Monday, December 31, 2007
31 December 2007. Mild winter sun, ripply shadows in dark windows, Kathmandu reflected in reverse, white letters on a red-oxide field, twining narrow branches of sidewalk tree overlapping, grayed-pink wall above. Unrequited.
Adentro. The stories of Mansilla, set on the Pampas. Cacique Ramón, Mariano, Baigorrita... Tierra adentro, o quizás el desierto. Today, in the north: two engaging substitutes: El Dúo Coplanacu. Guitarra y bomba--the large hide-covered Argentine drum, held at the side of the waist, played with pungent tamped-down sound: muffled feet in rustic shoes on an earthen floor. Their faces, half-smiling, eyes alert, touches of gray in their beards...
Half a century before. La Plata, a theater stage, worn wooden boards, dust clouding the air at each pounding wave of footsteps. Dark boots of the dancers--baile folklorico--a warm-up act--naive and good-hearted, the best of intentions...giving it their all...
The past re-enlivened, the dance...
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Friday, December 28, 2007
28 December 2007. Warm gray sky, night rain. Latino paperboy in baseball cap with flat white plastic bags hanging in a roll from the back of his waist. Colombo truck skewed in at an angle, red lights on an even beat, woman in red parka crossing the pavement just behind. White smoke against luminous sky.
Songs of innocence. Tiny settlements on the Argentine plain. Ushelo, San Felíz, Leubucó. La pampa--el desierto. Your choice. Stretch of wild landscape over miles and miles--an inestimable distance, the scrub grass parsed out on patches of dry gray-brown earth. There: figure in floppy hat, white bandana and wide belt, a characteristic nonchalance. "No me vale pa' nada..." But what does he mean to say? The long horizon, a beautifully brushed horse, his facón with the intricate carved silver handle...
At the ends of the earth...Atamisqueña...
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Thursday, December 27, 2007
27 December 2007. Clear cold sun. Winter surf, battened down and buttoned up. North Shore of El Cerrito--the creek break, glassy waves, 3-1/2 feet, north swell. Water something like 49 degrees--in the shade, and that's not counting wind chill--of which, today, very little. Calm.
Heading down Tyson--summer now, past the Weseloh Chevrolet dealership at Wisconsin and Hill--reflection in glass--then on over the Santa Fe tracks--thick palm trunks and scattered gravel--creosote brown of the Rorick houses--peaked roofs in the old way, more palms... Steep walk down to the Strand. Aging guard tower and dull stucco hut--Betty's Beach Cafe. Was that the name? Leaning against sun-warmed south wall after morning in the water, songs of a sort--Santo and Johnny, fins on the '59 Plymouth of Chubby Lopez' dad--inscribed in sign-painter's script: Costa Plenty. Before the coral-wash of subdivisions lined the hills...
"Well it's cryin' time again, you're gonna leave me..."
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Monday, December 24, 2007
24 December 2007. Sun, with a few pearly clouds. Pockets of mist in the hollows--Albany Hill. Local presence. Yesterday: run of valley land, dry winter earth, sycamore and oak. Stands of cypress guarding a barn. Church doors and tractors, tended fields. River Road--riparian wilds down to the Stanislaus, woodchuck, field mouse, deer. A cooper's hawk, silent above.
Evening: with Zoya at ninety, her bright bright eyes, small intense face. American songs for a Moscow girl. "Maskvoh," Yael reminds me, insistent. "My grandmother was demanding." But Zoya listens, her ears up, hint of a nod, a frown, a smile--the feelings wash over her face--a streambed in Byelarus--all the way to the Pripyet, that same run of land--family turf--Gomel', Mozyr--far far away, long long ago...
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20 December 2007. Winter light, sun, long shadows, streets wet with last night's rain.
Ahn Dong Ni, hermit painter of the Lijiang. Perhaps you know him? Osmanthus blossoms in late fall, water buffalo and phoenix-tail bamboo. The cormorant dipping for fish in silver green-gray waters and the mountains of Guilin hovering in the mist. Fields with remnants of the harvest--wandering rows of rice on browned earth, the stalks tended and tied, each by hand. A child's braids. Effie just ahead, on her bicycle, turns suddenly and smiles, as she shows me her home. Do you know the poems of Po Chü-i? His small house with pond alongside--just as it is here, perhaps. Hint of winter in the still-warm air, farmer's smoke at dusk...
