Tuesday, September 19
Claypool seems to be the only town with an appropriate name, the other two have some explaining to do: Globe and Miami. The highway threads slowly around western store fronts and boarded up boom-town motels sadly past their glory. As the mines shut down one by one in the 70's, the families moved out. Squatters and social out-casts with harleys and tattoos moved into the abandoned old rooms. The town council is still working on trying to clean things up.
Mexican Independence Day offered a grand Fiesta in the old town Miami park last Saturday, the 16th of September. We went to join the celebration and gather resources for my Spanish class report on the subject. I attempted to speak the mother tongue to everyone I encountered. However, most of the vendors and participants were Anglo or Indian. The party was laughably small and almost ran out of food. It felt more like a family reunion, and we looked forward to the start of the "World Famous Corrida de Chihuahuas".
I hit pay dirt in a nuevo amigo by the name of Pablo Cruz, a native son of Miami who traveled the world in the U.S. service and returned home to stay. He apologized for his "Spanglish", and happily continued his life story for us. He referred repeatedly to his wife Yolanda with obvious affection. He told me my Spanish was very good. I was thankful for the little white lie.
He also told me the history of Mexico's 2 Independence Days, Cinco de Mayo & the 16th of September. He got his facts backwards - instructing us that the Battle of Puebla was the break from Spain instead of France. He breezily admitted his error and confirmed that no one he knew observed any traditions for "El Dia De Libertad"... in fact, this was their very first time to attend the Fiesta.
After so much heated anticipacion and walking around rat-sized little yapping dogs that had been painted with racing stripes by their equally eccentric owners, we had only a fleeting glimpse of Chihuahua rear ends IF they were coaxed to race at all. Many refused, in spite of the high-pitched pleadings from their biker daddy or roundish earth mother in a mumu and flowered hat- squatting at the finish line squeaking a favorite fluffy toy for little dogs named "Zorro Mata", "Flash Tafoya" or "Pinky" or "Sweetums".
We shook hands with Pablo Cruz (a great band from the 70's)and exchanged our "vaya con Dios". We left with a little sunburn, some Navajo jewelry, digital photos and a kiss on my hand by one of the strolling cantantes.
Thursday, August 24
To my great surprise and delight (feeling a little like Jack & the Bean Stalk), the mysterious growth proved to be a glorious, abundantly blooming pink hollyhock almost 6 feet tall. Having no green thumb whatsoever, I felt inner smugness that our front yard finally had a deserving ornamentation; and a truly faithful one at that! My hollyhock enthusiastically produced large, beautiful blooms day after day week after week. I thought she would soon tire of her labors and dreaded the day my garden 'perennial' finally gave up and died.
She certainly had enough reason to retire; the week it hit a stunning 118 degrees being a deadly example. Her position in the direct and western sun most of the day seemed particularly harrowing. Sustained by only a little watering, she thanked me with an ever more astonishing display of her precious blossoms.
Parenting is kind of hap-hazard, I think, like the sudden arrival of the hollyhock. Life-altering injuries sustained in one fateful instant to our beautiful girl have us still gasping for air over 2 years later - her post traumatic stress syndrome is a prickly, tenatious threat to her growth.
A more direct threat appeared recently in the form of a surprise internet introduction to her Myspace by a stranger who claimed to be a 'friend' of her older brother. With this quasi authenticity, his true motives were not immediately apparent. Our careful monitoring and repeated talks with her about vulnerability just didn't seem to soak in. The issue exploded one morning when I had her trapped in the car with me. I yelled and cried and pounded the steering wheel. Desperate for her to understand our desire to keep her safe, I prayed in my head for something magical to do or say that would break through her resentment.
Two things happened: pulling into a Costco parking spot, the spirit whispered, "Look to the right."
A young mother was tightly holding the hands of her 2 little boys before crossing the street. I jumped on this maternal instinct as an inspired object lesson. I told my daughter if I could go back in time, so she could be a tiny little girl again - who needed me to hold her hand so I knew I could keep her 100% safe, I would do it. Even if it meant that fate dictated one day she would again be seated at a bus stop as a high-speed police chase rocketed toward her - I would do it all again.
Two thick tears slid down her cheeks. My voice was almost gone. I had no feeling in my finger tips. We went into the store.
45 minutes later we pulled into our driveway at home. Greeting us was the valiant but battered hollyhock. Her tall, arching stalk was dry and dead. Her base leaves were wilted and weathered. Yet, perched cheerfully on the very end of a small, previously unnoticed secondary stalk, was a fresh flower.
