Caballo

Dispatch from Argentina.

Today I rode a horse. Like me, he was a little recalcitrant and trotted when he should have been walking across the sunny field in the Argentine country side. Our gaucho guide had to remonstrate with the horse because my “damnits” and “ho there’s” didn’t really work. I love horses because they are beautiful and have very distinct personalities and I loved riding this one.

We visited Santa Susana ranch, about 50 miles outside of Buenos Aires. It was a working farm at one time but now its owners make much more from tourism. Our malapropist tour guide told us it is the “disneyland of gaucho ranches”, but I found it to be fascinating and fun. The horseshit was real, the tango and gaucho dance demonstration was amazing and more succulent beef.

What I’ve noticed: Uruguay and Argentina provide huge recycling bins on each corner. There are some buildings that have already started growing flowers and plants and vegetables up the sides and front of the buildings. There is free education and free healthcare in Argentina–in Uruguay people are charged 4 or 6% of their salaries for healthcare.  The governments and people believe in global warming and are committed to fighting it. In short, they are a little more civilized than ‘Merica. Or less stupid.

Our tour guide, Gerardo, had the chance, after several years of working in the US to move there. He said what made he and his wife Magdelena come back to Argentina was the fact that there is instantly a sense of community here. Moms and Dads immediately get together when their kids know each other and people are warm and visit with each other and hang out. He says he sees the typical American family as being very insular. “Come on in?” versus “Why didn’t you call first?” Hmmmm.

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This is  the floralis generica, a giant flower donated to the people of Buenos Aires after the 2001 financial crisis. It opens during the day and closes at night.

Big Steel Flower

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Rollin’ in the Deep

We sacrifice for the things and people we love. We ignore our own needs, spend precious time in counsel, learn songs we don’t particularly love for the sake of the choir. We walk a million miles, and might even disco if the need is there. And some of us TRAVEL 36 HOURS for a song.

July 11th 8pm flight departure delayed until 3am on July 12th. Our tour manager texts from Uruguay “when you get to the airport, be dramatic [to find another flight].” And so my indefatiguable friend Mary and I were dramatic. “We’ve got 22 people who’ve traveled from Boston and need to be in Uruguay as soon as possible…We’ll miss our connection and there isn’t another connection until Monday…” might have been a “not acceptable” in there. And so the agent frowned and typed and typed and frowned and found 22 seats on the next American Airlines plane to Buenos Aires. Insert Jeffrey Holder laugh here…HAHAHAHA!

1 plane, 3 buses and 1 ferry ride and we arrived in Montevideo Uruguay at 9:30p last night and only 4 or 5 hours behind schedule.

And I must say our party were troopers. No one whined or complained or broke down. Everyone remained cheerful and bore our trials with a cheerful mien. I’ve taken trips with other groups where the slightest delay can work itself up into an adult tantrum which is embarrasing to say the least. But these folks are wonderful.

So today we tour Montevideo, the largest city in Uruguay which sits on the ocean.

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Uruguay is a country of 3 1/2 milion people most of whom live on the coast. Its chief exports are beef and wood pulp. There are 10 trees for every 1 person. It was settled in the 1720’s because most explorers were looking for silver and  gold and Uruguay had neither. What it did and does have is beef and so explorers came to exploit the cattle. They, like many conquerers, all but decimated the indigeonous population and so the origin of many of the people is Spain or Portugal. Uruguay is 28 times smaller than its neighbor Argentina and 48 times smaller than mammoth Brazil. You can see the European and Moorish influences in the architecture and statuary.

IMG_1885In front of the justice monument at the Uruguayan legislature.

Tomorrow-stay tuned for the story of the coldest church in Christendom and the concert we pulled off after a disaster of a sound check…

Ferry back to Buenos Aries–will we or won’t we visit the duty free shop that takes up an entire deck?

And what about

Geraldo?…Buenos Noches

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Tales of an Urban Hiker

IMG_1782I’ve been walking the last 2 miles home during the glory summer days. And then my bus was stuck in Fenway traffic for an hour, unmoving, so I walked from Fenway to Harvard Square. Hips moving easily, feet free from screaming, knees too freaked to speak. And then from work to Central Square through the pre-fourth preparations by the river, the hatch shell festooned with flags, the grass at its front yet to be made into a camp ground, people strewn about the decking that flows into the tide.  I swing and stomp my frustration away, look my fellow travelers full on, and stop to take iPhotos of colors and patterns. Now I get itchy to move when it’s rainy or too hot, my toes twitching. Not often that this wretch of a body craves movement and there is something in the rhythm, in the soft slap of my keenes, and certainly the beauties of Boston, Cambridge and my own Arlington that informs the breath.

Arthur Fiedler and his cornrows

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I remember Maestro Fiedler, the white hair, the cannons of the Overture. Keith Lockhart still seems like a exhibitionist upstart to me even though he’s been leading the Pops for 20 years.

