Saturday, July 30, 2005

Back to the Basics

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Shopping for underwear? has a summer sale under way. But don't get your "hopes" up. This ad from the gay fluff magazine "Instinct" offers more incentive to buy than anything on the Skivies' website!

And speaking of "Instinct;" this is a "Vogue"ish/GQ/Advocate periodical that I have mysteriously been receiving for nearly 3 years now. Never subscribed to it. Never paid a cent for it. So who am I that I should get in on the ground floor of anything gratis?

Friday, July 29, 2005

What I'm Listening To #3

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
I told you that my tastes were ecclectic.... So tonight's it a Scottish folk artist: Dougie MacLean.

A longtime favorite, I actually had the privilege of hearing him perform live in the ballroom of a hotel in Lexington, Kentucky back in 1987. He's a terrific performer.

If you like melodic tunes with singable words on inspirational topics, buy any of his CDs. The concerts are better than the studio discs -- the cover paintings on the latter are the works of his artist, wife: Credit for which appears no where on any of the album it must be a fact that I remember from that concert many years ago now....

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Canada Memoir #1

I need to share something more positve after this spate of reactions and despair reguarding the execution of the boys in Iran.

So where better to turn than Canada?

I grew up in a little town in southeastern Michigan only a few miles away from Canada. With my parents, I explored, as a youth, the sights and attractions of southwestern Ontario on occasion -- most notably a place called "Jack Miner's Bird Farm".

So it was that in 1990 I persuaded my dearest friend in the whole world to take a trip to Canada with me. The Canadian leg of our vacation took place after spending a week on the Cape in Massachusetts. The entire journey was about 3 weeks long and all together we visited and stayed in places in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Maine along the way. This memoir happened on our first day in Canada in the little town of Hudson, Ontario on the provincial border with Quebec.

We arrived in mid-afternoon and set up camp and then took our bikes and rode into the little Hamlet of Hudson in search of food. It was Saturday evening and unbeknownst to us, the eve of the Feast of St. John the Baptist (a major holiday in and around Quebec). As we enetered the town we approached a small market only to discover that it was closing even as we tried to enter it. Frustrated, we looked around and noticed a women tending her gardens across the street from the store. So we rode over to where she was, introduced ourselves, and inquired about a market where we might obtain some victuals.

She was simply delighted to engage us in conversation. As our discussion unfolded we discovered that she had a son about our age and was preparing to leave for a week long visit with him in Connecticut where he was attending college. She then asked us if we had a place to stay. We said, "Yes," but she persisted to offer us her home for the week. WHAT?! We were dumbstruck by this. And she reiterated the offer saying that she felt much safer knowing that her home was occupied in her absence versus empty. (Are you getting this? A single women has offered her home to two strangers...NO, foreigners -- men from another country after only a brief and cursory introduction.)

You can't imagine our incredulity at this invitation. Needless to say, we declined it. Our itinerary was not geared to a prolonged stay in Hudson, Ontario, but I have NEVER forgotten this moment. Who could? Such blind faith and trust in strangers (me!) is a gift that no one can expect. And nothing likely to ever happen in this nation....."O Canada!..."

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Myth of Security

As the evil murders of the two adolescent boys in Iran continues to percolate in my mind and dominate my thoughts, I am reminded of this essential reality: while every human being on this planet seeks security and safety, neither will ever be guaranteed. Such grace is not an aspect of reality (e.g. What would pass as a youthful indiscretion, or a consensual sexual act protected by the rule of law in one place, is your death sentence in another). And it really doesn’t matter who you are. Tomorrow your world could be ripped away from you. As a friend recently said, "Freedom of religion no longer exists in the U.S. Conservative Christianity is quickly becoming the religion of statehood, and we are all being forced to live under its tenets. I keep thinking things will change. And then they do--for the worse."

And still, I’m thinking in the broadest possible context here. When, for example, a natural disaster redefines our world, we are shocked, but we know that such things are (usually) within the realm of possibility. And while the regime that oppresses the people of Iran could well be argued to be even more trustworthy in this particular tragedy than ANY natural disaster, the basic premise is the same: inspite of our faith in history or institutions, our individual security is a myth.

A mere seven years ago, who (no matter which side of the political spectrum where upon you stand) in this nation could have honestly imagined the present reality of this precipice of history on which we now teeter? Rights most Americans have taken for granted for nearly a generation are now back in question – and rather than advancing and expanding our freedoms, the present regime is “heaven” bent on limiting and molding rights into the narrow box of their theological world.

There was a time when the thought of pure democracy in some societies was not tenable because the majority of citizens beliefs and desires would clearly oppress the minority. In such countries, this desire to create an idealized society based upon the majority’s well-defined and exclusionary doctrines was labeled in more “civilized” nations as Fascism.