"See that hollyhock right there?" I said, fresh tears already choking my words. "That plant has endured an entire Phoenix summer - it's nearly dead. But look how it was still willing to focus its waning energy to produce that amazing flower...that is what I wish for you. There can be great beauty in spite of scars, and keeping you safe is my heart's desire."
The deleated Myspace was history, and my daughter did not seem to miss its false appeal. She began to talk to her friends on the phone instead. Her first week of school has been a good one. Last night she kissed me on the forehead, and went to bed.
Thursday, July 20
It's unbelievable we live in a society that feels 'compassion' or whatever the liberal it is that we can't just cleanly admit she was caught with her hands in the bath water, so-to-speak. No, we must drag her sad little mental saga through years of costly court dates and mounting legal stuff - I just don't get the debate.
And another thing; why isn't that weasel of a husband charged with something? He knew his wife was mental. He knew she was on the brink of muttering "redrum" and increasingly so after the birth each subsequent child. Why isn't he culpable for the gruesome result of his own denial?
We have a great fascination with CSI shows that deftly reconstruct a murder by the tiniest DNA sample, or the larva 'insitu' which soundly defines guilt. We love the technology and intrigue, and we especially are satisfied with the righteous outcome.
Yet ~ we can't decide the guilt of a woman who admits she did it. We all know she did it. Perhaps our reluctance to condemn a mother who kills her own babies in some distorted way soothes our conscience. We want to "understand". We recognize every mom can get a little blue now and then.
I wonder if her oldest son thought mommy was just "having a bad day" as he fought for his life there in the family bathtub.
Maybe prison food is high calorie or something.
Tuesday, June 27
It was huge - and frolicking round and round inside our pantry sink, his prickly feet creating that familiar staccato that sends a chill down my spine. The irrigation had come today, and sewer roaches sometimes follow. We do live in the desert where water is the gift of life. If, however, the life has 6 legs I would prefer it remain outside. This guy looked like he had acclimated to being indoors. Since my son refused his manly duty, I prepared myself.
Years ago we lived in a double-wide mobile home with evaporative cooling, which is just the perfect environment for truly amazing sewer roaches. They were a hybrid species from some post-holacost society that could resist any and all forms of standard poisons and efforts to repel their entry. Daddy worked late. We were home alone. The roaches would begin their assault after the sun went down on humid, hot summer evenings. You could hear them scratching around inside discarded coke cans in the trash. Their scuttling generated real horror in my heart. The can had to be removed from the trash. This simple procedure might take 3 or 4 attempts - none of us wanted the beast to jump out onto our hand. Once the can was safely out on the kitchen floor, the kids and I were armed with brooms and a breathless few moments of waiting. Eventually the long, probing feelers would gently twitch at the flip-top opening of the coke can. The roach then boldly declared himself by rushing lightning quick out of the can and across the floor.
Batting furiously with our brooms we jumped and screamed like banshees. If we were not successful in beating it to death, it might take flight - there's nothing worse than having a sewer roach fly into your neck. Really. Sometimes the advent of the intruder was only announced by a scream somewhere in the house. We could count on each other to rally to the defense; upending furniture or poking underneath the refridgerator with a yardstick until at last the enemy was exposed and dispatched. The fear of the moment was not as motivating as our desire to protect each other and see it through together.
I never thought I'd look back on those experiences with any fondness, but I did today. The children and I were really a team; all for one and one for all. Sometimes when it was all over we'd just stand over the kill sweating and gasping, our throats sore from screaming, the gross-out factor right off the chart...but we got him. That was all that mattered.
I approached the pantry with a can of bug spray and a feeling of abandonment.
Wednesday, June 14
Inside we were enthusiastically greeted by half a dozen fluffy, happy dogs of all different sizes, shapes and colors. 3 or 4 human faces looked up and smiled as well. I swear they greeted our dog first. Lovely doggie treats were displayed everywhere in large, open bins and plastic containers. (I felt personally tempted by the ones that looked just like chocolate cookies with rainbow dee-dees on top). Two handsome young gay guys ran the place. One of them was lathering a big hairy dog, and the other squatted in front of the now cowering Ellie who had plastered herself flat against the tile floor. He put out the back of his hand to her nose, and spoke directly to her. "We're a little scared, are we?" he stroked behind her ear. Asia was explaining how Ellie isn't around other people or dogs very often, and that she was especially afraid of men, but none of that didn't seem to bother this guy one bit. The young man directed us to stall #3.
