Monday, May 28, 2007

The musicologist

Having a musician guest for a couple of days, reminds me of a time of always having color and life music in the house. He plays the guitar, banjo and the dulcimer, sings in a high almost falsetto voice in some old haunting songs. This time he brought the gentle melancholic sound of the dulcimer to my place, since he is putting a book together for his dulcimer classes in traditional music. The Ebony Hillbillies just played Carnegie Hall before he came over here. During their performances - you can catch them also in the New York Metro - they talk about the origin of the instruments and black American music. Today he instructs me about beat an offbeat, the banjo being African and we listen to Bach and Desert Blues, music from the Sahara en Central Africa. It is gray and raining, yet with conversation and music, the blues lover feels good. The musicologist on his lap is a big fan, the painting by his friend Tony Mafia.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Strawberry sweets

Reading ‘Winter in the Blood’ by James Welch over breakfast in my favorite patisserie in this monthly city, a family of Germans marches in: grandparents and a teenage granddaughter. Ordering, grandpa stumbles over ‘Pfefferminz Thee’. From my corner outpost I volunteer thé menthe, infusion à la menthe… Grateful, he proceeds to tell me how his trip was, enumerates German and French great men, explains his feelings about the eastward enlargement of the European Union and the fears that plague him, having twelve new countries joining the EU in such a short time. Now the conversation is all in German. Upon leaving for a day exploring the town and some touristy activities, he walks up to my table and in the gentlest way puts three strawberry sweets next to my plate. Mistaking me for French he explains: “A symbolic gesture for French/German twinning. France and Germany are the heart of Europe, so this is for ‘une entente cordiale’… “ I smile and I say: yes for cordial understanding in the whole world.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gatherings and goodbyes for now

On the way to work this week I saw a little girl with dirty naked feet, a lady on a bench painting her face, three boys jumping off a bridge and swimming away. Also I noticed the water was flowing to its meeting point with other waters faster than I was walking; yet I arrived in time for a gathering for a friend and colleague. In our job sometimes for weeks or months even within the same language unit, one doesn’t run into each other, and often disasters in another’s life go unnoticed. This dear friend had been retired for a while and other mishaps had befallen her. She is strong enough now to face us all. It was a moving affair, since we all know how difficult it is to keep in touch. Without traffic jams we live three and a half hour away from each other. When in Arizona, that doesn’t bother me. In Europe I am three countries further down when I arrive. Our friendship grew on the half hour walks from work to the center of town. So we had a chance to talk about anything, not just shop. She is a sensitive, strong soul, working for migrant women, being a Portuguese migrant herself, throwing herself into the folk dancing from her country; also she is a specialist in old Roman mosaics… The wine flows easily, the fish is fresh and tasty, the company is warm and accommodating to the two only guests who do not share the language of the evening. In each new set of people we have to find the common language that is most comfortable to all. With the Portuguese the atmosphere is warm and the speeches flow easily and heartfelt. I’ll miss the sparkle in her eyes, and am grateful that she is part of my collection of strange souls…

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Paradise is an old Persian word, meaning walled garden, described as lush, with trees for shade and abundant water. The garden should comprise a reference to the four streams that define the cradle of our civilization and a fountain. An enclosed garden, orto chiuso, a place of serenity where the only word spoken is said to be ‘peace’.
I get the image yet I rebel: paradise as a gated community with a water feature? As a private golf course near Palm Springs or Phoenix where abundant water is used even if it is not available? Shouldn’t Paradise be an open place with always a person there welcoming arriving strangers with just one word: Peace.
For the time being, and still wandering, wondering I say: Willkomen, Welcome, Ben venuti, Bien venue, Welkom, blij je te zien. Come and on the road to paradise carry peace in your heart, in your hands and your head…

