Sunday, February 27, 2011

Falling at Fifty

Playing Twister at my birthday party. (I'm the one on my back, on the floor.)

When I was young, I wanted to be dark and mysterious, but I like the silly person I am in this photo and choose it as a portrait of Fresca at Fifty.

P.S. April 2017: Just want to note, seven years later, that Kathy Moran is here---bending over top right, silver hair. So sad--she died this past December 2016.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

State of the Blog E-mail

Part of an E-MAIL I WROTE to a friend Yesterday

Thanks for this personal note from a couple weeks back. I've not been in a very communicative mode, oddly for me, but of course I LOVE (love love) hearing from others.

I can't blame being busy with The Book, as I've not been working on revisions, though I need to: right now it's too much research, too little writing.
I'm a bit disheartened because to make it excellent, I'd need another year or so to spin each chapter into a story, to find more people's stories to flesh out the facts.

I do have a couple more months, in fact, but I'm not highly motivated. Besides general laziness, I wish I could melt my resentment (my old bugbear) about the George Washington book, but that resentment sits and glowers.

I expect every writer finds something external to blame for Not Writing, at some onerous point in the process, when the whole thing has ground to a halt and inertia has set in. I mean, there's always something to hand, eh? And not a little irrelevant something, either, and not imaginary. I mean real, important reasons.
You either write through those, or you don't.
At the moment, I'm not.

Some do, though, as I'm reminded by Wilkie Collins.
I'm on a novel reading kick for the first time in a decade, and last night I started Collins' The Moonstone, which I'd loved when I was a kid.
In the preface, he says that as he was writing it, he suffered the worst crises of his life--his mother was dying and he was in terrible pain.

He suffered from "rheumatic gout", and, he doesn't mention this, but he became addicted to huge doses of opium for the pain.
But, he says, he didn't want to disappoint his readers--the book was being published serially--so he wrote through it.

I'm glad he did, for my sake: it kept me reading until 2 a.m.

Maybe I'll get my writing wind back. I don't actually have much else I need to be doing until I go to Spain ... except get in some kind of physical shape to go to Spain!
Pain is a good motivator.

Motivated by that, bink and I've signed up for a 6 week "get in shape" program at the YWCA. It starts today--we go and get measured by some fancy machine that I expect will discern, correctly, that I spent all weekend eating Oreos and oranges and reading novels.

The Camino. I don't really know what to expect. You're right it could be good, open time to think about life and writing. But I have so much open time in my life, I don't really need that.

Probably I'm most motivated with the desire to get in touch with my BODY again.
It's been quite a while---the turning point was my gallbladder surgery two years ago, which gave me an excuse to not exercise. Right, you're not suppose to exercise much for 6 weeks, but I stretched that out into two years. No exercise, not even sex, just rolling out of bed, walking the 6 inches to the computer, and sitting there blogging, vidding, FBing, e-mailing, surfing, writing for work...

I've loved that! If inactivity didn't cause the body to start to decay, I'd be fine with it, actually. But the ol' bod used its Red Alert system--pain--to remind me that it doesn't really want to decay before it's time.
So, off I go.

I'm really excited about another aspect too:
Did I tell you I (and bink, of course) invited my blog friend of smoothable blog, and she's coming too?
I've enjoyed her brain so much in blog form, I hope we enjoy each other in person too.

Of course it's a bit of a risk, walking for 6 weeks with someone you've never met face to face, but the Camino is incredibly flexible: if any one of us wants a break, however long or short, it's easily arranged---we just walk at different paces until one of us has disappeared over the horizon, and we meet up at the end of the day, or in the next big city, or the airport going home.

When I look back at the 3+ years I spent blogging, I'm AMAZED at how much love and energy I poured into it. Amazed and thrilled. What a great thing to do!
I don't know why I don't want to right now, but I don't.
Maybe next week I will. Or not.
You've been through this, I think---I think many (most?) bloggers eventually hit a lull.

I just want to read novels. Maybe even try my hand at fiction, which I've never been good at.

Well, we shall see.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Mother's Gun

After I mentioned a couple posts back that my mother shot herself (in 2002), I got wondering what kind of gun she'd used. I asked my sister, who kept the police records.

Smith & Wesson .38

Turns out there are lots of models of this gun, so I'm not sure this is a picture of the right kind, but my sister told me it was a silver revolver with a light wood handle, so I suppose it was something like it.

The police said we could have the gun back--it was our property. My mother bought it legally, along with a box of hollow-point bullets. She'd even kept the receipt.

I said I wanted it.
I don't know why, really. I pictured some kind of cool tool, something she loved. My inheritance.

My sister, who was handling the police side of things, went to get it. She called me from the police station and said I didn't want it. It was covered in brains and stuff.
I hadn't thought of that.
I didn't even know that word.

