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Feria

giselle
From what I could tell, every town has it's own patron saint and every patron saint comes with a yearly Feria, or festival. I went on a small day trip to San Andres Xecul on their Feria day my very first week in Guatemala. It was a short trip and my first time on a "Chicken Bus". We wandered up to the square, oohed and ahed at the bright colored church, paid our pittance and visited the shrine up the hill, watched the dancing to the band in the square for about two songs, then hustled back to the pickup truck that would take us down the hill. There would be more happening later, but the pickups didn't run after dark so we had to get back to Xela, us gringas with our cameras and unusually wide eyes.
Eight weeks later, after I'd spent three weeks in the tiny communities of Fatima and Nuevo San Jose, I got my chance again. The town of Columba, which was the market town of the area, was having it's feria for Cristo Negro. This time we knew folks with pickup businesses, and there was a futbol game in the afternoon. We would go and stay until after the fireworks and get a safe ride back to the school where we were staying.

Xelaju played the Cuatapeque Vibora on the town's futbol field, full size but with about the same number of benches as a junior high field. For five quetzal (40 cents) a piece, people from all over trickled in and filled the seats, then the hillside, then the tops of the walls, the roofs of the vendor stalls, ans much of the standing space at the edge of the fence. Xelaju was a reasonably reknown team, and based on the relative lackluster of their game that afternoon, one got the sense that this tiny town feria was not the site of their most robust efforts. Still, all the kids from their dirty shirts and bare feet to best ruffly dresses and pressed brand new jeans gaggled together; the men with the dry ice pots sold tiny cones of bright colored ice cream, and general excitement ruled. At the end of the anticlimactic game, after the autographs, people poured out into the street, and disappeared for a few hours. We wasted time, then watched the people in their finery head to the church and people-watched in the promenade where kids jumped on rides and vendors sold micheladas with your choice of cheap beer.

There was one big ride, the Rueda de Chicago, or Ferris Wheel. It seemed obvious to me the three of us would have to try it, as the people of the town had been talking about it for weeks. My companions were less sure, but i convinced them quickly, and they never forgave me for this. The ride helpers stuffed all three of us into one seat, intended for two guatemalen adults as far as i could tell. The gate wouldn't lock so the ride worker spent 3 minutes jumping up and down with his weight on it until it appeared to snap shut. To his credit, he double and triple checked that it was locked. It was scary enough going around normal and slow speeds because all i could think about is "who regulates these rides here?" but I let go and laughed. Back at the bottom, the other ride helper looked at us darkly and laughed, "tienes miedo?" he said to each of us ("are you scared?"). An ill considered "si" from my companions caused him to shake the basket vigorously and repeatedly. He said, in spaninsh, "you haven't seen anything yet", then the ride started abruptly and with lightning speed hurled us, backwards, into the sky at speeds i had maybe experienced on roller coasters, but never on a ferris wheel. The town folks in that promenade thought we were the funniest sight they'd ever seen, judging from their points and stares, the ridiculous gringas who rode the Rueda. The ride stopped, went in forward direction even faster, so fast that our basket spun almost 360. But eventually we landed, we would have kissed the ground if all the locals had not beaten the fear of giardia into us.

We wandered dizzily until spiffily dressed Nuevo San Josecos we knew pointed us to the fireworks and then the Marimba in the hall. The pyrotechnics were strapped on a metal contraption build on top of a facade facing the square. When fireworks were lit, sparkling messages appeared, flaming fuses spun wheels and made metal birds fly. I'd never seen fireworks like that, after all the millions of over the top fireworks holidays in Chicago, I'd never seen anything like the fireworks display for Cristo Negro in this small town in the highlands of Guatemala. We only got to see two marimba songs before our late chariot left.

Our spiffily dressed town friends told us the next day they had stayed until four in the morning and then woken up at 6 am (a bit later than usual) to do chores. And this is what was so amazing about the Feria -- one day a year you flock to THE event, and there you see all the people from all the tiny communities that all come out once a year. There were not other tourists, no ads for next weeks big event down the street, no big shiny buses (only pickups and a few chicken buses). Just everyone only doing this once a year. Oh, and the Marimba band had not one, but two marimbas. With one marimba requiring three players, that's half a dozen Marimba players in one band at the small town Feria. They did not mess around.

