Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Prize blue vase

When I visited my family in Wisconsin last July I took a bunch of photos and had such good intentions of writing down the stories my grandma had to tell me.

One afternoon she told me and my nephews about the time she won this blue vase.

She decided she would get it out of the back of the closet and show it to us. (Later I noodled around with my new camera and took silly pictures of her with the vase.)

The vase was dusty and she decided she needed to wash it right then.

She won the vase when she was a young mother. My grandpa took her out to the Greenbush Fireman's Picnic. In rural Wisconsin the fire departments are all volunteer. I'm not sure if the Fireman's Picnics are fundraisers for running the equipment, or for thanking the firefighters, or both. I remember when I was a little girl going to the Fireman's Picnic (in my case the Waldo Fireman's Picnic) was a big deal. It was just about as exciting to me as going to the County Fair.

While the County Fair had rides and 4-H exhibits and plenty of carnival games, at a fireman's picnic I always won a prize. It could be a parachute man or miniature plastic doll. I especially liked the fishing game because somehow I always caught a 'fish prize'. I was just young enough not to realize there was a person behind that cloth 'water'. Somehow a lot of the adults seemed to know me, also magical. There were brats and hamburgers, and somehow all the stranger adults were happier and more boisterous (drunk). The one ride that was there at the Waldo Fireman's Picnic was the pony ride, and I knew them! My aunt Jean and Uncle Kenny owned the Sunset Saddle Shop and pony rides. I was disappointed when rides weren't always forthcoming. I couldn't understand why they didn't just offer me a ride, they were family weren't they?

So many years before my grandpa had taken my grandma
to the Greenbush Fireman's Picnic. People would travel from miles around to go to this one. I'm pretty sure Grandma said she won the vase at Bingo. She couldn't believe it! It was the first time in her life she had ever won anything.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Recently viewed movies

Manchurian Candidate, new version.

For a while now, well, let me be honest, ever since GW Bush pulled off two bloodless coups, I've felt as though we were all living in a Hollywood blockbuster, but I keep waiting for the resolution in which the hero saves the day. Perhaps that hero was frightened off by anthrax. I've realized this movie is the one we're living in. Machinating Mama Senator is instead Papa CIA/former president. And in this life the twisted evil corporate cabal is winning. It's a good movie, and has inspired me to see the original with Frank Sinatra.

Take Care of My Cat

A girls coming of age movie...in Korea. I like foreign films because they usually don't fit the Hollywood cookie-cutter mold. They also give me glimpses into another culture. I haven't traveled, but at least I can through arts and literature. Finally, I figure the ones that make it here are the cream of the crop. It was interesting to note that in some ways urban Korean teenagers may share more in common with American teenagers than I do with American teenagers....such as growing up with cell phones as a way of life. A first movie by a female Korean director, I find a sweet, solid dignity in the characters and the story.


I don't know anything about Derrida, but as I come from a Liberal Arts college, occasionally the alumni email list talks about philosophers. Derrida coined the term deconstruction, a complex concept that near as I can figure Lao Tzu had figured out centuries ago: The way that can be named is not the true way. Of course everything comes back to Buddhist thought to me. (While not Buddhist, Lao Tzu had an influence on Zen.) While perhaps the documentarians felt they could not show us the true Derrida without showing him getting in a car, going for a walk, getting a haircut...I didn't think it helped me understand him or deconstructionism any better or any sooner. Derrida was reluctant to let go of his writings to an archival library, over one hundred boxes. What is it about Western philosophy and it's attachment to ever more precise details of ideas?

The Grass Harp

A sweet narrative of a boy growing up with his two aunts. While watching I thought the style of this narrative sure seems familiar. Sure enough, the novel was written by Truman Capote, who also wrote A Christmas Memory. (Who knew I could recognize the style of an author?) I saw that as a one-man play last year. Capote does have a way with Norman Rockwell-esque vignettes.

The Closet

Gerard Depardieu was smart and went back to France. In this French movie, a man who knows he's going to be fired from a condom factory comes out of the (non-existent) closet with the help of his new friend and neighbor. Depardieu plays the homophobic comic relief. Just as his new friend predicted, the formerly bland man keeps his job as a gay man, and now intrigues everyone. A predictable but funny movie.

Saving Face

A young Chinese-American doctor deals with her Chinese community's matchmaking on the one hand, and her semi-closeted lesbian romance on the other in Flushing, NY. Some English, some Chinese, no white people unless there were some unnoticed extras. Neat movie.

The Republic of Love

A romantic comedy from Canada with Bollywood elements, directed by an Indian-Canadian woman. There's something charming about that larger-than-life moment of destiny found in a Bollywood movie. I've only seen a few of the crossover movies, such as Monsoon Wedding. The music helps you realize, "Oh, this is a Bollywood moment." There's always mythic elements in a Bollywood movie. (Am I right?) She identifies with mermaids, he had 27 homemaker mothers, June Cleavers all.

