Friday, March 23, 2012

Taxes and Talking

 I missed hearing myself on the radio...not having taken the time to look at e-mail before heading out to Lawrence to begin interviewing again for a project that's due at the end of May.

 Esther, a woman I met at the Cafe Verde, who is one of those marvelous creatures, a connector, has connected me to a number of fascinating and diverse people who will talk to my video camera. On Wednesday, she took me to Lawrence Works, where she's a board member. A remarkable organization that has a wide range of workshops, classes, activities and projects including building housing. The staff is bi-lingual and seem to have created a pleasant atmosphere for those who need their resources and within their work environment. (I have a great envy for people who work in supportive, welcoming, socially based organizations.)

The first person I interviewed referred to himself as a 'white guy,' who immigrated from Andover (a wealthy community) to Lawrence (poor city), a now bi-lingual man who lives, with his wife and baby, in the neighborhood. He was particularly interesting because I'm always curious about how 'white' people like me, who grew up in suburban neighborhoods, make commitments, connections and become integrated into less affluent, urban communities especially when it involves learning another language, (which I've never done.)

And then Esther introduced me to another Esther who came here from Peru ten years ago, with her two children.
At first she worked in a factory as a temporary worker, meaning she had to stand, waiting, every morning at 4am, hoping she'd be chosen for day labor...
when that factory wasn't hiring any more, she was out of work for 2 months
before finding work in a 24-hour gas station. Fortunately, the owner spoke Spanish because when he asked her to read the employee regulations, written in English, she was able to understand enough, comparing words similar to Spanish, that she convinced him she could read English. Actually she knew only about 30 words. And she was very good with numbers, so she could make change and was hired to work from 11pm to 7am,
then had to take an English class, 8-10am, (a requirement for the night job)
and then wasn't making enough money to support her family, so she had to get another job, from 10:30 until sometime in the afternoon,
after which she went home, cooked for her children,
slept 4 hours
and went to work again,
 7 days a week,
90 hours a week,
to send her two children to college.
The American Dream.
I'm not being sarcastic about the American Dream, even though I get very angry about the illegal immigrant policy and the anger this country of immigrants has toward illegal Mexicans.
Imagine not letting people who were brought here as young children and have graduated from high school not attend college and get on with their lives, working and building families.
Pass the Dream Act, please,
and then move further, allowing parents who own houses, who have paid taxes, blah and blah, to have amnesty. And on and on...........
Esther had graduated from college and was a teacher in Peru, but she knew that she could not have made enough to send her children to college
and to buy a house, one that was built by Lawrence Works, in a cluster of ten new buildings so that there is a community.

So, I interviewed 4, count them, people....and then went to the library to try to hunt for the text of Carmella Teoli (spelling) speaking in Washington about child labor in 1912. Her hair got caught in a loom and part of her scalp was ripped off. She spent quite a lot of time in the hospital and was one of the children sent from Lawrence to testify.

 Of course I assumed that I could easily locate the book (having photographed some of her testimony -- large type, big, white pages...) without knowing what book it is. The librarian said, "You don't how many people come up to me asking for the red book," after quietly remarking that it's useful to make citations. After my no-success, I got in the car, stopped for a pure poison, extra chocolate sauce, please, sundae at McDonalds and got home before the elephants finished walking over my body.

At any rate, I missed hearing the interview with Adam Ragussea.

He wanted to meet out at Suffolk Downs, so we went to the 8th Pole, and talked with Jim Greene and Shirley Edwards, who started this organization that supplies some clothing, some food and health care for the backside workers.

I was extremely glad that they were included because their work is so important and their knowledge of what backside workers need, as well as their appreciation of the endless hard work that goes on back there, is so wide ranging.  At any rate, doing the interview with them along for the ride was what I'd actually call perfect....and much more significant than talking about the book...I was actually pleased...something that my dour self doesn't experience often...

 and had no idea that I'd feel as if elephants had walked over me afterwards.

Adam has an easy way of keeping the conversation moving and editing all of it into something I approve of -- given my political, social biases.     I heard it the next day.  (And if you want to hear it, just go to that WBUR site...and look for Radio Boston...and then for "My  Suffolk Downs.")

And then Mim called...which was extremely nice. And she said i sounded intelligent. I thought I sounded hesitant and that my voice is sort of nabi-ish.

Someone had built a stick house, a frame with sticks bent in half for the root, in the park near Target. But I didn't have my camera with me any time I walked the dogs by it...until it had been destroyed by a wind storm.

I finally finished my income taxes today.

Unfortunately, I don't know how to make my blog following list show on the front of this so no one can see what I would be following if I had time and energy...

but there a fantastic blog, not that I imagine that he cares if he gets more readers. James at For You and Me..

you can find his comment in my blog just below this one..and trace him that way. I hope he won't be annoyed that I'm advertising for his words, but they give so much to me.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Maybe I've told this story before, but I'm sitting in Paneras, having wrestled with writing and not quite willing to get up and leave and thinking about how I so rarely have time to blog, so I thought of the cats.

