ITCHINESS ABOUNDS

That itchy foot syndrome has spread throughout my body and, I’m afraid, my brain as well. Time to get on the road again.

Claiming Viking blood allows me to explain itchy (summer) feet. There’s a phrase, go a-Viking, meaning to go out raiding. Its origins are Norse and it was primarily used to describe the pastime of those Scandinavian farmers who headed out for a raid or two between spring planting and fall harvest. There you have it…I must head out as well, for somewhere, anywhere. Well, not just anywhere…

I have a plan; two plans actually.

  • August Road Trip: The indistinct-mumble ___th high-school reunion beckons—it’s too hard to say that number out loud because…well…because…it’s a very big number. I’m excited. Old friends. Literally. Northome High School. Minnesota has always scored well in public education rankings so I’m thinking we learned a lot, and I remember enjoying it, at least once in awhile. So in August, I will steer my new white chariot west to eventually go east to Northome. To be explained…
  • Another Big Trip/Very Big Trip in October and November: Around the world. Further than around. 26,200 miles approximately, versus 24,874 miles at the circumference officially. But I’m flying into Wellington, New Zealand, up to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, then by land over to Delhi, India via the Laotian mountains, temples of Myanmar, coffee houses of Kathmandu and, not least, the bathers in the Ganges and tourists in the Taj Mahal. Finally by air home from Delhi by way of Tokyo.

It is making me quite nervous just writing all those miles down—the cowardly fairy on my right shoulder keeps saying, “Are you out of your friggin’ mind?” And I apparently have an abscessed tooth this fine Sunday morning, so must exist through today on pain pills, yogurt, and travel dreams (the kind of dreams where I’m walking down exciting  avenues, eating unusual but delicious meals, falling asleep to temple chants—no nightmares where I’m paying my dentist vast sums of my travel money please.)

Taking the Long Way Home…coming up.

 

 

TERESA IN OAKLAND

First apartments of our very own are when we find out who we really are…at least I believe that’s true for girls. Too many of us, at least of my generation, didn’t discover our personal rhythms of life until we were divorced! Much better to do it early in life and then compromise (some) when life partners enter the picture.

That’s where Teresa is in her life. Out of mom and dad’s house, into dorms and shared apartments and now, an apartment of her own. She has no desire to always live alone, looking forward to travels and roommates, and a husband and children. But for this moment in time, she is in a space fine-tuned just for her. And a lovely space it is.

Teresa is a bit of a shape shifter; she can go on brisk physical outings and holidays, out at the crack of dawn, up the mountainside, down in the shark cage, over to the beach. She can also be quite sloth-like, which is the shape I enjoy hanging around with the most.

Last weekend, we slothed. First talking and eating and napping and visiting with Teresa’s most interesting neighbors—one of whom works for Aljazeera, which made me very happy since I still consider it the best source of television news (along with PBS/BBC). Day two we roused ourselves enough for REI, a Lithuanian restaurant in Alameda, the bookstore, a vegetable shop and finishing up in a coffeehouse. I personally consider that the absolutely perfect day of a perfect weekend.

Best of all of course is that Teresa is an interesting and companionable young woman; she can explain in detail just what engineers are recording when they’re walking around a job site taking notes, or describe a thousand ways to prepare vegetables, or wax positively lyrical about a possible next trip to almost anywhere. And now she’s off to New Zealand for a temporary job assignment—needless to say this does not make her unhappy.

SUSTENANCE: AN LA DAY CONTINUES

I love LA; I know I’m not supposed to…but it is our dream-world isn’t it? Where movies come from and who doesn’t love movies? Keep going past Watts and you get to downtown, the downtown of office workers and banks and museums and those endless food trucks—my goal for next visit maybe.

We eat:

We do art:

I am sad to say I can’t remember visiting MOCA before. But I will again. The featured exhibit was a 35-year retrospective of Kerry James Marshall’s vivid paintings: Here’s what the web site says:  A deeply accomplished artist, who makes ravishing paintings… as a young artist he decided to paint only black figures. He was unequivocal in his pursuit of black beauty. His figures are an unapologetic ebony black, and they occupy the paintings with a sense of authority and belonging. … Marshall worked to make a wide variety of images populated with black people. This led him to make exquisite portraits, lush landscape paintings, everyday domestic interiors, and paintings that depict historical events, all featuring black subjects as if their activities were completely and utterly normal. A beautiful mesmerizing show.