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Palm trees in the Public Garden

IMG_1775Boston, you’ve been a trial, lately. You tried to freeze me out, are killing me with your spending requirements, and are so congested that I think I could commute by leaping from car hood to car hood some mornings but

You are so beautiful, everyday beautiful, accessibly gorgeous, with water and green and sail boats that glide and Spy Pond–I finally understand its bewitching power–a scant few steps from my front stoop–and the Mass Ave bridge, plain and strong, where the wind whips me to giggles, and the faces of people marveling at the Public Garden’s wonders who’s expressions  I want to capture almost as much as the aching fuscia of a flower.

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The Hatch Shell, bandstand to the Pops. I read recently that Arthur Fiedler decided to do the 1812 Overture complete with cannons firing and that a local entrepreneur had to search far and wide for military permission. Our weird traditions–should we examine the history from time to time to make sure they still serve a positive purpose? Maybe it’s my age, but I don’t miss the scrum of the 4th of July celebrations, porta-potties, drunks, that long snaky line at the T stop. Too many nose in armpit moments in my day to day life.

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Tried to capture the bucolic nature of this side of MIT, the hush from the traffic of a nearby major thoroughfare, the very evenly spaced trees, the perfect grass, the lofty stone building with its pillared portico and giant steps. But just before I took this picture I saw an idiot, standing in the middle of that major street, his phone mounted on a”selfie stick”, almost get wiped out by a Chevy Tahoe. I hope he has “selfie” insurance since it seems that taking pictures of oneself every place one goes seems to be the only way some young folks can prove that they exist.

IMG_1744These denuded trees were victims of a super cell that sucked the air from Arlington Center one day last summer. I was sitting in my garret trying to exude a verb or two when suddenly a windy shower was replaced by an absence of sound and then a frightening howling. This weird wind took some trees down and wrecked some power lines.  Of course we made the most of it the way overfed, suburbanized folks do.

IMG_1748The glory of a Spy Pond sunset.

I walk the path that the British took to get to Lexington or was a railroad track or something like that and the trees part when I’m almost home to reveal the Pond, choppy or flat as glass. I’ve met many dogs,including a skittish keeshound, who reminds me of our childhood dog, Pepper, a Dutch boating breed with a husky tail and raccoon features. His name is Fred which makes me laugh. “Hello…erm…hee!…Fred,” I say as he delicately sniffs my hand. He smells of pond muck since it hangs from his flanks as he’s been chasing some sort of widget through the shallows, and I am often envious of him as I’d love to put my feet in the cooling waters at the end of my walk but am easily fearful of vague rumors of unknown algae and confirmed facts about duck shit.

You have no idea what will occur on your hike through urban climes. But as long as there are iPhone chargers and thumbs, I’ll be able to chronicle my stomps and plague you with tales of them.

Respectfully submitted.

copyright 2015 by jo craig

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What I learned from the film “Dear White People”

Dear White People,

Don’t always assume that I want dark roast.

Dear White People,

You can ask to touch my hair, but my answer will always be “no” unless you are a hair stylist who’s taken the “how to style ethnic hair” course.

Dear White People,

Uh oh. My mother was Irish and  it says “White” (to my surprise and great amusement) on my medical record which is just as valid as “Black” in my case. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion at my college says that I “self-identify” which is absolutely true. And in our society’s dynamic, because my appearance falls into the arbitrary designation of Black, by societal definition, I am Black.

The actress Raven Symone created a little controversy when she recently said she will not be labeled. Some Black folks said she was ashamed of being Black which is often our go to position in cases like this. This seems like complete buy in to the arbitrariness of racial definitions in our adolescent society where such labels are thought to be important. Yuck.

Let’s ask ourselves–why are these distinctions important? Given our system of privilege, they are important, unfortunately, because we must protect those who don’t belong to the privileged class and make sure everyone is treated fairly. And because we have to fight institutionalized discrimination and some people’s ingrained attitudes about difference. And I don’t mean to assign blame because I’ve learned that we are all born into a society which operates under distinctions of privilege and that makes it difficult for those who enjoy more privilege than others find it hard to recognize themselves in this dynamic, and those who have less privilege are very angry at the privileged for oppressing them, whether conciously or unconciously.

Then we have of course Mitt Romney who feels that he can talk about the 49%. And I feel that I can talk about the 21% of his brain that actually works.

And we also have a congress that disrespects our President so much that they deride him and refuse to legislate because of the color of his skin. “Oh, they just don’t believe in his policies,” some people opine and that’s often true. But they refuse to work with him for the most part and he’s the only President, the most powerful man in the world, who was called “liar” during the State of the Union.
Oy.

So, Dear White People (and Dear me),I’ve realized more strongly than ever that we are in this together and that the current system hurts all of us from the CEO who doesn’t think it’s important to increase his intercultural knowledge and diversify his work force, to the Black teenager who doesn’t try to improve his lot by any means necessary because he believes that the system is against him. I’ve learned to manage my anger and not be guided by it because it isn’t productive and because I want to be part of solutions. There are teacheable moments for all of us and that’s where the hope lies.

“The arc of the universe is long,” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “But it curves toward justice.” For everyone.

