Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Thursday, September 30, 2004

"Home of the Brave" 

No, I did not watch the debates. Instead I was at an event that dispelled lies rather than providing a platform for them.

On nights like this I thank my lucky stars that I ended up in Detroit, for it is here that truth and courage flourish. Perhaps it takes a wounded city like ours to recognize greatness where others just see sadness and despair.

Do you remember Viola Liuzzo? She was the only white woman killed by the Ku Klux Klan during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. In Selma, Alabama, on March 25, 1965, to be exact. At that time, Viola and a black civil rights worker, Leroy Moton, had just driven five marchers back to Selma after the Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights. Viola was shot and killed on a lonely stretch of road. Within two days, four members of the Klan--one of them, a man named Tommy Rowe, who was an FBI informant--were arrested for her murder. Rowe received immunity for testifying against the other three. They were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury.

Soon after the immediate outcry against Viola Liuzzo's murder, the FBI--following personal orders by J. Edgar Hoover--mounted an insidious campaign to smear Viola Liuzza's name and reputation. This 39 year-old Detroit mother of five and wife of a Teamster official was portrayed as a drug-using, sexually loose woman who had gone down to Selma to satisfy her appetite for sexual adventures with black men. It was a similar "smear campaign" to the one that Hoover was using to try to discredit the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through the Freedom of Information Act, her children finally got hold of the 1000-page FBI file on Viola Liuzzo, a file that was three times larger than the entire FBI file on the KKK!

The reality was that Viola Liuzzo was a longtime committed champion for social justice who was active in the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and had been so moved by the violence done on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma that she felt compelled to go down and join in the struggle for voting rights. By the way, her best friend, a black woman named Sarah Evans, had been instrumental in getting Viola involved in the civil rights movement in the first place.

Well, tonight in Detroit, the truth of Viola Liuzza's life and death was finally told. We were privileged to be present with the director Paola di Florio, the producer Nancy Dickenson, four of Viola's five children, Viola's grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and even her old friend Sarah Evans, now 94, at the World Premiere of the documentary film, "Home of the Brave." From Detroit it will be going to Montgomery, Alabama, New York City and Washington, DC. After that, they hope to get as wide a distribution as possible and even bring it into the schools. It has already won awards at film festivals all over the country where it also received excellent reviews from critics.

Please see it if you get a chance, or, even better, make it happen by contacting the distributor, Emerging Pictures, and encouraging your local theaters to bring it to your town. Even though it has taken almost forty years to be told, Viola Liuzza's story is as timely today as it was back in 1965. When we look at what happened in Florida in the 2000 presidential election, we see that the voting rights of persons of color are still at risk. We can't forget the sacrifices made by Viola Liuzza and all the courageous persons who suffered and died during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. For the struggle continues...

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Art is a secret we keep from ourselves 

I'm resisting my natural impulse to "show and tell" by taking a photo of the watercolor painting I finished today, and posting it here. No, this time I want to hold the fruits of my creativity close to my chest. I don't want this venture to degenerate into an ego trip. This is about process not product. OK, some day I may show you a painting, but I hope not too soon. Nothing is more damaging to authentic creativity than worrying about how others are going to respond to your work. I probably shouldn't even show my paintings to Eddie, but I'm afraid I'm not there yet. I so enjoy his enthusiastic response to my use of color.

What I will share is how the painting evolved under its own power. I'd started by just playing with colors and shapes, but when I looked at what had emerged last night, I saw the head and beak of a fanciful bird. So today I went with it and gave the bird a neck and then added two more birds in flight. It spoke of freedom to me, freedom from living and dying with every decision made by people over whom I have no control, ie., politicians, government officials, military leaders, corporate CEOs, media magnates and the American voters. By the way, the birds I painted were no sweet little critters, they looked more like vultures than anything else. So the freedom it refers to is no easy gift, but must obviously be grasped with strength and tenacity. And something must die in order to feed that which must live.

Isn't art amazing? It takes you where you don't expect to go.

I remember when I used to teach--more like facilitate--a watercolor class for adults at a community center in the mid-to-late '80s. I worked up a slide presentation of my students' work that I called, "Art Is a Secret We Keep from Ourselves." So often my art knew where I was going before I did. I'd look back, maybe six months, maybe years later, and recognize the path I'd taken had been there, painted or sculpted in symbolic language.

Anyway, I was so excited about painting that I couldn't sleep last night. And then I couldn't wait to finish my session at the gym with Matt today so I could get home and get going again. Now the first painting is dry and I've got fresh water and my art materials laid out, ready to start another. As the song from "West Side Story" goes: "Tonight, tonight..."

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Life as improvisation 

My day validated anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson's theory of women's lives as improvisation (see "Composing A Life" by M. C. Bateson). Very little that happened was planned, and yet everything fit together in surprisingly wonderful ways.

It started with a not-so-wonderful phone call from the gym with the news that Matt had gone home sick so had to cancel my personal training session for today. We rescheduled for tomorrow. So here I was with an unexpectedly free day. I continued the never-ending project of cleaning up my email files, and managed to get the inbox for one of my screen names down to 24 messages. I also finally researched the Kelley's Blue Book value of my red Neon and called in a classified ad to our local newspaper. That poor car has been sitting in the police parking lot next door except when dear Eddie has taken it out occasionally for a ride and/or has gotten it washed. It's time to find her a good home.