The world witnessed these ideological social experiments in places like Italy, Kampuchea, PDR China, and the Soviet Union, and opposed them. Eventually, the very citizens of these nations rebelled against their oppressors. And more often than not, looked to our nation as an inspiration.

So imagine my surprise, as I now I realize fully how the United States is becoming the very thing it has long stood against? We are being driven toward a theocratic state that is actually hell bent on reversing and denying personal freedoms. The state is assuming authority in our lives based upon a singular understanding of who and what God is. An understanding that logically demands of it’s adherents either the conversion of the infidel, or their annihilation. I am not speaking hyperbolically. And I am not a citizen of Iran....or North Korea, or Burma, or the Sudan -- or any another Facist nation.

Wake up, America! Those of us who still want, for ourselves and for others, a nation based upon hope and FREEDOM are not yet in the minority here. We must rise to this moment and make our voices heard. We must oppose the forces that seek to impose their cultural paradigms upon us. While those who feel that our present direction is the right direction must be allowed to live in a nation where they may experience this in the privacy of their own homes and social circles; every other citizen of the United States must ALSO be free to expect nothing less.

"One nation....with liberty and justice....for ALL."

Random Quote #15

"Those who Deny freedom to others Deserve it not for Themselves."

~ Abraham Lincoln, (1809 - 1865)

Random Quote #14

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

~ Benjamin Franklin, (1706 - 1790)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Pray for the Martyrs of Iran

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
I have really kept my post very personal, and not really very tied to the present political culture. I have done this intentionally as I want this space to be a place of my personal reflections and memoirs. Yet, there are moments that demand a response. Incidents that haunt the soul profoundly -- and what on earth is more personal than that?

You see two young men in this photo moments before they were murdered. Over 14 months before this moment, they were taken into custody and held in a jail in Iran after being accused of committing homosexual acts with one another. At the time of this incident, they were both younger that 18. There is no hint of force in this action, i.e. both were aware of their actions and engaged in them of their own free wills.

In the last 14 months of their lives they were not only tortured, interrogated, convicted of this "crime", but they were daily flogged for weeks upon end.

When I learned of this, my heart clinched within my breast. I know that the men responsible for their fate believed that they were about God's work. And this is simply abominable in the presence of the God that I know. What strange evil grips the minds of people who kill children? Can you tell me? And how is any consensual act of intimacy so threatening that its appropriate response is torture and murder? Can you tell me?

In my 21 years as an elementary school teacher, I have enjoyed meeting thousands of parents and students. I have taught and created relationships with people of every major religion and cult in the world and from all continents and countless nations. One group that stands out as the most generous and supportive of education and me are the people of Iran. I have told friends this for years now. So how does such a civilized and generous people create a system of justice that allows for such barbarism?

I guess when I ask this, I ought to keep the mirrors close at hand for anyone from the U.S. willing to consider my plea.

A link that I commend to you is:

Random Quote #13

"An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation.
Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life.
Morality is never upheld by legalized murder."

- Corretta Scott King, (1929 - )

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Kentucky Memoir #2

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
During the last year that I attended college in Kentucky, I also worked on a horse farm: Cold Springs Farm, near Keene, Kentucky. I obtained this job via my relationship with other students at Asbury College who also worked there -- my first lesson in the reality that it's not nearly as much WHAT you know as WHO you know that provides opportunities in this life.

The job was a 6 hour a day commitment over 7 days, and paid some piddily amount ($2.50 -- $3.00 an hour? I forget now). I worked one week from 6 PM to Midnight, and the next week it was Midnight to 6 AM; and my co-worker was a really sweat guy, Mr. D. -- also a student at Asbury College. The farm boarded a total of 61 horses housed in 4 barns during the night. The barn pictured here is the "Foaling Barn" where mares who were most close to foaling were housed. There was also a barn for general horses, one for mares who had already delivered or were not pregnant, and one for yearlings. You can imagine that I learned a hell of a lot working here.

And working is really not that fair of a word for it. I mostly just hung around. When things were happening, I was very busy, but 95% of the time, I sat in a tack room doing my homework, reading, listening to the radio...

And most of the time was spent there in the dark of the night. As this photo attests, the night was a magical time to be there. Usually, I would drive my pick-up into the barn, and it would be sitting in the middle of this crosshatch of light.

On one particular night, I did so. Then retreated to the tack room to read "Treasure Island" for my Children's Literature class. Suddenly I heard a commotion, and emerged from the little office to discover a mare and her foal loose in the barn. She was very agitated (whinying and rearing to bat at the air, and her foal was frightened and very confused, and I thought, "Oh My God, what if she kicks my truck? I'll kill her!"

But I suppressed that emotion and quickly realized that above all else, both animals were afraid of the dark. I went to the nearest end of the barn and closed the doors. Then I walked slowly along the side of the barn opposite their stall and shut off all of the lights, one by one, until I reached the other end of the barn and was able to secure those doors.

