Wednesday, November 28

Station Wagon Wars

There it was, look at it! Larger than life - almost braggin’!

Oh, yeah, I sure need someone to explain something here ~

right smack on the back of her mom’s station wagon,

a “JOHNSON for PRESIDENT” bumper sticker!

“What’s wrong with you, gee - has your dad gone nuts?!”

Boiling hot and indignant with GOLDWATER fever,

a second-grade friendship teetered painfully balanced

on a sidewalk of the civil arena.

Wounded, my best friend’s tears spoke a transcendent truth;

in just so many words, (of which I quickly took note),

grown-ups have a right to their political views ~

and little kids ~ don’t vote.

* My girlfriend Aviva received the brunt of my critical out-burst while her mom waited for her in the offensively decorated family coach..I am really glad I felt the sting of self-reproach the instant I saw my friend’s eyes well up with hot, hurt tears. I never brought it up again. I already knew the Lees were good people. I had been at their house so many times I could have been Cindy Lee. Her mom's 'West Side Story' record album was like the holy grail to me; I was drawn to the cover to admire Natalie Wood perched on the fire escape. If we asked her to, Aviva's mom would play that for us and I thought she was the most cultured woman on the planet. Our brief confrontation was definitely an early lesson in allowing others their own self-expression.

This was the infamous Johnson / Goldwater presidential race of 1964. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas ran on the Democratic ticket, and Senator Barry M. Goldwater from Arizona was the Republican candidate.

No little kid could have been more supportive than I was, reverently watching my dad carefully peel the wax paper backing from his blue and gold “Goldwater for President” bumper sticker. As a dedicated contributor to the Goldwater campaign, Papa actually played a role as a Southern California campaign strategist that I would not be aware of until many years later. At the time, though, it seemed all that mattered in the world was that Papa said Mr. Goldwater was the best man for the job. It didn’t hurt that the bumper sticker was so beautiful, either. I thought it was a lovely compliment to the rear chrome bumper of his brand new Benton blue tailfin Cadillac.

~ this is the title poem from the 'Station Wagon Wars' collection

Friday, November 23

November 23, 1963

We were at the end of the drive
(at the Jellico house)

feeling strangely cold inside,

even though the sun was out.

Mindful of what had happened yesterday
in children’s language, this ~
wondering how the whole world had changed ...
and I was only six.

* Some events in life are so significant, you remember where you were with a bright intensity; who you were with, what day of the week it was, what it smelled like, every detail frozen in time forever. This was just such an event. “Where were you when you heard - ?” is all it takes, and the memory is an instant recall, full-color experience all over again.

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Even though I was so young(and in spite of the fact that my home was filled with Republican rhetoric), to know that someone - anyone, would want to hurt our President was terribly scary.

*from Station Wagon Wars by CTanner, excerpt

Thursday, November 15

James Bond

Oh! Can you dig it?
We just went to see “Goldfinger”
the new 007 movie,

Danny and I got extra-butter popcorn.
Eyes adjusted to the dark
swinging our legs in our seats,
when suddenly,
barely after the start ~

there’s this naked lady on the screen!
I mean, she was turned to solid gold
like Midas, everywhere -!
(Groovy scene!)
It made us STARE,

until Papa told us loudly, “OK, let’s go!”
and we all got up
and filed out, slow -
missing the movie of the century!

getting over it

* What was papa thinking ~ taking all of us little kids to see this movie? Naturally, we had to lie like dogs to our friends the next day at school about how “boss” the movie was so they wouldn’t know that we really didn’t get to see the whole show. It was humiliating. Our salvation clearly was the fact that we had gotten an eye-full of the naked gold lady prior to our being excused to higher moral ground.

A glorious accompaniment of the Cold War, secret agent themes provided a new definition of ‘action’ film. Notably different from traditional John Wayne war movies was the fact that secret agents had to lead a double-life; they were naturally more comfortable in glamorous society with beautiful girls draped over each arm. No jungle booby-trap or slimey fox-hole could begin to compete with those fabulous spy accessories - ! It was a celebration of gadgetry straight out of the comic books.

Goldfinger was the third James Bond film, starring Sean Connery. The movie opened in the U.S. Dec. 22, 1964. Spy-mania was “ in “! Every cool kid had to have a collection of swell secret agent specialties, just like Secret Agent 007.

*from "Station Wagon Wars" ~ growing up in the 60's by CTanner, excerpt

Wednesday, November 14

Culture Clash

Race relations are hardly an American issue, nor is it "news" as in something new and unexplored. However, for me, it has been a topic of serious reflection this week.