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Royal Blue

Last night a tribute to a neo-realist poet was held in the prettiest theater in town. It was a strange hybrid affair. I have read the work of most of the participating poets and a few were new to me: thus an interesting mix. The young poetess known for three words ‘fucking white rabbits’ had a few other interesting images. So let’s not be too harsh on her. The guy introduced as the slam poetry champion of Holland, a performer, and a tiger on stage, to me seemed a droning bore. The clever word games he had on offer I have heard in the sixties and better. The widow of 10 years never has been a favorite writer of mine. So I let compassion reign since I try to practice ahimsa, which is not to hurt any living thing. I have a problem with this tribute: a mausoleum was being build in which also the living were entombed. It would have been a bleak affair in comparison to Goddamn! the sparkling, creative tribute to Nina Simone, if it weren’t for Alfred Schaffer and Gert Vlok Nel. Schaffer is an Antillean poet describing in the gentlest, coolest, borderline perturbing way the anti-terrorist measures in Holland through his colored eyes. ‘More than I can say’ is a cleverly placed repeat phrase. And then the real cathartic discovery Gert Vlok Nel, South African, speaking and singing about loss and love, friendship and the road, the sea. He writes about pain and though coming from a singular place he can touch and move us all and his pain becomes a universal pain shared by all. His South-African/English mix of lyrics - he performed a.o. track 4 which got under my skin - is projected in translation on the screen. Beautiful. Tender. Dynamite. A true tribute to a poet who wanted to dynamitize language. As a bonus there was an old friend with whom I share a love for language and art and thus talking late over coffee and tonic.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Window of opportunity

In 2002 In Beirut the Arab League has worked out a peace plan for the Middle East. The Peace Plan has recently been reconfirmed and accepted by ALL member states. The Secretary General for the Arab League, Amr Moussa is touring to explain what it entails. In brief and only the main points: a durable just peace entails two sovereign viable states. The 22 countries of the Arab League offer recognition of the State of Israel and secure borders as they were in 1967. The thorny issue of the Palestian refugees who 60 years ago were encouraged to leave and find shelter in a refugee camp and who officially by the world leaders then were promised they could go back home to their houses as long as they had their key, should find a just, equitable, durable solution for all involved. The mutual violence has to be halted. It is so dangerously deadly now that a new term has come up: the Somalisation of the Gaza strip: despair, hunger, chaos so big that people turn on their own. The situation is highly critical for world peace. In Israel Simon Perez and others have said in the past the 'Beirut Plan' could be a basis for negotiation. Other leaders are divided and afraid. They remember what happened to brave Rabin when he started to become a man of peace. There seems to be a window of opportunity this year. The Quartet, all involved in trying to establish peace, should seize this chance and have talks with a deadline, otherwise dead and destruction is all that will be. We all living in democracies and defending this form of government are guilty as well. We told the Palestinians to be democratic and organize elections. They do and then we don't like the result and punish them... What message is that to all countries en route to democracy and peace? Let's get all parties involved around a table. Help them talk so they find a solution for the higher good of all. Negotiations are the only way. And please, do liberate Alan Johnston. it is his birthday and there are vigils for him all over the world. He is a voice of reason in the news about Palestine and the Middle East.

Monday, May 14, 2007


A couple enjoying a bit of sunshine before the rain. I admire the reckless abandon in the ladies fashion statement. She does and wears what pleases her: heavy, comfy shoes. I remember the stockings as a black and green tartan. I love the golden hearts she wears and the three reds. A flaming paradise bird sat on that corner reminding the strollers and walkers on the age old cobblestones that we must make our own road to happiness. As Dr Scarponi teaches: do what you want or need to be doing most. Add 'Don't worry be Hopi' to the mix and survival... Care and learn. I hope to be as spunky as she is and I'll remember her on a dark day's uneven road.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


They used the term ‘IED’ at CNN, as if everyone in the world knows what that stands for. I understand how these situations arise. A new phenomenon is noted in the real world, someone tries and defines it. In order to be accurate, so that all the specialists know what they are talking about, the description of the new thing tends to be rather lengthy. Writing or talking about it is cumbersome so the long definition ‘improvised explosive devises’ becomes IED. When the general public, listening and watching, discovers an acronym or initialism and its meaning, one has the feeling that this thing referred to must be highly prevalent, a daily occurrence. Otherwise it wouldn’t be necessary to shorten it to its first letters. The images were clear. The origin of the deadly device could be deduced from the language of the newspaper used to imbed the nails and ball bearings in… Peter Berger, in the interview with the captured man, reminded him of what the Koran actually says: If you kill one human being, you kill the whole of humanity. In the Bible they teach not to do unto another what one doesn’t want done to oneself. Native Americans teach that we are all related; so does the wave structure of matter on the cosmic level since we are all part of the same space from which comes time through movement. Buddha teaches ahimsa, non-violence and my grandmother taught me gentleness. How come that with all the religions, teachings and science, we humans are still stubbornly violent?

