Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sambhali!

This documentary is about the Sambhali Trust project empowering Dalit 'untouchable' women in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India and in the nearby village of Setrawa, India. The movie highlights the benefits of the project in the life of the women, and also shows the progress made in the new school project. My friend Govind Rathore started this project, and I became involved when I went to stay at his guesthouse in Jodhpur. Some of you may remember the Rajasthani Jagrata audio slideshow I posted a few months back? That was about Govind's family and our trip to Setrawa for his young son's haircutting ceremony. I went back to India a second time with a video camera and this documentary is borne from that. The documentary also includes footage shot later by volunteers after Govind asked us to make a short film. He will be presenting this film at an upcoming conference in Austria. I want to thank my brother Arthur for all of his labor, all the volunteers who helped provide additional stills and video, Corinne, and Govind for running around to gather things up and shipping it all up to The States so we could work on it, to Griselda for the Setrawa tour, Amanda and Sophie for their excellent teaching and for allowing me to interview them. And to anyone else I didn't mention, thanks for everything done to make this possible.

Note: Be patient please, it seems to want to take a minute to load before starting. Thanks. :-)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Sound of Tears


All is quiet now
Nothing but the sound of tears
Falling on the grass


Shanti stared at the sky from the bed near the window. The rain pelted the window pane. A small rivulet of water trailed from a crack in the glass down to a pool on the sill. Shanti put her finger on the water and changed its course. She could feel Ann watching her. She could feel her concern. She let out a deep breath and turned over, locking eyes with Ann.

“I wish I could see Adam again,” Shanti said.

Ann’s face started to contort, a deep furrow worked its way into her brow. “Why didn’t we do something?”

Ann started to sob and Shanti could not hold back her own tears. The two of them embraced each other and sobbed together as the rain turned to hail, beating against the window. The sound was deafening on the roof of the old clapboard dormitory hall. The silvery crack in the glass grew.

The hail subsided a few minutes later. Shanti got up and looked out the window at the grass field between the buildings. A mound of flowers, balloons, pictures and notes rose among the fallen leaves and hailstones. A small group of students were gathered around the flowers, holding umbrellas.

“I always thought he was a little edgy, but aren’t we all?”

“Yeah, but he seemed like he was happy most of the time. He was always joking around!”

“Except when he drank. Did you ever see him do that? Flip out and start crying?” Shanti said, then paused. “Wait. Was that a clue? Should we have worried then?”

Ann shrugged, “Did you ever notice him complaining?”

“Not really. He always seemed upbeat."

“You don't believe it?”

“Sometimes I got the sense he was ... haunted.”

Shanti put her forehead to the window and watched the crowd gathering. Adam’s girlfriend had just arrived with a wreath. She fell to her knees sobbing as she added the wreath to the mound. Other students helped her stand up. They formed a circle, locked arms, and started to sing "In The Arms Of An Angel.”

As the music drifted up to Shanti’s ears, the rain stopped and the clouds broke. A single ray of sun fell over the crowd. Drops of rain on the flowers glistened like diamonds. The crowd grew silent.

“Come on,” Shanti said quietly, “Let’s go down there.” She clutched Ann’s hand and they made their way out to the circle. They joined arms with their friends.

The rain began to fall again, mixing gently with their many rivers of tears.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

About Yesterday, notes from a former drama queen

Here’s the thing, until the Yesterday series, I have never before ever written anything so completely fiction that the made up characters became alive and real and started dictating their story to me. I’ve written ‘fiction’ based on autobiographical information, but not the completely unreal kind. And I have to tell you, it gave me a writing buzz not yet experienced by moi, and I liked it. I mean, I really liked it. I want more.

When I was younger, it seemed as if there was always some kind of major drama happening in my life. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know some of the things of which I speak, but I think I’ve often written from the point of view of being a victim of circumstance, and not so much a creator of drama.

