Archives: May 2005
Tue, 31 May 2005
The Cities Inside Us
by Alberto Ríos
We live in secret cities
And we travel unmapped roads.
We speak words between us that we recognize
But which cannot be looked up.
They are our words.
They come from very far inside our mouths.
You and I, we are the secret citizens of the city
Inside us, and inside us
There go all the cars we have driven
And seen, there are all the people
We know and have known, there
Are all the places that are
But which used to be as well. This is where
They went. They did not disappear.
We each take a piece
Through the eye and through the ear.
It's loud inside us, in there, and when we speak
In the outside world
We have to hope that some of that sound
Does not come out, that an arm
Not reach out
In place of the tongue.
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Running on Empty
Sometimes reliving your youth musically can be... fun but emotionally charged.
Right now I'm listening to Jackson Browne's Running on Empty, released in 1977. I was 14 at the time, young, impressionable. Horny. Jackson Browne was like a god. His voice, his brown eyes, long hair. Never mind that he was 15 years older than me. I remember having similar crushes on Paul McCartney and Jim Morrison.
Listening to these songs is so evocative, bringing back memories of high school dances, drinking in parking lots, making out in the back seats of cars. The usual shenanigans of small town teenagers. We didn't know any better. We made what fun we could out of boredom and beer, dreaming of a life which seemed beyond us at the time.
Now the seats are all empty
Let the roadies take the stage
Pack it up and tear it down
They're the first to come and last to leave
Working for that minimum wage
They'll set it up in another town
At 14, back then, being a roadie seemed the ultimate in cool. I guess it still is for teenagers. Or maybe I just wanted to be a groupie. All the sex, drugs and rock and roll without the hard work of lifting cases. Either way, it didn't matter because I became neither. No doubt this is one small blessing for which my parents were extremely grateful.
Right now as I'm listening, David Lindley of El Rayo-X fame is singing "Won't you staa-aaa-yyyyyyy just a little bit longer" in that incredible high-pitched quaver and Jackson Browne is jumping in with his smooth as honey Californian voice:
Now the promoter don’t mind
And the roadies don’t mind
If we take a little time
And we leave it all behind and sing
One more song
Jackson Browne wrote and sang about life on the road. It couldn't have been further from my reality, but it seemed almost like an anthem to me. The words spoke to me. Anything to help get me out of where I was. There was a world out there and I wanted to find it. Running away, running on. On the road. Whatever. Whatever it took I wanted to get as far away as I could from small town Maine.
Little did I know at the time that I would succeed so well.
Listen with me: The Load Out (mp3, 8.3mb) and Stay (mp3, 4.8mb) by Jackson Browne.
Next up on reliving my youth: Squeeze. Now that's a different story altogether.
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Sun, 29 May 2005
I want a job that:
- is part-time
- pays reasonably well
- stimulates me intellectually
- provides enough challenge but not too much
- is fun
- allows me to work with nice people
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Sat, 28 May 2005
As we head into winter, I'm trying to hold on to a few images of summer.
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Ooooh. I've gotta new toy! I've gotta new toy! And no, it ain't what you're thinking, get your mind out of the gutter.
It does just about everything but, though. It's a phone, a camera, a video recorder, a desktop. It has Word and Excel. A whole bunch of games. It could have an MP3 player if I bothered to download it and install it. It has Bluetooth and god knows what else. I am geek, hear me mumble. I can walk the walk, but not talk the talk.
And it can also connect to the Internet, of course. I've been looking at y'all's journal pages while coming home on the bus, and so far, Buntsign has the best-looking, easiest-to-read journal on a PDA. Congratulations, Michael. Slipstream, on the other hand, leaves a whole lot to be desired when viewed on a tiny screen. Not that I expect many people will be sitting on the train thinking, shit, just got to look at Slipstream right NOW. Still, you never know.
This handy little PDA is actually replacing my deskphone at work, and becoming my one and only work phone. I can download files to it from our LAN, and also get my work email any time of the day or night. Hmmm. And that's good...why?
Heh, I guess one of its best features must be the Power OFF button :)
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Thu, 26 May 2005
Matthew has been home sick for the past couple days with a stomach virus that has swept through many schools here in Wellington over the past 48 hours.
In Matthew's small primary school there were at least 12 reported cases yesterday. Other schools have been hit harder, with one Anglican school in town being forced to close with more than a quarter of its students stricken. Throughout Wellington, other schools have reported large numbers of students home with the virus.
They don't know why it has hit only schools, or what has caused it to spread so quickly. The speed with which Matthew came down ill was quite alarming. He was fine the night before, and in the morning he was okay right up until we were ready to leave. Then he started to complain of an upset stomach.
At first we thought he was faking it because we were supposed to have a meeting with his teacher that morning to discuss some of his behaviour in the classroom. We thought he was pretending to be sick to avoid the meeting. But he started crying, and was insistent that he wasn't well. He became quite distraught, so I agreed that I would stay home with him. Even if he was pretending, he was obviously very upset and needed some time and attention.