Friday, May 11, 2007

An awkward picture of the beautiful view through the narrowest window. I signed today. Now the administration has to run its course and then slowly but surely later in the year I'll get to know the rhythm of the city from above. I know the cathedral is lit up in the evening, also the square tower. It will be a living canvas. Imagine this with a large wide window. A sofa, a lamp, some music and books, some paintings on the wall... And yes a bed, also room for guests and my dogs.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Intergenerational thoughts

Lately I have felt the joys and weight of my generation upon me. I had not thought of it, or rather felt it before because in many things I seemed to be the first in peer group to do certain things. I had a daughter rather young and notwithstanding I finished my education, later I left my family, married an Indian and artist no less) spent time on a different continent and became a widow…
Being first in my group made me feel all this was just part of the randomness of life, never perceiving I was going against the normality of the social clock which dictates when to do what. So I lived I thought as every human being within the joys and sorrows of my life. Until lately.
It all started with meeting a friend of my daughter. He was older than I expected, my age – one year younger- good looking. I could see the young man in him and the man he would become. Talking with him was easy. We understood why decisions had been made this or that way as we knew not so much each others place but each others world at the time of those decisions. We even danced well together, feeling his gentle lead and finding it natural. I was even easier than that because in that war which never was declared and which was Vietnam, we had both ended up behind the same demarcation line that split our generation, although he is a veteran and our lives have been very different. When asked why it had been so easy and fun I heart myself reply because we are the same generation, formed by the same historical context…
The second incident was the early retirement of a colleague, a friend just a few years my senior packing up all her belongings and moving with her girlfriend to Spain.
A group, about 5 of us, had studied at the same school. I had seen her just having past her interpreting exam, buoyantly surrounded by friends and jurors going to the local student café. More than ten years later I started working where the other 4 before me had also found a good spot in life. I was taken into the fold. We knew where we came from. Within the small community of 17, we were a distinct although not separate group. Two now have chosen other futures and three are left to hold the fort. It happened that age wise there is a break behind this group, the other colleagues being younger, much younger. This is where I am right now. Realizing for instance that ‘the A. gang’ had a certain weight: we like fun, but yet we are principled, we like a good discussion in which politics is personal and vice versa, most of us outspoken and warm. So I wonder what I have actively to offer now. The younger colleagues do an excellent job. Yet I can see the different life phases they are entering in and what lies ahead of them.
As my daughter, a futures specialist, pointed out to me: my looking back and seeing them with what I know can guide them in seeing their futures. I think that over the years I have learned to pay attention to the personal flux of people and the comprehensive view of the changes at work, for instance not sweating the small stuff. The way my younger colleagues look ahead strangely is also my future, because for some years we will still be working together. Later, when I have worked out kind of a future plan, a flexible program or pliable roadmap for the years after the job, I can see what they have planned to do with the position I hold and thus I will be able to leave eager for the new challenge of having time.
Of course at work we are all equal in the here and now. Yet we know what the “extras” are each one of us has to offer: computer skills for work and private use, specific knowledge about different issues or countries, a specific pleasing morality, an ambitious drive, administrative skills, literary interests, training, ballet and Wagner… So we know whom to turn to when we need information or help and thus once again age is forgotten.
I see my graying hair, I feel the weight harder to fight off and I am eager, as I always was to know and explore places, subjects and people. So this friend’s goodbye touched me with melancholy, made me realize all is well. At least as long as we all stand together undivided by the generational differences, living now, sharing what we must or want and can share. So it comes about that now is good and our tomorrows too.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

IM Tony Mafia

Eight years... Remember the painter, musician and the man. Collected by many, his work enjoyed a cult status in a small group of people. His Native American heritage shines, he was Onondaga Cherokee by his father and mixed European through his mother.
Always restless, always roaming. He gave me the desert.
What is, is always.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


The media are biased. They tend to portray negativity and scandals, preferring bad news over good and thus reinforcing this kind of mentality in the reader, listener, viewer or clicker. The second bias is towards ‘the executive’, in other words towards power and the power base, be it in industry, art, health or in politics. The masses aren’t heard unless they stage a negative event. That would create airtime and attention. Positive messages, dignified protest is seldom aired unless there is a well known face, a celebrity who joined the action. We know who is a scientologist, who defends the Dalai Lama, Indians, Peace, Aids patients… And thus the issue is turned into a human interest story. Maybe that is why there are so many bloggers. We are all voiceless, faceless claiming our space in the media landscape.
What do I expect of the media? Fact, not fiction, yet not only facts also analysis and critical comment. Robert Fisk does it marvelously about the Middle East. If you have different sources you will arrie at a balanced personal opinion, at least if the press is free and not tied to an ideology or a group in power. In that case, there is no longer information or news but the media then have become a propaganda and indoctrination machine. Truthful information is a citizens right and a prerequisite for a functioning democracy.
Boo to manipulation and hurray for today’s good news: After ten years of negotiating, today the first Northern Irish government consisting of four parties, former archenemies protestant and catholic has been installed, promising to work together for peace and the wellbeing of their people. So, there is hope and one day there will be peace in the Middle East, if we help to resolve the conflict, reinforce the good and help to rebuilt trust. Mr No Paisley, who spewed hate for years, who vilified his opponents, let people die in the H blocks is redeeming himself and is smiling, as are all on the pictures of this day. This is one process Clinton and Blair started together and helped come into being in a non-violent way. It is a good day.