The next day we told all our friends at the school and back in the community about our adventure on the Rueda de Chicago. It turns out it wasn't the requisite experience i had taken it to be, with many folks very surprised that we had ventured on the thing. One woman who had lived in that area over five years told us a couple folks had died on the Rueda at a nearby feria a month or so earlier. Some of the locals explained they had ridden one once decades ago and never planned to do it again. My companions nixed the idea of a Central American Feria Rueda de Chicago tour. I don't guess I blame them, but I honestly don't regret our naive impulsivity and wouldn't trade that Rueda de Chicago trip for any other experience I could have had in Guatemala.

Upstream

bevel tornequit
On the bus on the way to my job interview today I found myself scribbling comics about the public health concept of upstream. Just in case anyone doesn't know, the metaphor goes that you see someone floating down the river and pull them out to keep them from drowning, then you see another, and another. After pulling out a few, it occurs to you that you'd better go upstream, find out what's causing all the people to fall in the river, and address that. It is still a guiding metaphor of community health nursing, and health care reform, and other health care arenas. But like many good ideas, there's cooptation. I got this flash in my head today of a bunch of us walking upstream and there's a huge fence so we can only go so far upstream, but, hey, at least we tried to walk upstream, so at least we can fish people out of the river a few minutes earlier to reduce the risk of drowning. That truly feels like where we are in terms of so many public health and welfare issues. If we want to go upstream at this point, we have to start cutting some fences, and if you are just throwing terminology around to show you've paid attention in policy class, that's not really going to happen.

I know I said i'd be posting about my travels, and I am, really. I visited a cooperatively owned coffee finca in the mountains of Guatemala, and spent lots of time at a lefty language tourism project where the locals were so damned grateful that us wide minded progressives wanted to spend our unfairly distributed dollars learning about their struggles as they taught us language. I met women weaving amazing textiles to support midwifery clinics and programs for unmarried and or domestically abused women. All of these things are upstream; forward thinking solutions to alleviate problems which get at the source, right. i mean, if your communities are dirt poor and can't afford basic health maintenance measures (like enough food), well, you buy the finca collectively and control the wealth and put it all in community improvement, not the owners hands. But the owners started selling fincas when global capitalism was such that making a profit on coffee wasn't as easy as it used to be. It was part of a restructuring of capital which kept things in the same old order. And now the new collective finca owners are trying to figure out how to stay in the black with all these lands they are paying off. It is better, they can grow their own subsistence crops to keep from starving, there is a type of stability, but they have not beat the system. they are still floating in a current which threatens to take them down.

We are all floating in that current, but being in these rural places on the other side of our precious borders gave me a deepened sense of how far downstream we have all floated. I spoke with health care promoters who participated in amazing programs to be trained to work in the community on basic health care teaching, how upstream is that? But the funding ended so now the work has all but stopped. And that model is the same public health model here: fund an exciting new project but if it doesn't pay for itself or produce some kind of growth after the initial investment it's not sustainable. Well, just go back to throwing people in the river. Seeing how these things played out reminded me how the global capital agenda is one huge continuum. Those fuckers are so far upstream we will never really see anyone actually getting thrown in the river, so we just pretend that our little scraggly ass flotilla never actually touched the water. Nobody will mention how we're all a bit wet and shivering and smelling vaguely of poorly regulated waste water. "Yeah, we were just upstream, preventing problems".

Back in Chicago, more and more of the work i am peripherally involved with is service provision. It is what radicals do now, because if we don't provide basic human services, people will fucking drown. My friends are fundraising to create awesome community driven youth homeless shelters. Because we have no idea how to change the fact that all our rents are doubling and the layer of built in safety net gets smaller and smaller and we know, for this reason, that homelessness will keep skidding out of control when nobody can afford "market value". We are doing sliding scale community care nights, because everyone knows that affordable care does not live up to its name in any way. We are spreading around crowd sourcing for people's surgeries, preventing individuals from becoming homeless, paying of debts for lawyers to deal with someones horribly abusive ex. We are so far down stream we can't even see the fences we would have to cut to start finding up stream solutions.

This is about my travels because I haven't thought so much from this framework since I was 26. It's not that i'd become a different person over the years, but something about travelling broke some glass for me, glass i hadn't realized I'd put up. I think about the core all the time, the thing that has to change for things to really shift. It's almost like I have a new litmus test having seen some other effects of the tendrils of global capitalism, and i'm less satisfied with some of the ideas for alleviation which don't travel the whole length of the problem. I'm not sure what to do with it yet, but I'm going to ask a lot more folks in my periphery what it looks like to cut the fences that prevent us from going upstream.

