l'Occitane, Amsterdam, and great memories

This fabulous woman in the rain in the Dutch medieval town of Edam is my daughter. When I got home from work this evening, Linus led me up the stairs to point out a package that he could tell was from her by smelling her scent. Inside the package there were boxes within boxes of goodies, and a card saying, "Hopefully this will conjure memories of Amsterdam! Love you lots and lots, E." In a black Sephora box tied with a red ribbon was a 500 ml pump bottle of l'Occitane, the wonderful French provence vervaine body soap stocked in the Hotel Amstel where we stayed. Arranged around that were eight albums containing a full set of photos she'd taken while we were there, and several DVDs of various entertaining things. AND two very generous phone calling cards. Is that just the most thoughful kid, or what?

Yes, sweetie, heart melting memories! I'll never forget our milestone birthday trip to the Netherlands. However, isn't it time we began planning our NEXT birthday trip??? We can keep it to the Western Hemisphere, if you want, plenty to see on this side of the big water... :)

Love, yo mama.


More images, more images!

The scanner/printer choked to death on a half inch stack of paper. So much for scanning those thousands of images of Janis Joplin, Led Zepplin, the stars of yesteryear from my days as a pop festival photographer, traveling the country independently with camera and press pass or as a staffer with Showco Sound. My dear friend Loralyn, former news photographer with the former Dallas Times Herald, taught me to rely on my own eye, no light meter, to capture the moment, when we went shooting around Dallas or throughout the the north Texas countryside.
I don't hear much from Loralyn these days, though I'd love to, she was another of my artistic friends who informed my sensibilities as a nineteen year old in 1965, breaking out of the chauvinistic restrictions of the times and knowing who we were, but not how to deal with the crushing masculine chokehold on society and the limitations that slammed down on all of us.

Don't judge her teaching abilities (or my technique!) by this shot of the water sculpture at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on a chilly, rainy April afternoon. This was my first trip abroad with a camera in ten years, and I was ignorant of how strong airport x-ray machines are these days, so I lost 3/4 of my photos. Bummer. Next time I'll know to protect them more carefully. The water sculpture runs constantly, not just when it rains, by the way. Snapped while waiting to purchase a print version of the Rembrandt-Caravaggio exhibit featured during Rembrandt's 400th birthday celebration.

As for Janis et al...they'll have to wait til I wrestle the paper from the maw of this tantalizing but useless scanner.

Truth through film, music, and living authentically

Went to see An Inconvenient Truth at Alamo Drafthouse South. My first visit there since it was City Market since it was Fiesta. Strange to watch indie movies where the produce used to be. Great film. Every American under the age of 50 MUST see this film. My generation was screaming about global warming (among other petroleum industry catastrophies) in the late 60's and early 70's, and lo and behold, it has come to pass. Also has come to pass the military/industrial behemoth that has such a grip on the American way of life that it was inevitable. The kids need to see it. This is what they're growing up with, and if it doesn't change soon, there won't be any world for them to finish growing up in. It's really as simple as that.

Dang. I've noticed that my blog is coming down on the heavy side. To lighten up, go watch the band Ouch! on Youtube as they pay loving tribute to that crazy band the Rutles as they pay loving tribute to the Beatles. My friend Mike D, the audio wizard at work, is one of the gear Pre-Fab Four, and Ouch! served up a joyous set of Monty Python-esque nearly Beatles tunes at Jovita's last night. We stuck around to catch the first set of the Eggmen, who actually do Beatles tunes, and it was great fun singing along and re-creating those long-ago feelings of wonderment when first I heard "well, she was just seventeen, you know what I mean..." Nothing like a Beatles sing-along to end your work week.

Cindy Chang came up in an earlier post. Here's why I want to be reincarnated as Cindy--she is one of the most creative women I've ever had the privilege to know, and you can get a taste of that from her podcasts, which serve up a sampling of what she has in her music library, which is formidable. Cindy, or Adzuki Bean, has a master's degree in mathematics, does kickass IT, sings like an angel (I know, I sat right next to her for a while), does great Web and desktop publishing stuff (ditto, cause we worked together), plays flute AND violin, is a certified gemologist (I proctered her exams) and jewelry maker, phenomenal photographer and artist, and is the most stylish goth chick I've ever met. There's goth, and then there's Cindy--ruby red velvet platform sling-back sandals? From the 70's? She's got 'em. Wears 'em like she was born in 'em. She wrote a super sweet sonnet for my birthday, which I adore because she talks about scrawny sopranos cowering in fear of my laser-accurate pitch (WEG--I'm a total pitch-witch alto II). She's got a great ear AND eye, by the way, and a visit to her sites will brighten your day.


Almost Urban

Almost Urban, the Austin American Statesman's latest entry on its incredible blogroll, covers the burgeoning hip-hop scene in Central Texas (see the entry below on Assasyn Dynasty). A.U. is blogged by an engaging, intelligent young woman named Deborah Sengupta, who is not your typical MTV-type reporter. Her articles are incisive, thoughtful, and in no way sycophantic or cliche'd. She treats the subject and the musicians with the dignity and respect that they are due, and in doing so, at long last validates the genre in the Austin music scene.

