Washing lot.

 

 

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Not my usual crowd: beautiful young women with piercings and tattoos and jeans or stockings heavily ripped with beautiful babies in tow, the kind that are 2ish. All kinds of others are also at the laundromat. Each clearly with their own story and their own clothes, like me.

The last laundromat I used kicked me out so to speak; not really because I’d already finished washing my two turbo loads and was leaving. Said I wasn’t allowed to come back. Said the clay reside from my kids clay projects was making the place dirty. Hello. People come there to wash dirty things and mine aren’t dirty enough to even need detergent.  Anyhow I only do this three times a year and that was 4 months ago. Therefore I am not going to said but going towards downtown to the in-between hood with the bigger, seedier yet more expensive laundromat.

I have enough canvas mats covering studio tables to make them heavy enough to warrant three trips to the car. The parking lot is an experience not separate from the mat. When the tiny kids run into the street, it’s ok because the street is the parking lot which is the car, which is perhaps also the home; a small traveling home complete with vibrant small plants growing in brilliantly painted small pots on the dashboard.

A gentleman of hard to dicier ethnicity and age entering the open door questions loudly to anyone who might care to answer, “What time is it”? Another guy answers “Ten of Six”. I say, “Wow, so late”. I was thinking it was maybe 3:30, Sunday time.

The questioner says “So early”and he sits on the bench eating a candy bar with such comfort that I wonder if he is even there to wash clothes. A little later he notices that a woman has dropped a sock loading her machine. He says “You dropped your sock” but she doesn’t hear him because she has huge headphones on. Rather than shouting an entering question, his voice is whipsy now, old and frail, offering advice from a bench.  ” You dropped your sock”, he says again with a little effort but still she can’t hear. The third time succeeds. In a way he cared and it was pleasant to be around that caring.

After all the jumbo washing and drying, I was carrying the clean and folded mats to my car. When I was leaving with the second pile he said to me, “Goodbye. Nice to see you again.”  I agreed. It was pleasant, even though it didn’t make sense because  I’d never been there before.

 

 

Museum exhibit

Walking through the exhibit at the museum, I have what I often have. An uneasy feeling.

I notice that the child gurgling is attracting more attention than the paintings, just for a second. Then the patrons go back to viewing the paintings. After the brief bleep of real life passes, art appreciation or faux appreciation, of art or faux art, resumes.

Two other children are with their parents in the exhibition. The goal of these kids is to move as quickly as possible. They are playing a game. Upon entering the new room, they look for the “EXIT” sign. As soon as parents allow, they follow it.

An older woman in a seventies medium brown pant suit severely limps. She steps with one leg and then drags the other one after her. She moves awkwardly along trying to catch up with her husband which she eventually does when he stops in front of a painting.

I am drawn to the work that is the early work. This work shows some artistic ability. The later work, before which people dutifully stand, seems to me not to deserve the stop of attention. It all seems like a case of the emperor’s new clothes.

I find myself at the end of the exhibit and I go backwards to the beginning. I see the exhibit a second time, to be sure of my judgement. I am giving the artist a second chance and I want to remember the few works that I do like. Having done that, I find I can not exit through the gift shop, therefore I go through the exhibit a third time. I stop a third time at the charcoal drawing of a seated woman in a striped dress which is my favorite work.

Upon this last viewing I realize this drawing reminds me of expensive clothing store ads from my childhood. Those days artists drew the objects for sale. They were good drawings.
The artists were not trying to prove anything. They were just making a living. They weren’t even called artists.

In the museum signage, the famous painter’s statement claims not to stop at the beautiful but to go deeper. To me deeper wasn’t deeper, it was just messier. No one else seems to feel this way. They stand reverently at what is presented to them by the esteemed institution.

In the museum rest room, while washing my hands, I peripherally watch a woman in front of the mirror. She keeps looking in the mirror like she is trying to fix something that can’t be fixed. She is looking at time in the mirror but can not see it. This is what she is doing.

Leaving San Francisco going over to Oakland in heavy traffic, I anticipate the change that happens after Treasure Island. The white wideness of the new half of the Bay Bridge is wonderful and uplifting to drive on. People on the side are walking and riding their bikes. It is a good feeling to like the new version more than the old. To be driving on a man made object that makes sense.

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Diversity

I am in a cafe when this young fellow walks in with a jaunty step. He’s a lively guy and catches my eye.  My mind is in it’s habit of constantly sizing things up to put them in a place where it interprets in the hopes of understanding. Like any mind. Image

I am not sure whether this guy is hispanic, southeast asian, maybe middle eastern, turkish, philipino, south american or what.  I am lucky this way in that there are lots of people like this in the San Francisco bay area. My daughter can pass for a lot of ethniciities but in fact she’s just a white girl.

This young man has on a terrific shirt. It says, “Everything is Beautiful but Beautiful isn’t Everything”

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I get my coffee and as I am leaving I compliment the kid on his shirt. He responds to this and now I can guess his ancestry from his accent but it doesn’t matter.  Just like everything is beautiful, so is everywhere. Inside and Out.

Crutches

After my son and I biked 600 miles in 12 days, he jumped off a wall he’s often jumped off and sprained his ankle.

That was a week ago because it takes a 16 year old a week to figure out it’s sprained by the fact that it isn’t getting better.

So we know. He needs crutches. Kaiser doesn’t sell crutches but at the doctor’s visit they’ll give them to you. So, a doctor visit is too much as usual, (due to high deductible) therefore we “google” “crutches”.

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I do this first and get offers of surprisingly pricey crutches. They are inexplicably expensive even in supposedly cheap places like Walgreen’s. When Noah googles “crutch”, he gets an entirely different response. He gets all this “church” stuff, referring to belief in god as a crutch.

