Saturday, August 8, 2009

Building domesticity

By coming to Minnesota and staying for a long while, voluntarily or not, we built up a new house. A home, a place we call ours and that, as long as possible, not only does it satisfy our basic needs but also our taste.

This is something I've been thinking a lot about. About what is temporary and what is permanent. About how much is worth spending, investing, and putting up with. Adapting ourselves to a new environment, partly; adapting the environment to us, too. And how this relationship is a dynamic phenomenon - how oneself is a dynamic phenomenon -, and how something that seemed essential in the past now is accessory, and vice versa.

So a year ago, before we left, we made a list of objects we considered vital and we brought them along or we bought them the moment we got here. Winter clothing and some furniture: dining table and chairs, sofas and coffee tables, shelves, bed and mattress. And many accessories, tableware, cleaning products, bed clothes... Also a new computer for me, with all the little big options (model, capabilities, operative system) and new photo camera. It's curious, so so curious, to realize that "useful" and "necessary" are such independent concepts: no one would contest the utility of funnels, but those we bought at Ikea are still like new. The rain coats we brought with us were never used. I saved, maybe 20 dollars in more than than 1.000 of the final price in my computer by not choosing a nice cover and now, every time I look at it I thing, gosh, that's so ugly.

Useful... but how about what is necessary? If I had to make a list of what I really need in one day, or a week, a month or a season, it is startling to prove how many useless (sorry, unnecessary) things I've accumulated.

After the winter ended, and spring, and summer, the student population renovated itself actively. Many of the students graduated from the universities in the metropolis and returned to their homes, in other cities and other countries. The dumpsters were brimming with furniture and appliances in perfect shape. The list of sales in housing cooperatives filled our eyes. The question rose again: what do we really need of all this? And because so many times what is offered is free, the temptation to take it and decide after whether we need it or not, is strong.

And like Oscar Wilde, we resist everything but temptation.

This is how we've been witnesses of our home, empty and minimalist a year ago, getting filled with object of varied nature. And now, fortunately, it seems like our home. Or better said, a home of ours.

To begin with, we hated the echo and the empty walls. So we went out in the quest for things to hang. Flyers and cards from the newspaper or give outs from coffee shops at first, and more recently, textiles. The first textiles to arrive were some curtains pretty much the same color as the walls, courtesy of the car's previous owners. They are not very useful darkening the place (isn't that curtains ultimate purpose?), but I believe they absorb a little of the noise and the reflect the heat. The dining room's wall has a sheet (yes people, that's a bed sheet) with a design that reminds me of african but was bought at Free Tibet. There we also bought there a little embroidered tapestry, with tiny mirrors. In another place of tibetan influence (seems Tibetan is big here in Minnesota) we got three long scarves that we hung in the wall behind the bed. They are badly cut but I still like them. We bought a carpet (a combined moment of weakness with a low price), and the following week we were given another one, both from Ikea.

I think we reached the quota of textiles needed to absorb noise, temperature and a good deal of dust too.

Once we were offered a chest of drawers of objectionable quality and in calamitous state. It had the two tale tell signs of the low quality furniture: 1. a dark wood looking plastic veneer (as if I was going to think that's solid oak), and 2. antique gold looking hardware (oh yeah, and that must be real gold). It has a third one, actually, and it's that it looks as if it had nine drawers, but it's only five. Like a clumsy trompe l'oeil. A monument to tacky-tude, if you ask me.

Disheartened by the verification that I needed, yes, I totally needed that eyesore in my daily life, I opted to buy a can of paint and cover its ugliness. It still was ugly so I went on and also painted the nondescript Ikea bed (and afterward got the textiles), and since it's all of the same hue it doesn't scream for attention as it used to. That's where it's its usefulness. The usefulness of living surrounded of things one doesn't despise aloud and in which creation (or current aspect) one's creativity and handyman-ness were involved. This is how we became owners of the bedroom, adapting it not only to our needs but also to our taste.