A total stranger blogged about our little family internet shop with a link to the same, mocking my 'racial ignorance' based entirely on a handmade whimsical design for a $15 craft can. The title of the blog: "i AM black".

My initial response was pretty much what a heart-attack must feel like. Not only was the accusation a dizzyingly cheap-shot, but it was also a total surprise! Up until the day I was invited by the author to view the blog, I had received nothing but generous e-mails exclaiming "I love it!" as more racial stereotypes were added to the design by request. We have since kissed and made up and the modified design featuring "afro puffs" and dreads is on its way to Atlanta via the U.S. postal system.

What's going on? I am not addressing the hip-hop culture of thug-celebrity, or ghetto stagnation where women and children are abandoned by Black men in a cycle of poverty from which there is rarely an escape. What about educated Blacks; buying condos, working in corporate America and shopping at Ikea ~ main-streaming with the rest of us who are enjoying self-expression on our P.C.'s in our spare time? Are they really still so angry? A revealing study on NPR yesterday basically agrees that "they" are: ...with a major difference~the relative satisfaction with life of Blacks polled is directly related to class distinction, not race.

Is it a regional thing? I'm sure that makes a significant difference. My new friend in Atlanta still encounters the Confederate flag on a regular basis. Plantation mansions are listed on the historic registry and many families are direct descendants of the civil war era who have remained in home territory for generations. But the accusing blogger was not an Atlanta native. The assumption I was racially ignorant or worse was based primarily on the fact I had not offered a totally Black representation in the design in the first place, since I knew my client was Black. But who would do that?! Is it only White-American culture that prohibits me from presuming ethnic stereotypes are appropriate for an ethnic client?

Two other scenarios weigh-in: a) the client is racist b) my ethnic artwork is lacking authenticity. Both have potential merit. As for drawing racial features, I have a letter from a children's curriculum editor in my portfolio praising my ability to depict a wide variety of races and cultures with sensitivity and realism. The generous apology I eventually received spoke for itself; the client admitted being racially motivated without substance to do so. I had over-reacted as well, and likewise apologized. The Race Card had been extremely hurtful to me - yet obviously something comfortable for the client to pull without warning. One of the weak justifications initially offered was that the blog meant to teach me how to appropriately interact with a Black person.

I still have a greeting card some Navajo friends sent us a few years ago. Two dumb-founded Indians were asking a wide-eyed pilgrim, "Why you use poison ivy for toilet paper?" Inside the card read, "Happy Thanksgiving".

I thought it was really funny.

Saturday, November 10

Everything is Better Nowdays

I remember my mom taking my little brothers to the barber for a haircut. That's what the intention was ~ it usually involved an exhausting struggle between man and beast that always left me admiring how someone wasn't minus an ear afterwards. I hope my mom tipped the poor barber, because he sure deserved a down-payment on a house or something. But that was then: stained white tunics, outdoor magazines, rows of long, sharp scissors and towering pump-action chairs with the elevator-booster seat and nothing to safely strap in the hapless little begger...nothing at all...Now take Jack-Jack, our grandbaby extraordinaire. This was a few months ago his mommy introduced him to his very first professional haircut. So far so good; the model is about right, the fit is a little tight, and the color ain't bad...Geeeze! This isn't bad at all! Mom and Dad were giving me vibes on the way over here like you wouldn't believe - and what's to worry about? I was made for a day like today, baby! O.K., so I hafta wear this goofy cape, so what? I kinda think it suits me. What do you think?
Wait a minute...wait - um, what's that buzzing noise? You're going to do what with that thing?
No! No! No! This isn't fun anymore - and just look at my hair!
E tu, Brutus? Mom! You don't know what you're doing! She's evil, I tell you!
So, this is good. A little fuzzy...Things are really shaping up around here. A little noisy, but tasty. Ew. And double ew.FINALLY home again! Welcome to my turf, homie. This is my stuff. Everything you see here belongs to me and I'm gonna push it real good when ever I feel like it, see? And no, I don't need pants - but thanks for noticing! Now get outta the way, will ya?
An' I don't need any cute comments about my hair, see? Got a problem w'that? Sheesh! What a day!

For the next Nobel Peace Prize I would like to nominate the genius who invented the carbarberchair and thought of combining cut hair fragments and suckers in the same breathing space. Thank you!

Thursday, November 8

Bobcat Heros

The Bobcat crew is the best thing since sliced bread! Here is the 'after' shot.

I can't believe I missed witnessing the expert speed-gobbling of my sweet pile. You can see the truck at the end of the street.