Now for the fascinating and equally disturbing.

And the Sublime.

About that California State of Mind—its counterpoint could be call melancholy perhaps. I visit it in California also. Now and then, when there’s a lot of “future” in a place or a day or even a conversation, I’m reminded that I do not have that luxury—that “time ahead.” Oh of course there’s some—and I’m eagerly planning it—but…well…there is an obvious sell-by date attached to any and all dreams of 78-year-olds!

Yesterday, young California was all about me: a million late model cars racing into later in the day/week/month/year; children and grandchildren chatting casually about bright adventures ahead; exuberant art in contemporary buildings and photo-op food. California makes us believe that there’s a future but, while we elders are reassured by that on behalf of our descendants, it’s impossible not to be a little melancholy about our future non-participation.

That said, yesterday was an exceptionally nice day. My son is most solicitous on my visits—anxious that I be entertained, fed nicely, catered to in multiple ways big and small. Yesterday represents the ultimate sacrifice, putting a Californian on the LA freeways when he didn’t actually have to be there—and being impressed by his good humor throughout. Watts Tower, MOCA, and a patio lunch with very nice food and even nicer wine. Only one winy lunch to go before Albuquerque and thirty days without (my new lifestyle plan, doing well so far, takes me off a favorite, but potentially unhealthy ingestible item for 30 days at a time; wine is scheduled for April/May, then sweets and, when I’m brave enough, coffee—by which time I’ll be able to drink wine again—see how that works).

But I digress…a lot this morning it seems. For some reason I feel discombobulated right now…distracted…disengaged…dis-something.

This is really a photo album from yesterday: Google Watts Towers for the story of these unique structures, these magical art towers, in what has long been considered a most unmagical neighborhood. For 34 years, an Italian immigrant laborer, craftsman and artist named Simon Rodia, worked night and day (when not at his job) to create the Watts Towers. Thirty four years. Then he gave them away, left town, rested, and died. How come our dancey little La La Land artists didn’t visit here with a dance tribute to fortitude, determination, Art, and the future?

The best article: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-tm-towers43oct23-story.html

Here, Book Club friends, DeLillo fans all, is the first of what will be two or three photo albums from yesterday in Los Angeles:

 

THAT CALIFORNIA STATE OF MIND

Birthday Cake…

California is a state of mind, especially mine on this trip. When I return home there is much work-work to do as well as my very large, largest, giantest, hugest ever new project (I rather like speaking Trumpian; it saves time trying to match adjective and noun and meaning). My California state-of-mind here and now is as follows; get up early (normal for me), write for awhile, read and nap a couple hours from 8 until 10, shower, go out for a nice winey lunch at one of my son’s hundreds of favorite San Diego eateries, shop a little (maybe Nordstrom’s, REI, or Barnes and Noble), come home and hang out, eat some more, watch a movie, eat Cinnabon ice cream, go to bed early and read. I would not want to do this for a long stretch of time—even I need more exercise than that—but for three or four days every spring…YES.

Tomorrow we will probably do LA, MOCA and Watts Tower; then it’s up to Oakland and granddaughter-time. It’s true, I always talk about California and how much I love it, while living in New Mexico and claiming Minnesota as my home. And that is true…my California love. For a pleasurable consummation however, you probably should be born here, or move here when you’re younger, or be somewhat successful in film, or be as desperate as Pa Joad. At my age the best I can do is spend a few days pretending I’m a Nancy Reagan ladies-who-lunch pal before returning to the salt mines of Albuquerque.

We all enjoy life more for having those sweet places that are out of reach most of the time—the better in which to luxuriate when they come around. And with favorite people it’s well…throw in those superlatives.