Maybe it's just my mid life crisis talking, I don't know though, so much of it feels like thoughts that never really left my heart.

Chicken Bus at the Border

self portrait
I went on this epic journey this winter, one I had been planning for many years. I quit my job for the first time in years (something I used to do all the time) and threw caution to the wind that I'd find another before my money ran out. Right now, two months after returning home, with only two job interviews under my belt and no job to show for it, with bills from my ACA insurance which, if paid in full, will delete an alarming percentage of my savings . . . I'm staving off deep regret. But this kind of regret is probably as fleeting as many of the other emotions i've tangled with at the end of this particularly cold winter. The ice is almost melted on the edge of Lake Michigan by Jarvis beach. If i squint my eyes I can almost pretend it looks as much like the coast off Tilapita in Gautemala as the icy but beautiful arctic it resembled a month ago. So maybe it's time to take a deep breath and remember why I took this calculated risk.

I lost almost all my ability to write or draw when I was in Latin America. It wasn't for lack of feeling stimulated or inspired. It definitely wasn't because there weren't a million stories unfolding around me every day and an editorial essay to go with each one. I think it was because i was so focused on learning Spanish, my brain just couldn't switch back like that. I wish that i could return to a moment of each day, now that my full English language capacity is intact, and write from that day. But I'm going to try and piece together some stories from memory in this here journal over the next couple weeks.

I'm flashing to a night in Xela; it was my second time there and I would only stay for about 16 hours this time. I had left a lake town on the other side of the Mexican Border at six am, walked 2 kilometers, taken a collective van to the fork in the carretera, taken another to Ciudad Cuauthemoc, argued with the taxi driver outside the Mexican immigration about fare, taken 2 miles to the Guatemalen Immigration in la Mesilla, argued with the currency exchange guys there, hopped another slightly less overpriced collective taxi to the bus terminal, and waited with an older woman who had traveled over 16 hours from a wedding in Mexico back to her tiny town. We rode together, packed in with dozens of others on the colorful school bus where I nearly cried when I heard Marimba playing for the first time in three weeks. Four hours later we arrived in the bustling mess of the Hue Hue bus terminal and changed together to the bus to Xela. It was two hours direct for me but she was to get dropped of at another carretera which made her a bit nervous. One Ayudante threw her stuff off the top of the bus while another walked her across the traffic circle. I waved to her enthusiastically, feeling lucky for our periodic exchanges of stories about life, and grateful that the men on these buses were dedicated to the safe passage of this old woman who had never traveled so far in her life. Thirty minutes later I got off at another busy market, this time in Xela, where i got a collective minivan which didn't go all the way to the center of the town, but transferred me to one which would.

On this particular day, all of this cost me about $15, in spite of the special gringo prices by the taxi drivers. There were signs on some of the buses, but mostly you just stood somewhere busy until someone came at you yelling names of towns and you corrected them until they pointed you to the right corner and hoped that the eager person that ushered you onto whichever bus or pick up or van or tuk tuk didn't steer you wrong. Weirdly, they never did, except for the time a taxi driver told me there was no collective going to the town I wanted to get to and I called his words a lie and found the pickup with the huge sign for that very town a half a block down the street. Every time I got out of one vehicle, my red back pack miraculously appeared from atop whatever vehicle it had been unceremoniously slung on top of, and often within minutes some other aydante had swept that red bag up some later and tied it next to a bundle of fire wood.

Back in Xela, I finally had everything strapped on the front and back of my body and could look for a bed for the night, which happened at my first stop on this particular occasion. It was a really gorgeous hotel with huge rooms facing a semi-open living room/ plaza. I miss the open spaces in Xela, Chiapas, and DF, even when it was 40 degrees at night and the old women piled in sweaters and fuzzy hats chanted "Frio" over and over and over again. I miss the room windows which open out to lobbies in a strange not-so-private way evocative of all my years living on communes. When I got to Xela this time I was ravenous, because I hadn't eaten a full meal in almost three weeks due to stomach bugs. So I went to the famously popular Indian restaurant that i'd yet to try and managed 3/4 of a meal of what was surprising delicious food, a record, and a good harbinger of my gastrointestinal recovery. I watched the other guests head out for a night of partying and took advantage of precious internet time which i knew I would lack for the next 3 weeks. I watched a movie in the semi open lobby, wrapped in blankets, but not thinking "frio", because i'm from Chicago and any weather i encountered was a relief to me. I went to bed early so I could wake up early, go back to the market, and catch the early Xelaju bus to the school. It was the busiest messiest bus i'd taken yet, and I wanted to be ready for it. I did not yet realize it, but this would be the last time i spent in Xela.