The time it took me to do this left both horses a little more calm, and as I walk toward their stall, I reached into each stall before it and gently switched off the lights. Soon only their stall and the office gave off any glow. With the office door closed, the foal then chose to returm to his stall and his mother soon followed. I then quickly secured the stall's door.

My truck (and myself) safe and sound, I gave a little prayer of thanks and then restored the lights in the other stalls in the barn.

Another lesson in the powers of light and darkness. Why not?

Haiku #1


A hazy day —
even the gods
must feel listless.

~ Issa (Kobayashi), 1763 - 1827

Thursday, July 21, 2005

My Name Is -------. and I Am Addicted

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
To Poetry!

I read it voraciously, daily, widely. For many years now I have sent poems out on post cards from art museums to a wide range of friends and acquaintences, and even a relative stranger or two. I trace this habit back to my ex- Mr. J., and my profound desire to make real the call to commit "random acts of kindness" in this world. My ex- used to do this as well, and I don't know if he still does. I hope he does. I hope that reading this will inspire you to take up the practice, too.

Over this past Christmas I visited the ministry of a friend of mine. He has established a center of education and worship in the barrio of Monsenor Les Cano in Managua, Nicaragua. For years now I have sent him such poetry post cards. Imagine my delight at finding them lamenated and used as bookmarks in his library! My heart was deeply touched, and my passion encouraged greatly. I will tell you about and share some of my favorite poems/poets with you in the future. Just another strain in this ever expanding online journal.

But let me leave you with this poem by Keats. Feel free to copy it (it's in the public domain) and share it with those you love. It clearly speaks to a philosophy of life that I embrace.


The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the Ocean,
The winds of Heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine? —

See the mountains kiss high Heaven
And the waves clasp one another,
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother,
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?

>~ Percy Bysshe Shelley, (1792-1822)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Costa Rican Memoir #5

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Education as a career for me was really an afterthought -- or perhaps an accident based on incidents (random Quote #11). I originally studied to work in the church. And then I actually worked in a church! Oucha Magoucha, the experience did not affirm my beliefs or my talents at the time.

So I switched majors and rushed an elementary education degree as a second major...I may hold the record for hours of courses completed at Asbury College, but I eventually finished with 2 majors and one minor (and a foreign language! -- parle vous française? Neither do I! But I digress....)

And then, in an accidental way, I obtained my first teaching job at Colegio Metodista in Costa Rica. An acquaintance on campus, who had once worked there, heard about my desire to teach overseas, and then suggested that I contact Colegio Metodista to see if there were any openings. I called and was hired over the phone on a Tuesday. I notified my parents about this on the Thursday, and to the amazement of everyone concerned, was bound for Central America on an Eastern Airline flight a little over two weeks later!

As the plane descended toward the airport in Alejuela (entering the magnificent cavity of the central valley out of which most the people in Costa Rica live), I peered down upon a land dulled by drought (a seasonal thing), and stepped off of the flight on February 6, 1984 to the utterly expansive beauty of Costa Rica. At the school, my position included 3 units of 9th grade geography, 9th grade honors English, and 11th grade honors English Literature, (and later, a section of 10th grade regular English was added).

My students were mostly Costa Rican, but included a couple of "Estados Unidensiens", Chinese (from Hong Kong mostly), Canadians, and at least one kid from Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama. They were quite fascinated by their young American teacher, and didn't always know what to do with me. At times they rallied around me, and at others they tried to use me for their adolescent sport.

One of the "sportive" moments I remember most vividly was the old "thumb tack on the chair" gag. A class of my 9th graders placed a couple of thumbtacks on my chair in the hopes of solicited an injured and thus hilarious response from me. But as it turned out, I wore my only pair of corduroy jeans to school that day. And after presenting my initial lesson and their writing assignment, I pulled out my chair to sit in it. The action of pulling the chair out vibrated the tacks into the central concave hollow of the seat. And so, when I sat upon them, they all embedded themselves into the triple fold of my jean's central back seam and the hollow of my ass crack. Therefore, I felt nothing.

Well, not exactly "nothing". I soon felt the awed and confused stares of my students and noticed the recriminating glances of conspirators whose perfect plan of attack has ended in inexplicable failure. What could they have been thinking? Does their teacher possessed an iron butt!? (I only wish!)--able to bend steel tacks with a single sit!?

I remember looking up and saying, "What." To which many shoulders shrugged and all resumed their attention upon their assignments. After class the son of a Canadian missionary (and no doubt the master-mind of this nefarious plot) approached me and tried to asked about the general health of my "behind". A line of questioning that quickly led to a complete confession.

Dieu d'éloge pour le velours côtelé

Taiwan Memoir #3

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
I was born in 1961 and grew up in a little town in extreme southeastern Michigan called Flat Rock. We had this local joke that we were originally called "Level Pebble," but we grew! Needless to say, life in this little berg was rather insular when it came to other cultures.