There is a last thing about our bedroom I'd like to mention today. The window faces the east, so we're delighted by the morning sun. We're also delighted but the corner streetlight at night. We live delighted and enlightened, and the darkness to fall asleep was hard to get. Two friends gave us a blackout curtain, but the light flooding from 4 sides was still too much, so Fefo built an edging from cardboard. It's certainly not what you'd call glamorous, but it works perfectly. I wanted to paint it too, but Fefo suggested leaving it alone, so it goes on nonchalantly cardboard color and all.

Given this apartment is designed for people who can't cook, and was built in a time when microwave ovens didn't exist, the kitchen almost has no countertop room for anything (less a microwave oven). It has, indeed, something that seems very common: an elephant sized sink. I used to think it was an exclusive horror piece of our lodgings, but turns out it isn't. Maybe they were cheaper... who knows? So to make do for this lack of room, Fefo salvaged 3 shelves from a dumpster and built a small table. We went to Menard's looking for a thingy or whatisnameisgotit to hold all three pieces, and it was yours truly who suggested getting a square sheet of ply wood. It does work much better than the metal anglers we had originally in mind.

Some time later, the people who sold us their car gave us one of those tall racks designed to hold a sound system. We don't have any sound system to accommodate there, but it's great to hold glasses, cups, the cutlery set and the pans. It also has some tiny invisible wheels, so you can move it around to clean the floor or reach for that important paper that fell off the back. It's kind of ugly and I thought about covering its plastic veneered pride, but so far I've left it alone.

Recently a Malayan acquaintance moving out of state offered us his microwave oven, its rack and other miscellanea. The oven went to the homemade table (and looks as if it had been born there) and the rack is our landing strip and street shoe rack. It now holds boots and a box with gloves and scarves.

When I finally got to store my underwear in the formerly extenuatingly ugly drawer chest (currently simply ugly), the box with divisions under the bed got free and I thought about dumping it. But I thought it over and realized this Dell Computer box with its flaps cut off and used as inner division walls makes a great place to store my shoes (mostly flat sensible shoes). Yes, and I can move all my shoes with one swift movement to clean the floor of the closet.

I'm not very sure this is how everybody's minds work, or if this is born out of necessity. I don't know if forgetting about the original intention and just getting to see the object, its bare functionality and potential happens everyday or just when you have to make do with things and no money at all. But it makes me feel like a genius when I manage to solve a new problem with old objects, doesn't that happen to you, too?

Whenever I read people criticizing Ikea or any other furniture maker I think, designers are supposed to make things more livable but it's up to us who actually do the living, and that's a bit of a responsibility to.

It's us, with our wits and our ever changing requirements and tastes, the ones who take credit for turning grandma's old vanity into a linen chest and counters for the until then empty kitchen, and then years later, when the moths are eating it up we salvage the drawers fronts to make shelves for that child's room nook, and save the old brass handles to give the perfect touch to that closet or making a new key hanger.

I love shopping as much as the next person, but I simply can't compare the immense satisfaction painting, repurposing and salvaging give me. That satisfaction, I call, making my home my own.


You can see some pictures of the projects here

Exercise 4: Listening

When my sister and I were kids, and on Sunday afternoons my dad would take us for a walk, my biggest worry was that I wasn't good enough at math. Everyone at school is better and faster than I, was my complaint. (Had I had Spelling Bees contests I would have crowned myself the queen bee, but unfortunately there weren't any around).

So well. In one of those walks my father told me that I didn't have to worry about being the fastest or had my homework perfectly done for the sake of it, but that the importance of math (for someone aged 8) had to be able to know if the money was enough at the store, or how much time and at what rate I had to save money in order to purchase something (a doll or a book, the summit of my then ambitions). What actually matters is how you deal in real life, he told me while our legs swallowed blocks and blocks.

Flash forward to a decade later, which I spent entirely studying two foreign languages at the same time, and occasionaly three. I was always good at it, but my grades never shone. Partly because of a private method of learning (I would focus my energies in class and never submitted a piece of homework until the advanced courses), which for some reason wasn't very popular among my teachers, and partly because I would always perform quite poorly in one of the four tests.