It’s not that I ever wanted to be a drama queen, believe me. It is not the kind of attention one really is seeking! And yet, it seems there are certain personality types that can whoop up drama in their lives like nobody’s business. Have you ever noticed that? I’m that kind. I AM the dreamweaver. That’s what makes drama. You weave fantasies in your head, and then try to force people to play your characters. Sometimes it works and the thrill is amazing! A drug. An addiction. Sadly, like any drug, most of the time it doesn’t work and you find yourself whooping up even more drama to get the satisfaction you are seeking.

I’m happy to say that it’s been nearly a decade since I left the queen in hysterics along with the bipolar boyfriend she had. And I have gotten quite used to the calm around here. I actually avoid whooped up drama like the plague now, in myself and in others. I have developed a revulsion towards it. At the same time, I really understand it.

It is my contention that it is the same stuff that feeds good fiction writing. I have theorized that before, but now that I’ve actually written something completely fictional (albeit using other people's words), I am more than ever convinced that it is a gift, not a curse, to dream, but only if you use the dreamweaving as a gift. Because like any gift, it must be used wisely.

Now whether I can write GOOD fiction or not remains to be seen. Baby steps… There is so much skill and inspiration to gain from reading all of your stories. I would love to know any secrets you can tell me about your process; at what point do the characters become alive in your mind, and do you find catharsis in creating them, animating them, and perhaps even killing them? Why do you write fiction?

Just kinda curious.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Yesterday, Pt 4, The End

This is the final episode in a four part series using song lyrics from the 60's and 70's to explore a rekindled friendship from the past. To go back to part 1, scroll back, they are posted in order. Or, click on 'Yesterday' in the labels section of this post and they will all come up. (Hint: Don't read the last part first or you'll ruin the surprise ending!)



Tuesday afternoon-
Baker Street, Boston.


“It’s been such a long time, maybe I’m amazed! You are so beautiful. I can’t get enough of your love!”

“I wish.”

“What’s going on? Who are you?”

“I’m a psycho killer, que’ce que c’est? A killer queen. Tonight’s the night.”

“Oye como va, peligro!”

“Right, you’re bloody well right.”

“How long to the point of no return?”

“25 or 6 to 4:00.”

“Who, who, who, who?”

“Aqualung, my friend. A horse with no name.”

“Rebel rebel!”

“I think I should be going. Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”

“Hey, hey, my my…”

“I’ve got to fly like an eagle. Life in the fast lane! You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

(slam)

Macarthur’s Park is melting in the dark. Sitting on a park bench…

“Aqualung, don’t you see it’s only me? Walk this way.”

“Back stabber!”

“Are you reeling in the years, le freak, you’re just another brick in the wall.”

“I don’t want to die!”

“Now it’s all over Danny Bailey, the harvest is in. You don’t have to live like a refugee.”
(bang bang, shoot shoot)

Way down the street there’s a light in his place, you open the door, he asks you where you’ve been, you tell him who you’ve seen and…

“God save the queen! Tell me something good!”

“Smiling faces tell lies. Help me! I think I’m falling.”

“What a fool believes!”

“One way or another…”

“Why do we never get an answer when we’re walking out the door?”

“Because the truth is hard to swallow. This is the end my only friend, the end.”
(bang bang, shoot shoot)

"One is the loneliest number, I can't live if living is without you...happiness is a warm gun."
(bang bang, shoot shoot)

(the sound of silence)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yesterday, Pt. 3

This is the third episode in a four part series using song lyrics from the 60's and 70's to explore a rekindled friendship from the past.


From: layla@70s.song
Subject: Ruby Tuesday
Date: May 22, 2009 8:02:00 AM EDT
To: BBLeroy@70s.song
Reply-To: layla@70s.song

Leroy Brown, Let me go crazy on you, you’re a magic man. I’m leaving on a jet plane, ruby Tuesday.

I hope today will be a lighter highway,
L.

____________


From: BBLeroy@70s.song
Subject: Re: Ruby Tuesday
Date: May 22, 2009 8:03:00 AM EDT
To: Layla@70s.song
Reply-To: BBLeroy@70s.song

Layla, Ruby Tuesday, out on runway number 9…wild horses couldn’t drag me away.

I’ll be there, you got me on my knees,
Leroy

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Yesterday, Pt. 2

This is the second episode in a four part series using song lyrics from the 60's and 70's to explore a rekindled friendship from the past.



