Category Archives: Everyday

Colour and Invisibility

A man came up to me today while I was waiting for the blue train, leaning against my bike and reading. He nodded towards the handful of people who shunned the shade, and launched into friendly conversation – some people just really love the sun, huh? They’re crazy, the sun makes you blind, they’re going to go blind…I thought about skin cancer and freckles and wrinkles and the way I love the Arizona summer where the world is all white light and heat that wraps around you so heavy on the air you can feel its comforting weight. Of course, the only thing I like to do through the Arizona summer is read while drinking long cool glasses of anything with ice, it’s been a hell of a long time since I was able to do that. Amazing how much can go through your mind in a split second. I love the sun.

I was lucky. He required no response to continue: the sun makes you disappear. My mom was upset when I moved out here, I’m from the East coast and when I went home they thought I was ugly, I was light skinned there but here you stand in the sun and you turn the colour of charcoal, no one can see you at night, you become invisible. He lifted his arms and they were a dark dark brown, and the wiry hair on them a very bright white.

I thought about this means of becoming invisible. You become the colour of darkness, you walk along unperceived and hidden against the backdrop of night, I thought about what it means to disappear. An arcane power of sorts, the ability to become one with the dark, to travel unseen…who has never dreamed of that? With the power of flight, invisibility is pretty high on my list of unfulfilled desires. The train came then and I shall probably never see him again. I wanted to ask him if he had read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, I wanted to ask him if invisibility were really a function of colour and camouflage, or of politics. I wanted to ask him about the invisibility of South Central and all the people in it, the invisibility of the poor to those with wealth, the invisibility that comes with a skin colour approaching the night. The invisibility you endure when you wear an apron or a janitor’s uniform or a name tag proclaiming your willingness to serve. The way that so many people I have known and loved have disappeared. It was not the sun that disappeared them, and I rage that they could have left this world with so small of a ripple. I wanted to reconcile the challenge, and the promise, of the gulf between invisibility in the world of my imagination, and invisibility in the imagination of the world.

I have lost much of my substance behind the name tag and pinned smile of the service employee, the painfully unfashionable clothes and bad haircut of that embarassingly poor kid who really wants nothing more than to disappear (luckily I’ve grown and fought my way out of both for the most part)…but my experience is limited as someone who will only find camouflage if the night becomes the colour of pale sand. I yet sit uncomfortably poised between several worlds none of which seem to be visible to the others, and I could not imagine myself anywhere else…and so this problem of how and what people can see seems to be one of the keys to resolving the injustices that have pushed these worlds apart. And so a blessing on the old charcoal gentleman who disturbed my reading today and set my mind spinning, may he find beauty in his skin…

Pigs at the Marin County Fair

Ahhh, the Fourth of July…a bad day for politics, a good day for BBQ’s, beer, friends, fireworks, and farm animals. A full house, so to speak, of interesting and enjoyable activities. A lot of people seem to agree that the county fair is really the place to be on the fourth, and they come in all sizes, shapes, and colours, though I will admit there is a bit too much red, white and blue for my taste! I actually spotted an American flag fanny pack, which delighted more than depressed me really. My sense of the absurd rarely marches with my politics, which is probably my saving grace.

The National Pig Racing Association. Just roll that on your tongue for a moment as you close your eyes and imagine the possibilities. It’s like Nascar…with pigs. And sawdust. The country music was rocking, the crowd breathless with anticipation, the nascar flags flapped in the wind, and the tall Texan cowboy taunted us as the clock ticked down and the sunlight flashed from his NPRA belt buckle…

The race was finally ready to start, the first set of pigs in their gates, the oreo cookie placed on the tray at the finish line, and far too many people were in between me and the race track…still, I managed a few shots, and the little bastards were very cute!