To our surprise, they supplied everything we could need, and more than I knew even existed for a dog bath. We each put on plastic aprons, and watched as our host deftly removed Ellie's collar for one that attatched to the front of the elevated tub. She submitted to the warm water wand, the 'no tears' shampoo (lots of it), the conditioner and the doggie spray-cologne that smelled like flowers. All the hairs fell into a little bucket under the drain. We toweled her and blew her with a hair dryer that was a long vacuum-like tube from a little plastic red dog house. We combed and brushed her blonde fur, and dabbed the inside of her ears with a cotton ball dipped in 'ear-refresher'. It was funny to be part of 6 arms and hands busily working over one dog.
The end result was a beautifully scented fluffy Ellie with freshly clipped toenails at no extra charge. She seemed to enjoy the whole thing, in a reserved way - it was actually kind of hard to tell because she still cowered and cringed with ridiculously sad eyes. She tentatively touched noses with some of the other furiously wagging dogs without incident. They made a little index card for our return visits, and filed it under Ellie Tanner. Our 6th visit would be free. Outside, we praised her for her good behavior. She looked like a different person entirely. We were damp and spitting out hairs while our dog looked like a canine queen. At home, I worried about the dusty back porch getting her dirty. I swept it and hosed it and spent half an hour making it spic and span. We kept her inside until the 111 degree heat outside dried the porch completely, and when I let her out, I ruffled the silky scruff of her neck and took extra time petting her again and telling her how much we admired her new look.
As soon as I was in the house and shut the door, I could see her through the window watching my retreat. After 5 immobile seconds, she ran to the middle of the yard and skidded her entire right side violently across the ground. She clawed like a mad badger as she plowed her body forward, making grass, dirt and pebbles fly. I yelled at her through the glass, but it was too late. She only paused long enough to switch directions and repeat the violation to the opposite side. Tongue lolling stupidly from her grinning mouth, bits of lawn and leaves delicately settling on the tips of still fluffed fur, I realized that now I was looking at a truly happy dog.
Monday, June 12
The two women are always impeccably dressed, their cheerfulness and sincerity are truly admirable in the late afternoon heat of a Phoenix dog-day. Their visits follow a pattern. After a little chat, one will offer to share a scripture. It is intended to present something new and tantalizing. However, while it may seem foreign to mainstream Christians, it is not unfamiliar to LDS doctrine. This surprises them. A lot. The topic today was that the Lord promised to extend the life of this earth forever. "Yes," I say, "we are really looking forward to when the earth is restored to it's paradisciacal glory." (Articles of Faith, #10 Joseph Smith, Jr.)
Predictably at this point, they lose their cool slightly and both of them trip over each other trying to ask me a question they presume will stump me...letting me know that at one time one of them lived in Payson where there seemed to be a lot of "us".
The one in the background steps forward and fires away: "How do you feel about all the negative publicity your church has been getting lately?" She is openly smug behind her broad smile and arched eyebrows. "What negative publicity?" This is going to be good. I continue, "In fact, we are enjoying greater respect and influence from the media than at any previous time in history." During their stunned silence, I give a brief over-view of the world-wide humanitarian effort and the universiality of our support to it and our fellow men.
Oh, the 'fundamentalists' - now they're on track again. "They're not and we don't call them that, either." Now the first sister pipes up, "So you believe they are apostates?" I do not ignore the key word 'believe'. I explain that they have been for over a 100 years. I wonder why they don't notice my modern rhinestone-studded jeans and tailored blouse as they are speaking to me about a whack-o cult who prefers calico, braids and 13 year old brides.
I say goodbye because they are backing away and making a friendly exit. As I close the door, I wanted to hear what they were going to say to each other. I wished I was my oldest daughter, who is a brilliant missionary and disarmingly young and beautiful and articulate. They would have had something to talk about had she been the one at the door instead of me.
I wonder what motivates them to beat the sticky pavement like they do, making repeated return visits to someone like me who will not yield. It makes me wish I had something profound to say, so what faith I had to offer would be the new and tantalizing thing.
Thursday, June 8
Listening while finishing two sewing projects and a big art project satisfied my desire to accomplish some things that needed to get done, and a craving to learn more about something - anything - almost.
Returning the CD set, I recognized a title as a famous book, although I couldn't recall any specifics about the story or the author. It appealed to me nevertheless and I happily checked it out. This morning I put the first of 7 discs into my daughter's portable CD player and programmed the eliptical machine at the school gym. I was smug to know I was once again being so incredibly productive with my time.
After about 40 minutes on the eliptical, 15 min. on the stationary bike and maybe half-way through the 4th chapter of the book, I could hear my conscience literally yelling at me to do the right thing; I turned off the CD.
A clever title like "Running With Scissors" should have been so much better than this. It was disappointing that skillfully crafted narrative would yield to the 'honesty' of being really gross.