Thank you, Mao-Yun, for the name--which can mean everything... "For water clarifies the spirit, no less than a perfect friend..."
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007
19 December 2007. High sunny morning sky, phalanx of fleece bits--a widening V to the west, but otherwise, as they say, clear... Claro qué sí, dice el diccionario de modismos Argentinos. No simplemente las palabras vos, o che, sino frases enteras--la pucha, vamos a morfar, qué querés?
Following Mansilla: the gaucho--a man with an open visage, high cheekbones and a narrow, somewhat aquiline nose (algo aguileño). Thick brows, straight across, with pronounced vertical lines in between--dark brown eyes behind heavy lashes, and a face burned black by the sun--el sol del desierto y el aire frio. Narrow hands, strong, with the flesh separated well from the bone... Translating aloud, late at night, flat on my back in a narrow bed, white upstairs room, paintings on flaps of loose canvas all around, also whitish, with brushy touches of white again, distributed in an even but irregular pattern over unbound folds: las pampas, perhaps, the beginnings of snow...
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Tuesday, December 18, 2007
18 December 2007, Tuesday. Gray wind through the magnolia, constant rain. Golden leaves against an even grayer sky--dull emergent browns. Homey emblem of the 7-eleven, emblazoned on milky slumpstone parapet. Marlboros: 3.99. Miller Light--red blinkers flashing, patient behemoth. Hooded driver leaning into handcart--dark blue cast iron--stack of plastic crates. A sliding economy with sketchy lyrics--something about Engelbert Humperdinck, or that unending version of "Delilah" (Tom Jones?) blasting forth from the speakers of a Bulgarian amusement park in Warszawa, 10 floors below. Vision of the future--1968--something raw, untamed. Or today--an elephant, constructed of vertical Venetian blinds, black-ribbed plastic ductwork and a gathering of artificial flowers. The authenticity of detritus. What is our choice?
Un equipo de gauchos, mateando...
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Monday, December 17, 2007
18 December 2007. Dull pings of rain on window at night. Cold wind off bay, clouds and fog. Waking to scatter of golden-red leaves on dark asphalt, touch of sun. Rolling amber light on curved back of moored WM refuse truck--an efficient nondescript yellow and green--color in the service of utility. "He made the trains run on time." And who'd want to be kept constantly waiting? Like a spurned lover, or aging golf-coach with fewer and fewer attendees?
Wide run of the Pampas. The Río Cuarto, somewhere below Córdoba. The gaucho: facón y boleadores--un chaleco con botones de plata. Rosas, Quiroga, Sarmiento. Bartolomé Mitre. A nation's names. But also--los caciques--Mariano, Ramón, Baigorrita...
Aquí me pongo a cantar
Al compás de la vigüela;
Que el hombre que lo desvela
Una pena extraordinaria,
Como la ave solitaria
Con el cantar se consuela.
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Friday, December 14, 2007
14 December 2007. Vapor trail to the east, over glowing patch of nascent sun. Above: whispy crescent of puffy cloud return against cobalt morning blue. Larry just on his way out: Nancy Pelosi conspiracy theories. (Each one of us is implicated). These are the risks...
Like a pair of shoes slightly too large. Or an unfinished book, lost somehow en route. Two hooded workmen with doughnuts and coffee--steaming in the chill. One gestures upwards with a mittened thumb. Again last night: Lucio Mansilla. Lo Argentino-- the qualities of a human being. "Reserva y lealtad."
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Wednesday, December 12, 2007
12 December 2007. Cold morning speckled clouds: winter trout over lost hills... Last night: unparalleled adamance, even with tears--a dangerous combination--but for whom? To the mat on every jot and tittle--with the subsequent claims of bad faith. Bad faith. Is there such? Large woman in the copy store, with her teenage daughter--serene magic of Africa and a South Carolina American Baptist church. Peering steadily at wide horizontal color image of ice flows in the Antarctic, mounted on foam-core and adhered to the wall. She inquires about preparing certain words in the same way: trust, truth, honesty, faith... These appear, one by one, in a dignified serif script, hovering over the wilderness, then vanishing...
