Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Phèdre 1880 by Alexandre Cabanel

Ah, deadly thought, as I speak, at this moment, here,
They brave the fury of a maddened lover!

The Green Card

The final project of Creative Writing Course at DePaul University (SNL) was creating a story by selecting one of the three approaches:
A Work of "Pure" Fiction
A Work of Autobiographical Fiction
A Fiction Based on Oral History
Mary Curtis selected choice # 2. Her story is written with a specif humor and certain sensitivity.

Autobiography: The Green Card

By Mary Curtis

“What brought you from a beautiful country like Ireland to live in America?” my date, John asked “Why did you come here?” “Oh, I was very drunk at the time!” I replied. “That’s hilarious” he said “Seriously though; what brought you all the way over here?” Here we go again, I thought. Why is it nobody believes me when I answer that question honestly?

At the age of 34, I was depressed, drinking heavily, single and feeling pretty hopeless about my life. My mother, rest her soul, was so concerned about me and was always looking for a way to help me “have a life” as she would say. I remember the day the phone rang in my office; it was January 15, 1994. “Maura, is that you?” “Yes mammy, it’s me” I replied. “Maura I’ve got great news” she said. I’ve just been sitting here watching the tele (Irish word for television) and they’ve just made an announcement that the American Government is holding a lottery competition for green cards. You might win, you might get to go to America, you can start a new life, you have to apply for this love, you just have to, please tell me you’re going to apply…” “Slow down mammy will you; I’m beginning to think you want to get rid of me.” “Oh no love, not at all, I’d hate to see you go, but I just want you to have a chance at life.”

I remember thinking what does she mean “have a chance at life” don’t I have a life right now? That was the first day it really hit me. No, I didn’t have a life. What I had was a love affair with a bottle; a relationship filled with pain and despair, an existence…not a life. The abusive childhood experiences had left me feeling worthless; defective and even worse, unlovable. In an effort to comfort my broken spirit, I turned to the bottle at a very young age. It numbed the pain for a while, but then it stopped working. The more it stopped working, the more I drank. The more I drank, the more depressed I became. There was no solace to be found in the vicious cycle of my life. After a string of unsuccessful relationships, I was alone and empty, with the hopelessness growing deeper by the day. Some days, I didn’t even get up out of bed. Maybe mammy’s right, I thought. What I have here is not a life; maybe I should apply. No, there’s no point, I’ve never won anything in my life; but it’s an opportunity to get out of here, maybe I should? Maybe there is hope somewhere for me…

Well; I applied. I put my name into their big computer data base of thousands upon thousands of names and, guess what? Yes, you got it. It happened like this on February 28, 1994: “Maura, is that you?” “Yes mammy, it’s me.” “The postman’s just delivered a letter from the American Embassy, this could be it, should I open it, oh my God, what if you’ve been chosen, Sweet Jesus, what if they’ve picked your name…” “Slow down mammy will you, just open it and tell me what it says.” “Jesus, Mary and Holy Saint Joseph” she screamed “You got it love, they picked your name, you have to go to the embassy on March 20.” “Mammy, will you slowdown?” “I’m shaking so much I can’t even read love.” Okay mammy, I’ll be home soon, I’ll read it then. And so my Green Card process had begun.

Just because your name was pulled out of the computer didn’t guarantee you a visa. I had to bring a list of things to the American Embassy and go through an interview. The two most important things I had to obtain and bring to the Embassy were a) a letter from the Gardai (Irish Police) stating that I had never been arrested or convicted and b) a notarized letter from an American Employer stating that I had a job in the United States and how much I would be getting paid for that job. So, off I go in search of these two important items. The first stop was the local Garda station to get a letter of reference. Of course, there were forms to fill out and details to be revealed and the good looking Garda behind the counter assured me I would have the required letter within 10 days. I wasn’t concerned about getting a letter from an American employer. My aunt was a very successful business executive in Chicago and I was sure she would help me out with this. Wrong! I left her message after message asking for her help with this. All I needed was a notarized letter from someone, anyone, stating I had a job to go to; babysitting, cleaning, anything. It didn’t matter what the job was I just needed a letter saying that I had a job waiting for me. “What is wrong with your sister?” I yelled at my mammy. “Doesn’t she realize how important this is to me?” ‘She doesn’t trust you love” mammy replied “You’ve been drinking for years, she’s afraid you’ll ruin her reputation. I’m still working on her though.”

And so, I continued with my drinking, every day getting further and further depressed. Fourteen days later, still no sign of the letter from the Gardai. I called them and they insisted they had already sent it and it must have gotten lost in the mail. Fuck it, I thought as I was downing some vodka shots, this is just not meant to be. It’s a sign I’m not meant to go to America. No letter from the Gardai, no letter from my aunt, I’m just not meant to go. I am a defective piece of crap and there is no place for me on this earth. The more vodka I drank the more distant a memory the thought of going to America became. Then, one night sitting in my sister’s house I got the call. “Maura, is that you? Yes mammy, this is me.” “You’re not going to believe it, there’s a letter here from the Gardai, this is it, I’m sure of it. They must have re-sent the letter to you. This is it.” “Will you slow down mammy, for Jesus’ sake? You’re driving me crazy, it’s not meant to be, remember? It’s too late now.” “No you still have time; your original interview date is tomorrow. This is a sign, getting this letter today, this is the real sign, you’re meant to go. I know it, I feel it.” “But mammy I don’t have a notarized letter of employment, I don’t have the $240 processing fee, there’s no point in going to the Embassy tomorrow.” “Now you listen to your mammy; you get home here, get sober and get your arse to that interview in the morning. You lie to them; you say whatever it takes to get more time from them to get your shit together. Do you hear me; you listen to your mammy now.” So I kept my appointment, I lied and told them I was out of town and didn’t have time to get my money changed or the letter from an American Employer. They gave me a one week extension. But where was I going to get a notarized letter of employment? And then I got the call: “Maura, is that you?” “Yes, Mammy, this is me. I’ve great news, I just spoke to your Aunty Eva and I convinced her to get a letter to you.” “How did you do that?” “Never you mind, let’s just say I’m her sister, I know things and blackmail is a wonderful thing.” She’s going to send it priority mail; you’ll have it in plenty of time for next week. See, I told you it’s meant to happen.”