It's about time Austin expanded its musical awareness to acknowledge the hip-hop genre, And Deborah Sengupta does so with style and grace in Almost Urban.


My roommates

These are my roommates, Linus Pawling and Buddha. Both of them live outside, for the most part. Buddha has an old hitching post, and Linus has a centuries old live oak tree, with branches wide enough to stretch out on. He shares it with generation after generation of families of squirrels, raccoons, possums, and Inca doves. He used to have a brother named Albert Einstein, but when they "improved" Robert E. Lee Drive several years ago and re-routed the traffic through our neighborhood, a speeding car took him out early one Saturday morning.

Linus grieved for a solid month, visiting each place Albert had been, crying at the doors and windows of our neighbors, asking where he was, sitting in the exact spots Albert had sat, taking over his place in my lap...one had sat on my chest, the other in my lap. By the end of the month I was at my wits' end, frantically searching for some way to pull him out of his depression. In desperation, I finally cracked open a can of tuna, and he perked up after that.

My next door neighbor dug a grave, and we lit incense and invited all the neighborhood cats and dogs to a small, brief ceremony. We placed a limestone brick to mark the spot, and Albert has now been joined by Lulu LaRue, aka Fluffy on a Stick.

To my knowledge, the Gautama Buddha had no siblings, or conversely, we are all his brothers and sisters...


Celebrations of Life--Molly Ivins, are you listening?

Sunday afternoon I went to my friend and supervisor's home to celebrate her life with dozens of her friends and family. Her husband and son welcomed us all with both joy and sadness and endured heartfelt vignettes that painted a poignant portrait of an extraordinary and wonderful woman who meant the world to many people. I encountered two people who stood out to me in very different ways. One woman introduced herself, and after chatting for a few moments, I was struck by a sense of familiarity. With a sense of certainty, I said, "I know you," and proceeded to ask questions that peeled the layers of the onion that is my life until we arrived at Denton, Texas, 1965-67, when we were both married to jazz musicians and our paths had crossed for a time. It so happens that her first husband had googled me last year, called me up from Las Vegas, NM, and one of the first things I asked him was "where is J now?" There are no longer six degrees of separation, only two at the outside...My friends had belonged to a book group together, and a circle was completed.

Another woman was wearing a colorful jacket and jaunty velvet cap, smiling from behind large, black framed glasses. My friend belonged to another bookclub with this woman, Molly Ivins, and I restrained myself from falling at her feet, for Molly is hands down one of my favorite writers, and one of my personal sheros. There are only a few, very special women that I would like to be reincarnated as, and Molly tops my list, which also includes Barbara Jordan, Bonnie Raitt, and Cindy Chang. When my friend lost her hair to chemo, I offered to shave my head in solidarity, but she would not allow me to do so. Molly, if you ever read my blog, I make the same offer to you--I would proudly bare my head to stand in solidarity with one of the most eloquent, funny, brave, loving women I know. Molly, my hat's off to you, bald or hairy.


Representing Assasyn Dynasty

Socially responsible hip-hop is alive and well in Austin and San Antonio, or Saturn, as the fellas call it, as surprising as that may sound at first. Assasyn Dynasty, a group of incandescent young men who eschew the gangsta rap image of violence and disrespect, are more reminiscent of the hard-driving protest sounds of the '60's, speaking the truth of moral decay from top to bottom in the US and advocating communication and positive action rather than the rough justice usually associated with rap and hip-hop.

Blending the sounds of jazz with just a taste of classical, their music hooks a wider listening audience than the industry standard hard-core beats and samples of durty rap, without watering down the message: these musicians don't like the corruption they see happening in the world today, and are dead serious about changing it in a positive way through their music.

The group members bring an intelligence and ethos not often found in the genre. Most of them are multi-cultural "service brats," and grew up with the eye-opening experience of living abroad as well as the US. This is the locus for these young men. San Antonio has a large military presence, and many service families pass through or retire there, so it has by default become a hip-hop hub. This living education brings an immediacy and relevancy to their lyrics that you won't find in music from the streets of L.A. or Brooklyn Heights, as real as those experiences are. What they have to say transcends the next girlfriend, the next line, the next record--their words speak to a larger truth that we all need to hear.

So check 'em out. Catch their next show and definitely listen to their stuff.


Older bloggers and the younger techies who love them

In the next few days you'll see the list of links in the sidebar grow as I add URLs to the blogs of some wonderful folks I met at SXSWi or that I work with here at the uni. These gifted individuals were most gracious, supportive, and generous with information and were great ambassadors for the conference, and the field of tech in general. And when I spoke up for us silverbacks in one session that in my perception was heading alarmingly south, I was assured by presenters and many attendees that they greatly respected and did not discount their elders' life experiences and capacity to learn new tricks, and moreover, had even set up blogs for their mamas so they could correspond with abandon. My faith was restored.