Basically, foreign languages courses are built around four linguistic competences: to speak, to listen, to read and to write (to express oneself and to understand others, in other words). Since I've always been an avid reader and I have good memory for words, when I spoke I could summon words I had never heard, and when I wrote, I was using ideas I had actually already read somewhere else. But going through the listening exercises was always extremely difficult: I would lose focus the moment the teacher would press PLAY, and I have never been able to watch a film without captions. I once sat for a listening only test and failed. And though the grumpiness of having failed lasted for about 8 years (and when it worn out I sat again and passed), I never truly worried about not having great marks because of having a carrot stuck in my ear, because what actually matters is how you deal in real life.

Flash forward to yet another decade later. I went down my path well far from courses, classrooms, exams and every other student life paraphernalia. In real life's full swing I've been around a year and a half submerged in the English language and I still struggle on the phone or trying to understand what people say on the radio. Let's admit I don't try too hard, but in the back my head I've always wondered... would I be up to it if I really had to? Or was I truly that bad?

And then, in an unpredictable twist of events and the ruling order of the universe and the movement of the planets, last week, the real life took care of my question.

I began a temporary job in a call center, taking calls in English and French and collecting information from clients from a certain european home appliances manufacturer. A certain line of products may have a defective piece and those clients are entitled to a free replacement, so I basically have to write down names, telephone numbers, addresses in Canada and the United States (the manufacturer deals later with that information), and no, I don't have to ask madam, are you sure it's plugged? It's for 8 hours a day, 3 days a week, in an office far from home but driving is not such a big deal.

I uncork my ear, and on top of that, they pay me for that. Wouldn't it have been great if they had paid me, years ago, when I was preparing for the Proficiency test?


You can read a Spanish version here:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Beautiful wool

The English language has the benefit of being the source of many words widely known in other languages, which in English sometimes have both the original and the current meaning. One of those little words is shop, which alludes to a place of storage, trade or manufacturing of goods. In extension, it also means selling point and as a verb, it means either to select and or to buy. An atelier is a place where people work, e.g., a workshop. The Henry Ford factory published a book titled Shop theory which I had in my hands, and no, it's not about going shopping.

Shop is the best word I can think of to describe Bella Lana, a small store not far from my home. Since January I've taken some of the classes they offer, and I'll proceed to share my thoughts and pictures of my projects.

The first class was New Knitters. I already had some notions but it became obvious that I had plenty of basic information to learn. I learned two different ways to cast the stitches in the needle, I refreshed the basic knit and purl stitches, and also how to cast off. The most interesting part was to learn to read the materials tags, and try needles of different materials. I really liked the ones made of bamboo, but I could also try of steel, aluminum, wood and plastic.

In this first class I knitted a scarf in Ella Rae Classic wool, from Romania, in two shades of green, and for the termination I used crochet (I had started the second class). I used bamboo needles number 7, of 4.5 mm of diameter. The buttons were Federico's idea, and the width of the scarf is the length of his neck. When Federico wears the scarf he winds it around his neck and fastens both buttons (I say it looks like a cataplasm but he finds it very comfortable); when I wear it I prefer fastening the buttons to the coat and fastening the coat's to the scarf's eyelets - it stays in place and it doesn't squeeze my neck.

The second class, Crochet, was really hard. The other students flew by and I could hardly cast a stitch after the other. It somehow makes sense because I've never been too attracted to crochety lace, so I understand it wouldn't worry me that I didn't manage. But it was almost a revelation to discover the virtues of the simple crochet fabric, and the versatility of the technique. The instructor used wool, thread, pearls, wire and other elements and it dazed me.

In this class I knitted a little bag in lilac Cascade wool, from Peru, and I used an aluminum hook number 6, G, of 4.25 mm. I afterwards knitted another one in acrylic yarn. First a foundation chain is cast and then half double crochet is knitted in circles, until taste, common sense or the end of the yarn dictate it should finish.

I also learned to join pieces using crochet, which along the termination techniques were the most practical thing about the class.