I don't know why this particular moment hangs in my memory - It's not so epic, that night in that hotel. But I think a long day of buses made me feel alive, and being back in Guatemala felt really good after a few difficult and sick weeks in DF. That moment of rest after a long day of buses, especially a border day, was such a reward. Guatemalan buses were my favorite, and I miss them every time I step on a relatively clean and not so crowded L train with not a live chicken or mesh bag full of ten pounds of Cabbage to be found. Maybe i would hate them as much as the teachers at the school if i had to live with them my whole life, if the 10 Quetzal fare was fifth of a days wages. They reminded me of hitch hiking, of a kind of micro economy which was almost socialist, almost, if you ignored the corruption and the risk of drivers getting murdered by gangs trying to skim a cut. Almost, if you ignored the fact that accessible transportation existed for people a bit more poor than me only because those poor people were rich, and there were so many poorer than them who needed to take the bus, even if it was a third of their day's wage. I also loved the days crossing the borders, not because it made me hate any less what those borders stood for, nor because my significant privilege with crossing them was something I felt good about. It is strange, there is so much about the big picture I hated, but getting to be there and see how those borders happened was such a gift, such a privilege of clarity. That combined with 16 different transfers in barely marked vehicles at best kept me from feeling low and sleepy, staved off that dull depression of complacency combined with that feeling that there's nothing I can do about all this shit.

There was more, there were more exciting moments when I saw things and met folks that sometimes inspired me with their brilliance and resilience and other times reminded me of the pipeline between my life and the disasters that have been created in so many other people's communities. I want to talk about all of this, and hopefully I will. For now I'll go to bed and imagine curling up under a thick woven wool blanket with the sounds of Marimba wafting through the open roof of the plaza like living room. For now I will pretend that rather than jumping on an 8 am red line train to go to a job interview tomorrow I'll be catching a brightly painted bus at 6 am for a couple Quetzales.

Feb. 17th, 2013

giselle
I am fully acclimated to night shift it seems, taking naps all afternoon when i'm not on shift. The light is fading late enough that i actually see a little sun most days, but not enough to keep my vitaman D in the realm of not getting sick all the time. I won't even get into the gory details of the seasonal affective. Well, i will say, it's getting much better, and i'm hoping if i'm still working this shift by next winter i'll be more strategic earlier on in the winter. Well, and also if global climate change hasn't pushed us over the edge of the apocalypse by then

This year i'm thinking quite a bit about forgiveness and what that has to do with being open to the gifts we are offered in this world, and also to the ones we are capable of giving. This week i made pie and invited people over spontaneously, had a strange but satisfying saucy encounter with a pretty unlikely stranger, had renewed and intensified connection with someone i already love, biked through lincolnwood and west rogers park on the sabbath, moved responsibly but without too much panic through a bed bug scare which seems not to be affecting me directly at this moment in time, began preliminary job change research based on encouragement by my coworkers that i would be a good hospice nurse, organized my finances, and finished inking enough comics to begin a web comic. Not to bad for the middle of a dark, erratic, and illness ridden winter.

Public Amenities

giselle
Today an older man with grey hair sticking out straight from the side of his hat came ambling up to a corner in the loop with his walker. He was looking desperately at the Archer bus which had pulled up to the light but seemed ready to roll as the green was imminent. I found myself rooting for him audibly. Indeed, he made it to the bus just as the light turned green and the driver let him on. I was so relieved. In this world, i feel so much better when the slow ones are able to catch there bus. Not that it undoes all the pain and sorrow, but it does give me a strange and subtle sence of hope. Yes, I know it's mostly (if not exclusively) luck. But i take it whare i can get it.

I'm worried that Rham is planning on increasing bus passes. i don't usually use passes, but it is the pass riders that need it the most, and what will happen when they have to make difficult choices about how much they will travel from day to day? Should i be relieved that those of us occasional users don't have to worry about an increase from fare to fare? I hate this era of capitalism which has even the most dyed in the wool democratic mayors of the most old school pork barrell democratic cities privatizing everything and whittling down the services that even the middle class shmoes praise. Grrrr. We are so totally fucked.