And so, my first experience at a Chinese Restaurant was actually in Taiwan! No shit.

Not too far from the English Academy where I taught was a particular little dive that we affectionately called "The Shack". It was run by a talented and unpretentious proprietress (note the picture), and set in an open store front -- it was more like a dank little side walk cafe into which you could also find a table. The entire operation was there for anyone to witness. Her woks were well burnished with the varnished oils and residues of countless meals. And like some masthead leading this ship of culinary conquest, her infant child resided in a locked, iron, playpen on the sidewalk in front of her establishment. So we always fawned over the child as we arrived.

It was here that I experienced my first taste of To Fu, but did not warm to it until much later! I preferred her stir-fried shrimp-based creations; and her sweat-and-sour pork. The latter of which I was told was a Chinese creation meant specifically to satisfy "western" appetites, but not something that the indigenous population ever considered eating.

Now, today, I enjoy a rather intimate relationship with a particular local Chinese Restaurant -- which is to say that I have been a customer there for a little more than a decade. In fact, after touring the Hiroshige exhibit at the Phillips Collection for the second time, this time with my ex- Mr. J., he invited me to his new apartment for lunch -- a meal "catered" by this very take out place. How far have my experiences and tastes taken me from the days of "The Shack".... Yet, you may rest assured, that everyone else has been judged by her culinary expertise.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Zimbabwe Memoir #2

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Zimbabwe is an utterly beautiful nation. And this image is only one example of this exquisite palate.

The third stop on my stay in Zimbabwe was Victoria Falls National Park. On the evening of our second (and last) day there, we (that is Mr. and Mrs. O and I) took an evening boat trip on the Zambezi River below the falls. The main purpose of the event was to see Hippos in their natural environment -- which we did. But a clearly unexpected gift was this cloud formation against the setting sun.

I remember thinking that this was one of the truly magical moments in my life, and sharing this photo with you only reiterates this conclusion.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I Love Coleus

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Okay, by now I have firmly established my love of my gardens. Notice I carefully chose my words here; as the act of actually gardening is something that I engage in occasionally, but far prefer the fruits to the labors! And that is one reason why I LOVE Coleus. Coleus, the psychedelic leafy wonder from south central Asia, is an amazing addition to any garden.

Unlike most flowers, it's always "in bloom". And it comes in such a wonderful variety of colors from brown to purple to scarlet to rust, and on into various greens right up to yellow and cream. Like most varieties of plants (azaleas, iris, geraniums...) there are major serious growers and cultivators of this species; but hey, just look at what I found at the local Home Depot?

The Photos were taken on a recent morning in the midst of several days of tropical rain and humidity (felt more like Viet Nam or Venezuela than Washington, DC). These coleus are all in containers (just another reason to love them...they flourish in the wild and in captivity equally well.) The top photo has the varieties "Chartreuse" on the left and "Royalty" on the right, and the bottom picture shows "Va Va Voom" in the back (top) and "Hurricane Louise" in the main/foreground. The latter is now also blooming with delicate little lavender blossoms. For all the images of Coleus that anyone could want, visit:

Take a tour of their 24 galleries, and, like me, imagine the possibilities.

“Money, Money, Money, Money........Money!”

......Thus sang the O’Jay’s way back when. And I realize that what I am about to propose is blasphemy in the eyes of our present paradigm -- so when is it better to be a radical? Yet, ironically, I really don’t think that this is as radical as it is obvious. It’s time to rethink our money....or, more accurately the portraits found upon the bills and coins of our currency. And given the recent flexibility in this realm (both mental and real), why not? We’ve seen the Sacajawea dollar coin (an EXCELLENT beginning); the state quarters, the Louisiana Purchase nickels. Even the conservative Republicans have proposed replacing FDR on the dime with RWR.

And have you seen the Euros? Or the Brazilian coranados? Or the South Africa rand? They all attempt to portray people from a variety of disciplines within their cultures -- people who have made a difference.

So this is what I would love to see.

Money with portraits on one side, and images that reflect the greatness of our nation on the other (no more old buildings). Now granted, there are some patriots who deserve to be remembered. So to this end, I would want to keep Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin around; and Lincoln is safe, too. Let the $1 bill still show a portrait of Washington, and on the flip side a scene from the Revolutionary War featuring Sybil Ludington or Molly Pritchard. The $5 bill retains Lincoln with a reverse image of African Americans standing proud and the phrase “...and justice for all” clearly legible.

As to the ten and twenty, hmmm: Hamilton and Jackson have to go!

For the $10 bill, I propose Frederick Douglass, and on the back an image depicting a free press -- (imagine that, again!). On the $20 (something even more radical), I want to see the image of Rachel Carson; and on the back a Robin in the branches of a Maple tree with the phrase, “a sense of wonder preserved.” On the $50 bill let’s kiss Grant’s sorry ass good-bye and replace his portrait with that of Sequoia, and on the back an image of a plains American Indians’ pow wow (or something indicative of Native American culture and values). Keeping Franklin on side A, on the back of the $100 let's have a picture of the space shuttle with the phrase, “A free people make sacrifices to invent the future.”