The most ambitious project I undertook so far was a sweater. I also enrolled in a class, My First Sweater, which was a good idea taking into account all the difficulties I came across and all the help I needed. I used Ella Rae again, and I used needles number 8 for the ribbing and number 7 for the rest of the body. The neck was knitted with a round needle number 7. I joined the front and the back using three needles on the shoulders and crochet (with my faithful green hook) on the sides. I began the sleeves by the ribbing, and I joined them to the body using three needles on the last row and crochet on the rest. The neck was the last thing I did: with the rest of the sweater ready I picked the stitches from the base and I knitted a ribbing identical to the one on the bottom.

It took me a great deal of hard work to finish the sweater and I'm not totally happy. As a matter of fact the original pattern was OK, but I didn't like the shoulders so the instructor searched for another pattern shoulders (which I did like) and altered mine, creating an hybrid.

I still haven't worn it. I was planning on having it ready for my birthday, but that couldn't be.

The reckless adventure called me and I decided to tackle a project on my own, following a pattern's instructions. I went to the Library and I checked out thousands of books (maybe not that many, but quite a few anyway).

Among these I selected a crochet scarf. Not hyper difficult, but with a little flavor of its own. I'm using Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift in Blue Danube and Clyde Blue, and a bamboo crochet hook of 2.75 mm.

While I carry my experiment as independent knitter, I'm also learning a technique I never saw anyone using in Uruguay (maybe I'm with my head in the clouds or maybe nobody uses it): it's double pointed needles. The goal is to be able to knit small things in tube shapes, in which the seam would be very uncomfortable or unsightly (hats, gloves and socks). With the same yarn I'm using for the scarf, I'm knitting a pair of mittens, with bamboo needles number 4, of 3.5 mm. The design is a little heavy (it aims to use a lot of yarn so it's warmer), which I tried a little ago in two needles. It's difficult, but not impossible.

I've just begun the ribbing of the first mitten, so it's not easy to see how it goes. These needles remind me of Mikado pieces, and an extra needle is used to knit the stitches. Once the initial surprise is overcame, it's a lot like knitting in two needles.


Knitting is a curious activity. A lot of people insist it's relaxing, but in me it has the opposite effect, like revving an engine. Almost self hypnotic, after knitting for a while my ideas are in order and I get energized to face the tasks I like the least. I can't imagine this activity as practical or economical (its original purposes, right?), but I'm amazed by its expressivity and also, the tactile feeling of the physical result of the many hours spent in work.

Federico insisted for a long time that he wanted something knitted by me. Now he has it (one scarf among many), he wears it and says it makes him happy. The instructors at Bella Lana (owners too), Cornelia and Karin, say there's nothing like the satisfaction and feeling of achievement of wearing garments made by oneself. I'm not sure about that, but I enjoy knitting and I plan on doing it for a while. It seems like a forgiving, non judgmental lifelong companion, which can be picked up time and time again and holds no hard feelings.

For now, I gather materials, ideas and knowledge.

We'll see what happens then.


This post was originally written in Spanish, in

Monday, July 20, 2009

True indeed

(...) Whatever else the peacetime service is good for, it can provide an excellent introduction to the structure of society at large. It becomes evident even to a young mind that often unacknowledged divisions in civilian life find clear and immediate expression in the military distinction between "officers" and "men". One makes the amazing discovery that grown adults walking around with college educations, wearing khaki and brass and charged with heavy-duty responsibilities, can in fact be idiots. And that working-class white hats, while in theory capable of idiocy, are much more apt to display competence, courage, humanity, wisdom, and other virtues associated, by the educated classes, with themselves. (...)

Thomas Pynchon, 1984

From Slow Learner (anthology), Introduction.


Maybe it was because I've never been in the military that I have witnessed idiocy and greatness indistinctly in higher and lower classes. Or maybe it was because I haven't really mingled with what Pynchon must have alluded to as working and educated classes, or maybe I just have too much education around -- around, not inside.

I shared the feeling of "amazing discovery" of something so rampantly obvious, though. In my case it was with some disappointment (I hoped education to save me irrevocably from stupidity), I don't know what Pynchon thought of it at the time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Michael... who?