At noon, Pat Kolon called. Today was her birthday and because of my not being at the gym as I'd expected, Pat and I were able to plan a spontaneous lunch at my favorite Lebanese restaurant and a matinee at the movie theater next door. "Delovely" was still playing and Pat hadn't yet seen it. I was happy to see it again, so we did.

At one point in the movie, Cole Porter's musical play,"Kiss Me Kate," is shown onscreen. I remember being attracted to the set from that play when I first saw "Delovely." Today it just about knocked me out. The juxtaposition of purple, prussian blue, green and cobalt blue literally made my mouth water. Right then and there I decided it was time for me to start painting again. And I knew what medium I wanted to use: watercolor, using acylic inks. There's nothing like these inks for giving you brilliant colors, and color was what I was after.

On the way home, I stopped at our local art store and got a dozen luscious colors of acrylic inks. It wasn't easy either because the store has a step up to get into the store. I scooted around back and find that there was a step down to enter the store from that door. So I asked Carolyn, one of the framers, if she'd do my shopping for me. With a minimum of effort, she managed just fine. I already had good watercolor paper and brushes at home but I did need a new plastic palette. No problem--one was on sale.

I never know how much you, my readers, know of my life-up-till-now. Art has been an important thread in my life since Ed bought me my first set of watercolors in 1974. I went back to college in fine arts from 1976-79, and sold and exhibited my watercolors, mixed media and raku clay sculptures professionally until the mid-80s. Also in the '80s, I was privileged to perform with a gifted artist--Laurie Margot Ross--who used masks and corporeal mime as part of her performance art. Then in 1991, I converted my original pen-and-ink drawings about the first Gulf War into postcards, posters and T-shirts, and started a business I called Word Art. Around 1993, I added original women's drawings in the form of altar sets to my Word Art inventory. From 1994-96, I painted and sold what I called, "Sacred Stones." During these years, I vended my art at national peace conferences, regional psychic fairs and Detroit-area women's events. Since the mid-90s, the only art I've made has been signs for anti-war rallies and the art projects I've been doing with the kids at school since October 2001.

With that kind of herstory, you can see that my wanting to make art is not totally unexpected.

This afternoon, I got home in time to bring my art supplies upstairs to the front room. Again, the Universe (or something) had arranged ahead of time for me to have moved my laptop from the long table in that room to the desk in my bedroom, so the table was free for painting. Perfect!

In no time at all it was time for me to get back in Sojourner, my handicap-accessible minivan, and drive down to the Traffic Jam restaurant near the Wayne State University campus. Granny Birdy, our beloved Raging Granny who had moved to Sacramento, California last year, was in town and we Grannies had a date with her for dinner. Grannies Motoko, Kathy, Dolores, Magi, Charlotte and I joined Birdy for a delicious dinner, good talk and even a little Granny-singing (photos #1 & #2).

I was back home by 8:30 PM with a mounting desire to start painting! Eddie kindly opened all the bottles--even when my hands worked well, I found those things hard to open--and I sat down to paint. What delight!!! Now I know one more thing that will help me make it through the tough times that are bound to come if the worst happens on November 2. Another "black walnut" to add to my stash (see my journal entry for Monday, September 20, 2004). I stopped before I got too far with the painting but already I am in painter's heaven.

Now you see why I love jazz so much...improvisation is my favorite way to live.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The true cost of war 

Have you ever counted to 1000 out loud? Late this afternoon, I heard and helped read out loud the name and age of every one of the 1000 American service men and women who have lost their lives in Bush's war on and occupation of Iraq. It took about an hour. Multiply that number by 14 or 15 to see how many Iraqi civilians have lost their lives, keeping in mind that that number does not include ANY of the Iraqi service men and women who have also died.

How could anyone think getting rid of Saddam Hussein was worth that high price? And it isn't over. Not by a long shot.

Yesterday the Veterans for Peace, Chapter 74 of SouthEast Michigan, planted 1000 white wooden crosses and Stars of David in the Woodward Avenue median at 9 Mile Rd. in Ferndale as a memorial to the 1000 American service men and women who have lost their lives in Iraq since March 2003. At 6 PM today they planned to hold a Memorial Service at the site before removing the crosses and Stars of David.

Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation ordered them to remove the symbolic grave markers early this afternoon, so the Memorial Service was held instead in front of the Ferndale City Hall...with the blessings of the city, I might add.

I'd arrived at 4:45 PM in order to join the weekly Peace Vigil at the same location, so was able to get a picture of the grave markers before they'd all been pulled up. By the way, a faithful few have been holding a Peace Vigil for an hour every Monday afternoon since before the war began. They are out there with their signs in all kinds of weather, encouraging commuters to honk in support of peace as they drive by. Today, one of the signs read, "Sound horn to honor 1000 U.S. soldiers dead in Iraq."

I can't begin to tell you how sad it was to hear each name of these young men and women read out loud (photos #1, #2, & #3). As I listened, I thought of the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who mourn each and every one of these young women and men. The woman holding her baby who stood beside me helped me remember that each of these individuals had once been a baby in his or her mother's arms. What a loss. What an UNNECCESSARY loss.