Black Magic Woman,

The first time ever I saw your face, blue eyes, golden hair, what a tale my thoughts could tell. Fire!! We learned to find love in the back of my van, nights in white satin, beyond Silverlake. I could drink a case of you, I’m a lucky man, still, you turn me on! I think I’m going to love you for a long, long time. (Breathe deep, the gathering gloom…)

Four and twenty years ago, on the 25th day of September, me and Bobby McGee hitchhiked all the way to New Orleans. I took a walk on the wild side, bad company, smoking in the boys room, cocaine running all around my brain, rock and roll all day and party every night. Everybody must get stoned! Then I found myself on my knees, when the lights go down in the city, say a prayer for the pretender.

Day by day…truckin' like the doodah man...

At last I've found you, don’t you know you’ve got a friend? Take a look at my life, I’m a lot like you are; you can't hide your lyin' eyes.

Oh dreamweaver, dream on. Imagine, into this world we’re thrown, we’ll do the roundabout. Have you never been mellow? Mellow yellow, a lighter shade of pale, I honestly love you. It’s alright if you love me, it’s alright if you don’t, try not to get worried, everything’s alright, yes everything’s fine. Don’t fear the reaper, we have got to get ourselves back to the garden, become comfortably numb. We are family, I’m so tired of being alone.

Miss you, please come to Boston,
Piano Man

Monday, May 18, 2009

Yesterday Pt. 1

This is the first episode in a four part series using song lyrics from the 60's and 70's to explore a rekindled friendship from the past.

Hello its me,

Welcome to the machine, it’s been a long time running, it appears to be a long time gone. I’m tasting the smell of toast as the butter runs, here, there and everywhere. I’d love to change the world, climb a stairway to heaven, find myself knockin on heaven’s door, but I don’t know what to do. I learned the truth at 17, that I was born to run, born to be wild; that’s the way I always heard it should be! But now I’ve gone and blown it all away, running with the devil, don’t take a slice of my pie the landslide will bring it down.

(It’s a little bit funny…yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away now I feel like makin’ love. I’m a gypsy acid queen, feel me, touch me, I’m hot blooded, touch it and see!)

You’ve got me hanging on the telephone…we are the champions, looks like muskrat love! Don’t go breaking my heart, we’ve only just begun to live. Baby, I’ve been learnin’, you need schoolin’ you got me in a spotlight, dancing in the moonlight. Darlin’ can’t you hear me SOS? My aim is true. I’m so lonely, sometimes I feel like I’m dyin’, but I’m as free as a bird now, I am woman hear me roar.

I feel love, I need a hero, I want you to show me the way. Won’t you take me to funky town? Burn down the mission if you want to stay alive. We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl.

Wish you were here,
Your song

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Jewel in the Rubble

This marks my 100th post.

Yesterday my friend Daniel Martini posted his latest round of photos on his blog DMartini's Photoblog. Daniel shoots in black and white film, an art that is almost lost to this world. Since I first started visiting his blogs last October, I have been touched deeply by his ability to capture the light and soul of his subjects. He is currently living and working near Mumbai, India. I highly recommend a thorough viewing of the photoblog, and also of his other blog, Faces, Lives, where he writes in depth stories about his amazing experiences and the people he has had the fortune to connect with. The following photo really affected me, and Daniel has graciously allowed me to repost it here, along with this poem:


Run, child, run
Run into your life,
Your playground
Is the stuff of yesterday’s dreams
Now crumbled and turned to dust
In the heat of a melting earth.
You will dance to the music
Banged on tin cans left
In rotting heaps,
You will find the jewels
On the mounds of forgotten hope,
In the smile of a mother’s love
You will dance into tomorrow.



Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I and I and Me and Me

In the interest of transparency, and because of Aniket's extreme interest in my 15 year old photo in the last post, and because it was time to get the hell off the last post, I decided to show you all a little more of me in pictures. Here's a little retrospective:

When I was two, my dad worked for the San Francisco Chronicle. It was during the time when the sugar cubes that contained the polio vaccine were being doled out. I guess he must have known the photographer because I got to have all my fame out of the way before I even knew what was happening.