As to coins; let’s stop the redundancy of human portraits -- AND return to images of animals (just 'cause I like animals!). The Penny can show an eagle on side A and a portrait of Harriet Tubman on side B. The Nickel can have a pair of white tailed deer on side A and portraits of John and Abigail Adams on Side B. The Dime can show a Coho Salmon leaping against a water fall on side A and portraits of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt on side B. The Quarter can show a Grizzly Bear on side A and a portrait of Nancy and Ronald Reagan on side B. (Shocked? Don’t be. I really believe in justice for all. Now, of course, Nancy has to die before this can happen--so not something I expect to happen soon--, but won’t the astrologers be happy?) On the Fifty-cent piece let’s put an Otter on the A side, and Emily Dickinson on the B side. On the Dollar coin, let’s put the grey squirrel on side A and retain Sacagawea on side B.

This is just meant as a place to start this discussion. What do you think?

Random Quote #12

"You must not measure a man by the heights he has reached, but from the depths he has come."

~ Federick Douglas, (1817 - 1895)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Random Quote #11

“Accidents and inspiration lead you to your destination”

~ Mary Chapin Carpenter, (1956 - )

And with this quote a little story.

While living in Kentucky back in the mid-80's I ran with a friend, Ms. M. For a brief time in my life, Ms. M. and I were nearly inseparable. One day she told me about a time that she spent at a cloister on Long Island and the wisdom that a nun had shared with her there. The sister told her that some people are our companions in our journey through life, and others are merely signposts.

Figuring out the difference and accepting the results seems like an awesome act of faith to me. And I have spent years doing just that.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Kentucky Memoir #1

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
I lived in Kentucky from September of 1979 until July of 1994 (with the exception of the year that I spent in Costa Rica -- 1984). In the autumn of 1979, I arrived in the queer little hamlet of Wilmore to attend college at Asbury College. It is a small, private, liberal arts institution founded in 1890 with a definite perspective toward evangelical, fundamentalist Christianity. Not as wacko as Oral Roberts, Bob Jones, or Regents, but clearly peculiar in the eyes of the secular world. How I ended up there is a story for another time, suffice it to say that that's the reason that found me living in Kentucky. It's a state that I thoroughly love.

This is testified to by the fact that after graduation I chose to make it my home for so many years. After returning from Costa Rica, I obtained employment with the Jessamine County School District. For eight years I taught the 6th grade there, and then was invited to join the Kentucky Department of Education where I worked to develop the state's assessments.

At the risk of being redundant, I love Kentucky. I am so grateful for my time there. It is the place where I met my best and most faithful friends. I look forward to posting stories from my years there.

Costa Rican Memoir #4: "House of Light"

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
I lived in a distant suburb of the capital, San José, called Curridabat. At the time, it was about as far to the west of San José as one could go without leaving the continguous urban sprall. And yet it was also fairly convenient vis a vis the ubiquitious and amazing public bus system.

At some point in my stay, and I honestly don't recall how, I made the acquaintance of a really wonderful young man, Mr. S. Mr. S. was, I guess, about my age (23), and he was well spoken in his English. We would spend time together just enjoying each other's company. It was a purely platonic friendship, and one that have come to realize is all too rare in this life.

Mr. S.'s father headed up an NGO that distributed funds to organizations that offered care to children with special needs. And it was through this that Mr. S. introduced me to the work of a little Carmelite mission, Hogar Luz. Further up the mountain, and further west of even Curridabat, the mission was tucked away off of the main road in a little compound that consisted of living quarters for about half a dozen sisters, and, at the time, ten children. Ranging from age 12 down to infants, these children were among the most severely handicapped, and I can not put too fine a point on this, most fortunate in the country.

We often hear stories about the abysmal state of special education in this nation, but friends, you have no idea how this segment of our human family is treated in nations where resources are scant and understanding scarce. The children of Hogar Luz were living in a virtual Eden.

After my initial visit with my friend, Mr. S., I began making regular treks to Hogar Luz on my own. My Spanish absolutely sucked, but because I was a guest of Mr. S. the sisters permitted me access to their charges. And what ever was going on when I arrived, I just joined right in. Sometimes this meant assisting with feeding the children, sometimes it meant changing diapers. It really didn't matter to me; and frankly, I think that fascinated the nuns. The picture is of me holding one of the most able of all of the children, and it was taken by Mr. S. on a day when we visited together. I recall that we had just spent time with the 2 or 3 older children who were ambulatory playing tag in the little yard. Most of the children were confined to wheel chairs or beds. Of this little boy, I recall that he was often aggressive with the sisters, but really responded well to Mr. S. and me. After spending time in some physical activity, he would become docile and patient. Many of the children bore the physical scars of having been abused by parents and previous care-givers who simply could not accept their disabilities. And given their unique mental abilities, there was just no way to know what psychological scars they carried. It is difficult to remember still makes me cry.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Music I'm Listening to....#2

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Another confession: I'm a total "diva" magnet. I love the sultry voice of a talented woman. In fact, it's my belief that when I step off of the boat onto the shores of Heaven, the "manifestation of God" that will greet me will be a flashy, little, old Black woman in a leopard skin jacket, skirt, and pill box hat (a la Diann Arbus' photograph)...none other than Ella Fitzgerald.