He saw me taking pictures of his work. Suddenly a full-blown garbage truck was speeding towards me faster than anything with that amount of bulk should.

"What's wrong?" he bellowed, jumping down from his massive terminator truck. His presence blocked the sun and seemed more than appropriate. I took a step back. Then he said, "Did you want me to rake these leaves?"

This was not the regular guy; there were no straw campesino hats or bandannas for him. He didn't listen to my explanation that I just wanted a picture for my blog. He was really busy.

Here is his buddy who came whipping Nascar style down the street to find out what happened to him. Look at my cute little Bobcat! Not him, the tractor. (Well, actually it's a Kubota. That fact is just as plain as day.) Maybe I should say, "Ah-so."

When I raised my camera, he squealed backwards in that thing to hide behind the truck, throwing his arm in front of his face. "I don't want no law-suit!" he cried. "It's O.K., I love you guys and what you do!" I said, offering the sacred coke tribute as you can also plainly see.

This proved a winning strategy. Now he's happy. Thanks, Bobcat crew! You may never know what you mean to America!

Monday, November 5

Porch Pest Fest

I am Ralph, the Roof Rat
I am beeautiful, I am furry.
With me tiny little paws
I can scamper in a hurry.
No need, though, for hasty habits
All I needs is more than handy-
The Tanner's place (lovely people),
is just loaded with top rate "rrrat candy".

Them citrus trees is packed
with sloppy fruit so delicious ~
you'd think those folks are never
even slight-e-ly suspicious,
That we play, we frolicks ~
We gnaw: we can't get us enough
of giant, tasty blocks
of that green or yellow stuff.

We invite our pals to try some,
we share and share alike.
We never knows what hits us,
when we feel that poison "spike"! * photos by Ray & DCT

Friday, November 2

Garbage, Home & The Unsinkable Mrs. Li

THIS is what I'm talkin' about: a truly respectable pile of garbage! (Can you see the little white, patent leather girl's shoe up on top of the block wall? That just appeared out of nowhere weeks ago on top of our mailbox). The Bobcat crew is in the neighborhood. They're early. They mean business. So do I. My junk hidden in the back yard was quickly transferred to accessorize the ju-jubee trimmings like so many cardboard, air-conditioner filter, roof rat doody greasy rag jewels. Not more than 32 minutes later, I hear the car pull up. Yes! A garbage-digger is pawing through our pile!

Check out the London Flog jacket, the nice car, the white older male; none of which support the garbage-digging profile. After a good 5 minutes of rearranging nasty things, he got away with 2 or 3 disposable cartons you use for left-overs in the fridge.

Since I am outside and armed with a camera, follow me. The Indian Corn on the door has been up there since last Halloween. Here is our very beautiful fake spider web. I took 3 pictures of a cute real spider waiting nearby, but none of them came out.

These are a few of the fake spiders.

This is only one example of the precious block wall we murder living plants to protect.

Here is the flowering shrub I told you about. Doesn't it look menacing?

And this is what the purple flower sort of looks like (sorry for the blur)on the luscious vine that USED to trail heavily over the ugly block wall in a generous cascade of these sweet flowers and large, classic leaves. You can see why this thing had to go. Seriously.

Conveniently enough, last night Ms. Li saw our door open as I was greeting our next-door neighbor Stella who stepped in to visit. She came scrambling over to interrupt and issue new orders: "You take out dead oleander in corner. Lady (the property behind us) say it fire hazard. She no want to see dead branches. O.K.?" I said, "As in...?" "You cut, you take down." (The pretty white lattice work is part of the neighbor's yard behind us). "Mrs. Li, that's your responsibility."

I reminded her that half our giant oleander hedge has been dead for almost a year from the blight, a bacteria. Like this section, for example:
I was acutely aware of the neighbor's little boy who speaks mostly Russian and Mrs. Li's grandson rushing Rachel's bedroom in tandem while we adults were distracted. I could hear the rustling sound of candy being pillaged. "I get so much trouble when I pay for help, you know? They always complaining, complaining I pay too less. But you cut please, O.K.? I get man come for rest when can do. You cut, O.K.?" I told her we'd "try".

She left with the rent money in its customary white envelope in hand. "MI-CHAEL!" she screamed while smiling and waving good-bye. Michael ran out with candy in his fists. He said, "HE gave it to me!" when his grandma asked where he got it. Oh! O.K. A few minutes later Stella left pushing her baby in the stroller, her little boy barely able to walk impeded by Rachel's Halloween candy crammed into his pockets. We didn't say anything.

I don't know if Ray felt generous, or if 2 little boys were simply unstoppable. Mrs. Li is unstoppable.