Michael Jackson's death seems to be the only news of the season and everyone is trying to make a point on his legacy to popular culture, unable to avoid the scandals that surrounded him in the last 15 years. Add to it that it's summer and nothing else is going on, and you have a recipe for disaster.

To denounce the tsunami of bad taste that's making company to Jackson in his path to the beyond, I'll just quote a comment from a KSTP journalist: "and here, while his brothers take his coffin to the stage, we witness the last time that Jackson Five will ever share a stage". Oh boy! that was just creepy.

But I would like to mention some other 50 year old guy, also deceased during the last week of june, whose work and notice have been unfairly overshadowed. The joe in question was Billy Mays and he was the undisputed king of the infomercials, the late night tv stars.

I am the first to admit that I found Mays annoying as a bumblebee the first time I paid any attention to his commercials. Maybe the fifth time I saw him singing praises to OxiClean, and after a very clumsy spanish speaking piece (he was OBVIOUSLY speaking phonetic spanish and didn't seem to have a clue of what he was saying) I got to think that this man was embodying the american dream. Maybe not that perfect picture from the 50's, but an updated and slightly perturbed version. Of a fix for every problem, self-help addicted, bulletproof good mood, a little neurotic. And that's how I started paying some attention to his tv appearances.

While it is true that I never felt the faintest inclination to buy anything he was offering, the naivete of the situations made me laugh. That's like fairy tales for grown ups, I always thought, you buy that soap and your life will be better. But Mays won me with two pieces, one even more absurd than the other, that you can watch by clicking here and here.

The office add gave me the clue that Mays had sarcasm in his vocabulary. And the bearded family one, that he could laugh at anything starting with himself. Beat that, Michael Jackson, beat that or... beat it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Oniric journal

One day I decided to keep a journal of my dreams and that night I couldn't sleep.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Grandma doesn't live here anymore

When I was six years old, my maternal grandmother returned to Uruguay after some years spent in Europe and Central America in political exile. We had already met once but she had always been a presence in our home with letters, pictures, presents and phone calls. It wasn't until that moment that I learned what she did for a living, though. She was a French teacher.

She had always loved the french language. Nobody in her family spoke it nor did she have any French ancestors, but she won a complete scholarship and made good use of it. One day she told me that it was with great sacrifice that her parents spared the tramway fare, so she would walk when the weather was fine. There was hardship but like two of her sisters, she got a long way down the path she chose.

She passed all of her exams with honors and she became a teacher at 18 years old. Pictures of the time show a slender young lady, with decided features and a sunny smile. It was really her. I've met men, elder men, who recall her and her two sisters. Those sisters were so intelligent, so interesting, they always say and I'm surprised they don't mention beauty.

She met my grandfather, they got married, they had children. She was the French instructor of many classes in Uruguay, Switzerland, Andorra and Mexico.

When she and my grandfather came back from exile, all her grandchildren were already born and old enough to learn so she tried hard to pass on her love for this beautiful language. I was the only one who was interested, who made some effort. When she passed away fifteen years later I kept all her french books, those of grammar and linguistics she had especially given to me but also any book written in french I happened to find among her stuff.

Obsessively I treasured those books all these years even if I never read them, even if they were yellowing paperback editions. But one day I changed my mind.

Because I realized that grandma doesn't live there anymore.

Too bad, cause I still miss her.


This post was originally written in French, for exam practice. You can read it below.

Grand-mamman n'habite plus ici

Quand j'avais six ans, ma grand-mère est retournée en Uruguay aprés quelques ans dans l'exile. Je la connaissais déjà, et sourtout, elle avait été toujours présente chez nous avec des lettres, des photographes, des cadeaux et des coups de fils. Mais ce n'était qu'à ce moment là que j'ai apprit ce que ma grand-mère faisait, quelle profession elle avait. Elle était professeure de Français.

Elle avait toujours aimé la langue française de toutes ses forces. Personne dans sa famille le parlait et elle n'avait des ancêtres français non plus; mais elle avait gagné une bourse pour l'étudier et elle en profita. Elle me racconta un jour que c'était un grand effort pour ses parents le payer le tram tous les jours donc elle faisait la marche à pied quand il faisait beau. Mais comme deux de ses soeurs, elle allât loin le chemin qu'elle choisit.