Two days before the interview still no sign of the letter form my aunt. My mother called her and she assured us it had been sent in the priority mail. Monday at 5pm the evening before my interview, it came. I ripped open the envelope and read it. ‘FUCK…I screamed loudly; what is wrong with that stupid woman?” “What’s the matter love” my mammy said as she ran in from the kitchen. “Jesus Christ Almighty, that sister of yours might have an executive job but really mammy, she’s as thick as two planks, honestly. “Calm down” mammy said. ‘Calm down?” I replied “It’s supposed to be notarized, it’s supposed to say who I’ll be working for, and it’s supposed to say how much I’ll be making. This says nothing!” ”What do you mean it says nothing?” my mammy asked. “Your stupid, pain in the arse sister sends me a letter on blank white paper, no letterhead, no notarization and it reads “To Whom It May Concern, this is to state that Maura Curtis will have a job when she gets to America.” What the hell is she thinking? The embassy will never accept this mammy. They’ll never accept this.” There were tears in my mammy’s eyes as she said “Maura love, listen to your mammy now, I know it’s not what they asked for, but you can’t give up now, you have to go tomorrow, just go and see what they say. Please.” “But there’s no point. The embassy’s been refusing people who have jobs lined up, what makes you think they’ll accept me when I don’t even have a job offer?” “You can’t give up now; mammy said “You have to show up tomorrow morning.” I snapped “Why do you want to get rid of me, why are you pushing me so much to go. You love your sons so much and always want them around, but me; me you want to get rid of and won’t be happy until I’m thousands of miles away, what did I do, what did I ever do for you to hate me so much?” Mammy went white in the face as she sat slowly down into her arm chair. She breathed deeply as she raised her face to look at me. With tears streaming down her face she replied “Get rid of you? Can’t you see I’m trying to keep you, not get rid of you? I don’t want you to die here from drinking vodka every day of your life!” She started to sob. “If you go away even for a short time and find a different life I might get to keep you a little longer, not loose you to a bottle. If I can help you get away, I might get to have you around just a little longer. ” “We sobbed, embraced, sobbed some more.

The following morning was rough. It was the longest taxi ride of my life. My head was pounding and my stomach was all over the place from all the vodka I drank the night before. I asked the taxi driver to slow down for fear I was going to throw up all over his cab. It was like an outer body experience. I was so hung-over I couldn’t even think straight. As we pulled up in front of the embassy, I knew I needed a drink so I took a quick slug from the bottle in my purse. Once inside the door, I went into the bathroom and downed a couple more slugs; in the elevator a few more. I walked into the big room where hundreds of people were sitting waiting for there number to be called. I sat in a seat in the corner out of the way of the crow and downed a few more slugs. The room at this point was becoming a bit blurry. There were 6 stations, each one being manned by an Emigration official. People were walking away either crying having been refused a green card; others were jumping up and down with joy having been accepted. “They’re not accepting everyone you know” the lady said as she sat down beside me. Shit, I thought why can’t I be left alone. Now I can’t have any more vodka. “My sister had a job and everything lined up and they still refused her. It doesn’t make sense.” “Really?” I replied. “Mint?” she said as she stretched out her hand. Shit, I thought, she must be able to smell the vodka. “Yep” she replied “I believe it’s just a matter of who you get behind the desk and the mood they’re in on the day.” In a panic, I put my hand in my purse and pulled out my cleverly disguised vodka water bottle. “Do you really think that’s going to help?” she asked “it’s none of my business but you might be better off keeping your senses about you today.” “I’m going home, there’s no way they’re going to give me a Green Card.” I said as I moved the bottle toward my mouth. “What, go home? No you can’t give up now” the lady said as she put her hand on my bottle. “Give it a few more minutes; you’ll have plenty of time for this bottle after the interview.” “Did my mammy send you to spy on me?” “No, she replied, I don’t know your mammy.” “What am I doing here, I thought. I don’t even have a notarized letter. I’m going through all of this for nothing; I should just go home. Just as I got up to leave I heard it “No 151.” “Shit, that’s my number I said to the lady beside me as I stumbled back into my seat.” “Mint?” she said handing me another one of her mouth exploding mints. “If it’s meant to be it’ll be” she said ‘Just take a deep breath and step out in faith.” Faith? What’s that?” I thought to myself.

I walked up to the counter, my legs were like jelly, my head was pounding, and I could barely keep my eye lids open. This woman looked up from her paper work. Her face beamed at me as she smiled widely and said “good morning beautiful, and how are you doing today?” ‘Great, I replied shakily. I handed her all my documents. She looked at the letter from the Gardai, my birth certificate, my doctor’s reports, and then she came across the letter for my aunt. She read it, looked up at me, looked back down at the letter and looked back up at me. She slowly took her glasses down from her face. “Mam, this letter; it’s not notarized. ‘Yes, I know, I’m sorry my aunt lives in Chicago and she’s very old fashioned and didn’t understand what I needed. I’ve attached the envelope there so you can see it was mailed from the United States and... “Yes mam, I can see that, but it’s not even on letter head. “Yes, I know, I’m sorry, I…” It doesn’t say what kind of work you’ll be doing?” ‘I’ll be babysitting for my aunt’s neighbor.” “Babysitting?” “Yes, babysitting until I can get something else.” She looked me straight in the eyes, I felt like she was looking right into my soul, into my pain, into my despair. “Mam, can you give me one good reason why I should accept and process this paperwork today?” I could feel the pain welling up inside of me; I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, looked her straight in the eye and said “Because I really, really need a second chance.” The couple of seconds that followed felt like an eternity. I had exposed my vulnerability; what would happen next? I didn’t even notice which one of the two rubber stamps she picked up; I just know the loud sound of the stamp coming down hard on my paperwork brought me back to the moment. She looked at me, smiled widely and said “Welcome to the United States Ms. Curtis that will be $250.00 today.”

A little later, as I moved toward the exit door I felt a tip on my shoulder “Mint?” the lady said. “Thank you” I replied as I reached out to take the mint. “In or out?” she asked “In” I replied. “Hmm, now that’s God working.” she said. “Are you sure you don’t know my mother?” I said as I headed out the door pulling my bottle from out of my purse. Then I saw the public phone on the wall and I made the call: “Hello Maura, is that you? Yes mammy it’s me. ‘Well…how did it go? I’m going to America mammy.” Jesus, Mary and Holy Saint Joseph, there is a God.” she replied. “Whatever?” I said as I hung up the phone and thought God? Who the hell is God and where has he been for me?”

Mary, are you with me, Mary?” John brought me back. “Yes, sorry, I just spaced out a little” I replied. “Well?” he asked “Seriously, how did you get to the United States, why did you come here?” “Oh it’s a long story John; let’s just say I came because it was God’s plan for me and I got here on the wings of Angels.” As he stared back at me in confusion, my thoughts strayed again...