A short while afterwards, he began vomiting and developed a high temperature. He couldn't keep anything down all day, not even water. I kept encouraging him to drink water, but afterwards he would vomit. There was nothing left in his stomach to bring up, so he would dry heave. It was awful.
In the afternoon he moved from the couch to his bed and slept. When he woke up in the late afternoon he seemed a little better.
Today he stayed home again. He was much better, but was still washed out and tired. At least he was able to eat and hold down some food.
It's so awful when your child is really sick. He doesn't understand why he's sick. Telling him that he'll feel better tomorrow doesn't really help right then and there. All you can really do is just hold him.
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Wed, 25 May 2005
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Sun, 22 May 2005
Profit at what cost
Marx had this theory of the alienation of labour. He believed that in capitalist societies, we are alienated from the very products of our own labour. Take food, for instance. We have shifted from small farmers and small farmers' markets to huge manufacturing plants where food is grown and produced en masse, as a commodity, to make a profit. All around us we have an abundancy of food, produced in some way by human beings, and yet we are alienated from the very stuff that keeps us alive. We are simply cogs in the process. We have no control over the final product. Marx called this alienation.
Over the past few days, I have had such an eye opening. I have truly had one of those moments of enlightenment. Before was blind, but now I see.
I discovered that approximately 95% of everything that I buy in the grocery store has additives.
Now, you might think, it's right there on the label, woman. And you'd be right. (Except when it's not on the label, but disguised as another ingredient, which also happens).
I am the first to confess that I've been an habitual non-label-reader. I'm usually in such a hurry. I rush through the supermarket, buying the things I know. Things that I know will be easy, things that my kids will like.
That doesn't mean to say that I'm not health-conscious when it comes to the weekly shopping. I always buy lean meat. I always choose meat that says "hormone-free". I always buy free-range eggs. I buy wholemeal or wholegrain breads. I buy raw brown sugar, never white sugar. I try to buy "healthy" things for my kids (yoghurts, muesli bars, muffins etc) as well as other not-so-healthy things (potato chips, cookies). I think I'm probably no different than many other busy mothers.
But for the first time ever, I went through everything in my cupboard, and actually read the labels.
Suffice it to say, I was gobsmacked.
Even the things that I had put in the "healthy" category had E numbers. Rice crackers. You can't get much healthier than rice crackers, can you? Think again. They have flavour enhancers.
Crispy dried noodles. Have MSG (E621) and artificial colouring. I ask you, why does a noodle need artificial colouring?
One of the worst offenders was the baked fruit bars I buy for the kids. Sounds healthy, doesn't it? Uses real fruit, and 97% fat free. Well, they contain more E numbers than I could shake a stick at. Thickeners, food acids, flavours, preservatives, anticaking agents, emulsifiers, stabilisers. Shit, you'd think they were building a rocket, not a fruit bar.
Needless to say, I felt more than a little guilty for being so unaware of what I have been feeding my children.
So tonight, I baked banana bread for the kids' lunchboxes tomorrow, using raw cane sugar. At least I know there's no preservatives or artificial colouring in it.
Next week, I'll be going to Commonsense Organics, an organic market in town, and doing my weekly grocery shopping there, or at least as much as I can there.
In the regular supermarket I'll be looking more closely at the "organic" section and I'll be reading the labels alot more closely on everything I buy.
It's a start.
Coming back to Marx and his concept of alienation, I leave you with two questions:
What has happened to our society and our food chain that we can no longer buy real food, but have to go out of our way, to expensive specialist shops, in order to buy food that is without chemicals and that is safe for our children?
Profit at what cost?
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Sat, 21 May 2005
The Fisherman's Catalogue : A Found Poem
by Marge Piercy
Orvis nymphs: dark hendrickson,
leadwing coachman, pale evening dun.
Cream midge. Grizzly wulff hairwing fly.
Wet flies: hornberg, quill gordon, ginger quill.
Weighted nymphs: zug bug, hare's ear, Ted's stone fly.
Caddis pupa of great brown and speckled sedge.
Pale sulpher dun thorax dry fly, Rat Faced McDougal.
King's river caddis downwing fly.
Silver doctor, green highlander, dusty miller,
black dose, rusty rat, hairy Mary
and the salmon muddler. And the popping frog.
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Joshua has this amazing "natural" mohawk. He has dark hair on the very top of his head, and blonde hair along the sides. It stands out less when his hair is longer, but with a number two cut, it really shows up.
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Fri, 20 May 2005
Today I sat for the better part of the morning, out of this grey cold drizzle of a day, tucked into the warm corner seat of a secondhand bookshop reading poetry... Ezra Pound, precise and perfect. Marge Piercy. Robert Frost. Donald Hall.
I basked in the sheer indulgence of this stolen time, undisturbed. No children. No work interruptions. Not even a nosy sales clerk asking me if I needed assistance. Which I most definitely did not.
After awhile, my eyes moved from my little pile of poetry books to the shelves to my left. "Children's Classics" had been handwritten on a piece of paper, and taped above the shelf. I was entranced. I could've spent all day there on Treasure Island or with the Swiss Family Robinson.