I probably had the word “buy” in my search. Noah says he had nothing but “Crutch”. Maybe. Noah’s relationship since the get go with reading has been to guess the word first and recheck it later if necessary. It’s gotten him this far. He considers spelling yet another storefront the computer is making obsolete. So maybe his crutch is the computer.

I’ll take “god” over the computer. We ended up borrowing crutches from a friend.

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Magic in the classroom

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Discipline is not my strong point in after school ceramics: age 6 to 12. I don’t like to do it and I don’t do it often. Truth is I don’t mind a hectic atmosphere as long as all are busily creative. Early on the kids learn the rules, and then it’s a group studio. Kids sit next to who they want to and jabber along to each other side by side, across the table and even down the table a stretch. It can get louder and louder and louder. All in a good humored, fast paced, three ring circus sort of way.

Today, in the midst of what is now a lot of noise, suddenly two of the six fifth graders started playing their recorders together. The notes of a simple song being learned in school, sound like Japanese flute harmonies. Quickly the roar of the classroom stops. Everyone’s listening.

They were tamed by the music.

Two sides of the Coin

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Normally, I’m all for meditation. All over it in fact, every morning.

There are “mindfulness” programs in schools, especially inner city ones where all the kids are on the free lunch program and 70% of the kids when asked will answer yes to the question, ” Do you know anyone whose been shot and killed?”
Ditto, for this program in jails. This program is very helpful and successfull. Simply put, it brings in the pause ( the old “count to ten”) before you hit someone on the playground. It’s very helpful. In schools like the ones I teach at, this program is maybe less necessary.

After school art class had been over for a while and I was cleaning up. David was hanging out while I did this. I thought he was waiting for his parent to pick him up. He is lithe and lively and bounced around in his tiny six year old body talking to me as I gathered my tools and such.
Almost done, I checked my list and saw that David was supposed to go to the schools’ after care program so I mention perhaps he should get on down there.

His bouncy body slumps into a giant C as he plunks down in a chair.
“Oh no.”
“What’s wrong? Don’t you like after care? Why not?”
“UGH! They make us Meditate.”
(Feigning indignation I say) “What!? Meditate!? You mean you don’t get to run around with a ball or something? What do they make you do, listen to a bell?” (Knowing they do this)
“Meditation is, well, (groan) it’s hard to explain.”

Chinese New Year Parade etc

Hundreds of thousands people hit the streets to watch the lunar new year parade. It doesn’t seem like that many when you are there. Every year we go over the Bay on BART (the subway) and arrive before 4 to stake out our place somewhere on the route. We are not the first ones there by far.

Why we do this every year is for the magic. All of these people are there committed to being happy. The people in the parade who are not preforming are waving and we are waving back. We are all smiling. It’s not like you are waving to a real person, you are waving to whatever they are representing. We have all agreed to that. This became most alive for me as I waved to a young guy in his twenties dressed up like a fire-cracker. I was waving to a live fire cracker, all red and gold.

The thousands of children in the schools marching ARE what they are representing. The awesome beauty and innocence of the littlest ones is breathtaking. Especially when you are inches away, which we were, being first row in the bleachers.

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 These are my kids and their friends. The three on the right: my daughter, Joan and Mies decide to go get a hot drink as it is freezing, especially on the metal seats sitting still. It used to be that all of the shops in Chinatown were Chinese owned but that was decades ago. They wander into one of the Arab stores with ugly glass and sentimental life sized bronze sculptures. Joan, who is editor of the high school newspaper which is nationally known and awarded (for over 100 years!) and the daughter of Harvard graduates decides to change the film in her film camera in this store. Suddenly a large man swoops in and looms over her. He has seen her put something in her pocket and accuses her of shoplifting. She pulls the empty film canister out of her pocket and is released. She tells me how awkward it was and how she felt guilty until proven innocent. I thought about how the US makes arabs feel that way all the time so I guess an arab in a store making a blond white girl feel that way is just par for the course.

Despite the non-chinese owned tourist shops, you can still be born, live your entire life and die in Chinatown and never speak english. The three finally find a restaurant. It is the only one they can find open. They are the only white people in there. Everyone else is Chinese and many of them are getting free food for having been in the parade. The waiter does not speak english. He does not understand what they mean by a hot drink. It is not on the menu so they can not point to it. They do not order tea because they want hot chocolate. They settle on steamed milk. When it comes it is cold. After they pay their bill, the two glasses still sit  on the table where the waiter has placed them. White and cold.

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Making a Flower

I let Justin (1st grade) cut out early to the playground. Ellen (3rd grade) sees this and she wants out early too. I say no doing. Justin can hardly sit still for five minutes let alone 60. He’s two years younger and made to run.
Ellen, two years older, is somber and capable. I want to get at least one more piece out of her before she leaves for the week. We settle on “a flower” I wad up the clay in a certain way and start to show her something I know she can accomplish In the time she has left. After my quick demo, she’s doing her own kind of flower. She’s decided she needs to make a rose and that she needs to make it petal by petal. I explain that we don’t have time for this kind of flower and besides the clay we are using today (drier than usual) is not suited to a rose made petal by petal.
At this point Michael, who is in 2nd grade, chimes in with his opinion. He says a flower is a flower and that you don’t need to get all caught up in the type of flower. I turn my attention to him and gaze into his wider than wide eyes. Michael’s eyes are so big. I stare into them forever and reach the something in me that never goes away. This takes maybe 30 seconds and I turn my attention back to Ellen and let her cut out early.

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