The phone rang at 5am. As I slowly opened my eyes and reached to answer it I knew it could only be one person. “Maura, is that you?” Yes mammy, it’s me. I keep telling you mammy, there’s a 5 hour time difference.” “How’s it going love?” She said completely ignoring the hung over irritation in my voice. “God I miss you so much” she said. “It’s only been three weeks mammy.” “Yes, I know love. But have you found a job yet?” “Mammy, it’s only been three weeks.” “Yes, I know love. But you need to find work. Tell me love, have you been following the football?” You know I’ve been following the fucking football. I thought to myself. But what else would I be doing for God’s sake? Ireland was playing in the Soccer World Cup for the first time ever in the Irish history, and, it was taking place in America. I had to support the lads. The craic was ninety every night in the local Irish pub, plus I was traumatized from a complete culture shock, what did she expect me to do… “The lads will do just fine without you drinking yourself into oblivion you know” mammy’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “I’m not…” “Don’t lie to your mammy; I’m not stupid you know. Just remember why you left Ireland. I slammed the phone down went to the kitchen and took a beer out of the refrigerator.

It was such a freeing experience to be in America. With no one watching my every move (that is without the watchful eye of mammy) I could drink as much as I liked, as often as I liked and with whomever I liked. So much so that my drinking spiraled out of control very quickly and with that my depression too. Then one night around 11:30 I was drunk, depressed and decided it was time to end it all. I had prepared by getting some extra vodka and had talked a psychiatrist into giving me a three month supply of anti-depressants and some sleep meds. It was time…it was over…I couldn’t take it anymore. And then I got the call. I almost didn’t answer it but something told me to pick up the phone. “Maura is that you?” “Yes mammy, it’s me.” “I know it’s late for you but I knew you’d probably still be up. I just couldn’t stop thinking about you and wanted to check if everything was okay.” Of course, I broke down into sobs, and convinced her that everything was okay. But just her calling at such a poignant time, shifted something inside of me. I knew her calling was a sign. So when I hung up from her, I called a friend who came over and drove me to the ER. That was the last night I drank. I was hospitalized and treated for alcoholism and depression. The night I thought I was going to end my life, became the first night of my new life. Almost a year later, at 5am I got the call. Yes, you guessed, it could only be one person. “Maura, is that you?” Yes mammy, it’s me” “I did it, I booked it, I’m coming to America to see you love.” “Slow down will you mammy, what are you saying?” “I’ve got my ticket; I’ll be there to see you pick up your one year sobriety coin, I’m so excited?” “Mammy its 5 am in the morning? When are you going to remember there’s a 5 hour time difference between us?” “You listen to your mammy now” he replied. “We’re talking on God’s time and in God’s time there is no 5 hour difference.”

That first year of sobriety was tough, as were the years following—tough but so worthwhile. Between AA, therapists and a new spiritual path, I discovered that I don’t need anything outside of myself to fill me up. There is no doubt in my mind that if I hadn’t have left Ireland, I would never have gotten sober. There were too many drinking friends and too many memories bringing me down. Mammy came to see me getting my first year medallion, and many more times after that. I’m sure she’s up there with her God watching down on me now, filled with as much gratitude as I am for the second chance I got. While the saying “wherever you go, you take yourself with you” is very true, it’s also true to say that sometimes you do need to move yourself somewhere to heal your spirit, change your perspective and find the true you.

“Wow Mary, you’re really not with me here, are you? “ John said “I’m so sorry John, it’s just your question brought me back in time” I replied. “Really Mary? Hmm sounds like I’m in for a good story sometime in the future.” Sometime in the future, I thought. Hmm, maybe this date is not going so bad after all! Did you hear that mammy?

Building our future

Each year when I teach Single Mothers/Single Fathers, Single Women/ Single Men's course at DePaul University I would remind my students and myself about the importance of history to build our future. Although we still make mistakes and sometimes do not learn from the past!

"In order to build our future, we have to know our past."

"We study history not to repeat mistakes, but to learn from the past and to appreciate our present."

"Knowledge of the past is essential to creating justice for the future."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Confucius says....

Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.

You Learn

By Jorge Luis Borges

Translation by Veronica A. Shoffstall

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises,

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn...
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth...
And you learn and learn...
With every good-bye you learn.


By Bertolt Brecht

I sit by the roadside
The driver changes the wheel.
I do not like the place I have come from.
I do not like the place I am going to.
Why with impatience do I
Watch him changing the wheel?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Arundhati Roy on War

Arunhati Roy on Democracy Now

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Arundhati Roy recently had a rare journalistic encounter with the armed guerrillas in the forests of central India. She spent a few weeks traveling with the insurgency deep in India’s Maoist heartland and wrote about their struggle in a 20,000-word essay published this weekend in the Indian magazine Outlook. It’s called “Walking with the Comrades.”

We’re joined now here in New York by the world-renowned author and global justice activist. She won the Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Prize in 2002 and is the author of a number of books, including the Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things. Her latest collection of essays, published by Haymarket, is Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.

Arundhati Roy, welcome to Democracy Now!

ARUNDHATI ROY: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go into the very interesting journey you took, you arrive here on the seventh anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. You were extremely outspoken on the war and have continued to be. I remember seeing you at Riverside Church with the great Howard Zinn, giving a speech against the war. What are your thoughts now, seven years in? And how it’s affected your continent, how it’s affected India?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think the—you know, the saddest thing is that when the American elections happened and you had all the rhetoric of, you know, change you can believe in, and even the most cynical of us watched Obama win the elections and did feel moved, you know, watching how happy people were, especially people who had lived through the civil rights movement and so on, and, you know, in fact what has happened is that he has come in and expanded the war. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and took an opportunity to justify the war. It was as though those tears of the black people who watched, you know, a black man come to power were now cut and paste into the eyes of the world’s elite watching him justify war.

And from where I come from, it’s almost—you know, you think that they probably don’t even understand what they’re doing, the American government. They don’t understand what kind of ground they stand on. When you say things like “We have to wipe out the Taliban,” what does that mean? The Taliban is not a fixed number of people. The Taliban is an ideology that has sprung out of a history that, you know, America created anyway. Read or Watch more...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Post-partum and the Playwright

Geoff and his son

In January I gave the Creative Writing Class an assignment called "Person, Place, and Song" from What If by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. Students were required to use the following formula for their opening line: "The first time I (or NAME) heard SPECIFIC SONG TITLE by SPECIFIC ARTIST OR GROUP, I (or NAME) was down/up/over at PLACE and we were doing ACTION.