A few weeks ago I started making a list of the books I grew up with. I'm not sure why. I felt somehow I'd like to record this. For whom I don't know. My children, perhaps. Certainly I would love to impart to my children the same love of reading that I had as a child. I would spend hours at a time, every day, with my nose in a book.
My list looks something like this:
The Nancy Drew series
The Trixie Belden series
The Story of George Washington Carver
A Wrinkle in Time
The Bobbsey Twins
Swiss Family Robinson
Little House in the Big Woods
Island of the Blue Dolphins
My Side of the Mountain
A Child's Garden of Verses
The Little Prince
The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Call of the Wild
To Build a Fire
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.
Go Ask Alice
I would read the same books over and over again. There was such a sense of familiarity in knowing the plot and the characters. The words were like old friends that welcomed me into their lives over and over again. I felt safe in those books, happy, secure. They were a welcome escape from a less than ideal childhood.
When I finally ventured back out into the rain, my heart was lifted because I carried with me under my arm a few old friends.
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Sun, 15 May 2005
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Sat, 14 May 2005
by Tony Hoagland
On two occasions in the past twelve months
I have failed, when someone at a party
spoke of him with a dismissive scorn,
to stand up for D. H. Lawrence,
a man who burned like an acetylene torch
from one end to the other of his life.
These individuals, whose relationship to literature
is approximately that of a tree shredder
to stands of old-growth forest,
these people leaned back in their chairs,
bellies full of dry white wine and the ovum of some foreign fish,
and casually dropped his name
the way pygmies with their little poison spears
strut around the carcass of a fallen elephant.
“O Elephant,” they say,
“you are not so big and brave today!”
It’s a bad day when people speak of their superiors
with a contempt they haven’t earned,
and it’s a sorry thing when certain other people
don’t defend the great dead ones
who have opened up the world before them.
And though, in the catalogue of my betrayals,
this is a fairly minor entry,
I resolve, if the occasion should recur,
to uncheck my tongue and say, “I love the spectacle
of maggots condescending to a corpse,”
or, “You should be so lucky in your brainy, bloodless life
as to deserve to lift
just one of D. H. Lawrence’s urine samples
to your arid psychobiographic
Or maybe I’ll just take the shortcut
between the spirit and the flesh,
and punch someone in the face,
because human beings haven’t come that far
in their effort to subdue the body,
and we still walk around like zombies
in our dying, burning world,
able to do little more
than fight, and fuck, and crow,
something Lawrence wrote about
in such a manner
as to make us seem magnificent.
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Mon, 09 May 2005
This one is for Sam.
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Anything that might have been good about last week was overshadowed by a tragic event at work. A young man, Sam, the son of a close colleague, had been working with us for the past few months doing data entry. I talked and laughed with him on the Friday, signed his timesheet, told him to have a good weekend and I'd see him on Monday.
That was the last time I ever saw him. He was killed in a motorcycle crash on the Sunday. Travelling a bit too fast on a road that he was unfamiliar with, took a corner a little too wide and went straight into an oncoming car.
I will always remember him with a smile on his face, a glint in his eye, a little goatee, dressed in leathers, and carrying a helmet. He had a rebellious streak in him, but was also very kind and polite.
My colleague, Paul, quite understandably, is completely devastated. His youngest son dead. Only 20 years old. Difficult to even begin to comprehend the grief.
So last week was a week of mourning and ritual.
On Monday we had a karakia (prayer service) at work, headed by our Chief Executive.
On Wednesday a group of us from work visited Paul and his family at home, where his son's body was lying in state. We are an imposing group, en masse, mainly Māori (not me, of course, but most of the others), all dressed in black. We cried, one by one, as we greeted Paul and hugged him. We said a karakia (prayer), and then sang waiata (songs). Accompanied always by guitar, we serenaded Sam's body for the better part of two hours. I wish you could hear the beautiful songs that were sung in Māori. It is such a beautiful language, and the voices of many of my workmates are nothing short of stunning.
On Friday, there was a Requiem Mass for Sam, his mother being Catholic. It was the first time I have ever been to a Catholic mass. It was long and emotional. The eulogy was particularly heart-wrenching. Each of Sam's older brothers and sister spoke so eloquently of their kid brother.
So now, tomorrow, there is one final service at work. A karakia whakawatea - a sort of spiritual cleansing of the area that Sam worked in. It is intended to drive away sadness.
I will be glad when this final service is over. I am drained and completely ritual'd out.
I said my goodbyes to you, Sam, when I visited your home. I touched your body, but you were not there.
I have touched a dead body in the past, so I knew what to expect, but I was still startled at the coldness and the hardness. It is so unlike anything I can describe. Chilling. The touch of death is unlike any cold I have ever felt. But I was consoled by the fact that I knew you were no longer there.
Sam, I know you are in a good place now. Be well and don't raise too much hell up there. No doubt you already have the angels dressed in leather and are piercing their eyebrows.
Haere rā, e hoa, ma te Atua koe e tiaki.
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