Millons of people much more educated than myself had clamored to praise this book. It was a waste of a really great title. Then I remembered I had forgotten my glasses when I was at the library, and could not read the fine print on the CD jacket. Imagine my shock and surprise to read later that this was a non-fiction memoir.
Now I have a new question; who - having apparantly survived the mother of all dysfunctional childhoods - would want to tell everyone all about it? Some things really are best left alone.
Wednesday, May 3
The Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix is the crown jewel of the city, and oozes influence and generosity: donated benches, lovely tiled plazas, state of the art exhibit rooms, and treasured items for display - every brass plaque polished and anxious to promote the name of each benefactor - duly noted. However, the names were all Anglo.
Not one room or hallway or stairwell dedicated to Yazzie, Tetsosie, Nez or Yellowknife. All the docents and tour guides were also White. The patrons lunching on the cafe patio were White, in fact, the only non-Whites I observed were a school bus driver and a woman with a dust mop and a uniform.
The exhibits were pretty predictable, sterile and nauseatingly tourist-oriented. It was a huge disappointment until I finally located an exhibit way off the main beat. It portrayed the boarding school era wherein the Federal Government detirmined to "civilize" the "savage". A topic I have studied, I was relieved to see a fair representation as one progressed deeper into the well designed exhibit areas. It is not politically correct to discuss Indians who actually loved the opportunity to learn and experience "outside" life, and even excell as many did in the 100 year history of the boarding school evolution.
I think the mark of real progress will be the day that one of their names will be featured prominately on a marble column or new elevator shaft...just kidding. They don't need a plaque. But apparently some White people do.
Friday, April 14
That pretty much was the end of play time. Ellie did a couple of half-hearted runs for us when I threw the rapidly deteriorating grapefruit for her to chase, and ultimately gave up and layed down in the grass next to her friend. I had to bring out more water for the water dish as they had both drained it completely.
When Lucy's Bill said the word "squirrel", she perked up and anxiously scanned the yard, ears shifting and her nose twitching. It was really cute. "Awh, she really loves to chase the squirrels up at the cabin," Bill said, finishing his drink. "Thanks for inviting Lucy over. She really had fun." He gave Ellie a parting scratch behind her ear as she wagged her tail. As he was leaving, he told us that after we drove away, all he had to do was tell Lucy, "Ellie!" and she took off down the street in a doggy bee-line for our house.
I was happy he mentioned that. There is something way too satisfying about learning you are so popular, or actually, that your dog is best friends with the neighbor's dog, and that she knew right where to find us from the single word cue, "Ellie".
Wednesday, April 12
It was one of those things that you say to yourself, "Man! I'm glad I saw that!" I marveled at how a stuck wheelchair could have come to anyone's attention in a dusty light-rail construction site on the other side of four lanes of crazy Phoenix traffic. And, once the predicament was sighted, that a person would be prompted to physically respond and hurry to give assistance.
Yesterday, after the National Day of Action immigration march that drew an estimated 100,000 to down-town Phoenix, Alfredo Gutierrez - a former Arizona state senator, issued a short and hostile editorial in the Arizona Republic which threatend that his people would "take up arms" should current legislation "humiliate" them and "trample" their "rights". There is a good deal of political and social action brewing in town right now that did not get the same air-time as the emotional march Monday. Eventually we will hear more from those who resent the arrogance and gross intitlement exhibited by those who feel they are above the law and deserve all the priveleges of citizenship without the effort to earn it. Sentiments expressed at the all-day rally were loud, angry and bi-lingual.
In those 4 or 5 seconds in the far West South-bound lane of 7th Avenue as I passed the wheelchair scene at 40 mph, I noticed one more thing: the good samaritan was hispanic, and the other man was white.
I'm glad I saw that.
Sunday, April 9
Now, the composition of our intimate class of 7 is this: everyone else is 20 yrs old (Oh, I forgot the 17 yr old) and I am not. They could all be my children. They like to appear very savey and sophisticated. They all had big plans for Spring Break and alcohol, and frequently go to Las Vegas with boyfriends - rolling their eyes that their parents are not happy about that - yet they fully belly-laughed when I said I liked to climb trees as a kid.
There's a lot to be said for gaining the perspective of a handy branch. I could see into Mrs. Leonard's backyard, and if I was especially daring, I could see Butch's house from my English Walnut perch. It was important to mentally size-up a tree where ever you were, as it could offer a potential day's climbing.