My pig lost! Dolly Porker was unseated I’m afraid, so I had to pin my hopes on the second race, and Lyndsy Lowham. Kevin Bacon looked like a close contender but I knew Lyndsy could do it…so here are the big ugly bastards:

And I won! Well…the pig won. We figured 2 races were enough, Monty, Leslie, little Josephine and I strolled through the holiday crowds, I sought in vain for veggie fare and settled for a bad quesadilla while they feasted on sausages…pigs are definitely good for more than racing, no? We saw a pig weighing 350 pounds…lying on its side (it’s debatable whether it could do much else!) in a frightening mound of flesh and THE biggest balls I have ever seen. I remember my grandpa’s pigs on the Devonshire farm when I was five, I doubt there has been anything much more frightening then the ominous sound of something incredibly large and stinking on the other side of a wooden door, I don’t even remember what they looked like, just that they were bigger then me and undoubtedly wanted to eat me.

At any rate, the other highlight was the Preservation Hall Band, New Orleans jazz at its technical best, it was brilliant and I danced…so did Les and Jojo. And then we sat in the shade and enjoyed life to its fullest…no BBQ and no beers til after we got back, and in San Francisco the fog was too thick to see the fireworks, even though we climbed the ladder up to the high rooftops and stood a while in the swirling greyness listening to the booming

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Biking tipsy through the darkness

Last night my friend Jose and I repeated the famous downtown L.A. bar tour on bikes…cycling from bar to bar is invigorating, the wind blows cool against your face and the night wraps around you. The night is yours in fact, it belongs to rebels and dreamers and tipsy joyful adventurers on bikes; the L.A. streets were almost completely deserted as we frolicked along them. Hard to explain the freedom and happiness to be found playing speed racer down a long slow hill in the darkness…

We started at Jose and Bev’s, watching some episodes of a brilliantly bizarre manga show called CLFL, and drinking a cold beer. I had to recover from the grueling bike ride from work to the house carrying a heavy backpack complete with laptop, books, clothes and necessaries for three days since I am off to Santa Barbara bright and early this morning…When the dvd proved unplayable at a key point in the tangled story we decided it was time to leave. We headed the Gold Room, on the cusp of gentrification, the Lakers were playing so it was mostly the regulars. It’s a tiny divey place on sunset, half the bar is palm trees lit up in an ever changing rainbow of color; over the single line of booths is darkness fretted with tiny golden lights like stars. The waitresses wear tight white shirts almost completely unbuttoned, but they’re very nice and they give you bowls of free peanuts in the shell, which I appreciate much more than their cleavage. We left before the lakers lost, and went down the street for dinner at Thuvia’s – pupusas de queso con loroco and platanos fritos, god damn they were good! Even if the place had a C rating and the waitress asked us if we wanted the salsa even though there was a chance of salmonella as it wasn’t cooked. That’s certainly enough to make you pause, but adventure called and we answered and had the salsa anyway.

We went to the standard, and shall we say that the standard is not for rebels and dreamers and tipsy joyful people on bikes? That would be the nicest thing I could say, we weren’t so much turned away as ignored and put off, we weren’t the only ones, so a rooftop poolside bar with white pod waterbed chairs was not to be ours…I suppose the price of admission is the L.A. look, and what a price to pay! I’m not willing of course, and I don’t enjoy looking at it at all, and even standing in the line was painful, but I did want to take pictures from the roof! So I cursed on principle, hating the thought that there’s somewhere I cannot go even though I don’t really want to, Jose successfully blew it off, and we went around the corner to the Library Bar. Small and cosy with an old-fashioned bar and lights shining through glasses and on the opposite side a wall of books and an old stove full of candles and even a globe! I am fascinated by globes. Needless to say I liked it, though it started filling up with Celtic fans (god only knows where they came from or if they made it home in safety!) and so we left…headed over to La Cita only to find a line of hipsters and a cover charge, I spit upon covers, and upon hipsters. It’s a metaphorical spitting of course, but psychologically very real.