We had an exciting time this summer and late fall when K. rescued cats. She'd already found a home for a scrappy white cat that probably belonged to an old lady in a house several streets over. Either she died or the house was condemned because that creature took up in the back yard...which was fine. He'd come out to eat and I picked him up once. But he got more and more fierce as he took possession of the porch. But, K's belief in the power of Craig's list was accurate and she found a woman who picked him up, nice as could be, put him in a carrier and took him home with her to live in a big house with two other cats.

Then came the kittens that were deposited by their mother on the porch next door. They spent a good deal of time on my upstairs porch before Gina took two and I kept Sherlock, an extremely handsome fellow who looks just like his father who we see walking the street at odd times. Gina's cat Ariel looks very much like the mother who was, perhaps, living up the street, or at least perching in a driveway.

Then, when they were placed, another cat came along who turned out to be pregnant. That's a whole different kettle of worms. She had two orange kittens in her litter box in the basement. Because I wanted to photograph them, my obsessive need to record the development of....she got spooked and...

we thought she ate them, the idea of which caused a considerable amount of worrying and noise.

But she hadn't.

She'd hidden them under and around boxes in the dirtiest part of a very dirty basement, cinders and ash and dust, where I found them after sitting down there, listening for an hour, until I heard the tiniest peep. K. was enormously relieved and I was forbidden from photographing for a week.

She hid them one more time, for good measure, but this time K found them, again in a lot of dust and dirt.

It was an exciting time and I miss all the fussing, though I like waking up to Sherlock's purring as he peers into my face, waiting for a spoonful of wet food. He's definitely smart enough to be brain surgeon and has only broken three or four things. He's started to terrorize Bogie as the dog goes through his anxious hesitation about jumping up on the bed. Bogie is the sort of fellow who is an easy victim, a cross-look can send him into shudders. I often identify with his personality, though I try to bluff my way into appearing sturdier.

The man I was in love with when I was teaching at MIT used to sit on the couch with me and unexpectedly yell, "Boo." I screamed and nearly cried every time.

Clemente comes up behind me at the racetrack and grabs my neck and I scream every time. No matter how quietly I creep behind him, and how fast I grab him, he never flinches. Nerves of steel. I guess that's what it takes to have been a jockey.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Yesterday I tried to post this image of the book that Press Wafer and Kat Ran Presses have recently published. But nothing worked...many nothings didn't work and it wouldn't post which is just as well because today I have an actual dream, last night's dream, instead of the type of dreams I was trying to describe that I have been beset by since the book actually materialized.

I was driving a van (modeled on the VW van my father had and used to drive, with Mari, his third wife, down from Nova Scotia to Alabama, stopping at ice cream pits along with way, to stay with Cousin Hilda, his mother's sister, for a couple of months every winter. He hated (not a word he'd use, let's say he seriously disliked) being with her since she had annually supervised Tom Thumb weddings in kindergarden classes, a event he considered a disgusting spectacle of small children pretending to get married, all those costumes, all those adults oggling at the darlings, performing a ceremony they couldn't possibly understand and that even Cousin Hilda, who married a much, much, much older man so she wouldn't have to have sex ((or children)) didn't really understand) out of a lot just as a blue sedan was pulling out. I drove ahead of it, though I wasn't in control ... and couldn't figure out what was the matter...why couldn't I see the street? why was I just guessing? why was I just lucky, and why didn't I hit that car or the cars parked along the road?

I managed to pull into a place where huge men were working on huge trucks and guarded by huge dogs. And got out of the van, finally figuring out that I was driving from the back of the bus...(oh, what a good phrase that you dreamed up, you whirling-eyed-monster-dog who is nightly punishing me because that book was published). Now the problem was easy to fix, just get in the front of the van, except I have to question whether I'm capable of anything because how could I have made such a terrible mistake, what is wrong with me? has my mind gone? and also have to protect the dogs, my beloved Bogie and my daughter's beloved dog, Happy, from a smaller dog (maybe a young Doberman) who was trying to jump into the front seat the two dogs...  

But, I closed the door before the next segment, the old-stairway-torture-segment, in the building-I-don't-  know, trying to get somewhere, up a narrow, curving puzzle of iron stairs, some of which went down, some up, impossible to tell which way to climb. And two people were coming down, a young woman and a young man, and I needed to buy my daughter school clothes and where was the store? And had I ever bought her clothes? Ever? Had I been so inadequate that I hadn't bought her school clothes?

You get the idea that going to sleep has not been a lot of fun...and that during the days I work very hard on many different projects....I was going to give up a small grant for grassroots videos here in Chelsea, but got talked out of that by someone from the committee and probably it's for the better because I have only been able to accomplish ANY work by working on many projects at once and doing too many other things (which is why retiring wasn't a good idea.)

I cannot concentrate on MY work, never have been able to...whatever MY work is...because something in me doesn't not want me to have a voice...          and it got tricked by this book being published. It thought that, because it took three years, it wouldn't happen and then it got doubly tricked because Michael Russem was the designer for Bill Corbett's project and he adopted it, added many photographs so it's more than a small chapbook with three images. Oh, dear...thank you Bill and Michael and thank you, Mim, for having written about it on your blog, since I'd been avoiding it...