Outrageous? Have you honestly considered the claims of present day belief systems lately? But I digress...

So may I commend to your consideration the works of Patty Griffin? An utterly amazing vocalist, her country/bluesy songs will leave you a good way. The best friend you can have on a cloudy, dismal day: be that a day of unwelcome weather, or a day of internal sadness.



Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
While in the midst of a multi-year rennovation/expansion, the Phillips Collection continues to host interesting and modest shows. The Hiroshige wood prints is a delightful example. The show features the 55 prints from Ando Hiroshige's first major series: Tokaido, scenes from the highway between Edo and Kyoto -- the Hoeido edition. The images cover the movements of travelers and pilgrims in all seasons and all forms of weather. Hiroshige's trademark depictions of rain, snow, and fog all present in the series. As is a lively mix of majestic rural and bustling urban moments along this road.

These carefully crafted images with their subtle coloration and stylized, assymetrical compositions are thoughtfully juxtaposed next to works from the Phillips Collection. Works by a variety of artists, mostly in oils, with some gauche, watercolor, and a lone print by Whistler. As lovely as the Hiroshige prints are, I will confess that some of these other works, rarely displayed (many of which I had never seen before except in print) where the gems of the show.

There were two of the PC's 5 Charles Burchfield watercolors: one a nocturne and the other a rural landscape, both repleat with his trademark egnimatic symbolism. There was a lovely intimate Paris street scene by Pierre Bonnard, several Twachtman's, a couple of atypical and gently beautiful works by Augustus Vincent Tack, two stunning guaches by Herald Weston, and a simply exquisite Gaugan entitled "Bathers and Fishermen".

A great way to spend a hot, humid afternoon. Unfortunately, there was not a catelogue, but you can find all 55 images of Ando Hiroshige at:
From there you want "The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road," and then the top link "Hoeido Edition (1831-4)" will take you to the ones on display at the Phillips Collection. This is a great website for all of his work...easy to get lost there, too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Random Quote #10

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
"Look how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, and yet, I tell you, even Solomon in all his grandeur was never robed like one of them."

~ the Good News from St. Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 28b & 29

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Speaking of Light

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Isn't the light on my deck wonderful? I really enjoy this space, and my gardens continue to amaze me. Wish you were here...sincerely.

I Love Light

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Light is an amazing thing. Bright or subtle, it doesn't matter to me. The way it illumines, the way it exposes, the way it creates shadows: Light is the best.

And there are three times in the day when the light draws my attention without fail. 1) The Pre-Dusk: in the later hours of the day. This is most true in Summer and Fall in particular. These fotos are of my backyard in late September with this special light turning autumn leaves into reflected flames of glorious color. 2) Early morning light. The light shortly after dawn that turns anything exposed to the east into gilded treasures. 3) Full moon reflected light. Have you ever run naked across a grassy field, dancing with arms outstreatched under the silvery glow of our moon on a July evening? I have. It's really a wonderful thing to do, but only if you are a true lover of light.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Zimbabwe Memoir #1

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Told you that I have been to many places! My trip to Zimbabwe was in December of 1990. It was part of a more extended visit to South Africa. In ten days, I got to see many parts of this beautiful nation.

Everywhere I went, I experienced such kindness and generosity. I traveled with my college friends, Mr. and Mrs. O. Our first stop was in the southern city of Bulawayo, where we stayed at the gracious invitation of an elderly Britisher couple -- the parents of a woman who attended the same church as Mr. and Mrs. O, in South Africa.

They were amazing people, having lived in Zimbabwe for over 30 years, and following its transition from the British colony of Southern Rhodesia, to it's then indigineously controlled nation of Zimbabwe.

At one point, we lamented our circumstances, which denied us a visit to the "Great Zimbabwe ruins" at "The Great Zimbabwe National Monument," and our male host decried, "The great Zimbabwe ruins? Just look around you!" And this seemed very accurate as we experienced both power and water outages, and drove past the carcasses of abandoned and "stripped" vehicles/busses along the dusty roadsides.

So they took us to the lesser known "Khami ruins" at the Matobo National Park. There I walked around similar circular and ancient structures and met my first rhinocerous in the wild. Also many baboons who inhabited the abandoned ruins.