So the third stop was Bordellos, lush with black chandeliers and mirrors and painted gothicness…no cover and Go Betty Go in its new incarnation was playing and they were really fucking good! We met up with Evelin and Ludin and America and had a couple more beers, and after Go Betty Go came the Fresas and they weren’t quite as good but still excellent, with tight harmonies and an electrified violin…I love all girl, well, almost all girl, pop punk bands. Everytime I see bands like that I still want to play the guitar and whisper, croon and yell into a microphone…i suppose my day has passed for that. But the company was brilliant, and the music was rocking until the last band came on. They should be happy I’ve forgotten their name cos the music was ok but the lead singer was a bouncy blond in a cutsy tube top dress who jiggled rather than rocked, and whined rather than raged and we fled precipitately. We sped homewards in the darkness, struggling up hills and reveling in the way we went spinning back down them. We past alongside Echo Park, beautiful and silent and solitary, the big fountains in the middle an arching misty silver…and came full circle back to the Gold room for a final libation. We closed the place out, headed home for some quesadillas de queso fresco, and I feel asleep for a few hours before getting up to catch my train North…

MacArthur Park

MacArthur Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon, shimmering green against shade and sun, palm trees and the dirty blue of the lake. It was full of families, there were even some people fishing. It was also full of people sleeping, forms stretched out in every patch of shade and lost to the world, lost to themselves. On the corner of 7th and Alvarado you can still buy anything, but there are fewer people selling then 10 years ago. Their faces are different, but the look is the same. Lean, hungry, watchful. They look me up and down; in a segregated Los Angeles where race almost always equals class and people stick to their own in both company and geography, I clearly do not belong. Usually I am happy that there is nowhere and nothing I belong too, it frees me to move between worlds, spending time in each with the people I love.

A small fat preacher was shouting into a megaphone, hurling words in Spanish of love and belonging, a yellow banner stretched between two trees, 25 folding chairs set up on the grass, a ragged crew of people clustered around him. Most slept on of course. “Quizas la proxima semana…” the preacher yelled, “perhaps next week you will stop smoking, perhaps next week you will pick up the phone and call your mother or your daughter, perhaps next week…” And the people listened, he called them up in revival style, “Tu hermanita, tu, necesitas salavacion, venga…” There is such desperate need for belonging, need for hope, the people came.

At the other end of the park another small fat preacher was screaming into a megaphone, suited and tied, his words were entirely of hell and the book of revelation. Everyone slept on, walked past as though he were not there. One of his associates blew a long animal horn of grey that curled upon itself, it sounded deep and echoed off the palm trees and no one listened. I myself dream that people will take responsibility for themselves and for the world, that people will cease to look for salvation as a gift and demand a better life as their right, that people will work to change what is broken…and what is not broken? My faith is that this is possible. I almost stole the megaphone but reflected that shouting at people in the street was hardly exemplary of my vision. Perhaps next week I will come back and smite it.

I walked past MacArthur Park because we had a reunion today, of everyone that had ever worked at CARECEN though I am sad to say not everyone was there…enough to make it enjoyable though. My friend Ruel made it quite enjoyable in fact, we met first at our old Winchell’s and had donuts and coffee. Winchell’s, with its perennial sign stating they have been “fresh and warm since 1948,” and an even better sign saying “CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN! 14 donuts!” It’s like an alternate universe really, that has been making me smile for 8 years now. I missed Don Tonito though, he used to sell artesanias and Salvadoran books on revolution and revolt. He lent me old tapes of boleros and home videos of when the FMLN marched back into San Salvador to sign the accords. He used to tell me stories about the guerrilla, like the time he was hiding with a companera in the end house of a long set of row houses. The military came searching house by house along the ground and there were more of them walking along the roofs so that no one could escape and he believed he was dead, when the roof of the house right beside theirs fell in under the weight of the soldier on top (good old poverty), and the soldier broke his leg. And that was enough to stop the search and save my friends’ life. Funny that most of the stories I know from El Salvador are tragic and brutal and still haunt me, it is only the stories of the fighters that have humour and hope in them. I wish I’d stayed in touch with him. But I’m back in touch with some other old friends though, and that is always a beautiful thing