So here's a shout out to Ms. Camahort, Eric Rice, Glenda Sims, Liz Henry, and all you other younger techies who are hip enough to realize that we were the ones who started it, after all--you guys just make it shiny and easy to use ;) (Just throwing out a little lightweight shit to see who swims in it, as my ex used to say...) Makes me smile that you love your mamas enough to make sure we can jam to our heart's content, with heaping servings of fireworks on the side!

'cause at the end of the day, no matter what our birthday, it's all about communicating, right?


Happy Birthday, Sweetie!

Today is my baby's birthday. My daughter was born 30 years ago at this moment (Pacific Coast Time) after a 48 hour labor that began on Memorial Day, 1976. Still makes me smile to think about it. She was born at home, with a midwife and her daddy in attendance, along with our best friends. I would not have had it any other way. She popped out with a 10 Apgar rating, and proceeded to squirm her way up my belly to my breast with absolutely no assistance from anyone, least of all me--said attendants were busy with the cord and placenta, and I was totally drained. And that focus has been her trademark ever since.

So having no money, my gift to her is to include some poems I've written about her over the years, and this weekend I will try to do justice to writing up the story of her birthing, which was a journey of self-discovery and infinite love, and not a
small education in midwifery.

Here's to Ms. E, the greatest gift a mother could ever receive.

This one is actually about her birth...

She’s On Her Way!

I sensed your coming before you began your journey
A quiet chime in the universe, I can’t remember exactly when,
Announced your essence long before you entered the world

Then a gargantuan effort just to separate you from my body
Two full days of dialogue
Before you slithered out in a totally unexpected configuration
Squirmed up my belly to my breast
And proclaimed your arrival

The midwife said you had FOUR cowlicks
Even one would have been a spot-on sign of assertiveness
I just smiled

So I knew before I even knew you what you would be
Except that you turned out to be so much, much more

As for myself, I now reckon that the two days of birthing
Was simply the Cherokee ritual for separating mother from child
To begin the circle of life

This one was while she was still in college, I was destitute, and never knew when I'd get to see her again from one visit to the next. She had spent a winter term in Zimbabwe, and written some profound things and taken some pretty amazing photos, which she has on her wall right now...

World Traveler I

Jet-stained backpack slung over one shoulder,
Dear head full of wisdom and lush long hair
She’s home for a while.

Gazing into those far-seeing golden eyes, I see what she sees
stories writings drawings photographs dance in their depths
Living out how she finds the world.

She brings a poem about a woman in Africa,
In such vivid, profound words that she appears as real before us.
A subtle stone elephant
An exquisite lizard bowl
Visionary child, eye on the world, the world in her eye

Said backpack organized to perfection
Passport around her waist
Just the basics, ma’am

Wise in the way of respecting each culture
Always recognized as goddess, drawn in by a family, included in their lives,
art, history, customs, music, dance
An authentic soul
A compassionate collaboration

For a while, too short, we share our lives
Lavishing love and attention and talk

Then the bittersweet drive to the airport,
always reluctant to part
Each visit is perfect, barely enough to keep me going until the next
Inevitably, I watch her sweet head bob down the concourse,
wait til the plane taxis for take off,
rush to my car with eyes glued to the plane, strain til I can no longer see it.

Have a good cry til there's nothing left but to go home.

I wrote this the day she left Australia to go back to the states to begin college. Scary stuff, being a half a world away from your only child when they're going through such a milestone in their life...

Saying Goodbye to E

In the black hours of this day’s morning
You flew into the sky to begin your journey
As a young woman in the world
Leaving two grieving parents behind to face the dawning of the day
Still holding on to you with all their strength,
hugging a space the shape of your dear body.
Heartlines trailing through the vast oceans of space, through the crack on the edge of time
Lost to sight, but firmly attached to a place deeper than sight

Last night I anointed your beautiful, confident young woman’s forehead
With oil that you had chosen to symbolize the end of your initiation into the universe
For days I reviewed the catalog of necessary wisdom that a mother must impart
To keep her daughter safe and smart, happy and healthy through all life’s joys and pains
I asked the ritual question: What is there that you feel you do not yet know
That I might be able to impart as one last gift of knowledge—
A seal to the years that we have embraced together with our bodies, hearts and souls
Set to mark you as blessed and inviolate—
A woman
to be sung & cherished,
to listen to for her wisdom and clear-sightedness and compassion,
to stir what is good and kind and fiercely loving and gentle in all who behold her
to light in her a beacon for others to draw near for shelter and grow from your mutual nurturing
to touch young and old with peace, comfort, healing and good humor

Your answer was a gift in return, sweet words telling me what you felt I’d given you,
your final acknowledgement that the rite was well and truly done
Only thus was I able to let you go with love and the sense of completion of perhaps my
Life’s most important work
And with the certainty that I am also blessed to be part of the miracle of you
And will continue to be so for all of eternity

Happy Birthday, sweetie, I've got lots more to tell you!

Yo Mama