate, thoughtful, attentive. Her Teenager was silent, unaware. Her Cat washed herself, blissfully.

Right after that Truth Telling, the same day, the Woman then went, kneeled down in the earth, and gave fertilizer and water to the King’s tree. He thanked her.  He described the history of the tree. She wondered. She had come, after all, to do this work On Request. He wanted to pay for the fertilizer, the soil, the care, this King. She wondered some more. She said she would accept one dollar. He insisted on giving her ten.

She wondered, this Woman, if it was not time to finally start shopping
for Houseboats. ‘Why Not?’ thought she ‘…. it seems like anything
is Possible…’

Then the Woman went home, ate dinner; she took a bath, she slept. She still wondered.

Storms, when you come, you do not consider Timing. Do you?