Will we never learn?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

A perfect autumn day 

I want to bottle this day and bring it out again in four or five months. A perfect autumn day! Colors as bright as a box of crayons. Sun, short-sleeve warm but not hot. Enough winds on the lake to fill mainsails, jibs, jennys, and spinakers, but not so much that anyone needed to concentrate too hard. Even the gulls seemed to be enjoying a lazy afternoon. And now at 6:30 PM, it's still an open window kind of day where you hear the cicadas and birds trying to outsing one another, your neighbors' voices as they work in their garden, an occasional dog barking a few blocks away, and children's screams and laughter in the distance. The kind of day that seems like an impossible dream in February. At least here in Michigan.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Pink hair profiling 

Now I know what it's like to be profiled. Yesterday I went to Windsor, Ontario to have my hair cut and re-pinked. Leesa did a much better job of "pinking" than I'd done. She pinked the top quarter inch of hair that stands up on the top of my head. It's pretty radical and I LOVE it!!!

When it was time to return home, I had to go across the border. In Detroit, that means driving up to a border guard who is sitting in his/her wooden booth, and answering whatever questions they choose to ask. They usually ask what country you're a citizen of, why you were in Canada, how long you stayed, and are you bringing anything back. Since September 11, they are also likely to ask for ID, which, for me, consists of my old passport and current driver's license.

So yesterday afternoon I got the usual questions...with a new one added. This young whipper-snapper border guard asked, "Do you have drugs in the back?"

[DRUGS??? Yeah, sure. If I had drugs in the back, how likely is it that I'd say, "Sure! Want to see them?"]

I said, "No! I don't have any drugs in back."

Then he asked, "Do you USE drugs?"

"No! I don't use drugs!" And then I said, "So because I have pink hair, you're asking me about drugs? I'm 62 years old!"

He then said, "You're wearing tie-dye."

[Right, so if you wear tie-dye, you use drugs?]

He went on, "I bet you used A LOT of drugs when you were younger."

I answered, "No, as a matter of fact, I never even tried anything because I was always afraid I'd get addicted."

"Good girl!", he replied, and waved me on.

[GIRL??? My gawd, I could be that kid's grandmother!]

When I told Ed, he laughed and said, "So your pink hair is a success!" And I guess he's right. It's interesting to experience firsthand what my young "punk" sisters and brothers are apt to encounter when they try to go across the border. And I bet I got off easy, at that. Pinking my hair has more sociological ramifications than I'd realized.

By the way, I didn't put up my journal last night because I didn't get home until 1:30 AM, wild punk that I am! Pat Kolon and I went to a great little jazz club and heard Spencer Barefield's Quartet (guitar, sax, bass and drums). The first set was fairly well attended, but everyone except one man, Pat and I left before the second set. So there we were, four of us in the audience (including the owner), listening to four musicians play their hearts out. The music was so awesome that we're returning tonight. Detroit is such a terrific jazz city...I just wish the musicians would receive the audiences (and financial recompense) they deserve.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The need for peace at home and abroad 

I've read and heard it said that, before birth, each human being chooses when, where and to whom she/he will be born. The reasoning is that we come into this lifetime with certain lessons to be learned, and we choose the particular environment and people who will give us the opportunities we need.

I can remember being attracted to this theory when I was dealing with some personal growth issues. Looking back, I'd say I was more comfortable seeing my bad choices as "life lessons" rather than taking full responsibility for the consequences of my decisions. It took some of the sting out.

Well, I can honestly say that I no longer see things that way. How could I? Do I really believe that the people of Iraq--hundreds of thousands of them--"chose" to exist in a state of war, horror and humiliation? That those who are being killed, "chose" that as a life lesson? Or, closer to home, that the 10 year-old boy whom I worked with one-on-one today in art, "chose" to grow up in an abusive home where his mother's live-in boyfriend beats up his 13 year-old brother and justifies it as "necessary?"

I doubt it.

And we wonder why some individuals turn to a life of crime and/or become abusive to their own spouses and children! When you grow up in a home where violence is the norm, what path do you think you will take? Especially if you're told--and believe--that the violence is "necessary."

As Ed's wise father used to say, "If we knew the other person's story, everything they do would make sense."

I certainly found that out today. No wonder this boy has trouble controlling himself in class. No wonder he can't focus on making art. It's amazing he does as well as he does. I think our working together one-on-one was helpful today; let's hope it continues to be so...for HIS sake.

I can't remember enjoying a Raging Grannies' gig more than I did last night's! Everything worked out perfectly. My four "GranMobile" riders arrived on time so we got away when I'd hoped. And even rush hour traffic didn't dampen our spirits; we just took that time to run through all nine songs on our program.

We arrived on time at the Ann Arbor Brewing Company for dinner with Medea Benjamin (the main speaker) and some of the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace (AAACP) folks. All of our expected Grannies got there fine, and we pushed two tables together so nine of the ten of us--Granny Magi chose to sit at another table--were able to eat together and even get in a little practice.

We made it over to the Common Language bookstore in time for the 7:30 PM program, and were greeted by copies of a new Raging Grannies book prominently displayed at the cash register! But when we started to sing, that's when the true magic began. No words can adequately describe the amazing response we got from the audience of perhaps 50-60 people who were sitted in chairs, on the floor and standing in the back. And not just the audience either. I'd given Medea a booklet with our song sheets and she LOVED them! When she wasn't singing along, she was grinning from ear-to-ear. As creator of two new songs that debuted this evening--"Pink Slip" and "Code Pink"--I was utterly delighted with the laughter they received. And after we sang, we still had Medea's talk to look forward to!