Geoff Robinson wrote this beautiful story with a poetic sensibility.

Post-partum and the Playwright
By Geoff Robinson -

When I first heard Nihilist Assault Group (Parts 1, 2, 3) by the London-based post-punk neo-Krautrock group Stereolab, I was at my word processor in my home-office attempting an outline of my third play. Grace had just given birth to our second daughter three weeks before, and she was in the other room on the day-bed, collapsed in exhaustion. Grace wasn't taking the situation well, and to be honest I thought she had post-partum depression. She didn't seem herself, at least in comparison to the weeks subsequent to our first child. It seemed she hadn't said ten words to me since the delivery. I had been told that Caesarian births were tough on moms. Something about the anesthetic removing the body-memory of the experience set mothers up for feelings of isolation just after the giving birth. Not exactly a subject that I knew much about.

Anyway, I thought if we hired a nanny this time Grace could be more rested. I did not anticipate the emotional vacuum that came from what used to be my charming and ebullient Grace.

She was the light of my life; she was the fire that kept me warm, the calm in the center of my storm; my moral compass, my grace. I missed her. I savagely pecked out a sketch of the first scene of the second act. My play was about a high-functioning autistic adult finding love for the first time.

Joel’s apartment walls are covered with children’s portraits, landscapes and street scenes, all in black and white.
Mandy: “I’ve always wanted to see this”
Mandy is awe-struck by the sheer number of photographs, some in frames, some taped to the wall with silver duct tape and peers at them, mouth open. The dimly lit kitchen table is clean but cluttered with several stacks of papers, magazines, and books. Chrysanthemums sit in a vase on the window sill.
Joel opens the refrigerator and drinks from a jug of orange juice.

Joel: “I don’t really have anything to drink, but I can offer you some orange juice or water.”
Mandy: “Water will be fine”
Mandy studies Joel’s movements over the sink. She thinks to herself that there was definitely something different about this guy.
Mandy (reaching out her hand):“I’m Mandy”
Joel looks blankly at her and turns to close the freezer, dropping ice cubes into the glass on the table. He places the glass down in front of her and walks into the other room. Mandy smiles uncomfortably, turns and watches Joel sit on the couch.

Joel, the main character was an outlet, maybe even a parallel identity for me. In fact, I felt so isolated and lonely that I may as well have been in a social and cultural cocoon, an autistic, shut off from the rest of humankind.
Bright sun poured through frosty windows onto the floor to the left of my feet as tree branch shadows danced to the pulsing sound. The Stereolab song got to the second part where everything slows down, the organ droning, Laeticia's light soprano lilting over the synthetic aural sculpture, passive, yet so powerful. Laeticia Sadier's voice was the personification of my love for Grace. Before the birth while listening to Stereolab, Grace noted my obsession with Laeticia and got jealous. I tried to explain to her that the singer was somehow representing the powerful feelings of love that I had for her, my beautiful wife Grace Young. Grace didn't buy it. I couldn't have expected her to.

Sometimes, as much as you love someone, they don't understand how intensely you can feel for something as abstract as music, and how it can be related to your feelings for them simply because the level of intensity is similar. No matter when or where I listened to this music, it reminded me of her.

I printed the draft of another scene, the first kiss for my character and his new love.
Joel: “Can I get you some more water?”
Joel is mesmerized with Mandy’s movement toward him.
Mandy: “No, I’m fine. I have everything I want.”
Mandy sits down next to Joel on the sofa.
He stares at her, paralyzed.

Mandy: “Joel, do you have a girlfriend?”
Joel: “No.”
Joel gets up and walks into the kitchen, looking for his cigarettes. As he begins to light one up he notices that Mandy has walked into the kitchen as well.
Joel: “Why did you get into my car?”
Joel flicks his lighter several times without getting a flame.

Mandy: “I got into your car because it was open. I had to get away from the insanity at that party and your back seat was a good place to hide”
Mandy smiles mischievously.
Mandy (still smiling): “Joel, isn’t this a no smoking building?”
Joel lays the lighter and cigarette down on the table. Mandy approaches him and kisses him on the lips. As he stands motionless, eyes closed, he starts to laugh. Mandy begins laughing too. Now Joel kisses Mandy and wraps his arms around her waist, holding her close. Joel smiles as they kiss. Mandy backs away from Joel and stares intensely into his eyes. She reaches out for him and he looks at her hand nervously.
Joel (loud and anguished): “Mandy, you make me feel good.”
Joel is looking at the floor. He looks up into her eyes.
Mandy: “Joel, I don’t want to go back to Seventh Avenue tonight, I want to stay with you.”
Mandy puts her arms around Joel’s neck.
In that instant, Joel forgets about his need for routine, his fear of communication, and his photographs. He forgets about all the pain from the popped balloons, the jeering classmates, and the isolation and loneliness of his apartment. All he thinks about is that moment with this wonderful person.

While reading the scene, I burst into tears as Laeticia and Stereolab's mesmerizing song tore something loose in my heart. I wadded up the paper and threw it on the floor. I couldn't think! Nihilist Assault Group (Parts 1, 2, 3). I thought about the title of the song as I looked at the CD jewel case insert. Assault, yes assault! It was a skewer into my mental landscape, a dagger into the breastplate of my soul. Yet I was floating in bliss! This was not nihilism!

The baby started to cry. I guess I had the player a little loud. Angelina the nanny crossed the hall into the nursery. I said "I'll get her." She ignored me. I walked up to the crib and looked into the sparkling blue eyes of my infant daughter Noa. "Angelina, let me." I said and reached down and gently cradled Noa into my arms. Noa smiled and her eyes seemed to understand my emotional predicament. Her warmth merged with my heart and I wiped the tears off my face. Laeticia Sadier became less important in that moment. I was Joel, awkward, lonely and reclusive, awakened by pure, unconditional love.

In my loneliness, I had wandered into an autistic photographer's apartment and the sonic world of Stereolab, and Noa had pulled me out. Kids have a way of doing things like that.

By Marc Chagall

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I was there

Your greatest asset is your creativity!

Each year when I teach Creative Writing Courses at the School for New Learning at DePaul University, I discover unique writers.
With extreme honesty, integrity and excellent portrayal of truth, they show us who we are as human beings, as they write naturally with enormous enthusiasm and sensitivity.
After reading their stories, I’m stunned for days!