Economic Bubbles and the Blue Line

I rode the train home late last night, the blue line down through South Central and Watts; L.A. makes me sad sometimes. There is so much speculation on the state of the economy, you can read it in the papers. Taking the blue train late at any time through South Central and Watts, most of that speculation seems rather out of touch. There haven’t been any good times here for a very long time, and when the economy turns, it hits here hardest. And it keeps on hitting. The contrast is stark between this world inhabited by tens of thousands of people, and the world of financial speculation. From here the bubble is very clear, and entirely maddening. Most maddening is that the bubble requires the world of poverty to exist, it is built upon it, immense wealth cannot be held by everyone. It depends on millions of poor in this country, many millions more around the world…

I was talking to an older guy who was only wearing one shoe last night, and white tube socks pulled up high. He was riding the green line train up and down, having nowhere else to go. His legs were swollen the way my gran’s legs became swollen with her diabetes and lack of exercise, the way my friend Mark’s legs became swollen when he was turned out into the streets. Like age and diabetes, the streets swell you up, make you sick, kill you. He was voting for Hillary Clinton, he said he had a crush on her. I laughed at that. He asked me if I was a model and I laughed at that too. He told me I could be anything I wanted to be, this was America, told he was working on his own modeling career. I can forgive this man his bubble, I can forgive him almost anything he needs to survive.

I can’t forgive the people who speculate on the economy night after night on the news, and I can’t figure out who they’re talking about. I don’t know the world they’re talking about either. None of them address the growing gap between rich and poor, growing numbers of people in the streets, growing poverty, growing legions of police to control the poor and protect the wealthy. The only things shrinking are the job pool, the supply of affordable housing, the access to health care, the number of teachers, support for veterans and the elderly, the water table, the ice in the arctic…

evening

I sit in the conservatory and the light is liquid gold, luminous, impossibly beautiful in those few minutes at close of day when magic seizes your heart and makes it whole…too whole, almost overflowing and the overflow is what you hunger for through your mundane hours, but this moment, glorious and still, like the culmination of passion, the peak of happiness, the eye in the storm it holds you and wraps you round and whispers to you in the falling rain and the world is perfect beauty even with you in it, as flawed and hungry and uncertain of anything as you are, and the moment fades to be replaced with a sadness, and dusk comes on surely now, the darkness creeping over green fields and the flowering apple tree, clouds lit up from behind in pale yellow and silver move swiftly across the horizon and just as you wonder if it is just over there that your destiny lies, the world lights up again with the moving clouds, a reprieve and a second golden time, a hint of blue sky on the horizon, golden light pouring like the rain around you, I love these days of rain and sun, love gold filled light and the pounding of water, it is luminous again, magical again, more beautiful after having prepared oneself for the dying of the light, it gives me hope. For what I don’t know, just hope is enough, a quiet undemanding sort of hope, the hope that carries peace with it, not the demanding torments of passion or desire or blind need.

The blue sky is now encircled by clouds, deep black heavy laden ones running low, a thin line of glowing white ones above. This place is beautiful. I am glad I am here, there is nowhere I would rather be. That makes me smile, it might be a bit sad my smile, bittersweet is life, I taste it on my tongue. I am always amazed at how fast storm clouds move, I remember watching them before the monsoons hit in Arizona, amazing that they race the same over desert and green farmland. Another thing bringing these two worlds together besides me, I have trouble sometimes reconciling myself with myself, I am too many things to exist in one person I think, but watching the clouds race calms me down, I lose myself in them like I lose myself in the light, my inner voice stills and finds silence and I am content. Even as the dusk falls surely now, the darkness comes…

leftover Chocolate Cake

The breakfast of champions!! Especially when thick and yummy with mum’s classic buttercream frosting, T actually called our mum two nights ago so he could make me a vintage Gibbons family birthday cake and it was perfect! He didn’t handwrite happy birthday Andrea in another colour of frosting, but I love those little sugar letters so it was just as good…and funnier than I am used to:

I have grown accustomed to being called the beast…though as lovely, fragile, and sweet as I am, I have absolutely no relation to the creature who lurked on the other side of the high fence in The Sandlot and ate baseballs. I have come to recognize that boys are irrational however, so I don’t mind, and I did love the “yippie” and the “woo”, apparently there weren’t enough letters to spell out the Robert Burns poem on the wee timerous beastie that T originally planned for so yippie and woo had to do. We had party food last night and they put up balloons on the wall for me, T put Marty Robbins on the Cd player for a bit of nostalgia…we grew up with marty robbins as he is one of my mum’s favourites, and all of us still tend to sing along when she plays it in the car, it’s very funny. Well, Laura finds it really funny, I find it absolutely natural and normal and cool. I got some Iain Banks books and a pair of shorts with my Mark’s and Spencers gift vouchers, I have every faith in my luck and global warming and can’t wait to wear them! T read me some of the stuff he’s been writing, 4 of the 6 of us in the family are aspiring writers, I think it must be a record…so much aspiration and so little accomplishment, though it’s only cause our genious goes unrecognized. Apart from Brian Adams who thinks we are the most intimidatingly brilliant family he’s ever met, and he told me that while drunk so I know it’s absolutely true. Dan can back me up on that, he’s Dan’s friend anyways. Besides, his name is Brian Adams, so clearly he has no problems or unrecognized genious of his own.

Well, still working selling underwear, though I need to come up with an alternate story, because when I tell men in the pub what I do they get this happy sort of glazed look and make bad jokes. But I am writing the best fucking story I’ve ever written, that alone has made this the best birthday of all time and entirely validated the mad decision to move to scotland to sell underwear…

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stunning

Today I wandered lonely as a cloud…no wait, that was yesterday, I didn’t work yesterday and luxuriated in blue skies and sunshine, it was fucking beautiful. I went for a run in the Maryhill Woods. Now when I say run, I mean something closer to a short run slowing to a short jog punctuated by long intervals of walking. I remember running back in the day before I ruined my shins, remember running in the dusk and the earth sped beneath my feet and it was effortless and I was motion and nothing more, the wind blew right through me. That was long ago though, now I’m finding running to be a bit more of a sado-masochistic activity, the best thing about it is returning home exhausted and virtuous and sleeping soundly through the night, I am missing my bike ride to work.

But yesterday, ahh, I stripped down to my tank top yesterday and found a new trail up along the hill looking out over Semple Loch and the second loch just to the south and the sun beat down and the wind smelled of spring and the birds were singing and I saw lambs gambolling about and they were so beautiful and I thought holy shit, I live in Scotland. I still can’t quite believe it. Every now and then walking down a Glaswegian street I shake myself and smile just at the thought of it. Especially when someone’s playing the bagpipes, I love the buskers here. You have the bagpipes of course, but there is an amazing reggae player, an old guy who plays old electric guitar surfer music, a 3 man band playing rock’n’roll, and a duo on guitar and accordeon. Last time I passed them they played the theme music to Amelie and gave me 5 minutes of magic on my way to work.

Ahh work, I knew there was a reason to go for that masters…I was not cut out for retail. I like people well enough, but to be all smiley and bubbly and friendly and repeat the same phrase a hundred times to a hundred different faces, well, it makes me want to spit. I am learning an immense amount about breasts however, principally that I am quite happy with mine. Oh, and that in spite of that they will actually get bigger. I do have to get pregnant first, that’s a bit of a downer, but apparently they don’t really look back after the first one. I am also now able to sing along to all of the pop hits, my repertoire of chatter on girly subjects has grown by leaps and bounds, and I am making friends, so on the whole as a life experience this is has been right up there. Still, I am more afraid of being questioned about nursing bras then I ever was to sneak into the Morrison hotel in the dead of night…a small character flaw when your fears involve underwear and not your physical safety. A wonder these genes ever made it as far as they did.