Monday, May 7, 2007

For the revolution of a young friend

Once Dina met a man in a dark three-piece suit who had been introduced as being responsible for oceans and seas. He had made her think of her father. With each thought the revolt had sharpened. Who was that man thinking he could control the elements. How presumptuous such a title. Now for such responsibility wouldn’t there be a god or goddess, a Sister Moon. Surely not a mere mortal who can be washed away in one and only one wave, not a man who can drown in a puddle? Surely not a man red-hot with anger and popping veins, shaking if his bidding wasn’t done… So her revolution began.
It had always been about control. Now, the rebel she had become, aimed and schemed and worked to get control over her own life. Step by step she would create the distance, be evasive, less personal, be herself, yet in his presence wear a mask, the mask of normality. He would notice the mutiny of course and his ungodly wrath might descent upon her. She steeled her back with the love for herself and him who gave her the key to it. His age old anger could still hurt her, she however would ride out that wave and be standing at the end.
She saw the giant trashing about, squashing flowers, breaking stronger branches, yet nobody seemed to notice the path of destruction. Where he touched, darkness reigned. And the darkness brought fear to her and pain to the blind. Yet she knows she is a woman now, no longer a child. It can not happen again, and again. She recognized the tears of others for what they were: a price revoltingly high for what they perceived as security.
Maybe she lost her fear knowing the tail of the dragon that had tried to slay and possess her in her every move and deepest thoughts. “Die Gedanken sind frei.“ She repeated that over and over again , she wrote it down on pieces of paper. With ink and paper she strengthened her resolve. The pen smeared a tear into a flower. The words of her subversivity were love and friendship, joy, hope, life, smile and yes.
I tell her to wake up every morning with a smile and wake up her voice with phrases like, Good morning. My Love. It is a beautiful day. The sun is a pirate and I am the captain of my ship.
The first word she had written down, was difficult, the description of that soul going from foul to vile, from repugnant to loathsome. When those words had left her, the hardest word she had to say was: yes. Yes, I am my own woman. Yes, I control my life. Yes, I am beautiful and Yes, I want to be happy. Yes, I am vulnerable and Yes, I am happy.
That she had written on a winter’s afternoon and there wasn’t a sea in sight. The Oceans had washed away the pain and left her nothing but whispers and beauty. She learned that if he ruled the seas and gulf streams then all she had to do was turn into something else and she turned into a beautiful, strong, wild woman. Viva la Revolution! It is the end and a new beginning.
My friend, my sister, learn to trust the earth and wind, water and fire and then you will be full and free. String the beads of life as a sign of courage for others to see. If you put them on a staff, it will be an honor to lean on it. I give you my colors and crystalline words so we can walk together, serene and secure within ourselves, as will all who read what you had to say. The others will know and take heart and be helped by your example. Have the courage, write, write it.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Free Leonard Peltier