Leslie Lerner, for the time he was here--visions out of Brueghel--an unending imagination...
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007
11 December 2007. Cold, golden morning. Four birds over bank roof, clustered swoops. Tiny plane with reddish tail high above. Then a gull, ocean bound, proficient. Sunlight through vinyl letters on glass--colorado--carried across the floor as a shadow, right reading: Copy Ce... Girl in floppy turquoise watchcap and brown-toned hoody, loping across the street on diagonal, papers in hand. All of a sudden: driver of the 18, long light red braids (dreads?) streaming down the left side of her face.
Lucio Mansilla: Los Siete Platos de Arroz con Leche. Time of Rosas. Rozas, as he spells it. "From rezar--to pray..."
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Monday, December 10, 2007
10 December 2007. Gleaming winter sky, low angle sun. Black Toyota work truck in 7-eleven lot, side panels like Greek fire, wirey lumber rack on top, styrofoam coffee cup balanced precariously near the edge. Last night: I reach to pick up Natasha, but in her desperate feral state one long nail hooks my wrist and forearm: long narrow line of red, then more...
Passions and fears. Line of trees in winter mist, somewhere in the eastern part of the valley. Stearns Road, running north to the Stanislaus. Grays and dull gray-greens, empty branches to the water's edge, summer splendor turns winter's ruin. Residents and guests: wood duck in the shadows, golden-crowned sparrows... Lapping of the river, quiet damp air. Marshlands and melancholy...
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Friday, December 07, 2007
7 December 2007. Golden morning after a long night's rain. Glistening on gray streets. A long spider strand holds the light for just a moment--gleaming against dark mansard roof across the way. Delivery truck in low gear, passing. Man with high forehead, hand to chin, propped in cab of double Dodge truck, dark dark green, moving uphill...
All views possible. Like last night, with Benjamin's wall of scrawly drawings, ear to ear, gears and faces, made personal by a particular unexpected intensity. A table of food--Nathaniel's cheeses, chocolate--a respite of luxury, alongside (my) plebian wine. Las Españolas, their whispery voices, quizzical, enchanting--a sea bird flying up the face of a cliff, wings spread wide. Ptarmigan, gull. Hanukkah candles--the third night, on a homely cardboard menorah with tin-foil doily, which I see lighted suddenly from across the room. Hojin's embarrassed smile--"It was me." And why not? Three candles, each one waiting. We make the blessings. How could they not burn?
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Thursday, December 06, 2007
6 December 2007. Yellow lights against gray, golden leaves on dark sky. Man in heavy coat and tired jeans, standing under 7-eleven eve to light a smoke. Lee at her work nearby, bending over metal-topped refuse box, gleaning: the dented can, the twinkie wrap, aluminium foil. On roof above: narrow whisp of wire, straight up.
Yesterday: the red elephants. But why? Fragments of torn paper, jostled into shape, bits of scotch tape. Sabina prints them out--smallish saffron squares, spots of red, stapled onto immaculate and dignified white cards--a little off-kilter--with all our names. "A Modest Extravaganza."
"Please join us."
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Tuesday, December 04, 2007
4 December 2007. Gray on gray, morning rain. Golden Corona bottle splashing into tropical pool (delivery truck), while all around the puddly asphalt sits waiting. A kind of bland and homely anticipation. Lone gull banks left, wings wide, touch of mauve in a damp sky. Another flash of red and gold--boxy emergency vehicle--now gone, replaced by nondescript white panel truck. Signs in windows, orange-red and off-green. Announcing. Gull returns, swooping close, heading up the avenue. Arched and pointed wings...
Last night: pilgrims and penitents. Tuan's work. Narrow column of Vietnamese names, preceded by Dominic, Peter, and John. A church in Hue, half-destroyed, then half-destroyed again. Filling the fields for three-days, dozens of thousands, the claims of faith. Against what odds?
A wayward king...
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