The Good Life:

 

ANNUAL PILGRIMAGE

4.4 MILES, 841 FEET. Not so much but probably healthier than an hour on the couch with “The Americans.” (Actually not as much fun though)

Ah yes, you know the plot. Little old lady hikes up little old mountain to prove … that she can. Cast of characters: Little old lady and son. Highlights of the story: SoCal scenery and wild life (soon the environment won’t even sustain that one snake and three lizards anymore). Time and Place: April 3rd, Black Mountain in San Diego County. Reward: a Nordstrom’s afternoon (surely will miss access to those shiny Ivanka baubles, but she was never big in the jeans aisle anyway).

The album. Trying to convince my sons to take me up in a palanquin on my 85th birthday. But for now…

 

 

 

SOUTH OF THE 8

PING CHONG IN PIE TOWN, NEW MEXICO.

“South of the 8,” a Ping Chong + Company Undesirable Elements production was performed at the LaJolla Playhouse Saturday night and Scott, Sandra and I were there.  It was a special evening for me in a couple of ways. First of all, these productions dreamed up by Ping, Bruce, and Sara, the Ping Chong + Company long-time crew, are always moving, informing, and infused with humor and pathos. Each Undesirable Elements production is a small play, mostly written and always performed by a small group of individuals representing a subset of American life. “South of the 8” shares tales of young lives from San Diego neighborhoods south of the 8 freeway; black and Latino territory for the most part; all outside of white, Asian SoCal. The coming-of-age stories of these kids of color and/or poverty and/or gay and/or abused; all talented creative activists and survivors, are mesmerizing.

The big event of the evening for me however was seeing Bruce Allardice, executive director of the company, making it all come together all these years, and Sara Zatz, who directs and co-writes many of the Undesirable Elements productions. I don’t know Bruce and Sara so very well, but I have known them for a long time—since we had the pleasure of working together along with Ping Chong, to produce an Undesirable Elements story in Albuquerque a few years ago. What I keep realizing in greater depth every time I connect with the wonderful people from my past presenting life is how much I miss them. That world and those larger-than-life artists, producers, creators, administrators, friends meant more to me than I realized. We brought Global DanceFest to an end about four years ago, and I’m actually missing it all now more than at any time in the past—although I would not want to experience the stress of fundraising again.

 Just to say…I am so proud of and grateful for my years of being a presenter. Of course, for all of the productions and creations I saw, and those we managed to bring to Albuquerque. More than anything I am so very happy for the friends I made—whose work I can continue to share here and there around the world. Thank you for an inspiring and enjoyable evening Bruce and Sara—and you too Ping. Wish we were dreaming up an Undesirable Elements for our North Fourth artists right now.

 

CALIFORNIA 2017

CALIFORNIA

That time of year again. Birthday. Climb Black Mountain to prove I’m not old-old yet. Visit Nordstrom’s for new jeans. Walk on the beach. Take many photos of Watts Tower in LA for my book club buddies. Fly to Oakland. See granddaughter the engineer in her cozy apartment. Breathe the mostly non-swampy air of a Democratic coast. I do love it.

California Dreamin’…the Okies and the Mamas and Papas had it right and it’s still our country’s dream in a way. Big state with big ideas, whether gold rushing or making movies or inventing California cuisine or multi-culturing X 2…all in La La Land and the City by the Bay and up and down the ocean’s edge. I think of California as the Liberal Progressive Democratic Republic of the Pacific. And encourage my son to keep a family visa form filled out for me in case Trumpian Middle America encroaches too far into my generally-Democratic New Mexico.

I am happy within my own ten miles of turf in Albuquerque, in north woods Minnesota, along the California coast, and when I’m out and about in the rest of the world. I am happy when I work and write and eat and sleep and stick with family and friends and Do Not Watch the News. Lest you think I’m living in total denial, I’m not, I read a lot about the very bad shit that’s going on. But it’s amazing how not actually seeing or hearing Turnp or McConnell or, in some ways, the worst sleaze of all, Ryan, keeps the nausea and despair at bay—not entirely, but a little.

Birthday week, I put aside a problematic world and wallow in the bosom of family in SoCal and NoCal. Then I’m happiest.

Too many photos from Scott’s front windows over the years. Down onto the rooftops, over the 5 Exit, over a Lindburgh Field runway, out onto the San Diego Harbor, over to Coronado Island. Here’s the first entry of the spring 2017 collection.

