Feeding Bodies, Sustaining Souls

Many years younger, fairly well-traveled but still impressionable, I arrived in Berkeley during the 1970s: a relatively peaceful decade sandwiched between the tumultuous events of the University of California’s Free Speech Movement and the slightly less shattering Livermore earthquake.

Despite the unfortunate closures of the original Fillmore and Fillmore West prior to my arrival, there were consolations to be had. Afternoons, I lingered at Caffé Espresso, breathing in the scents of eucalyptus and French roast. Weekend trips across the Bay allowed for exploration of San Francisco’s tourist sites (Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown) as well as increasingly confident forays into neighborhoods filled with fabulous architecture, tiny galleries, and expansive views.

Atop the Berkeley hills, views were as varied and compelling as anything available across the Bay. To the east lay Mt. Diablo, wheat straw dry or dusted with sunlit snow. To the west, San Francisco’s skyline shimmered by day and sparkled by night. In season, tendrils of fog twined their way around and through the Golden Gate, wrapping the Bridge in silence and the easy breath of dreams.
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The Power of Imagination

While in the process of completing a post on quite a different topic, I happened across this photo, taken after the recent “closing” of the Lincoln Memorial.  I found the photograph distressing and inexplicably haunting.  Surely I hadn’t written about these events – or had I?

I awoke this morning remembering a post from my earliest days of blogging. Written in 2008, it seems equally relevant today, though not in any way I could have imagined at the time.  I’m reposting it here with only an edit or two for clarity and the addition of these two quotations from an 1859 letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Pierce. The first is both relevant and amusing.

I remember once being much amused at seeing two partially intoxicated men engage in a fight with their great-coats on, which fight, after a long, and rather harmless contest, ended in each having fought himself out of his own coat, and into that of the other. If the two leading parties of this day are really identical with the two in the days of Jefferson and Adams, they have perfomed the same feat as the two drunken men.

The second is merely relevant.

Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.

(Re-posted from June, 2008)  In recent weeks, Cuban policies limiting citizens’ access to certain goods and services have been liberalized.  Farmers no longer are required to purchase materials from state-run stores, and it’s now possible for more individuals to rent cars.

Restrictions on personal cell phone ownership have been eased, and bans lifted on the purchase of electronic or electrical consumer items of all sorts, including computers, televisions, pressure cookers, rice cookers, electric bicycles, microwave ovens and car alarms.

Raul Castro’s reforms have been scrutinized closely for practical as well as political significance.  While apparently desirable, they are filled with a certain irony.  In a nation where most individuals are not allowed to purchase a car, car alarms seem somewhat beside the point.  The scarcity of many basic food items and the prohibitive cost of others make the possibility of possessing an electric rice cooker or microwave seem just slightly amusing. (more…)

Published in: on October 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm  Comments (65)  
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Cuban Gold

Children of the Cuban missile crisis, we bear within ourselves certain visceral memories unimaginable to students today. Sitting in our classrooms, watching the clocks tick off the implacable hours, we awaited a word from our President and cast sideways glances at one another as we began to wonder – Have we celebrated our last birthdays? 

In 1962, I knew less of Havana than I did of death. Most of what I knew had come from television and film – especially Desi Arnaz and his Babalú- or from adult gossip about cigars, rum and fishing the jewel-like waters that separate Cuba from the Florida Keys.

Even as an adult visiting Key West, my exposure to that “other world” just ninety miles away was limited to enjoyment of Cuban coffee and pastelitos, the lilt of the music and the entirely kitschy “buoy” that claims to mark the southernmost point of the U.S.  It’s not a buoy, of course, and several locations are farther south. While the claim of “90 Miles to Cuba”  is correct, you still can’t get there from here as an ordinary citizen, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to get here from there. (more…)

Published in: on April 16, 2013 at 10:22 pm  Comments (99)  
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A Time to Make Our Own Groceries

She hangs in my kitchen, this woman with no name who holds a chicken in her lap.  She watches me at my stove and sink, and I return the favor. Over time, I’ve come to know a thing or two about her. The directness of her gaze suggests she isn’t afraid of being seen. The dog, more wary, presses against her protectively but they’ve been together for his lifetime, and her hand is enough to calm his fears.  She’s a busy lady – her apron tells you that, and her distinctly un-done hair. She didn’t mean to be posing this morning, but someone came along and she cooperated, perhaps happy to have a moment’s rest.

In the original artwork, a monotype collage created by Debbie Little-Wilson, she’s surrounded by bits and pieces of her life. Above her is a letterhead from A.E. Want & Company, at the turn of the last century one of Ft. Worth’s premiere wholesale grocers. The invoice is dated 1921, nine years after the company gained a certain noteriety by suing the Missouri,  Kansas & Texas railroad over a carload of frostbitten Minnesota potatoes, total value $155.87. (more…)

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