I say this as i sit in one of the finer bastions of american public commons. The wintergarten at the Harold Washington Library. A huge decorous room with a massive sun roof which is sometimes just open for patrons to just sit, read, write, leach off the public internet even. I wonder what will come of this place, and others (such as the Chicago Cultural Center, the Conservatories, the free Ice Skating Rinks) in 10 years, say. I know, perhaps these "luxuries" are opiates in an era where sending your kids to most any neighborhood chicago school is an automatic set up for failure, still, they are some kind of litmus test, are they not?

I suppose i better enjoy this when i still can. I hope we keep this and find a way to creep back in the other direction some time in my life time.

Tales of a Washed Up Kitchen Top

giselle
I am going through a crisis about cooking. I wish i weren't a cook, wish i hadn't spent so much of my twenties and thirties learning arcane aspects of food preparation. Mostly, i wish i didn't care so much about my relationship to food and other people's relationship to my food. There's so much baggage and stress attached to food, everyone brings it in, and everyone's an expert. I realize, somewhat sadly, that i have not spent 20 years developing a gift that i can offer to others in a mutually satisfying exchange of caring and nourishment. I have spent 20 years finely honing a neurosis to the point where i am absolutely intolerable in the kitchen. or in the dining room. and sometimes at restaurants. I eat 95% of all my meals alone, sometimes after hours of putting together some healthy and oh-so-creative spread of foods. I've had several roommates in recent years who categorically would not touch any food i made. I have been known to bring successfully prepared cheesecakes to parties and watched large groups of people avoid them in favor of walmart cakes, because they knew i was the one that made it. clearly, there is a lesson people are trying to teach me, and it's not as though i haven't spent years trying to pay attention.

It's not as though i don't try to tame my inner kitchen top. I appreciate what others make in the kitchen, i'm careful about my language when folks work in the kitchen with me, i have completed various rounds of soul searching in terms of how much of my vision needs to remain intact when preparing a meal. When i inadvertently say something that gets construed as judgemental i usually notice my error and put effort into damage control. I'm still a kitchen top, i still am particular and like to (sometimes) be able to follow through with a complete vision of a meal. And that fact seems to outweigh whatever it is i have to offer. There is some elusive social skill i can't quite seem to bring into balance with the rest of what it is i create.

Amateur culture is another consideration. Cooking is one of those areas that belongs to amateurs. Everyone needs to be applauded in the kitchen, everyone needs a turn, everyone has an opinion. Is it a woman's work thing? or just because it's such a universal everyday need? It's not all bad, i love democracy, and i love the idea of equalized labor, and everyone getting their hands dirty. I've got no formal food training; there are lots of people who produce much more consistently delicious and/or nuanced delicacies than I. I'm not suggesting that all kitchens be run by trained experts; i just wish i could find some balance where my love of feeding people could be realized and maybe some of the bossiness that has come from the process of becoming who i am in the world in which i live weren't such a deal breaker for people.

Conversely, sometimes i wish i knew a few modest and effective recipes and was content to enjoy other people's food or to indulge in regular takeout or trader Joe's pre-prepared entrees, or premix salads garnished with canned chick peas and some decent bottled dressing. In this day and age one does not need to know how to make mayonnaise and saurkraut from scratch in order to eat reasonably well and healthy without spending too much money. One does not need to make dried beans in a pressure cooker every week, or to know how to make decaffeinated tea out of loose leaf regular black tea. But that's the skill set i seem to be stuck with.

Perhaps it's one of those forty year old crises. I stand on the rainy fall street letting the wind carry away any illusions of the importance of anything i ever learned in my youth. Without a husband and children to be an overbearing matron to, i will never have anyone to force my uptightly packaged kitchen skills on.

I suspect i'm being dramatic, and it will be fine. I made some pumpkin pie out of an abundance of leftover butternut squash my roommate left in the fridge. Perhaps my roomate will appreciate the effort enough to eat some, if not, i will actually not get tired of eating pumpkin pie. This roommate does NOT categorically refuse to eat my food, although i'm realizing maybe if this situation is going to work i'm just going to have to learn to stop being a kitchen top. Or at least to stop caring.

Thank god i have enough money to pay a therapist. sheesh. Takeout would've been cheaper.