Elle réussita à tous les examens et elle devint professeure aux 18 ans. Les photos de cette époque montrent une jeune femme mince comme un fil, les traits décidés, le sourire limpide. C'était bien elle. J'ai rencontré des hommes, des vieux hommes, que se rappellent toujours d'elle et ces deux soeurs. Qu'elles étaient des femmes interessantes, dissent-ils toujours, et je suis étonnée qu'ils ne parlent pas de la beauté.

Elle a rencontré mon grand-pére, ils se mariérent, ils eurent des enfants. Elle fut la professeure de Français de beaucoup de générations d'étudiants, ici en Uruguay, en Suisse, en Espagne, et au Mexique.

Quand elle retourna, tous ses grands-fils étions nés et grandits, et elle essaiya de nous transmettre son amour por cette belle langue étrangére. Je fus la seule à m'en interesser, à faire l'effort. Quand elle mourut, quinze ans aprés, j'ai gardé tous ses livres de Français, ceux qu'elle m'avait confiés mais aussie n'importe quel livre français.

Obsessivement, je les ai conservés pendant ces ans même si je ne les ai lus, mais j'ai changé d'idée. Parce que je me suis rendu compte que grand-maman, elle n'habite plus ici.

Dommage, car elle me manque encore.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rubber dream

Though my experience with ice hockey has been short and it is exclusively that of one spectator I followed this year's Stanley Cup playoffs with great interest, and even got tangled up in a FaceBook thread with 3 other people attempting to guess the scores and the winner of each series. I was right quite a few times in my predictions and wrong even more often but the thing is, I watched game 7 of the finals in a state of absolute excitement. The last week of the playoffs I understood the exact meaning of "feeling antsy".

But then it was over; on Friday 12th at 10 pm CDT I got my last taste of hockey for the season, and that was it. Happy for my friend in Pittsburgh I went back home and crawled to bed, and that night, I dreamed of hockey.

I dreamed of a scarred ice, glistening like an eye about to drop a tear, and of a puck gliding and bouncing (puck has to be an onomatopoeia), of skates blades swooshing - but that had a faint echo of when I sharpen my knives against each other, and sticks slapping and whacking - and that sounded pretty much like wood. Of bodies being slammed against the boards with a thump, and of the shrilling whistle of the referee's call bringing it all to a stop only to put into motion again with a new blow of the whistle - I have a longtime rancor for whistling sounds so that might have been a little too important. There were gasps and grunts and indistinct hollering, a sound wall of human voices but not one intelligible word. There was dripping dampness - maybe sweat or maybe water from the rink, and the only thing I noticed of the players' faces were their eyes, like a dog's tracking the fly he's going to crush against a window. There wasn't any jersey or color in my dream. There wasn't any beginning nor any end, neither goals nor teams nor game. Just motion and a whirlwind of noises and glimmering parts and pieces.

I think I dreamed a puck's dream.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Strawberry fields, forever

Last April I visited New York City for the first time and paid my respects to the Strawberry Fields and Imagine mosaic in the Central Park, across the street to the Dakota Building where John Lennon used to live and where he was shot to death too.

I wasn't two years old yet when John Lennon died, so I obviously don't have any memory of him from when he was alive. However he has been, and somehow still is, very important in my life.

The Beatles' music and some of Lennon's own songs, are almost like mystical revelations to me. I live in a pagan and materialistic time when being mystically moved is unusual, but some of that music manages to get me in deep.

Deeper than I ever thought something like that could get.

So I gave John Lennon a serious thought. I worked it out in the back of my mind while I was at any of my jobs, or studying, or biking or strolling around, or simply doing nothing.

Wondering why today, and surely for a long time too, John Lennon is there every time someone focuses on Paul McCartney, the Beatles, or pop music in general. Why people like me, or even younger, are so fond of John Lennon and keep listening to his music and buying posters and T-shirts with his face. I tried to understand it, and I come up with this conclusion: that there are 3 aspects or dimensions of John Lennon.