A bad photo, overexposed, but I like the context. At 16, I was in the graveyard of my Scottish ancestors in Struan, Scotland. I have roots in the Robertson clan. The pants are Dittos (Mark, remember Dittos?) I can't believe how corny they look.


This was during the summer that my dad took me to Europe for two months while my brother was living in London. This is my brother and me in Paris. You'll notice I had on the same clothes as in the earlier picture. That's because I only brought two shirts and one pair of pants. I was trying to travel light. I did buy an amazing dress when I was in Italy. Wouldn't you?


At 19, I had a friend who was a photographer hobbiest. He wanted to practice and asked me to model for him one day. This is at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.


By the age of 29, I had two kids. Here I am with James at his music recital, and you can see Chris behind me sitting on his dad's lap.


By the age of 34, I was divorced and going to college at Sonoma State. Here I am with my kids at the beach on the Sonoma County coast in sunny California.

At 36 I finally graduated from college with a degree in music (ahem, Summa cum Laude and 'with distinction'). Moi with a brain? Who knew?

Here I am singing with some really quite awesome musicians in my friend Gatmo's basement studio. Two of the men are playing Waterphones. The man to the left of me (in the picture its left, but actually its my right), Richard Waters, invented that instrument. I miss playing with them, :-( . Have not yet found a waterphone consortium since moving to North Carolina.



With Marlow and Oli a couple of years ago in front of my old house in California. I had just returned from my cantor gig at the local Catholic church.

I was going to post a picture with me and my kids in North Carolina in front of the Biltmore house, but gosh darned if that picture was taken with James' camera, not mine, so I don't have it.

So Aniket, how was that?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Breathe


Breathe, breathe in the air,
Don’t be afraid to care,
Leave, don’t leave me,
Look around,
Choose your own ground.
--Pink Floyd

______

“I’m bored.”

“Huh?”

“I want to break up.”

If she was a wall of glass, he had just shattered it. It felt as if he had just hit her over the head with a brick. Her mouth went dry, as the tsunami that was about to come took all her water. Her throat seized up into a tiny o, barely enough room for air, surely not enough air to expand the knot that was forming in her stomach.

“But why?” She managed to push the words out through the narrowing tube.

“No reason, just bored. I have to get to class,” he got up and walked away.

She sat in the quad with the empty lunch tables and didn’t even try to walk to biology class. She stared in disbelief at the long flat topped building in front of her and hoped no one was looking as she put her head on the table and felt a wave of grief work its way up through the muscles of her body. It stopped in her throat. She stood up and walked into the building, past the long rows of lockers and in through the open door of the classroom.

She glanced at the teacher as she headed to her seat, and perhaps in that glance the teacher saw everything because he did not admonish her for her tardiness. She put a layer of plastic over her gaze and pretended to pay attention as thoughts of the last three months flooded her mind. She tried to figure out what she did wrong? Why was he bored?

She was 15, when she met him in sex education class. The format of the seating had half the seats on one side of the room for the girls, facing the other half of the seats, where the boys sat. She was seated across the room from him, and she wanted him, bad. There was something about him that was worldly for a 16 year old. He had an air that was way beyond his years, a confidence in his stride. She did everything she could think of short of asking him out, to get him to notice her. Her opportunity finally came with the Christmas season and a little piece of mistletoe.

“I have some mistletoe,” she gave him a flirty smile and her eyes twinkled up at him. She reached the mistletoe over his head and he leaned in to kiss her. They locked lips for what felt like forever.

A couple of weeks later, after an eternity of waiting, he called.

“What’s up?” he said. Her stomach fell through the floor as she heard his voice, and her blood got thick. They spoke for an hour or so, but it was not likely that she did much talking because she had a bad case of tongue paralysis.

“Do you want to go up to the snow?” he asked her out, and the next day he took his mother’s Volvo and grabbed his best friend, and the three of them drove up to the snow. She was glad his friend was there, because the two of them filled the conversation, and she didn’t have to think of things to say, which was good because the tongue paralysis had grown worse.