St Patrick’s

Hey ho, home early after a grand celebration, well, not so grand but good, very good, I’m quite happy at the moment…went out out to the Hamilton local, not the Bay Horse which is closer but rough, very rough, no, we walked all the way to ML3, it’s nice, quite nice. It was pouring down rain as we walked there, it came down in sheets across the street lights, lit up golden against the night sky and beautiful, and the wind blew mad against our backs and the trees sang above us and I was happy to be outside, happy to be walking, and I know it’s because I’m crazy, one day I’ll the man who finds that amazing even if I’m a stupid girl, and the world was beautiful and we sang nay, no, never, no never no more, will I be a wild rover…beautiful it was and we arrived in the torrent sopping wet, completely soaked, everyone stared at us and we laughed because life was in the process of being so well lived it was brilliant and I ran to the lady’s toilet and squeezed`the water from my hair so it wouldn’t keep running down my neck and soaking the top of my blouse and ran my fingers through it though fat lot of good it did, I just hoped for the best and figured that perhaps that fresh-out of the shower look was attractive to the occassional bystander because that’s exactly what I looked like, with the backs of my jean legs sopping and clinging lovingly to the backs of my calves and dripping to the floor…

A few drinks, some brilliant indy tunes with a bit of Pink Floyd thrown randomly in, I could have done with a strong dose of the Pogues but it was not to be and it didn’t matter, I don’t know why I’m so happy today but I am, happy. Life is brilliant…

nothing much really

I haven’t written anything for ages. I’ve been busy I suppose but can’t quite find that burning drive to write that hits me at times, I need my own place, want my own place, would do just about anything for my own place…living with relatives you learn quite a bit, mostly about yourself, I discover that I am quite impatient, more antisocial than I thought, not at all domesticated or housebroken, only appreciate dining or high tea formality on very very rare occassions…and of course I am again reminded how good men have it in the world. Why is it that my cousins can get away with letting all the women do the cleaning up so they can watch rugby? I want to watch rugby, and if only my aunt appreciated rugby at all, we would have done the washing up later, or had our lunch on paper plates so there would have been no washing up to do, or sent the boys off to do it, the game was fantastic. I watched the beginning of it as others cleaned around me and was smote mightily by my evil woman’s conscience, I wish that would just go away. Not that I mind cleaning, I just like doing it my own way and when I find it convenient…and the amount of dishes my aunt considers necessary for a meal is astonishing. It astonishes me. The amount of food as well, she loves feeding her boys! I ate more yesterday than I had the entire week before and found it a bit difficult to roll myself out of bed later. And I have not been able to say the word fuck for almost a week now, say what I’m actually thinking, walk around the house in my underwear, listen to music turned up really loudly, leave food on my plate cause I’m full, or fully relax for some time now…

But other than that things are going quite well, I’m meeting more folks, applying to jobs, now understand almost everything I hear unless it is coming from very old men without many teeth…I’m working on a small community online and paper news sort of thing with some folks which is great, and not bad at all for one month in the city, I’m rather proud of myself! And trying to decide how much of an activist I want to be, I’m not sure about that, I think I was actually quite burned out when I left and yet I still love talking politics and getting all fired up over pints in the pub and now have folks to do that with who are brilliant, so I’m happy. Hopefully staying with the brother tmrw, where I can say fuck all I want, and he usually thinks what I’m thinking is really funny and I don’t have to eat everything on my plate…the walking around in the underwear will just have to wait, but I’m not too fussed as it’s just a bit chilly…