 

 

Even though Hillary Clinton lost the war (although winning the battle), I still admire her extensive travels as Secretary of State—and not one trip to a golf course, which is more than any of our golfing presidents can say. What is it about boys and their little balls?

I read somewhere that Hillary had traveled to 120 countries in her life. I vowed to top that because then I would have traveled to more countries than the President!—sometimes things don’t quite work out as expected. Anyway, I couldn’t figure out how to make it to quite 120 so maybe it’s just as well… Not.

Here are my plans though. If I stay healthy, employed, US citizens are still granted visas, and “the creek don’t rise” (as in one more melting glacier), I could still almost get to 120—although that is not really my goal. Really my goal is to go there and there and there.

This Plan for the rest of My Big Travel Life accomplishes the following:

  • One last trip to Africa to visit friends scattered far and wide on that grand and amazing continent: Boyzie in South Africa, Panaibra in Mozambique, Antoine in Senegal, Hafiz and Aicha in Tunisia, Jill in Uganda, Faustin and Virginie in the DRC, and somebody in Zimbabwe. This is not a trip for new passport stamps; this is a trip to see places and people I love, many of whom I may not see again.
  • Far far South. Patagonia (maybe a hiking, exploring trip with family) and the Antarctic. I think I must go to the Antarctic to balance a final far-north adventure. I could stop off in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and those little ones off in the northeast corner of South America that no one ever goes to except the odd cult or wanderer…which would result in some new passport stamps!
  • Far far North. Lapland (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia), Svalbard, Greenland (please one more time…) and extra time in Norway to visit my cousins.
  • The Stan Countries by rail: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Quite likely Afghanistan and Pakistan will not be doable. And if the Turnip is around much longer, I doubt Americans will be welcome in any of the above. If I were a praying person, impeachment would be item number one on my pleading list.
  • Last, and actually least, in order of my desires: Southeast and South Asia. Especially Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma on one trip and a second that includes Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and the big kid on the block, India.

There it is. The Wish List. After that I can retire and only visit California, Minnesota, and Norway. Maybe London and Paris. Maybe by train and bus everywhere in Canada. It’s good to have dreams…

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

At N4th this week, Ugandan dancers. Just spiked my travel fever…

You can run but you can’t hide—that is true. I’ve been mentally running since I closed out the year of 2016 with the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017. I’ve been running, through reading and movies and ridding myself of cable television, from the reality of the embarrassing and probably dangerous guy in the White House.

Now it’s almost April of this nerve-wracking year of 2017. I am partially okay because I’ve switched my head back to travel mode.

Which means:

  • The energy wasted on dark thoughts of environmental disaster can be pushed a little way into the background—at least as the basis of nightmares—by dreams of far places.
  • Instead of hearing the voice of narcissism personified (of the small-handed man from the tall building) I listen to real voices of documentarians, filmmakers, progressive allies—one might say the global voices of reason.
  • Saving money and visiting the gym often is essential.

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” said Susan Sontag. I scroll through travel quotations every so often and this is one of my favorites. Every time I realistically admit, I am too old and my finances too limited to reach all 197 or so countries in the world, and think I’ve settled that issue forever, another possibility crops up.

For example, I desire to know neighborhoods –as in Eastern Europe or the Middle East or Southern Africa. Of course, to get to know any one of those neighborhoods, I am forced to visit several countries! You see how this could become addictive. Like the old Lay’s Potato Chips slogan, “Bet you can’t eat just one!”—I’ll bet you can’t stop at just one country or region once you’ve sampled traveling!

Apparently I have very itchy feet. Once, on some lengthy trip I picked up Athlete’s Foot. My feet would itch like mad, I’d apply ointment, and all would be well — for awhile. Then I’d wake up in the middle of the night with the return of the most annoying and persistent itchiness imaginable. The only relief was more ointment. So when a lust for travel is referred to as “itchy feet” that’s quite apt—travel being the ointment for one particular itch—in my Mind? Brain? Soul? In my essential Me? The maps all over my apartment are the first step—the ointment is being applied.