Here is one of them by Kumasi Gwynne:

"I was there"

By Kumasi Gwynne

I’m not sure why I held on to him for so long. I was there for every second of his decline while my two brothers gave up on him years ago. I was there for the drinking; I was there for the psychiatric ward; I was there for Wanda, his “bar girlfriend” as he called her, and I was there for his death…literally, right there. I found him. So while my brothers were spared from watching the human spirit turn into mud, I was there. My father was never going to win any father of the year awards, but for some reason I felt like I needed to be there with him through the saddest part of his life. What he did to himself was almost sadder than what happened to him.
In the summer of 2006 my father lost his wife, and my brothers and I lost our mother. Our mother who had always been there for us, no questions asked, allowing our father to work hard and never be around. She picked up the pieces he shattered; she filled the holes in our life he punctured; she did everything she could to make him seem like a better father than he actually was. And it worked. We all loved our Dad. He was tall and handsome and commanded attention when he walked into a room. He wore his full head of grey hair slicked back and when he wasn’t working he was running on the treadmill in the basement keeping his already slim frame slimmer.
I have good memories of my father but they’re hard to retrieve. I can understand my brother Den when he said to me he wanted to remember Dad as he was before our mother’s death not after, not once the decline began. I get it because I have so many horrible memories of my father that I can barely remember the good. But maybe I remembered more initially, I don’t know…maybe that’s why I stuck by him. I just know that it’s hard to retrieve the good times now. It’s like it’s too late. It seems like so long ago that we’d all be sitting in the living room, Den with his nose in a book on the couch beside Dad and Mom, who’d be watching 60 minutes, while my other brother who loved to cook made dinner, and I, the youngest, sat on the floor leaning against the couch waiting for 60 minutes to be over so I could watch a show of my choosing. To my brothers this scenario could have happened almost yesterday. To me, it was so long ago. I’d taken a long journey with my father that my brothers refused to take. And I don’t blame them for it. In fact, I think it takes strength to let someone go, but for some reason I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t watch my father flounder without our mother like he did. I had no idea how instrumental she was to his success as a human being.
My mother’s death came quickly. I don’t know if this is good or bad. People try to comfort me by saying it was good, that she didn’t suffer long. Personally, I would have liked her to stick around a bit longer. I guess it just is what it is. When she became sick my father dropped everything to look after her—his job with the city mapping out play structures---even us kids. He didn’t talk to us about what was going on; we just knew our mother had ovarian cancer and was going to die. My mother and father’s room turned into some sort of death sanctuary. My brothers and I rarely went in. The room was stuffy, the windows closed and honestly I can remember the stench of death that would breeze out of the room with the opening and closing of the door. I remember wanting to be with my mother so badly but being frightened to enter that room where my mother and father could be found in the dark curled up beside each other on the bed for hours at a time. I was 17 and flunking my way through my last year of high school. My brother Den was 20 and still at home and my other brother Chance was 22 and had returned home from college to pick up the slack while our mother lay on her bed with our father.
My mother didn’t want to die in the hospital, and at the end she didn’t. She died right there on her bed with my father curled around her. I ran into the room, with its heavy velvet curtains pulled shut, when I heard my father scream call 911. I looked at my mother’s lifeless face and knew it was too late. My father knew too. I could see it in his eyes which looked wilder and more alive than I had seen them before. It was in direct contradiction to how his eyes would look 3 years later when I found him dead in washed out red boxer shorts, lying on his dirty bed sheets many miles away from Toronto in a cramped studio apartment in San Francisco. This is the story of how three years can be a lifetime. It is the story of the descent of a great man, faults and all, and of an indifferent family. And of me, a lonely young man, who clung to a father bent on destroying himself. And who in turn almost destroyed his own self in the process.
The same year my mother died my father sold the house and moved to San Francisco. My brother Chance returned to college in Nova Scotia, Den moved out on his own and my teachers graduated me out of guilt. Den was closer to me than Chance and wanted me to live with him. And I did, briefly, while I tried to figure out what my next move was going to be. My mother had always been my guiding force. Even as she suffered she had talked to me about college and my future. It was a future she knew she would be missing but she still found it important to discuss. Honestly, I felt like I had no future. I had a physically dying mother and a psychically dying father. Everything looked bleak, especially the future.
I stayed with Den for 6 months after our mother’s death and then applied to the University of San Francisco to be closer to our father, Montgomery. What was strange was it seemed like my father was trying to dissuade me from coming. I thought he’d be so happy to have one of his sons around but he kept asking me why I just didn’t go to the University of Toronto. I, too, was a dual citizen though and couldn’t think of a reason not to move closer to him. At any rate, when I arrived at the San Francisco airport my father wasn’t there to greet me. This was only somewhat surprising. My father had become very erratic even over the phone. My brothers and I hadn’t actually seen him for the entire 6 months following our mother’s death. He was hard to get in touch with and always sounded sleepy when you did. Sometimes he wouldn’t even remember our conversations which he chalked up to being old and to his sleep aid. Armed with his address though I decided to catch a cab and just go over to his apartment. When I got to the apartment building I buzzed him, but no one came. As I turned around though, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a note on the door. It read: Daniel, sorry I couldn’t meet you. I’m downstairs in the bar around the corner called the Anvil. Now there were three things strange about this note. One of the things strange about the note was that as far as I knew my father didn’t drink let alone go to bars, strange thing number two, what is he doing in a bar at 10AM, and then there was strange thing number three, is this seriously the reason he didn’t pick me up at the airport, because he’s at a bar? I grabbed my bags and went back down the creaky stairs and followed his instructions around the corner and into the Anvil. As I opened the door a disheveled looking man spun around on his bar seat and yelled, “Daniel!”
“Dad?” I asked wondering if this out on his luck man was really my father.
“Of course it’s Dad, c’mon I haven’t changed that much,” he said with a smile.
“Are you drunk?” I blurted out somewhat regretting it.