For me, it wasn't just Medea who fills me with awe. In my humble opinion, Phillis Engelbert, the director of the AAACP who introduced her, is one of the global peace movement's hardest working and most creative community organizers. Seeing these two powerful women standing side by side gave me fresh doses of hope.

How does one describe Medea Benjamin? Not only is she one of the founders and most outrageous members of the women's anti-war activist movement called Code Pink, but, she also founded and continues to work with Global Exchange, an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting environmental, political and social justice. Since September 11, she's been at the heart of finding ways to bridge the Bush-created gap between American women and their sisters in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don't know how many times she's personally traveled to these wartorn countries, but I do know she was in Iraq on February 15, 2003 when the American-led bombing was originally scheduled to begin. Then she went back while the bombing was still going on. Occupation Watch is one of her and her international and Iraqi sisters' ongoing works in Iraq. And, as you may recall, she was dragged off the floor of both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions for unfurling banners that the powers-that-be didn't want to be seen. In both cases, she was trying to bring attention to the deadly war on and occupation of Iraq. Her banner in New York said "Be Pro-Life--Stop the Killing in Iraq!" This woman puts her body on the line in every way imaginable. Talk about courage! But what I most appreciate is that she never works alone; she is always building coalitions and encouraging others to join her in working for peace and justice. She's also a fabulous speaker--passionate and grounded in the reality of what is really happening. What a gift to our planet! And what an honor to be on the same program with her.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Bush's legacy 

I can already see the handwriting on the wall--tomorrow is definitely NOT going to be a journal-keeping day. So I offer my apologies ahead of time.

I have a hair-cutting appointment with Leesa in Windsor, Ontario at 11:30 AM. I'm bringing my own fuschia hair dye so she can "pink" me afterwards. Then it's home for a nap before Grannies Charlotte, Josie, Magi and Judy meet here between 4-4:15 PM. By 4:30 PM I hope to have us on the road heading toward Ann Arbor in Sojourner (what Granny Magi calls the "GranMobile"). At 6 PM we're meeting the other five Raging Grannies, Phillis Engelbert and the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace folks at the Arbor Brewery restaurant on Washington Street where we'll have dinner with the guest-of-honor, Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. At 7:30 PM, we Raging Grannies will open for Medea's talk--"Code Pink: Women, Peace and Power"--at the Common Language bookstore on Fourth. As part of our program, I'll be introducing three of our nine songs in the following way:

We Raging Grannies Without Borders of Detroit are so honored to be on the same program as Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. We thank Phillis Engelbert and the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace for giving us this opportunity.

Speaking of opportunities, I'd guess most of us share varying degrees of distaste over what our President has done these past four years, but we've got to give him credit for one thing--he's certainly given us great opportunities to organize! How many of the groups represented here tonight--among them the AAACP, Code Pink and even our own gaggle of Raging Grannies Without Borders--have George W. Bush to thank for giving us the push to come together and work harder than ever for peace and justice in our world?

Since coming to office in January 2001, Mr. Bush has unwittingly encouraged us to hone our powers of critical analysis, to develop ever more creative forms of activism, and to come together as a global community for peace. I will never forget following the rising of the sun across our planet on February 15, 2003 and experiencing the awesome power of millions and millions of persons standing together against a war that we knew then--and certainly know now--was a tragedy waiting to happen.

Our next three songs are examples of just a few of the many opportunities George W. Bush and his people have offered groups like the Raging Grannies, Code Pink and the AAACP to stand up for what we believe...

It delighted me when I became aware that Bush's legacy isn't all bad. It reminds me of the old days when Eddie would always say I could find the pony in every pile of sh*t. In times like these, that is an important ability to nurture.

By the way, you might enjoy a song I wrote especially for this event. The "pink slip" referred to is what the Code Pink women always give politicians and government officials whom they think aren't doing their job. When you sing it, be sure to slow down for "NO cell phones" and speed up again for "rattlers and field mice and bones."

(Tune: School Days)

Pink slip, pink slip
Give George Bush a pink slip!
Scarin' and fightin' and tellin' lies
Beatin' up countries so thousands die.

It's time we sent this cowboy home,
Back to his ranch where the buffalo roam
Put him someplace where there's NO cell phones
Just rattlers and field mice and bones!

Monday, September 20, 2004

A Community of Hope 

The theme of our Autumn Equinox ritual celebration was "Gathering the Harvest; Storing for Winter." As always, anyone who wanted to write was invited to come early and do so. Four of us--Jeanne, Penny, Judy and I--sat around a table under the black walnut tree and wrote, using that theme. The following was what came from my pen:

Like the skinny-tailed squirrel who naps on my maple tree out back, I am carefully gathering my version of the huge black walnuts she carries in her mouth.

I ask myself, what is my walnut?


I am doing my best to search out and store peace for the coming winter. Not peace as in comfort, but peace as in sustainability.

I want to find and store ways to sustain myself when times get tough. I especially want at my side and in my heart seeds of peace to draw on in November in case the coldest, bitterest winter comes early to our land, waters, air, plants, animals and people. I don't want to wake up one morning and feel that my world has collapsed in on itself. I don't want to give unnamed others power over my capacity for joy and wonder in the moment. No, I am determined to create my own destiny, to decide how I will live in the world...even a world gone mad.