The next week, she started going home after school with him on the bus. He lived in a condo complex on the other side of town, with a pool and a rag-a-tag gang of friends. Being a natural alpha type, he was the leader of the gang, and they would all congregate by the pool and smoke bad Mexican pot from across the border. Occasionally his mother would let him provide the crew with Strawberry Daiquiris, and they would all get really drunk and stoned and stare off into space while listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

One day, they found themselves alone.

“Let’s go up here.” He showed her a ladder in the garage that went up to a loft that had a mattress. It was dark, and there were no windows. She followed him up the ladder and lay with him on the mattress. He began to kiss her, and her body responded in ways she had not known yet. It was as if someone had removed her blood and replaced it with fizzy honey. She throbbed in desire for him. How could she know then that the intensity of that feeling she was having, him rubbing his body against her, her throbbing desire, would never again be as strong with anyone else? Ever?

“I love you,” he sang along to the Wings song as he stared into her eyes and cupped her face with his hands. And then he said it again, “I love you.” She believed him with all of her heart. There was not an ounce of suspicion that he didn’t mean it.

“I love you so much!” Her body answered, as he lay on top of her, kissing her over and over again, as the words ‘Breathe, breathe in the air’ fell over her ears burning a memory into her brain that would last a lifetime.

“Spend the night with me,” he implored. She lied to her mother about where she was going, and she spent the night with him that very Friday.

“This is foreplay,” he said as he took off her clothes and tenderly touched her body, which at that point was more nervous than full of desire. At some point he put on a condom and pushed himself into her. Her eyes widened, she screamed in pain, he got out. “All that desire was for that?” She wondered how the human race could possibly exist if THAT was what sex felt like.

But the next morning, she wanted him again, and they tried again, and this time he stayed. During the next month, they spent every spare minute together, having sex at every possible opportunity.

“Look, they left a joint for you.” He discovered it on the mantle at the house where she was babysitting after the little girl was tucked into bed. They mixed a drink from the liquor cabinet, smoked the joint and had sex on the beanbag chair while the words, ‘Breathe, breathe in the air’ played over the stereo. The parents of the little girl didn’t ask her back after that night.

“Your cousins are asleep, they won’t notice,” he slipped into her while they were camping along the Colorado River one weekend. And that’s where they were when the condom broke.

“My period is late,” she explained one day a couple of weeks later. His eyes widened.

“Be sure to weigh yourself everyday, and not until after you shit,” he advised. Her period started a few days later. The next day, as usual they were hanging out with the gang having lunch in the quad. The bell rang and everyone got up to go to class. She leaned in for a kiss, but instead of kissing her he said,

“I’m bored.”

She was sitting in biology class when her chin started to quiver. She barely made it home before the tsunami, and when she got home, she threw herself on the bed, buried her head into her pillow and started to sob. She sobbed and sobbed for three days. What she didn’t know then was that a part of her died that day he broke up with her; an innocence that would never return.

Her heart ached as she spent the next two years watching him get with anything blond that moved.
___

30 years later, he sent her a letter and apologized for his lack of regard. “I was a shit back then,” he said, “A walking hard-on.” She reflected back and wondered why she never noticed before the imprint that he had left on her. Had she really been trying to repair the damage by getting with bad boys again and again? She reflected over the men: her domineering ex-husbands, the crazy men that needed fixing, the men with marriage trouble who chose her to ‘dally’. And finally, she wondered if he was a part of the reason she wasn’t really attracted to anyone who could not hold their own ground. After all, she had chosen her own ground, again and again, and could certainly no longer be accused of being boring.

“I’m sorry.” He said again as they chatted on the phone talking over old times. “I’m really sorry for how I treated you, you were a sweet girl and you didn’t deserve it.”

A tear formed in her heart, and it warmed the empty spaces that she had forgotten. The scars that she thought were sealed bled slightly, and though she had forgiven him already, 30 years before, his words kissed the bleeding wounds while he spoke them, and all she could think of was, Breathe…

____

For Mark...thank you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Unraveling Dreams



You painted my face
In shining beams
I dressed you in silks
of schemes and dreams,

(And not just any kind of dreams,
Forever, ever, always, dreams).