1. The human dimension. He was born in 1940 and died in 1980. Earned his living as a musician, got married twice, had two sons, loved, hated, wished, militated and tried to raise awareness, and died. He personally met a lot of people, but relatively few compared to all those people he somehow influenced.

2. The artist dimension. I have reasons to believe that the most artistically influential era in Lennon's life was during the Beatles' existence. During the seventies he swayed in political pursuits, withdrew from the public life for a time and didn't produce as much as he had done during the previous decade.

3. The third dimension, the legendary dimension. The John Lennon legend. A huge and inexhaustible interest for all things Lennon, for the twists and turns of his mind, for his music, but also for his concerns, motivations and origins. A gigantic whole that's impossible to cover, what's surprising since it only sources from documents -- John Lennon's been dead for almost three decades now. That same whole that explains that the Liverpool Airport is named John Lennon and it's motto is above us only sky, and the market is big enough to merit the release of a Lennon IPod.

Why so much interest? Why such a legend, unmatched by any of the other Beatles'? In his solo career he wasn't a creative powerhouse and the quality of his work was uneven. His pacifist attempts weren't followed by many and today, nobody would do what he did in order to raise awareness against the war and famine... so I tend to assume it's because they were ineffective. His most emblematic song, Imagine, was a hit when it was released in 1973 but then sled off and it was only after Lennon died and the movie with the same title was released, that the song gained immortality.

I believe there's so much interest because of Yoko Ono, his widow.

"The woman who lead the Beatles to their breakup" was said of her for a long time. And it might as well be true. But it's also true that Yoko authorized, and probably sponsored, the release of every song Lennon ever recorded, to the point that it's unlikely there's any version left officially unreleased. I wasn't aware until recently that there's been a "new" John Lennon album every four or five years, and the owner of those master tapes is Yoko. Yoko granted permission and provided a lot of material for the Anthology documentary, Yoko allows someone or other to publish letters or pictures, Yoko provides funding for the Liverpool airport and proposes it's named after John Lennon, Yoko still lives in the Dakota and gives public talks from time to time, it's Yoko who keeps the interest in John Lennon alive.

Mind you it's no small feat. With an occasional but steady releasing of books, films and lesser known or unfinished songs, over the years the prevailing perception during the sixties that Paul was the group's talented musician and George was the most accomplished performer, with John in a role of the group's leader was contested and overcame. His militancy and political concerns, seen at the time as desperate attempts from somebody starving for attention, now are regarded as thoughtful and courageous. His artistic pursuits and ambitions were seen as afterthoughts, but now are understood as the fruits of a prolific and curious mind. I am sure Yoko Ono was behind it all but never pushing, never imposing. Always shaping, one step ahead everyone else.

I have seen some of Yoko Ono's works in museums and I don't understand them, but I don't doubt for a second she is a true artist and her masterwork is John Lennon.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Philly ain't over til it's over

Maybe it's because I don't care a thing about Rocky Balboa and I don't think I've ever been through any of his films. Not because chances have been scarce - there are five (five!) installments, I've never felt like and I still don't. But there are two things I'm familiar with: Rocky's motto it ain't over 'til it's over and the iconic image of Stallone's back and risen arm.

Well, turns out that image is from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, prestigious owner of one of the most complete art collections of this great country. Owner of more Rodin's sculptures than any other museum of this great planet, now host of the exhibit "Cézanne and beyond", and a thousand more things, is popular with the throngs just for being Rocky's films setting.

And the effect of Rocky's films in the everyday life of the museum is anything but light. Can you believe that no matter the time of the day you find yourself at the museum's door (but specially after sunset) there are people running upstairs and raising a fist when arriving at the top? As expected philadelphians hate that tacky attitude from the bottom of their souls, and even more the Rocky statue that used to grace the museum's main door but some Director transferred to a less respectable spot in the gardens.

We went on Sunday night and the museum was closed, so we indulged in running upstairs and rising our right fists, and then going downstairs slowly to catch our breath and took pictures of the Rocky Balboa statue. That, as I noticed, is hollow and from somebody way more handsome than Sylvester Stallone.