Here's a piece of the police report I find comforting:
there was a bullet hole in the wall above her bed, where they found her dead five or six days.
The bullet that killed her never exited her skull--one of the benefits of hollow-points-- so my mother must have fired a practice shot first.

I like knowing that she fully understood what she was doing. Not that I doubted she wanted to die, not at all, but that she felt in her hand the physical violence she was perpetrating... well, I like having proof her action was premeditated.

I read an article in the New Yorker years ago about people who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. [Here's the link.]
Almost every jumper dies, of course--the impact scrambles a body's insides like eggs--but a few survive. One survivor said that the instant he stepped off the bridge, he realized that all his problems were solvable, except one: stepping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

There's no practice jump, but there can be a practice shot.

Sometimes I think about the clerk who sold my mother the gun. I can see him handing the gun across a counter. While I consider the people who designed, made, and sold the gun to be along the lines of aiders and abetters, I also imagine a my mother doing her best Blanche DuBois on the clerk, acting the fluttering lady who needs protection. Or she might have been in her Dirty Harry mode, wearing cold sunglasses, confident of her legal rights to this machine. She could be a chameleon that way.

I knew she'd bought a gun that fall. She told me on the phone. It wasn't her first one, and when she mentioned it, I said something like, "Oh."
I imagine it's hard for people who aren't close to a suicidal person over a long time to realize how normal the idea that they're thinking of killing themselves can become. It's like, chicken for dinner again?

My mother'd first sat me down and told me she might kill herself when I was fifteen. After twenty-five years of hearing about it, I was bored and resentful.
Once I even told her to go ahead and get it over with. That sounds bad, doesn't it? I should explain that before it came to that, I'd opened my veins to save her over and over again.

Gun or no gun, I expect my mother was going to kill herself some way.
She had enough lethal medication, godknows, all prescribed by those kind strangers, medical professionals.
When we kids cleaned out her two-room apartment, I gathered all her meds together. She'd stashed them or they'd rolled all over. I pushed bottle caps down and turned. I stabbed at foil blister packs. I filled a soup bowl with pills and dumped the pretty colors down the toilet.

I had figured that one day I'd get a call saying my mother had died of an overdose, and I'd never know if it had been an accident or not. I prefer knowing she meant it.

Sometimes I think I'm just fine after all this time, free and clear, lucky to have such a resilient personality. Sometimes I think I'm not fine at all, I just closed off a room in the house of life, love, and hope and walked away.


For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy New Year! Neighborhood 365 Project

Happy New Year!
It's Lunar New Year, ushering in the year of the rabbit.

The nearby Vietnamese shops are closed, like this one with its lucky peach blossoms I photo'd last night.
I shot it as part of a new project I launched last night with my neighbor Esther and a guy named Joe we just met:
a collective effort to post one photo a day, for a year, of the neighborhood.

It's a mix of photojournalism and blogging.
Ideally we'll have 7 people, one to cover every day of the week, but I figured if we just launched the project, they'll show up...

Joe is from neighboring Phillips, so the blog is called
Phillips + Whittier 365

We met at a meeting hosted by the photographers who have been doing Powderhorn 365 for a couple years now. A show of their 2010 project (their 2nd year) is up at Vine Arts, which got written up in Star Tribune article.
A friend of mine is part of that group, and that's what inspired me.

I'd like to write more about it, but I've got to write an index, so adieu for now.
May showers of lucky blossoms carpet your path this year!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Friendly Rap

A couple friends have asked me for some examples of friendly rap.

I'm new to this, but here's one I love, the friendliest, upbeatest, sugar-poppiest, peace-loving rap imaginable: the incredibly catchy World Cup 2010 anthem by Somali-Canadian rapper K'Naan.
It's a remix of his Wavin' Flag.

K'Naan usually looks pretty dapper, but I chose this picture of him in Minnesota's goofy unofficial state hat (we're on the border of Canada, of course, so he's close).

Here's the official Arabic version of K'Naan's song, featuring Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram. (Sponsored by Coke, as you will see.)

I wish we could replace political violence with sport competitions.
K'Naan said of the World Cup, "It's about the one time that we all get together and the world forgets its conflict and its problems and we focus on this unity and celebration."

And here's the original version of Wavin' Flag, which has a slightly darker, more political cast (but also shows him in his ear-flap hat).
As of today, it has 11,581,805 views on youTube.

Then, Fismo raised the question of the B-word in rap. Here's Queen Latifah on it: U.N.I.T.Y.
The lyrics go:
"Who you calling a bitch?"
You gotta let 'em know,
you ain't a bitch or a ho."

Now I have to don my hat with ear flaps and go out in the cold. It's -3°F (-19°C).