Seeing what was on top of our own roof was really cool, for some reason. The tennis balls and frisbees that were stranded up there stayed bleaching in the sun until the fall clean-up day when we could go on the roof with Papa and rake all the leaves off into a huge pile next to the garage. One by one he threw us off onto a trampoline. It was deliciously dangerous and the reckless bounce was so worth it. Even the kid next door - jealously watching us - was invited up and given a rake and an e-ticket dismount.
Being in squirrel and crow territory also had its merits. We were kin with the wild things. Imbedded in a leavy canopy we could spy on mom as she hung clothes on the line or supress laughter until we were dizzy from oxygen deprivation when she called for us and we didn't answer, or better yet, toss green walnuts down onto our little brothers and make them cry. It was a great irony when my older brother broke his arm, it wasn't during one of our aggressive tree-climbing expeditions, but while showing off for my mom & me on the swing set!
My class just thinks of me as the funny old lady. I think they must have suffered a very shallow childhood. Each one of them said they only played nintendo when they were little, and certainly never helped their dad with the yard work. Too bad.
Wednesday, April 5
A few minutes later on the computer screen was a photograph of my everyday china dinner plate that I had selected for my bridal registry at "Diamond's" over 30 years ago! The pattern is called 'Berries 'n Such' by Noritake. I don't know why I was so surprised it was so beautiful - because I have been looking at it almost everyday for 30 years.
As a young newlywed I had taken a little cake over to my brother's house on one of those plates. It was a silly token for a married couple's get-together, it wasn't even a legitimate cake, it was something new called "Stir 'n Frost". It was so tiny in its own little disposable paper baking pan it could have qualified as the Easy-Bake graduate model. But I was a grown-up married lady and I wanted it to look nice, so I took it out of the little paper pan and placed it carefully on my lovely china plate.
The evening didn't go so well...my sister-in-law can't play a game without cheating and she didn't even offer us a slice of the cake we had provided! Too embarrassed to mention it, we left without a taste and without my plate. Later, when I asked for my plate, she violently denied any knowledge of it. My pretty service for 8 was forever infamously reduced by 1.
When you have things because they were wedding gifts, you remember what happens to them and who gave them to you. The matching serving dishes given to me by Dr. Gibbons and his wife eventually were tragically chipped early. Four cereal bowls exited the scene one by one - utilized by anxious childish hands as water dishes for chickens in the back yard or some other equally china-at-risk endeavor. I lost 7 of my little cups all in one dramatic night - it's a dark memory. The 2 missing salad plates are mysteriously unaccounted for.
Today 2 large boxes arrived. Styrofoam static-charged 'peanuts' were never so appreciated! I slowly unpacked each of my replacement china pieces. They were beautiful. It was very emotional, this china. After 30 years you never know what will represent a marriage, a home, dreams and disappointments, a family gathered around the table.
For people who don't drink coffee, the little sugar and creamer were entirely impractical ~ but totally adorable. They, above all the other items, shouted "just because". I had actually purchased something I didn't really need just because I liked it. I should have had them all along.
Tuesday, March 28
Not forty minutes later our total fragmentation was illustrated by the hate rhetoric issuing passionately out of the mouths of my classmates, prompted by the very gentle voice of the professor who spelled out hate with the softest of voices I had ever heard from a man. The more flamboyant and reckless a student comment was, the more it was validated by the little voice at the front of the room. Our racial composition quickly presented a problem. Skin color identified us with the conquering horde or with those who were subjugated and defiled.
Logical thought, a minimal knowledge of world history, varying cultural perspectives, current events or even a cursory awareness of the nature of human behavior were not welcome as part of the "open" discussion. My interjections suggesting accountability with the kinds of myopic and chillingly angry opinions expressed were all rejected as 'insensitive'.
Yesterday, two days after my 16 year old daughter's 10th surgery since her injury almost two years previous, class discussion suddenly broke new ground; the American judicial system and the criminal sentencing process. When they began to propose there ought to be a separate court system for indigenous people in America – because anything else denies them their spiritual and cultural identity – I spoke up again, and boldly.
The perpetrator who maimed my little girl for life was a Mexican. I asked my classmates if I should be satisfied for the Mexican Consulate to step in and adjudicate for my daughter's best interests – since that would be culturally appropriate for the defendant. This viewpoint was side-stepped by reference to our chapter study guide that day (prepared by group 2) which included an all important question: did we feel guilty for what happened to the American Indian, and if not, why not? Somehow we concluded the discussion by allowing that a good American is a guilty American.
For an ideology that reverences 'balance' and 'harmony' and living 'the beauty way', the still, small voice in this case is anything but the voice of peace. It was the last thing I expected from an American Indian Religions class at the local community college.