It is Sunday, a day that requires a bit of spirituality. So I will defend with a prayer, a bit of sage the plea for freeing Leonard Peltier. His saga started in Wounded Knee 1890 when women and children were slaughtered. The wounds are still felt today. On 27 February 1973, supporters of AIM became active at the request of elders and tribal leaders because despair and strife brought the nation to the brink of total collapse. The Counterinsurgence War lead to the shoot out between the FBI, aided by goons and the local chapter of AIM lead by Peltier. Watch the movie Thunderheart, with Val Kilmer and you’ll have a feel for the going ons, also Incident at Oglala by Robert Redford. Peltier has been in prison 11412 days and 14 hours 47 minutes while I write these words. Too long. He allegedly shot two FBI agents: the false testimonies, the tampering with his file alone would warrant his release now. But he maintains his innocence. He wrote My Life is my Sundance which recently has been turned into a theater production which got very good revues in the news papers willing to print them. Members of American Pen Writers in Prison Committee Kurt Vonnegut, Alan Ginsberg, E.L. Doctorow, Rose Styron en William Styron (Sofie’s Choice) have together with Nobelprizewinners Bishop Tutu, Rigoberta Minchù, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama and one of the two judges leading his case signed the petition to President Clinton for a Presidential clemency for Leonard Peltier. The FBI leaned so hard on the President that he gave in. From his prison cell he tries to organize food drives to help his people. He is know as a humanitarian, a spiritual person believing in non-violence. And he is a writer: My Life is my Sundance, an autobiography, lyrics for cds that are being released, poetry. He also paints. He also suffers of ill health. Let him see his grandchildren… Free Leonard Peltier.
In Leonard’s own words:
I acknowledge my inadequacies as a spokesman, my many imperfections as a human being. And yet, as the Elders taught me, speaking out is my first duty, my first obligation to myself and to my people. To speak your mind and heart is Indian Way. In Indian Way, the political and the spiritual are one and the same. You can't believe one thing and do another. What you believe and what you do are the same thing. In Indian Way, if you see your people suffering, helping them is an absolute necessity. It's not a social act of charity or welfare assistance; it's a spiritual act, a holy deed. I know who and what I am. I am an Indian--an Indian who dared to stand up to defend his people. I am an innocent man who never murdered anyone nor wanted to. And, yes, I am a Sun Dancer. That, too, is my identity. If I am to suffer as a symbol of my people, then I suffer proudly. I will never yield. I swear to you, I am guilty only of being an Indian. That's why I'm here…
Posted in the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Spell

A book starting out in the Arizona desert near Phoenix with one of the main characters visiting an obscure structure by Frank Lloyd Wright is appealing to me. The author Alan Hollinghurst, well I knew he won the Booker prize and that he is considered a fine author and that he is gay. The Spell certainly is a gay novel but mainly a very wise and extremely well written one. Hollinghurst is a keen observer of nature, place and space, of architecture, moods of weather and buildings, and of human character. I recognized a lot of his observations about love, loneliness, grief, betrayal. Moreover some of the little gestures, looks, attitudes my gay friends had spoken about (because these were not quiet believably portrayed in the film Brokeback Mountain) came back here in full array and more. The whole gay cultural and sexual scene is convincingly portrayed, frothy, sordid and witty. If you enjoy beautiful, craftfully structured, realist writing about human relationships and its pitfalls and highs, read the novel, unless you are homophobe. The Spell is the magic of love and attraction, yet also the powerful lure of drugs and loud House Music. Being a linguist I was charmed by the language: fast paced, full of allusions, humor and innuendos. Surely, I must have missed a lot of obvious references. You are encouraged to read The Spell and warned… Some excerpts:
- His vocabulary felt embarrassingly large and accurate, though in conversation he had a recurrent sense of inarticulacy. (A Brit in Arizona)
- Random phrases: insulting birthday-cards, unregulated vulgarity, old-world gloom or unsparing post-modern glamour, trowelling on the authenticating detail, the Orchidaceae (young and pretty gay guys), get the Rayburn going and cook an elaborate meal out of the garden and eat it with the sorry haste of the newly widowed.
- Robin felt the fresh awareness that went with showing a familiar place to newcomers … he looked around at the detritus of old religions, vessels of exhausted magic.
- He had forgotten the mood of a new affair, the compulsive mix of risk and reassurance. … I suppose the thing is, with types, it’s not so much the look as the psychological thing. Whether you’re drawn to givers or takers. … Those unspoken sadnesses or unguessed embarrassments that one partner keeps from the other forever. … He already knew the lesson, he knew the bereft amazement of finding that you unwittingly had your last fuck, your last passionate kiss, your last taxi-ride hand-in-hand in the gloom…
- It seemed that happening and happiness were the same … everything was immediate (after dropping E, ecstasy)
- Don’t become a slave to your need for freedom.
- Robin felt a tiny proprietary shock at the take-over by strangers. … it was that startling moment when you find that the party has taken off and is using up fuel. … The kitchen showed signs of the misplaced tidiness of guests, everything subtly wrong.
- He needed to find somewhere, and had an image of the light and space in which he would live, but nowhere he looked at had the right circulation… The edge of a small country town at 10.30 at night, with rear lights disappearing: it was a definition of loneliness.