So what will I store?

My Self.

After I read this entry aloud to the group, we hatched an idea to help us all make our way through what promises to be a very difficult November. On election night we will have a sleep-over at Jeanne and Peg's. There will be no TV, just a radio in another room where folks can listen to the election returns if they feel so inclined. But the main focus of our evening will be women coming together as a Community of Hope. We will write, make art, read poetry aloud, dance, sing and drum...and, of course, pamper our tummies with good food, as we always do whenever we come together. We will claim our own power rather than allowing "talking heads" tell us what to think and how to feel. And if things go badly, at least we'll be together. We can handle anything if we're not alone.

I hope more communities follow our lead. The last thing you want to feel on November 2, 2004 is alone and isolated. Make plans now, as we are doing. Create your own destiny...and let it be communal.

Here are some hints of the beauty and life that surrounded us at Peg and Jeanne's yesterday:

Their friend the chipmunk who lives in a little hole in the side of their house.

The red-bellied woodpecker, a frequent visitor to one of their many bird feeders.

Penny's sunflower-decorated altar with the "power staffs" we made during the ritual.

The following photos were taken by Penny Hackett-Evans:

The giant hibiscus bush with close-ups of a red and a white flower.

Grasses and wildflowers at the edge of the pond.

The bark of a tree in the forest where Peg led them on a Blue Gentian tour.

Scarlet asters in Peg and Jeanne's garden.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

State of the River Boat Tour 

After twelve (!) hours of sleep--8 PM to 8:20 AM--I feel rested and ready to tell you about yesterday's boat tour of the Detroit River that was put on by the Citizen's Environment Alliance.

The Citizen's Environment Alliance (CEA) of Southwestern Ontario and Southeastern Michigan "is a non-profit, grass-roots, education and research organization" that is "committed to an ecosystem approach to environmental planning and management." The CEA was formed in 1985 by citizens concerned about spills from Sarnia, Ontario's Chemical Valley entering the St. Clair River. That river is part of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Waterway and connects Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron, so whatever happens there affects us all. Since that time, the CEA has begun to focus on "questions of toxins in the Great Lakes, as well as air quality throughout the transboundary area. These now include waste management, wetland and natural areas protection, environmental land use planning, energy use and long-term implications of economic growth on the environment." Their activites have always aimed at "increasing public knowledge of ecosystems and the impact humans have on these systems." Their annual "State of the River Boat Tour" of the Detroit River is one of their most popular educational programs.

For four hours on this beautiful sunny day, a boatload of Canadians and Americans were fortunate enough to see first hand how our shared river is being used by our respective countries. While we motored downriver from Windsor's Rheame Park at the foot of Ouelette Avenue to Wyandotte, Michigan and back, speakers informed us about water quality, industrial polluters, wetland preservation, species survival and more. It was instructive--and for Americans, distressing--to see how differently the Windsor and the Detroit areas use their waterfronts.

Since the 1940s, the city of Windsor has been buying up their waterfront properties with the intention of creating public parks--photos #1 & #2--and creating natural environments along the river. They now have eight continuous miles of green areas and public parks up- and down-river from downtown (the foot of Ouelette).

Detroit, on the other hand, has done very little to "green" their side of the river. With the exception of Belle Isle--which is upriver from where we went on our boat tour--there were few glimpses of green on the American side until we came to the Grassy Island/Wyandotte Wildlife Refuge. And even being "green" didn't necessarily mean it was an environmentally safe space. Grassy Island, a small wooded island, is apparently the site of the most dangerously uncontained toxic sediment in the Great Lakes basin. It is currently under investigation for environmental abuses.

But the most chilling sights we saw were the Detroit Sewage Treatment Plant which is the "largest discharger in the Great Lakes basin, processing between 700 million and 1 billion galllons of municipal and industrial waste PER DAY", and next to it, U.S. Steel-Great Lakes Steel, the #1 polluter of the Detroit River. When we saw this huge industrial complex spread out on the shores of the river, you could certainly see why U.S. Steel-Great Lakes Steel is such a polluter--its buildings and machinery are ancient. There's no way they could be energy efficient or environmentally safe. See photos #1, #2, #3, #4 & #5.

Happily, John Hartig, the Refuge Manager for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, had at least one success story to share. After an eight-year struggle mounted by concerned citizens on both sides of the river, the last undeveloped mile along the 31-mile-long Detroit River has been saved from being turned into a golf course and luxury condos. Not only that, these 150 acres of woodland and the 20-acre Humbug Island--home of wetlands and coastal marshes that are vital to migratory birds, fish and other wildlife--are now protected as part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

For locals on both sides of the river, it was interesting to see and hear about current attempts to buy the Columbia, one of two original Bob-Lo boats, and restore it for use again on the Detroit River. Apparently the Ste. Claire has already been sold to businessmen in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Columbia is at risk of being sold to New York City businessmen who want to restore it for use in the NYC harbor. But local business folks have managed to delay the sale while they try to raise funds to keep it here.

From 1910-1976, Bob-Lo was a popular amusement park on an island off Amherstburg, Ontario. To get to the island from downtown Detroit or from the Ontario shore, you took one of the two the Bob-Lo boats. These old wooden riverboats were also popular for their night-time cruises. My husband Ed remembers attending high school fraternity dances on the Bob-Lo boat in 1945-6. They are real Detroit River icons.