(The Absinthe Drinker by Viktor Olive)

“Well, too drunk to have driven to the airport to pick you up,” my father responded
“You don’t have a car Monty,” yelled some guy at the other corner of the bar
“Wait, you don’t have a car,” I said. “Why did you say you’d pick me up then?”
“Well, I hadddd a car that I just sold it to blabber mouth over there,” he said pointing to the man who’d called him Monty.
I shook my head, trying to take everything in.
“And since when do people call you Monty, I thought you hated that,” I said
“In the Anvil I’m Monty,” replied my father with a drunken grin.
“Okkkkay,” I said. “Well, why don’t we go up to your apartment so I can drop my bags off?”
“Oh, just give them to Lise, she’s behind the bar,” said my father. I looked over at a 50 something woman with a graying ponytail pulled tight from her leathery looked like life had been hard on her face. “What was that? What do you need Monty?” Lise yelled from the other end of the bar.
“Well, first of all this is my son Daniel. He’s going to the University of San Francisco to study sociology,” my Dad said proudly as Lise approached him.
“Is he 21,” barked Lise.
“Oh yeah,” my father lied, “he’s 21. Anyway, can he store his bags behind the bar?”
“Alright,” said Lise.
There wasn’t much left for me to do but hand over my bags and grab a seat at the bar beside my father. I ordered a pint of Budweiser and my Dad bought us both Tequila shots. I thought, when in Rome, as I downed my shot of Tequila without salt or lemon.
“What number beer are you on, Dad?” I asked.
“Who are you the alcohol police?” Dad responded somewhat annoyed.
“Never mind,” I said, “I actually don’t care.”
5 beers and 2 shots later my father was ready to go upstairs to his apartment. I was matching him drink for drink and not being a drinker at all was stumble around stupid drunk. We both forgot my suitcases behind the bar but were too lazy to go get them once we were in my father’s apartment even though they were just downstairs. When my father opened the door to his apartment I was appalled. Sure, I was drunk, but not drunk enough to not be appalled. There were bottles of Tequila everywhere. Empty bottles. And beer cans smashed down like someone had stepped on them all. It was hard for me to understand why he went from our beautiful family home in Toronto to this tiny dirty studio apartment. Why? It just made no sense. Didn’t he have the money from the house?
“Son, I gotta take a nap and then we’ll go back down to the Anvil in a bit.”
“Don’t go on my account, I could skip the Anvil,” I said. “It’s so dark and depressing in there and the customers all look so sad, including you, you know.”
“Well, we’ll play it by ear,” my father said drifting off to sleep.
Within seconds my father was sleeping and snoring loudly on his twin bed and I decided to try and sleep off the drink by using a sleeping bag that my father had left out on the floor with a pillow. Hours later I awoke dehydrated, nauseous, and with a huge headache and it was only 4pm. Maybe this was all just an anomaly in Dad’s life I thought. Certainly he couldn’t do this every day. But he did; he did this every day. The Anvil from 10am-1pm, nap from 1pm-4pm, anvil from 4pm to 2am. And while I spent every other morning puking my guts out by trying to keep up with his drinking, my father woke up perfectly fine every day. And what’s scary is eventually I did too. My father had successfully become an alcoholic within 6 months. 8 months after moving to San Francisco I had dropped out of college and joined him.
I don’t blame my father for my own descent into alcoholism. Clinging to a horribly depressed man and isolating myself was my own doing. Having said that, my father never tried to get me to stop or ease up on the alcohol. In fact, I think he was happy to have a drinking partner, underage son or not. He was certainly happy to have someone he could drunkenly talk about my mother with. We said things to each other drunk that we’d never say sober; not bad things, good things, caring things. We’d reminisce. We’d come up with a much rosier past than really existed. I was sleeping on the floor beside my Dad’s twin bed in his studio. My father would pay for my drinks morning thru night. There was never any talk of me getting a job. And if I did, well, how could I be at the bar with my father. We had quickly become co-dependent…fueling and encouraging each other’s drinking.
I was very aware of what was happening. Honestly, I was probably just as depressed as my father was. In fact, one night while we were up late drinking my father looked me in the eyes and asked if I was happy. My eyes welled up and I choked out a “no”.
“Neither am I son,” said my father, “neither am I.”
That night I dreamt of a double suicide. I dreamt that my father and I had made a pact and that we would kill ourselves. Chance and Den never came to visit anyway. An aunt of mine had visited Dad and said we were pathetic people wasting our lives and that it was criminal what Dad was doing to me. Chance said I could move back in with him in Toronto but I turned him down. It was his only offer he said. In my dream my father had the gun. He handed it to me and said I had to shoot him first and then myself. I told him I wanted it the other way around but he refused. My father handed me the gun and I looked inside his vacant eyes and shot him, putting him out of his misery. I woke up once I pulled the trigger with the barrel of the gun in my mouth.
The next night at the Anvil I told my father I couldn’t take it anymore and that I had to stop drinking or at least cut down.
“Hey, Sonny over here’s quitting drinking. He thinks he’s better than us,” said my father to Jimmy the unemployed factory worker who always sat across from my father and me at the bar.
“I don’t think I’m better than anyone Dad and you know it.”
“Well, good luck son,” said my father sarcastically, “would you be starting today?”
I could already see Lise pouring our drinks and I said “no, not today, tomorrow.”
Everyone at the bar, all 5 people, laughed.
“You’ll see,” I said.
That night at the bar I got drunker than ever. I was so drunk in fact that I started hitting on Lise who was playful about it but clearly uninterested. I hadn’t had sex the entire time I was in San Francisco and I doubted my father had either. Hell we slept together in the same room every night, there wasn’t much opportunity.
After I cleaned up my act a bit and was only joining my father for drinks from 4pm-8pm I noticed that there was often a woman sitting in my seat beside my father now named Wanda. Wanda looked like the female equivalent of the men in the bar….worn out, roughed up, and sad. And she seemed to have taken a liking to my father or my father seemed to have taken a liking to her. I was jealous and confused that my father would be interested in this woman, so drastically different from my mother. But then my father was drastically different than when my mother had been alive. He was unrecognizable to anyone but me. Wanda was concerned about my father’s drinking, which was weird since she drank from 4pm on with my father. I was also worried and was still downing a 6 pack at the bar each day. At the time drinking a 6-pack was cleaning up my act. It was true though that my father was looking worse and worse. His body was getting puffy and he looked like he was at least 75 not the 63 that he really was. Plus his hygiene was shot to hell. An awful human stench came at you once you opened the door to his apartment. What’s scary, though, is that the stench was similar to the death stench you’d smell when you entered my mother’s bedroom when she was sick. I was afraid my father was dying. Eventually I stopped drinking all together. I feared for myself what was happening to my father. His skin was yellowing by the day and he refused to go to the doctor.
One night he brought Wanda home and I lay there listening to them have sex a few feet away. I wanted to get up and leave but I figured it was better to pretend that I was asleep. The next morning when I woke up Wanda was gone. I didn’t say anything to my father except that I thought he told me Wanda was his bar girlfriend, why was he bringing her home? He said she was but they were both lonely last night so they spent the night together. “But Dad,” I said. You’re lonely every night and so am I.”
When we moved to San Francisco our friends gradually fell away. I’ll admit that when I was drinking hard I never called anyone to see how they were, not even Den or Chance. Eventually, I woke up one day without any friends. My father’s situation was the same. I guess that’s why we clung to each other for dear life. Dad had Wanda now, though, and I had no one. Wanda was a waitress from diner down the street who was going to school. She was living off a student loan for the most part, and did her work and classes during the day while she drank at night. But even she was cutting back on the drinking and a couple times I saw her sipping soda instead of her usual vodka cocktails.
Once I quit drinking my father became unbearable. He had done to himself in 3 years what others did to themselves over a lifetime. I was young and sprung back pretty well but my father was on his way to rock bottom. I still spent 4 hours a day with him in the bar but only drank Coke. Once in a while I’d have a shot but not very often and if I did it was only one. I registered at the University of San Francisco again and got a student loan big enough to move out into my own tiny studio not far from my father’s. When I told my father what I was doing his eyes welled up. I couldn’t tell if he was happy for me or sad for himself at losing his best friend. But he had Wanda now; he didn’t need me I told myself even though I knew he did need me. He needed me very much.