Eggplant and Rosemary

giselle
Last week i was riding home from work and i thought i should stop at stanley's produce, becuause it was open and i love stanleys and it's rare i happen to be riding past when it's open on my way home. It's also a good 8 miles from home. I had purchased a new bicycle panier/backpack which i love, but which is much smaller than my old ortlieb bags, and it already had binders from my work orientation, a pair of work flats, books, etc. For this reason i was determined not to over shop, and i didn't think i had, but the really-good-eggs-i-can-only-find-at-stanley's threw me over the limit. There i was next to my bike, the entire contents of my bag and a small grocery bag worth of egg, cheese, and produce splayed across the sidewalk as i tucked and stuffed, took out, put in, played with the bungee cords, wrapped eggplant in my sweater, and so on and so forth until i managed to get all my loot on my bike hopefully securely enough to make it to Rogers Park.
A nice fellow approached the bike rack and immediately offered sympathy to my plight, which i appreciated mightily, as he could have easily rolled his eyes or acted put out having to step over my sprawl of red peppers and figs (oh god, but those figs were sooo good). We got in a conversation about all the things we had carried on our bikes. He told me of epic laundry days; i told him about the time i bought a stereo at a yard sale. I admitted that i was feeling demoralized because, given my former glory of being able to drag the most unlikely items around on my bike, it felt galling not to be able to manage a not-quite-full grocery bag. He empathized with me completely, and i suspect there are very few people that would, so i considered myself quite lucky in that moment.
I apparently succeeded at figuring it out, or at least i'd thought until i got just below the 6000 block (almost home). A guy in a car yelled at me pointing out that my sweater was coming undone from the rack. I stopped and proceeded to affix it in front of the Gethseme garden center. Just before i took off, the woman i'd been following the previous 20 blocks but who had turned off half a block before began chasing me. HEY, I HAVE YOUR EGGPLANT. She approached my with my purple nearly-forsaken-friend and I thanked her heartily. I thought to myself i really wanted to invite her over for caponata once i'd made it, but something stopped me, some streak of urban nervousness. After i thanked her, she said, "no problem, this is the best thing that happened to me today," It sounded kind of strange, but i imagine maybe she had a boring routine day and chasing after someone with a rogue eggplant injected some comic relief.

Yesterday i returned to the scene of the crime to buy some flower pots from the garden center. When i arrived there were some gorgeous and quite large rosemary topiary pots on super sale due to it being the end of the season. Two women were also eyeing and discussing these lovely specimens of kitchen landscaping. I mentioned i would love one but not sure i could fit the 4 foot high plants in 14 inch pots on my bike. They proceeded to convince me i needed one, "they'll probably dry up over the winter, but then you'll have $20 worth of rosemary to eat all fall, winter, and spring". One of them asked me where i lived and thought for a minute, "you could get it and if it doesn't fit on your bike, hell, i'll drive it home fore you." When i'd purchased my pots (having decided not to get the rosemary), and was unlocking my bike i saw them again, "did you get the plant?" they asked and i felt kind of said to say "no," especially since they seemed completly prepared to pull their car around and help me with transport. Again, some non-impulsive part of me was heavily in play this weekend.

After i got home I made the Caponata. It was really tasty, but it would have been tastier with a little fresh rosemary. I had a brief and minor moment of regret that i had not purchased the topiary, and that i had not invited my eggplant savior over to share my dish.

Though for next week: act on an impulse.

Not the shiniest couple weeks.

giselle
I'm eating oatmeal at 5:49 am, with a full glass of tea. A surprising stroke of morning preparedness for me. The clinicals this semester are kicking my ass, and not just from having to be there at 6:30 AM (though i am getting into that mode of wondering when my next migraine will be, and, please, let it be on a day when i don't have class). I got used to clinicals being the place where i shone -- no brainer, here i am, not nervous, where's my patient, yeah, i already did x y and z. That was my one trump card doing the long track with this nursing school foolishness. This is my third year of full time nursing school, with clinicals and all, undergrad, because the LPN was an added year and i get no credit for it towards my RN. The only bonus for that is that i get to glide through clinicals and not feel so stressed. Now i've put in far more hours than anyone should legally have to to get an RN, I'm burnt, and done, and staving off bitterness with only moderate efficacy, and i have a clinical instructor who's just not impressed. Sure, it's peds; i don't know shit about peds, what did i expect?