For me as a disabled scooter-rider, this four-hour State of the River Boat Tour was a bit of a challenge. It meant my walking across the gangway while two members of the crew carried Ona my scooter. Then there was the high lip to step over to get inside the cabin. And while most folks climbed the steep stairs to the upper deck where they could sit comfortably and hear the speakers while looking at the shoreline on both sides of the river, differently-abled folks like my new friend Rhonda and I, had to stay down below and try to hear what was being said through one less-than-perfect speaker and see out the relatively small windows in the dining cabin. I offer special thanks to my dear friend Pat Kolon who got our tickets in the first place, stayed with me under less-than-ideal conditions, took photos I couldn't have gotten on my own, and helped me get out on deck myself later in the cruise.

After a couple of hours, I decided that I'd rather see the sights with my own eyes and feel the wind on my face, rather than sit inside and listen to a disembodied voice through a speaker...even a voice that had wonderfully informative things to say. I stood by the railing for at least an hour and enjoyed every minute! It was especially thrilling to see the Ambassador Bridge between our two countries get closer and closer, and to finally pass under it. Most of the photos here were taken during my time on deck.

After the boat tour, Pat and I walk/scooted along the river (photos #1 & #2) in Rheame Park and then had a delightful meal at a restaurant on Ouelette that had great vegetarian food. I was home by 7:30 PM and in bed by 8 PM...exhausted, informed and delighted with a day well spent.

At 3 PM this afternoon--in about an hour--I'm off with my friend Judy Drylie to Peg and Jeanne's home in the country where our women's community is going to hold a potluck, drumming and ritual celebration of the Autumn Equinox. We generally conclude with a campfire, so I don't expect to get home early.

For regular blog readers, just wanted to let you know that Ed and I made up soon after I'd posted my Friday journal entry ;-)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Marriages that last 

My friend Judy Drylie and I went to a wonderful movie tonight--"DeLovely," a musical about Cole Porter's life. I appreciated how they addressed his homosexuality openly and didn't try to make his marriage seem like all sweetness and light. It wasn't. But it was a marriage based on deep love and that was what gave it its staying power.

This was a good day for me. A quiet day where I began to pull together my ideas for the program we Raging Grannies are going to perform in Ann Arbor next Wednesday. We're the "opening act" for Medea Benjamin of Code Pink and as such I'm trying to choose songs that relate to her topic of "Code Pink: Women, Peace and Power." I made a number of phone calls to Grannies to run ideas past them and feel good about how it's all coming together.

Ed and I have just had a misunderstanding that has left each of us feeling raw. Thirty-eight years later and it's still a challenge to try to live together in peace and harmony. But, like Cole and Linda Porter, our deep love helps us make it through the rough patches. To be terribly trite-but-true, tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Will anything wake them up? 

I'm a bit out of sorts today. Even being with the kids at school didn't set me back on an even keel. I could try to find some reason for my unsettledness, but I suspect that would be grasping at straws. Maybe sometimes we just have to give ourselves permission to feel a little punk.

To be honest, I didn't sleep too well last night. I found myself mulling over an unpleasant experience I'd had yesterday at a local shop where I like to hang out. There on the counter was a rack of brochures encouraging kids to join the Army. OK, it was the Army Officer Candidates School, but to me it's all the same. Since this shop caters to high school students, it made me feel they were acting as Army recruiters.

I don't know if you saw Michael Moore's film, "Bowling For Columbine," but I found the segment on military recruiters accosting students in high schools and malls to be among the most disturbing parts of the film. So seeing those brochures sent a chill down my spine. Especially knowing that if any of these kids picked up on this "invitation" they'd surely be sent to Iraq.

I have trouble imagining a worse scenario for a young person today. Going to Iraq not only means they'll be under constant threat of killing others and/or being killed themselves, but they'll also be put in situations where the lowest forms of human behavior can become the norm. I think of young people like those soldiers who took photos of themselves torturing and sexually abusing/humiliating Iraqi prisoners. I'd guess most of them were perfectly nice kids before being sent to Iraq, but something about being part of an occupying army, especially one that is constantly under threat of attack, can bring out the beast in folks. No matter how high-sounding the "reasons" for being there, war is a coarsening experience for everyone involved.

I know many people would disagree with me. Certainly there are good people who have fought and are currently fighting in Iraq, but I'd guess if you talked off the record to these individuals, they'd tell you that their time in Iraq was/is one of the worst times of their lives. How could it be any other way?

So when I saw the Army brochures on the counter of that shop yesterday, I asked the co-owner why she had them there, especially since so many high school students come into her shop. She said, "I hope it'll encourage some of these kids to do something meaningful with their lives."


I answered, " You want them to go to Iraq?" And she said, "Not everyone goes to Iraq." Then she ended the conversation by saying, "My husband's son wants to join the Army."

Today Ed talked to her husband about the brochures and also commented that kids in the Army get sent to Iraq. The owner's response was, "I'm an American! I believe in fighting our wars over there, not here at home."

Whew. Is this how Middle America looks at what's happening in Iraq?