Unraveling now
In shades upon shades
Tendrils have ripped
The garden gates,
Facades have crumbled
The rain’s washed clean
You stand there, naked
(In a pile of dreams).

You disappear into the mist
A glance behind,
A silken kiss,
The single thread
Left in my grasp
Leaves shadows of
A wily Asp.

(It seems I’ve dreamed
This dream before
Must I dream it o’r?
And o’r and o’r?)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hanging on by a Haiku

In response to Karen's excellent poem about writer's block, The House of the Poet, I began to pine about my lack of anything beyond a haiku in recent weeks. I know I am busy doing other things, but nothing gets to the bottom of my soul like writing a poem does.

Maybe one reason is that I kind of decided to start writing and submitting poetry for publication, so I bought a Poet's Market book, which is sitting there looking nice in my living room, I did open it, once. But since buying the book, and deciding to write less poetry for the blog, I've been surviving on minuscule helpings of haiku. Haiku is tasty, it's kind of like dim sum, but I want more. I suppose I should begin psychoanalysis as to why I haven't started upon my self imposed task of submitting for publication, yes I could write it off to 'being busy' and that wouldn't be false, but it's not really the reason either. I also can tell you that it is completely within my personality type to say I just haven't felt like doing it yet. But really, it is the remains of paralyzing self doubt that I still haven't quite been able to kill dead despite being a world traveling superwoman, able to beat off masses of descending rickshaw wallahs with a single 'back off' glance. Yet, even though I've masqueraded as a brave conquering superwoman, the demons live. And thrive.

Recently, during the few attempts when I have set myself down to write a poem, words just presented themselves out of my mind in such a jumbled state of garbage that their fate is to remain as scrap piles in my journal, only to be surprised in 10 years when I go back and look to see who I was then.

GARDENING HEALS

These pictures are the before and after shots of the planting beds I just made in front of my house. The first picture, I had dug out about two feet of lawn already before I took the shot. The shots are not great shots, I'm only showing you for documentary purposes.

I don't know if it is that you have your hands on the ground and are playing with your pet earthworms, (trying to save them from the violent shovel instigated earth disasters that disrupt their little earthly abodes), or whether you are co-creating with the faeries when you are planting, or whether it's because you are working your lazy ass off for the first time all winter, but gardens heal. Body, mind and soul. And newly invigorated from the spa of hard work, I decided to TRY to write a poem, and here it is, with the help of the structure of the time honored sonnet.

Calliope Goes Off to Play

A simple sonnet, that is all I ask,
To place upon the stacks of empty shelves,
Now set down on the sofa with the task,
Enlisting help from literary elves.
If I can't write about the things I see,
Those things in grips of shadow hidden light,
I wonder then what night's befallen me,
What's crowded o'er the tendrils of my sight?
Calliope has fled into the fields,
I see her playing yonder with her friends,
While I, with shovel, dig for crops to yield,
The ground will fail if I don't make amends.
Perhaps she'll visit here for just this task
A simple sonnet, that is all I ask.


I thank you all for your abundant support, you have all inspired me hugely and vastly, and in gargantuan fashion.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Image Prompt: Angel in Pink


In a shaft of light
An angel rose before me,
The Lady Slipper

Hi everyone. I've been out in the garden where I am finding great healing for my body. All that digging and shoveling seems to be just the perfect antidote for overuse of computer. I'm deeply regretful that I haven't been able to get around to everyone's blogs lately. I think I might have to invent some kind of implant so I can see your blogs whenever I want to from inside my head..., uh, no.... Even if that were the case, I'd still be too busy to read. That garden, you know? This is a CRAZY busy time of year OUT THERE. Anyway, please don't take it personally, you KNOW I love you.

I stopped laboring long enough to go for a walk in the forest with my camera the other day, on a wildflower hunt. You can't imagine my joy when I found this beauty, and her friends.

Your 5-7-5 haiku descriptions are welcome in the comment section. Have fun!