I'm annoyed with myself. Where's my fortitude? where's my shoulder shrugging attitude and waterproofed back? I'm supposed to be the adult in this program. Standing in a line of 21 year olds as they have their knuckles rapped, learning their formative lessons, all of that, it wears me down. I become ungraceful and obsessed with my age in an unattractive way. It's not like i didn't know what was coming; after LPN school i expected much worse. It's just been a rough couple weeks.

and now i gotta get my ass down to the hospital. Where some small child will be worried about dying. and my actually perfectly nice clinical instructor will repeatedly misinterpret the questions i'm asking, and i will try, really hard, not to correct her and just be graceful and reasonably interested.

Minneapolis: A True Dream Story

bird
I had stopped by Simon's new place while I was on vacation in Minneapolis. It was tall and skinny, brick, old, with long hallways and small rooms. I'd be staying there but another friend “D”, a hybrid of Qilo and MK, was going to take me out for the day.

We were at a little event and wanted to go to someone else's house, and D suggested I just grab a bike. “no really, nobody in Minneapolis rides a private bike, the public bike system is sooooo good. You can just take any bike on the street”. Well, that wasn't precisely true – you had to buy a special type of universal lock for about forty bucks, but that piece of equipment gave you access to almost any bike locked up on the streets of minneapolis. I pondered whether it was worth the $40 for a weeks vacation, but my eyes popped when I saw the offerings. Really nice bikes, not your normal badly painted green or yellow bike fare. D showed me a really rare specimen, “this was made in the early nineties,” ze said. It was bright silver and extremely streamlined; a cross between an old fashioned high wheel, a unicycle, and a beach cruiser. I'd never seen anything like it. There were no handlebars, I noticed, instead the metal tubes swooped into a clean curve at the front. Who knew that Minneapolis was the free bike capital of the universe? What the hell was I doing staying in Chicago?

The event we landed at was in a very un-subtle modern multi level with way too much white laquered built in furniture. I chatted with a cute woman (who, strangely, looked nothing like Laura Jones) about Minneapolis. “yeah, it's so great here”, I said, “i'm kind of bummed I accepted the program at UIC, because now i'm thinking it would have been smarter to do nursing school here”. “you should stay,” she said, "it's never to late to quit your program."

I went back to Simon's place; there was a coffee clatch worth of queens gabbing on the sofas. I thought “somebody must be having company”. Then I found Simon, and Johnny Mercury, who apparently also lived there. They informed me that all of the queens lived there too – I looked down the hallway and realized that the house was, indeed, big enough to boast at least ten bedrooms. Simon and Johnny made some comment about how they were lucky to be living in the absolute center of glamor and fabulousness.

I had a hunch that with all of this, their rent was still cheaper than mine. Again, I had a moment of regret about staying in Chicago. I

I don't really know were this dream came from. I have not been thinking about moving to minneapolis. I have only really been there once (in 1993). Maybe my dreams are telling me to take a little weekend jaunt . . . .
giselle
I'd been wanting to see this movie since it came out -- a documentary about Thierry, a guy who documented a bunch of street artists, like Banksy and Shepard Fairey. It sounded like it was part cool footage of late night street stencilling hijinks, and part tale of quirky ass characters. And to a large degree, that was true. But i have been feeling troubled about some of the ways the movie was framed, especially from the perspective of Banksy and some of the other artists who worked with Thierry.

There's some potential spoiler, although it's a documentary and not super plot twist. But it's not totally spoiler proof either, depending the level of clean slate you prefer going into a movie, so you decide if you want to keep reading.

Anyway, so i definitely agreed with the general perspective of the film was that the main character, Thierry probably had some sort of mental illness in a significant way. I also agree that his final endeavor was an unpleasant mess and that he kind of worked a situation that was less that interesting and without all that much integrity. Also, he did seem like he acted like a jerk who wouldn't listen to reason there at the end. I'm not arguing with any of those things. Nor do i think that the fact that he may have been mentally ill gives him a pass on any of those things.