Unfortunately, this isn't the only example of buying into Bush's war propaganda that I've seen of late. The last couple of times I've joined Ed for lunch, the Rush Limbaugh radio show has been being broadcast on the sound system throughout the restaurant. In deference to me Ed asked them to turn it down and they did, but I have to wonder if the other patrons are comfortable listening to that right-wing rabble-rouser while they eat. If so, it certainly doesn't bode well for a regime change here at home in November.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

WE DID IT!!!!! 

Last night at 11 PM, the lawyer for the Grosse Pointe Library Board and its president, Mr. John Bruce, shook hands with the Michigan Education Association union negotiator, the G.P. Librarians union reps and G.P. Library Support Staff union reps and called it a night. FINALLY they had settled on a contract that was acceptable to both sides. On Friday the unions will vote on the contract, and on Monday the Library Board will vote. But everyone says it will pass. No, the librarians and library support staff did not get all they asked for--I gather the pension and health benefits still leave something to be desired--but their determination not to settle for an unfair contract paid off. And the union rep I talked to today said community support made all the difference.

Until the librarians and library support staff went public and picketed the groundbreaking of the new branch library in Grosse Pointe Woods on June 28, 2004, no one knew that our staff was the lowest paid in Southeastern Michigan or that they'd been working without a contract for over two years. But once the word was out, the library patrons joined the fight for an equitable contract.

We picketed and leafleted in front of the Central Branch every Thursday afternoon and whenever contract talks were being held inside. We attended School Board and Library Board meetings and spoke out against the unfair working conditions imposed by a Library Board that was comfortable taking out bonds for $20 million to build two new library branches, but would not pay our librarians and library staff what they deserved even though they had the money. Patrons and retired librarians wrote well-formulated letters to the editor that were published in our local paper, the Detroit Metro Times wrote a long article--"Book Poor: the Grosse Pointe library staff is making noise in labor spat"--about our struggle, local activists like David Sole from MECAWI (Michigan Emergency Committee Against the War on Iraq) and the Raging Grannies occasionally joined the pickets, and those of us who stayed faithful to the end built a sense of community that will never die.

I was out on the streets again yesterday afternoon, picketing with the librarians and library support staff while the contract talks were being held inside the Central Branch of the library. We knew we were close to a settlement, partly because the MEA union negotiator and Librarians and Library Support Staff union reps had said they would stay all night if necessary, and partly because John Bruce, the Library Board president, was at the side of the Library Board lawyer for the first time. Apparently they wanted to call it a night at 8 PM but our union negotiator and reps said, "No way!" Three hours later a settlement was hammered out.

We'd been as vociferous as possible yesterday, with my leading chants in my BIGGEST voice and folks taking turns driving around the block honking their horns in support of our pickets. The union reps had hung a sign over the balcony that read, "You are making this all worthwhile," and our level of enthusiasm was the highest I'd seen it in months. But we all went home at 6:30 PM, not knowing the outcome of our efforts. I got an email at noon today with the subject, "It's Done!" After (figuratively) jumping for joy, I got in my scooter and went down to the local florist--just one block away--and ordered three sunflower bouquets to be delivered to each of the three library branches. On the cards, I wrote, "Congratulations to the BEST library staff in the world!" I then scooted down to the Central Branch--my neighborhood library--to celebrate with my friends.

I must say it feels mighty good to meet with success as an activist. So often my efforts to avert war and fight injustice against groups of people (like Arab Muslims since September 11), have had power in the doing but not in the outcome. But here was an example of taking a stand publicly and having it make a difference. I'm beginning to think that LOCAL is the way to go.

Scooting home, while riding by dozens of American flagged-houses and several Bush/Cheney lawn signs, it occurred to me that leafleting my community prior to the election might be a good idea. I could already see the glimmerings of a flyer that would say, "Do you want clean air and water? Check out these facts before going to the polls in November." Then I'd list some of the environmental policy changes Bush's administration has enacted since taking office in 2000. I have lots of pertinent information that I've received through BushGreenwatch, much of which I've posted on my Bush and the Environment blog. As I understand it, EVERYONE supports clean air and water. I think they just don't know what's been going on under Bush. Maybe I can help educate them in a non-threatening, non-confrontational way. It's worth a try.

But today is not the time to start working on my next project; it is the time to CELEBRATE SUCCESS!!! Hip hip hooray for the Grosse Pointe librarians and library support staff!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

A different way of being in the world... 

I received an email today from my intelligent, politically aware friend, Jeff. In it, he posted a link to an article that apparently spelled out some more of President Bush's abuses. He finished with this quote: "No question, this election is depressing me."

The following is my reply:

Dear Jeff

I doubt if my way of living with a degree of peace in these troubled times would work for you, but I have opted to give up my incessant information-gathering about Mr. Bush and his crowd. I'm steering clear of Mr. Kerry too. Actually I'm stepping off the whole world/national stage and spending my time doing, thinking, writing and being around positive people, actions, ideas and words.

I'd found that my recent way of being in and of the world was harmful to my health. I am still very aware of what is going on in a general sense but have decided I do not need to focus on the details. Instead I am doing my best to focus on and live the principles and attitudes that I want the world to BECOME the change I've tried to impose on others.

I can no longer give forces outside of myself--whether individuals, corporations, governments or elections--the power to determine my inner peace or lack thereof. Riding that roller coaster makes me sick to my stomach. I'm saying "Enough already!" I no longer go to or, nor do I let my mind dwell on fears about what would happen if Bush were re-elected. I refuse to let the outcome of an election tell me who I am and what I think and feel.