I called Den and Chance regularly after registering for school. I wanted them to come visit but they were so mad at our father for not calling them for a year after mother’s death that they refused to make the trip. In truth, I think they were also mad at me for being a part of our father’s demise. Den said Dad sounded drunk the last time he talked to him. I tried to explain to him that Dad’s always drunk. He found it hard to believe since our father had never drunk while we were growing up. It was the only explanation for Dad’s odd behavior after mom’s death. It was like his kids died too that day. He never called to check on them. I was the only child in his life and that’s because I initially forced myself on him.
I carefully selected my classes at university so that I would be done by 3:30pm. Dysfunctional or not, Dad and my time at the bar was important to me, Wanda or no Wanda. One Wednesday afternoon, I arrived at the Anvil to find for the first time since moving out to San Francisco that my father was not there. I walked towards the bar and saw Lise’s face frozen in distress.
“Where’s Monty?” I asked having never said “Monty” in reference to my father in my entire life.
“Daniel, Monty’s at the hospital. He was acting weird so I called the paramedics.”
“Wait, what? Acting weird? How? What do you mean?”
“I mean he was talking to you and you weren’t there,” said Lise.
“He kept saying he felt like someone was watching him. I’ve seen it before Daniel, it’s alcohol induced psychosis. You know as well as I do that he needs help.”
“Well, you’re the one that keeps serving him,” I said angrily.
“Daniel, it’s not my fault. He has the right to do whatever he wants to himself. But when he starts talking crazy he needs medical attention.”
“Where’s Wanda?” I asked.
“She went with him to the hospital. I called her. I’m sorry, I didn’t know how to get a hold of you but knew you’d be coming in,” said Lise.
“Dammit,” I said “What hospital is he at?”
“Lakeside,” replied Lise.
Without another word I turned around and left, walked across the street and hailed a cab to Lakeside Hospital. I was feeling guilty already about the fact that I had been planning to do an ethnography of the Anvil for one of my sociology classes. This wasn’t some academic endeavor. This was my Dad and the bar that was killing him. I realized that I hadn’t even asked Lise when my father had been picked up by the paramedics. It must have been sometime between 10am and 1pm since I’d seen him last night. As the doors swung open with force at the hospital ER I rushed the information desk.
“I’m looking for a Montgomery Irving Hawkins,” I blurted out. “I think he might be in psych.”
“Psych’s visiting hours are 6-8 sir.”
“Well, can you confirm for me that he’s in there at least?”
“What’s the gentleman’s name you’re looking for again?”
“Montgomery Irving Hawkins.”
“Yes, he’s in psych, come back at 6, take this badge and go up to the 5th floor,” the lady said. You only have an hour and a half wait why don’t you grab a seat over there in the waiting room. At 6 I’ll get someone to take you up.”
“Thanks,” I said
I walked over to the waiting room and looked at all the sullen faces. Were these people waiting to visit people in psych too? Were their family members dying? I hadn’t spent much time in hospital waiting rooms even while my mother was dying. She only stayed after her surgeries and was generally released quickly into the care of home nurses and my father. I picked up a People magazine that was lying on the center table and read last year’s news about the stars. So-and-so was in drug rehab, so-and-so was getting divorced, and so-and-so was resting from exhaustion in an unknown facility. Nothing could take my mind off my father. Psychosis? How could my father be psychotic? Had it really come to this? I had figured his liver would give way at some point; I had been prepared for that but psychosis? The psych ward? That didn’t seem like my father.
An hour and a half actually went by quickly and as promised the woman who I had spoken with sent someone over to take me up to the 5th floor. But when we got there my father wasn’t there. He had been sent to medical, no doubt the yellowing of his skin being of concern. I spoke to a mental health counselor who said he had been there briefly but upon realizing his problem he had been sent to dry out in their rehab facility on the 7th floor. There were no visiting hours on the 7th floor. I explained that I was his son, that I had to see him but all they told me was that they would pass on the message that I was there. At that point I realized I hadn’t called Den or Chance. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket as I was leaving Lakeside and dialed Den first. I told him Dad had been taken to the hospital for alcohol related psychosis and was detoxing in rehab. Den was concerned but also frustrated.
“I just don’t understand why he’s doing this to himself,” he said.
“The man is broken, Den. He’s a broken human being. His spirit is all but gone.”
“Well, do you think I should fly out there?” said Den.
“I don’t see why you’d fly out here now, you never had any interest in doing it before,” I said somewhat snidely. “Why don’t you just call Chance and I’ll call you back when I know something.”
“Fine,” said Den. “Fine.”
Not having Wanda’s number I decided to take a taxi back to the Anvil to get it from Lise. Maybe she would know something more about what was going on.
“Daniel!” said Lise as I walked into the bar. “How’s Monty?”
“I didn’t get to see him, hey, do you have Wanda’s number?”
Lise flipped open her cell phone and read out Wanda’s number, which I quickly put in my phone. I left the bar and walked home while dialing Wanda.
“Wanda, it’s Daniel,” I said when she picked up the call.
“Daniel, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know how to get a hold of you.”
“What’s going on with Dad?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. I know he’s on the 7th floor at Lakeside but that’s it. They wouldn’t let me into the psych or the rehab floor. I was just with him in the ambulance. Maybe try calling the 7th floor…they should have a phone up there,” said Wanda.
“Good idea,” I said and quickly hung up.
After numerous attempts at calling the hospital I finally got put through to the rehab floor. I asked for Montgomery and was told he was being seen by medical doctors. They asked if he had insurance and I told them I didn’t know. They said my father seemed out of it and they couldn’t get much information out of him. Uncooperative, I believe is the word they used. They said they had a feeling he’d be hospitalized for awhile. They were running tests right now and would know more by the morning. I asked about visiting hours and again was told there were no visiting hours on the 7th floor.
Defeated, I made it to my apartment, threw my school bag down and started to cry. I must have exhausted myself from crying because before I knew it, it was the next day at 10AM. I’d missed my morning class which honestly was the least of my concerns. Chance called around 10:30 trying to figure out what was going on with Dad. I told him I didn’t know much but that he was in rehab receiving medical attention. As I talked to Chance I gathered myself together and took at taxi to the hospital again. I knew they wouldn’t let me see him but somehow being there I thought I could get more information out of them. I walked up to the same desk I had walked up to when I initially came to the hospital and asked again about Montgomery Irving Hawkins. This time I was told that he had checked himself out.
“Checked himself out,” I said incredulously. “He’s sick.”
“Well, sick or not he checked himself out at 6AM.” It was already 11. Why hadn’t he called me, I thought. My head whirling with thoughts I didn’t know where to go first, the bar or his apartment, he could have gone to either. I tried calling him on his cell but no one answered. I figured he must be at home sleeping, and when I finally got to his apartment I used the key he crazily always kept under the mat in front of his apartment. He’d lost his key at the bar so many times that this was his solution. As I opened the door, I saw him. There was my father. I inched closer to him not wanting to wake him up and the smell of alcohol pushed forward. Still closer I went and noticed 2 empty pill bottles from the hospital. I peered closer and noticed a note on the floor.
“Oh my god, Daddd….Dadddd!” I yelled as I pushed on his chest. “Dad!”
I grabbed my cell phone and dialed 911. What I said I can’t recall. What I remember is being told at some point that my father had died an hour or two earlier before I got to him. God knows how much alcohol he drank but he took an entire bottle of Seroquel with an entire bottle of Xanax. He lay, dead in those washed out red boxer shorts, one hand laying on his crotch one hand off to the side, his puffy eyes closed and forehead for the first time since my mother’s illness, unfurled. I remember backing away slowly. I remember the police asking about a note. The details I’ve forgotten. All that I know is close to the three year anniversary of my mother’s death, my father killed himself. And his last words were written in a note the police bagged, carried away, and never gave back.
Wanda and I were the only people at funeral who didn’t cry. We knew he was out of his misery. I wasn’t religious and didn’t believe in much but knew that life was death on earth for him. He stopped caring the minute our mother’s heart took its last beat and never came back. And sometimes I hate myself for those years at the Anvil I spent drinking with him and sometimes I honestly think it’s because of those nights that I know him better than any other human being. But in the end it killed him. The Anvil killed him, the liquor killed him, the pills killed him, the pain killed him, our mother’s death killed him….however you look at it he was killed. And all I have to say for myself is that I was there. And I can’t decide if I should feel guilty about that or not.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tales of Passion