And that was 15 years ago! I mourn Zimbabwe...a nation under the control of a despot leader. God, deliver the people of Zimbabwe ~ now that's a prayer worth repeating!

Random Quote #9

"The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self."

~ "Mr." Fred Rogers (1928 - 2003)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Taiwan Memoir #2

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
The summer I spent in Taiwan as an English teacher, at the tender age of 20, was really wonderful. I met many beautiful people. Their glow, their genuine natures, helped to form the foundation of my own philosophy of honesty.

But in 1981, I was anything but comfortable with "honesty": Still struggling with my sexuality -- (I'm gay, you remember that, right?) -- Still dabbling in the world of evangelical Christianity for answers.

So, well within the closet, and pretending to be straight: I participated in the English Camp of my host, the "Chung-T'ai Academy," in T'aichung, Taiwan. The camp was a chance for locals to get away from the grind of their lives and spend a long weekend practicing their English, and just enjoying themselves. To this end, we would engage in sports in the afternoons -- things like volleyball and ping-pong.

After one particularly heated volleyball game I retreated to a bench on the sidelines. Soon Mr. S. joined me. He was a young man whom I found very attractive and sweet. He sat down next to me and pressed his bare leg against mine, gazed into my eyes and declared, "We have something in common." My heart STOPPED! A confluence of hopes, desires, fears, and subterfuges ALL collided in my mind.

I remember responding with a very lame, "What?"

"We have something in common," he repeated with the delight of conspiracy in his voice, and then he grasped my thigh with his sweaty hand (proximity for Taiwanese is considerable less than for us frigid Americans!). And to my frozen expression, he said, "We both have hairy legs."

Exhaling a muted sigh of relief, I glanced at his smooth and muscular legs, and sure enough, there were at least 5 little wiry, black hairs protruding from his otherwise porcelain smooth flesh.

So, Mr. S., we do have one thing in common, and I have long wondered whether or not we might have another....

Music I'm Listening to...#1

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
My taste in music is very ecclectic. I used to say that I would listen to anything BUT heavy metal and Rap. And then I connected with Latino Rap! Very seductive. So my taste is all over the place. And my heart is open.

This evening I have been in a pensive mood, so Rolando Villazón's "Italian Arias" have been my background music. On this CD, this Mexican tenor has given us some really wonderful operatic "standards". And yet, his first selection is both a bold and amazing rendition of "Lamento: É la solita storia" by Francesco Cilea (1866-1950) that will leave you utterly undone.

Of the music that I listen to, opera is a minor chord, yet this CD continues to play a major role.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Random Quote #8

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born”

~ Anais Nin, 1903 ~ 1977

Thursday, July 07, 2005

R. O. C. (Taiwan) Memoir #1

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
As I said earlier, I've been very blessed to have had the opportunity to travel and live in various places. I spent my summer in 1981 in Taiwan. It was an interesting time to be there. The United States was just removing it's ties to the Republic of China militarily, in favor of a better relationship with the People's Republic of China -- an initiative begun under Nixon and then receiving greater impetus under Reagan.

So I spent the summer teaching ESOL (English as a Second Language) at an Chung Tai Academy in T'aichung. T'aichung was the third city at the time, behind T'aipei and Koahsuing. The population was about 350,000. I taught four classes that ranged from a group of girls from the city's premier girl's high school, to adults with a fair ability with English, to beginners (adults with very little exposure to the language).

The experience was awesome, and formed the basis for my choice to become a teacher. I will share more from this time, over time.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Costa Rican Memoir #3

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
My position at Colegio Metodista was my first full time teaching job. Trained in elementary/middle school, I was hired there to teach high school (grades 9-11, geography/English), which was a really great experience.

It taught me that it's not the subject or the age that matters, but the people. Information can be found in books, on websites, from many sources. It does not transform individuals as powerfully or as completely as a personal witness -- a caring relationship.

We each hold the potential to rock the worlds of those around us, simply by demonstrating love for one another. This is NOT a religious thing. Anyone can care; and everyone needs to feel cared for.

I recently found a card from my nineth grade geography students which they gave to me on the occasion of "Father's Day" in 1984. Mind you, I was scarcely old enough to be any of their older brothers, and certainly NOT any of their fathers. Here are a couple of the quotes:

"Thank you. You're like a 2nd father to me" ~ S. Jimenez

"Thank you for being such a special friend and a great "Daddy"..." ~ S. Kravitz

"A very happy and special day to you 'Daddy'!" ~ D. Gonzalez

Something Scary This Way Goeth

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Driving to the market today, I happened to find myself behind a car from South Carolina which bore this type of license plate. And my stomach turned within me.

Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Random Quote #7

“We find rest in those we love, and we provide a resting place in ourselves for those who love us.”

~ St. Bernard de Clairvaux, 1090 ~ 1153

Saturday, July 02, 2005

...with Liberty and Justice for ALL.