However, when Banksy says, "at that moment i realized he was not a filmaker at all but just this mentally ill person with a camera," and subsequently distances himself from this guy to a disturbing degree, I think he really glosses over some key points. I began to wonder if Thierry kind of became a foil for these street art guys to deflect their own fear of becoming sell outs. Thierry followed these guys for years and years and was the total background camera guy who did absolutely whatever these guys wanted and, no doubt, amassed crazy amazing footage which really offered them something. He remained trustworthy and reliable (never mind never ratting on people in a tight situation) for an impressive tenure. He didn't have stars in his eyes up until the very end, only a compulsion to be there in those moments. And there wasn't a lot of analysis done by the film in terms of all the complicated factors which went into Mr. Brainwash. I understand that a lot of the street artists were even more pissed off at Thierry than was Banksy, but i think there are some convenient oversights going on about the pressures and interplays of power that may have contributed to the monster that was created with Thierry's Mr. Brainwash.

I'm skeptical about the fact that these artists become all bitter and dismissive when Thierry pulls off this ridiculously lucrative show. He becomes this sell out with substance-less work; but there are a lot of unanswered questions about how Banksy and Shepard Fairey managed themselves financially, and what they did with their wealth once they did hit it big. It's hard to take their indignance that seriously. "he never evolved as an artist". Dude, he followed ya'll around and took all this wild footage for years and years and years. He was the perfect accomplice, he made art WITH you people. But some how, his contributions were never acknowledged as a valid component of what was happening. The art world is set up as "either you are a superstar or you aren't", and then we get to label people as crazy for buying into the extremes of the meglomania which is, ultimately, kind of inherent in that world.

When Banksy realized that Thierry had no video editing skill, his response was appalling to me. He kind of brushed it off and tried to distract Thierry by encouraging him to make his own street art so that he could get his hands on the footage and make his own documentary. And then he was off in the background not really able to do damage control when his "make art" assignment went awry. Yes, of course, Thierry holds the responsibility of how far he went with that directive. But, really, i'm seeing a lot of ineptitude in how Banksy presented his dealing with Thierry. First of all, he wrote the guy off and made him out as a fraud because he wasn't a "real" videographer. Would it have been possible to level with him? To say, hey, what's going on? He wasn't exactly a fraud -- he was taking amazing footage and he was interacting with the art process in all kinds of ways Banksy and Fairey admitted were of benefit. Why could they not have collaborated with him to do something useful with the footage and given him artist credit for capturing all that stuff? (Or did it just make a better film when Thierry was exploited as the crazy fucked up character?) I don't think he was a fraud, i think he accepted and kind of lied about the assignment because the niche that fit him well was not a role that was legitimized. And, apparently, nobody ever offered to come over and look at tapes with him, find out if he needed help, or look into what was actually going on in the head of this guy.

And that's what really struck me, in the end, about this movie: Banksy's and Fairey's ineptitude in terms of recognizing the issues and doing damage control with this guy. How many years were these relationships evolving? Really, were these artists so self absorbed that they never found out enough about Thierry to notice there were things that maybe needed to be addressed? And once they did get a whiff of the depth of his altered perceptions, did they really not have the resources or capacity to try and approach a sensible and compassionate solution? Did Banksy feel chumped because he hadn't managed to figure out the limitations of Thierry's video skills after all this time? Did that embarrassment over his own oversight prevent him from making clear decisions that might have helped ground out the situation? Is it just because he, like most people, knew nothing about setting useful limits with someone with the kinds of delusions Thierry seemed to be sporting? Or maybe he was just too busy being an up and coming superstar.

One who apparently is extra indignant and judgmental towards those trying to get their own piece of the superstar pie.

I still like Banksy's work, and i think he brings up interesting points about those fine lines surrounding integrity, substance, iconography, what have you. But, in this movie he brandishes, in a really flip way, a blind attitude which never fails to piss me off in a global way. It bothers me that Banksy's ineptitude will never be the thing called into question. That he had the resources and mental facilities to work towards an effective resolution which may have been therapeutic for our friend Thierry will never be percieved as the issue. We see that as irrelevant, because it's never any one else's problem; once it comes out that you are a little bit crazy, it's your fault you end up on whatever chopping block you end up on. Of if you pull off some mad but dubious success story, i hope you're prepared to get trashed by those who found their success in less obviously mentally ill ways.

I wanted a movie about the quirky guy who existed in some marginal corner of the street art scene. I wanted him to be respected, even in his moments of grandiosity. And i really felt like this movie was a huge tease in that arena. It starts off as though it's featuring this really endearing weirdo, but then takes a nasty twist in which he is completely undermined and written off as a character we are supposed to wish we had never met. Kind of below the belt, if you ask me.

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