Author and activist Isabel Allende discusses women, creativity, the definition of feminism -- and, of course, passion -- in this talk.
Isabel Allende tells tales of Passion!

Monday, March 15, 2010

We were hundred years late!

We lost the most precious historical pieces from ancient Iran over one hundred years ago. They are in the Museum of Louvre now! Excavations led by the French archaeologist Marcel Dieulafoy at Susa, in Iran, yielded a number of important discoveries, which were put on display in new rooms at the museum in 1888.

Cornel West

"It's very simple, but it cuts very deep. If you love black folk, you hate white supremacy. If you love human beings, you love justice. If you love the life of the mind, then you hate all forms of dogmatism and parochialism." --Cornel West

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Four Plays

Laura Welsh Berg and Cheryl Snodgrass in a reading of four plays: "Seven Jewish Children", "Seven Palestinian Children", "You're Not A Man" and "Two Iranian Children" on February 28 at Mess Hall.

Jeremy Cohn in "You're not an Man" on February 28 at Mess Hall

Laura and I in "Two Iranian Children" on February 28 at Mess Hall

In the day of my reading I received a beautiful gift, a Snow Globe from the mother of a young artist. Thank you!

Alen Silva's Photography

"Afganistan, Una Ventana A La Tragedia" is a book of photography by Alen Silva, a brilliant artist from Spain, published in 2006. The heart wrenching pictures captured in black and white, taken after the invasion of Afghanistan with poems vividly illustrated the daily life in the region of many conflicts.
His second book will be published soon.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lady Godiva Myth

The painting is by John Collier
The Godiva myth is filled with contradictions. The lady is obedient to her husband, yet boldly challenges his position on taxes. She rides naked through the streets of the city, yet remains chaste. She is a member of the ruling class who nonetheless sympathizes with the plight of ordinary people. Like other myths, this one offers ways to resolve—symbolically, at least—such conflicting social and sexual dynamics. Myths have also traditionally done what Donoghue describes as the “cultural work” of passing down history, tradition, and shared values. Now movies and television have essentially taken over that role from written and spoken tales. “One reason I decided to write this book was that the legend is dying out,” says Donoghue. “Our children know about Godiva Chocolates, and they may have a visual image of a naked woman on a horse, but really know nothing about the story.” Read More...

Charles Coe

Marguerite Duras & Hiroshima Mon Amour

I always return to this film! Always!
Hiroshima Mon Amour is an acclaimed 1959 film directed by French film director Alain Resnais, with a screenplay by Marguerite Duras.
An extraordinary and deeply moving film that retains much of its power since its original release in 1959, Alain Resnais's Hiroshima, Mon Amour is the story of a French woman (Emmanuelle Riva) and a Japanese man (Eiji Okada) who become lovers in the city of Hiroshima...READ MORE...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Myriam Merlet Haitian activist and feminist

Haitian political activist and feminist Myriam Merlet died under the rubble of her home after it collapsed on Haitian earth quick. Myriam Merlet was the Chief of Staff of the Haitian Ministry of Women and an outspoken feminist who helped draw international attention to the use of rape as a political weapon. Amy Goodman and JUAN GONZALEZ spoke with playwright and activist Eve Ensler, who knew Myriam very well, and air video of Myriam speaking in 2008 at V-Day.
Read and watch in Democracy Now.