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Living while Black or Gay or Female

There is an added layer of anxiety for Black, Gay and female Americans. Fear of being stopped by police. Fear of walking alone at night. Fear of being caught alone in certain parts of the city and country. Having to look at relationships, jobs, and community through a prism of heightened awareness of injustice and to wearily and continually put on the mantle of crusader just to project their basic human rights. I’m not saying that White American men don’t feel any or all of these feelings from time to time. But imagine living with it as part of your DNA and BECAUSE of your DNA. What it is to be followed around a store, or menaced by a man, or being afraid of going to certain parts of the country because you may be harmed. Imagine having to constantly defend things you have no control over. Imagine trying to contend with a society where bigotry, violence, and hatred is insidious and institutionalized, and therefore much harder to identify and eradicate. Imagine being an unarmed boy who gets shot and killed simply because he is Black AND FOR NO OTHER REASON. Think about why all of us, with every fiber of our beings, politicians and pundits and leaders of every color and persuasion, aren’t protesting every day until the people responsible are fired and prosecuted. Imagine the outcry there would be if a Black cop shot an unarmed white man. And remember there but for the grace of God go all of us.

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Sleeep

I’ve had trouble sleeping for a long time. I’d wake up with this hazy, hung over feeling, couldn’t focus, and had the humiliating experience of having to multiply 9×6 in Excel because I couldn’t remember my times tables (that’s what we used to call them back in the day, young’uns.) I would take power naps on weekend afternoons, my snores scaring the cat and causing excessive drool spots on the couch. Energy was a thing of the past and my charming nature eroded into wrinkle causing crankiness.

“Early Alzheimer’s,” I opined. “Cancer. Something associated with the chronic illnesses that walk with me daily like a particularly yappy dog nipping at my ankles. Age. Bad pillow. Depression. The lack of intricate, PD James like mysteries on the current book market. Too much sun. Too much chocolate (as if there could ever be such a thing.)” So I consulted my doctor. Eventually. And I was sent to Sleep Health Centers to determine if I had sleep apnea. The year was 2007.

It really doesn’t sound like a medical issue, does it? It sounds like some sort of growth that hangs off of a non-vital organ, like “you’ve got an apnea on your appendix,” or “I just got an apnea removed from my big toe and boy, does my foot feel better.”

And it turns out, after a test where I was fitted with wires and a plastic mask and plunked into a bed in a holiday inn-ish room (convinced I wouldn’t sleep with all the electrodes), I was diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea.

Here’s a vid with fantastic, doom music and a guy who looks like the father from “Diffr’ent Strokes” experiencing sleep apnea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm-TZ-dO_rQ

Nasty, right? And so I was perscribed a sleep machine, a large black monster with a hose and a mask that covered most of my face, squeezing my cheeks together, wrapped around my head with velcro strapping.

I looked like one of Darth Vader’s minions strapped into his star fighter. And the sound the machine made, a gurgley, windy rattle, drove me nuts.

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But most of all, I kept thinking…

“What will my currently non-existent, but hoped for, future lover make of this?” (Of course loud snoring and the sound of choking is sooo attractive…)

And that question, along with waking up with potato face caused by the tight mask, led to less and less use until the machine disappeared into a deep dresser drawer and the plastic tubing became just another cat toy.

Tired, cranky years passed. The sun set, the moon rose, I woke myself up with my snoring, and I continued to feel lousy. In 2012, I got my first full-time job in 17 years, and found myself on the subway train at 6:45am with my head thrown back against the window being discreetly elbowed by the woman sitting next to me because my snoring sounded like geese mating. Now, this only has to happen to you 18 or 19 times for you to decide to do something about it.

And so I reluctantly asked my doctor to hook me up with a sleep specialist so I could get this taken care of.

Sleep management has changed radically since my first experience with Sleep Health Centers. Now you can take home a small device with nasal oxygen and a finger pulse monitor and it measures whether or not you have apnea. It comes with a little card that the doctor can insert into his computer which displays the results. My doctor diagnosed me again with the  moderate version and prescribed a sleep machine, assuring me it wasn’t the black block of full throttle airline engine nose and plastic death mask that was my last experience.

I arrived at Blah Blah Home Care Center to be greeted by Frank, a sweet Santa of a man who was my technician for this magical experience. The first thing Frank said, peering earnestly into my face, was, “Young lady, sleep deprivation is torture.” I have to agree. I found out later that Frank starts off with this daunting line because many people are like me during my first experience with the machine–unwilling to use it, or unwilling to take the time to adjust to it. Frank has used a CPAP for years, as has his wife, Nancy, and they feel so much better. Frank told me it gave him his life back. He lost weight, experienced the reversal of a heart condition and stepped back from the brink of pre-diabetes. He explained that when your blood isn’t being fully oxygenated, many health problems can result.

Well, d’uh, Divdash.

And so, in its blog debut, please welcome the Phillips Respironics REMstar Auto A-Flex continuous positive airway pressure machine, a welcome addition to any household where snores are shaking the foundations and swinging the chandeliers.

 

 

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The mask is much smaller and the polymer plastic that rests against my face doesn’t squash it. The strapping is lightweight and doesn’t tear my hair out by its follicles, and the machine is whisper quiet.

It COULD be that I’m just more willing to try it out and adjust to it, but I prefer to think I, like any millennial, required the advanced technology.

 

 

copyright 2014 jcraig

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