Grandma turns 88

I woke up this morning with a dream that my grandma came to visit me and we were at the Oregon coast. A bus arrived, and my grandma realized there was an old friend on the bus, so this old friend (not someone I recognized, a black grandma type) got off the bus to talk to my grandma, and the bus driver pulled up to wait. I was concerned the bus had to go, but the bus driver nodded kindly and clearly indicated that there was no hurry, two grandmas catching up was more important.

I remembered on waking that it's my grandma's birthday, and she has lung cancer, so I wondered if this was a saying-goodbye sort of dream. I know she wants to see me again before she dies. Every time I talk to her on the phone, she asks when I'm coming to visit again.

Of course I called her today. My mom took her out to eat today, and my aunt took her out to eat yesterday. We talked some, and worried together some, about my cousin Tim. I won't pretend I'm close to him. He's a few years younger than me, and I remember the moment when I realized we just wouldn't grow up to have much in common. I think I was in high school, and we were having a conversation about things we liked to do. He liked to play war games and read about the history of the World Wars, specifically the weapons and vehicles of war. I couldn't understand the appeal of wars. Even then I carried the seeds of pacifism in me.

My cousin is a police officer, and is now a Major in the National Guard. My grandma was able to tell me this Friday he goes to train for a couple of weeks, then he goes to Saudi Arabia, then to Iraq. He has a little boy Alex, a little girl Gracie, and another baby on the way. Grandma tells me his wife Kristen is doing pretty well. She got really sick with the start of her first pregnancy, but this third one is not as bad. Tim hopes to be able to return for his baby's birth, but my grandma doesn't see how it's likely to happen. A couple or a few years ago he was sent to Afghanistan, and has been pleased, having a young family, that so far he hasn't been sent to Iraq. When I asked about the sore on his face that wouldn't heal (from Afghanistan), Grandma said she thought that was what kept him from having to go to Iraq, but she hasn't heard anything about that lately.

Grandma still does her laundry on Mondays, and still hangs them to dry on a clothesline outside. I think she has a small electric dryer but she never uses it. She prefers the feel and smell of clothes and sheets off the line. In the winter she hangs it all on lines in her basement. Today she told me she took a vacation, she's going to do her laundry tomorrow. Still, she sorted it today, because she "wants to get an early start."

The other thing on her mind is her roof. She has to get a new one. My brother and my uncle wanted her to get more than one estimate, but she doesn't want to deal with the aggravation. If she gets a decent estimate from the local guy, she's going to go with that, and I say why not? She needs to enjoy the life she has left. We chuckled in agreement.

Friday, June 09, 2006

1001 Details

I've been too busy lately to post something. I led the effort in creating another successful Buddhist Festival in the Park. A lovely friend of Portland BPF took photos that day. For some reason she took several of me. I like this one. Maybe because one gets a feel for the festival, seeing the banner, prayer flags, and park shelter in the background where teaching was taking place, but in the foreground is a colorful booth where people have connected to each other. Plus I guess I never really get to see the back of me, and Reverend Faulconer looks really cool from the back, with his robes filling the center of the photo. Then Jan came around to the front for this one.

Several people said they want to help next year, or help more than they did this year. I will remind them of that. While this is work I gladly do, I don't want to be the one doing most of it, as happened this year. Not only do I feel pressured, I don't think it helps the festival either. I am already thinking about how I can get more people involved in pre-event planning, and get more area groups involved. This is a conundrum of virtual connections. While I can reach many instantaneously and quite a few express enthusiasm, few actually step forward with real-time effort.

People kept asking me how the day was going. Could I tell them that my main concerns were a day starting with no canopy for the info booth, no bathroom cleaning supplies, and no bell? There were a 1001 details: I had thought of a 1000, and there were several that somebody forgot. Instead I responded that they were in a better position to tell me, because while I focused on the details to make the day go smoothly, they were getting to experience it. Several people commented that they enjoyed how peaceful and relaxing it was. People at the booths felt those who stopped by were genuinely interested.

I particularly enjoyed covering the children's booth for an hour. I read a story, giving the boys who were there a choice between two books. (I brought as many Buddhist books for kids that I could get my hands on from the library...a feature of the kids booth that parents especially liked.) The boys chose Little Stone Buddha. We had a good time talking about it as well as reading it. They shared news of their own statues of Buddhas, and we had a little conversation about mudras as well. We noticed the Little Stone Buddha held his hands and arms in a couple of different mudras.

Some of these boys spent most of the afternoon coloring. In this photo I am cutting Buddhist images from a magnetic sheet that they can color with magic markers. This was left over from a Dharma School project. (Yet another thing that's been keeping me busy, but now I have the summer off.) A little while later one boy asked for another story, which tickled me to no end. But I got a couple of pages in, then the others returned to gather him up for a game of tag, which was fine with me.

This was our third year to hold a Buddhist Festival in the Park, and the third year that I did a good bit of the arranging of the teachers who would speak, but did not get to hear them myself. This time though we got a volunteer to record the talks, so I get to hear them after the fact, and so will others.

Yesterday I treated myself to a gift that honors this year in which I feel like I've done a lot of bodhisattva work. I got a garden statue of Kanzeon, she must be about 4 feet high, and put her on a stump pedestal near my back porch. More on that later, with photos.