You can read a Spanish version of this post here:

Monday, June 1, 2009

The cardinality of time

The body location of time never ceases to amaze me.

The present time, for instance, is located on the left wrist of the person who evokes it.

The past, conversely, is on the right or sometimes on the back. If the past is recent, then the elbow might be folded and close to the chest, while the forefinger might be slightly risen. If the past is not that recent, then the arm and hand might be stretched out, with the palm facing the front. In other words, the past is located like two feet away on the right.

In the cardinality of time, however, the future has no place.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Felonies of unsettling nature

Turns out that someone with too much free time and a few screws loose has been trying real hard to make us feel unwelcome. The first time it was a banana pressed on the floor in our doorway... we thought it was just an accident. The second time around, a few weeks later, we found a pair of long johns hanging from our doorknob; I took them and threw them outside but two days later someone rang the bell (there are bells only on the front door, the doors inside have knockers) and the long johns were back. I put them in our trash bin and, though I was upset, I chose to ignore the business.

Wrong choice. A few days later I came back home at noon to find lettuce leaves scattered on the doorway. From the distance I thought someone might have dropped their newspaper, but that wasn't the case. They were lettuce leaves, and only on our doorway. That's when I contacted Scott, the building manager, and told him about the whole thing. He assured me that the caretaker would relieve us from the veggie arrangement gracing our doorway, and urged me to call 911 and file a report.

It seemed a bit of an overreaction, so I didn't call.

Scott hung a notice on the front door offering a reward to anyone giving information and a big fine to the culprit, and that seemed to be deterrent enough.

But when a few days later, I found a pepperoni pizza literally smeared on the carpet, again in front of our door, I thought that made it. I called Scott again, who came in diligently and inquired about any suspects I may have.

Now, I've never scratched anyone's car in the parking lot, or stole any piece of clothing from the laundry room or orchestrated mayhem or offense of any sort, so I was really clueless. What kind of enemies have I made, and why? But as this veiled threats business was escalating, I thought it was time I called 911.

So I did. If things had been a bit wacky, my conversation with the forces of order was downright surreal.

- Good morning, 911, I'm xxx, what can I do for you?
- Good morning, I want to file a report on debris on my doorway.
- Excuse me, ma'am, is this an emergency? Is property or life in imminent danger?
- No sir, I want to file a report on the fact that someone has been leaving trash on my doorway, likely as a threat but no, this is not an emergency and there is no imminent danger.
- All right, please call 311, your city council.
- Thank you, I will. Have a nice day.
-You too, goodbye.

- Good morning, 311, my name is yyy, how can I help you?
- Good morning, I want to file a report on debris on my doorway.
- Can you explain me a little more?
- (brief summary of events, including that it was Scott's idea to call)
- You can't report that. I'm sorry, we don't have pepperoni pizza as a criminal report.
- I could guess as much. I'm sure this is a threat though. I feel threatened!
- Ma'am, stay calm. Pizza is harmless. Tell the caretaker to clean it and be mindful of any suspecting attitudes.
- Oookeeeey, thank you anyway.

And well, that's it so far. I agree there wasn't any need to dial 911, but I'm not that sure about pepperoni pizza not being a crime. Because I've felt Pepperoni Jack or Red Baron (3 for 5 bucks) are criminal, but only after you ate them.

Just in case you're curious, there's a Spanish version of this post here:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cross my mind

Cross my mind, I love that expression! It makes me think of highways coming in and out my head.
Charlotte (Winona Ryder), The last word, 2008.

Welcome to crossings of my mind, my blog in English. Here you'll find some ramblings, some rants and some anecdotes but mostly, English versions of my posts in Fefo y Julia and other blogs I've written in the past but don't exist anymore.

I don't promise to be always truthful or always fictional, to restrain myself to only frivolities or heavyweight subjects, to be punctual as death or reliable as a weather vine, but I promise to try my best to always give you some food for thought, or at least, put a smile on that beautiful face of yours.