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
This is a phrase from our pledge of allegiance to our flag. It's something I have recited a little over 6,000 times in my life. Researchers tell us that it takes about 15 repetitions of something to commit it to memory. So 400 times that would seem to commit it to the soul. It is something that I profoundly believe in. It is something profoundly lacking in the current leadership of our nation. So much has been written about this moral abyss, that I don't plan to add anything new or insightful to it. It just saddens me deeply.

Yet being a citizen of this amazing nation does not sadden me in the least. It is an unwarranted fact, based upon the accident of my birth, that I give thanks for every single day. Because though the clouds of jingoism and neo-fascism cast their shadows upon the shining principles that founded this nation, they will not endure the test of time. We are a greater people than our current leadership realizes.

But enough of this...the founding of our nation is a day to remember and celebrate. On the cusp of July 4th, (as nearly 1,800 Americans have given their lives in a dubious conflict that only lies would justify -- okay, one last jab!), I want to remember my uncle Bobby -- Robert Lee by birth. He joined the army while the ink on his high school diploma was still drying, against the will of his mother (my grandmother), so compelling was the cause: to stop the spread of Fascism and the Nazi juggernaut. He trained in Mississippi and was sent to England. On December 24, his ship left the port of Dover on its way to the conflict in Europe. But it never arrived. The USS Leopoldville was torpedoed by a Nazi submarine shortly before 6 PM on Christmas Eve. In letters from the men who survived that horrific experience, his friends testify to Bobby's sacrificial actions. A Staff Sergeant, Bobby removed his life jacket and gave it to another man, and eventually dove into the icy waters of the English Channel in hopes of a miracle...but it was to be his grave.

So, I never knew my uncle Bobby. He died almost 17 years to the day before I was born. Growing up, I heard many stories about his happy-go-lucky personality, his generous nature, his impish side, (something my family has deeply embedded in our genes!) I have a copy of a report he wrote back in 1942 as a Junior in high school. It's titled, “Me, Myself, and I”. It's written in his own hand, and is the only record of his life in the first person that exists. You can imagine how I cherish it. When my grandmother succumbed to the dementia of Alzheimer's she began to refer to me as Bobby, whenever I would visit her in the nursing home. And while this drove my father crazy, I was really happy to be “Bobby” for her. Like Lazarus from the grave, she saw me, and the dead was resurrected. She would tell me things about Bobby in these moments simply by interrogating me as if I was him. He must have been a good man.

So I remember this good man I never knew on this Independence Day. And I trust that his sacrifice, like all of the sacrifice made in the name of this nation, was made in the full hope and faith that the United States would exemplified the credo: “One nation, with liberty and justice for all.”

My Love Affair with Words: My Favorite Novel

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Okay, true confessions: While I have been a teacher of reading for over two decades, I was not a kid who liked to read. In fact, I spent more energy in elementary school cheating on reading assessments than I ever did on actually trying to read anything. Reading was just too tedious. And what was the point, I mean, it was more fun faking it than doing it!

And yet a review of my old report cards reveals teacher after teacher who praised my reading skills! You can imagine how my students delight in this irony! And how keen I am to catch the fakers!

So I am a definite Johnny-come-lately to the world of literature. And since entering it, I am no veloceraptor in my consumption of books. The books I read are few, and more often than not discarded before finished. Yet the ones that resonate with me.... those I savor! I devour them purposefully, and I enter into their worlds with a passion that borders on mania. The characters become my intimates, and I feel all of their emotions, their every action with a presence of one inextricably connected to them.

My first experience of this intimate participation happened while reading “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. There's a scene where the protagonist recognizes Anna in a carriage and in his unbridled joy he runs along side of her buggy. It's a really pedestrian moment in the entire scope of the novel, and yet I suddenly burst into tears! I felt myself running there, the muscles of my legs staining to keep up, my lungs heaving with exertion, my heart full of the presence of my “beloved”. I swear to you, I cried so hard that I choked! And I was utterly amazed by the power of those century old words to grip my heart and squeeze it so!

And then I understood. I understood the allure of the written word. How like some drug, it could actually alter someone's state of consciousness. How words can command our emotions, delivering us to new worlds and new understandings of the world we inhabit.

My favorite novel is James Baldwin's “Go Tell It on the Mountain”. The first time I read it, was right out of college, and I can't remember for the life of me, why I picked it up. I have read it probably half a dozen times since then.

It's the semi-autobiographical story of a young black man growing up in Harlem in the shadows of his mother, stepfather, and aunt. Written as a triptych, each third tells the story of how each of these adults came to be where they are in life. My favorite scene is when the stepfather, Gabriel, is returning home after a night with a young woman, and on a lonely mist shrouded lane, he encounters God. It's just an utterly insightful and amazing moment in the novel. I have read everything that James Baldwin has written, and none of it reaches the virtuosity of this first novel. Not even the gay themed “Giovanni's Room”. This is his tour de force, and an oft-ignored American classic.