As I say, I doubt if many folks could or would want to follow my way of being in the world right now. Most people have a pretty strong need to know. I'm doing my best to quiet that voice in my head. You know the one--it says, "You can't put your head in the sand. You must stay up-to-date so you can fight the good fight." Well, I'm tired of "fighting the good fight," now I want to LIVE the peace I've longed for in the world.

By the way, this new way of being has its own challenges. Every time I go by a SUV with a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker, or scoot by a house with a Bush/Cheney lawn sign out front, I struggle not to let hate and judgement enter my heart. I've taken to singing a song taught me over the weekend by my friend Jeanne. Apparently the children at Thich Nhat Hanh's Buddhist retreat center in France sing it every morning. It goes:

I vow to develop understanding
in order to live peaceably with
people, animals and plants,
animals and plants,
animals and plants.

I vow to develop compassion
in order to protect the lives of
people, animals and plants,
animals and plants,
animals and plants.

A tall order but one I'm willing to undertake.

So you won't be receiving links to articles from me, nor will my web journal or blog be full of rants about the current administration. I've cleared out my upstairs front room of computer and political stuff and am letting it revert to its former life as a quiet room where I can meditate, journal, read and write poetry, and create art. A sanctuary, if you will.

I know that if Mr. Bush and his friends get another four years in office, a sanctuary is very much what I will need. But don't worry, knowing me, I'll still be working for peace and justice, just doing so in ways that are not harmful to my health and well being.

With love to you and Noah

And yes, I will still be singing with the Raging Grannies when it feels right to me. For instance, we're going to be opening for Medea Benjamin of Code Pink next Wednesday in Ann Arbor. That will definitely be life-giving!

Monday, September 13, 2004

Napping & Noshing 

Even though I went up north to visit with my friends, I also hoped to spend time alone in the woods. And I did. Actually I spent a good deal of time alone. It was heaven.

Mary lives on 130 acres of land that is communally owned by six persons. Each owner is allowed two and a half acres on which to build--land that can be passed down to children or grandchildren--with the rest of the property being held in conservancy. Mary's plot of land is nestled in the woods beside a small lake. Access to it is down a one mile long dirt road that winds through a dense forest of deciduous trees, a hemlock grove, a red pine "plantation" (rows of human-planted trees), and across an open meadow. Portions of this road--more like a two-track trail--were so hard on Sojourner, my low-to-the-ground handicap accessible minivan, that today I had to take her in for a wheel alignment. Mary promised that the next time I come, the road will have been leveled and graded.

Mary's home was built by Huther, her son, and his former wife. It is made of oak trees with red pine from their land. No nails were used, only wooden pegs. It is totally solar and wind-powered; in the winter a wood-burning stove provides heat. Mary has indoor plumbing and even a washing machine, but Huther lives in a beautiful log home perhaps 100 yards away, with no hot water or indoor plumbing. He uses an outhouse even in the winter. And they DO have serious winters up there. Until Mary got ill a year and a half ago, whenever it snowed they wouldn't plow the dirt road, but would park their cars up on the paved road and snowshoe or cross country ski the mile to their homes. By the way, Mary is now 77 and Huther is 50. These are hardy folks!

I can't remember being in a more lovely home. With windows on three sides--photos #1, #2 & #3--and a cathedral ceiling built of logs, you feel like you're outside. Except for the bathroom/utility room, the entire first floor is open. I slept in the corner of the living room area, with a window at my feet and one at my side. I awoke to the sight of sun-dappled ferns swaying in the breeze. I also woke to the "cock-a-doodle-doos" of Johnny Bingo, one of their roosters.

A year ago Huther and Penny, his partner, bought nine beautiful hens and three roosters. They were days old when they brought them home, and they're expecting the hens to start laying eggs by November. Huther has built them a comfy coop and spacious wired-in yard. They'd be free-range except for the fact that Felicia, Huther's dog, has a fondness for chasing chickens. I spent many happy hours visiting with my feathered friends. Whenever I sang to them, Johnny Bingo accompanied me with loud "cock-a-doodle-doos."

Our weekend was spent napping and noshing (snacking). At least, that's how it seemed to me. We had yummy food--a lentil and mashed potato casserole made by Jeanne, black bean soup made by Mary, breakfasts of whole-grain oatmeal, eggs and bacon for the meat-eaters. We also had fresh sweet corn (from Peg and Jeanne's garden), green beans (from Mary's garden), tomatoes and cucumbers (from Peg and Jeanne's garden), peaches from a farm near Mary, blueberries that Peg and Jeanne picked locally, salads made with all these goodies, hoummos and salsa (my addition), brownies (made by Jeanne), chocolate chip cookies that I brought, potato and tostada chips, cashew nuts, juice, wine, and fair-trade shade-grown coffee. So that was the knoshing. The naps came because Mary takes two naps a day. I joined her in an afternoon nap every day.

There was also time for hiking, for Peg and Jeanne to go work on their land (15 minutes way), for sitting in the woods, reading, talking, singing, writing, doing tarot readings, going to see Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes, getting an ice cream cone in Empire, seeing Otter Lake, having a campfire on Peg and Jeanne's land, visiting with the chickens, walking Felicia, and just lazing around. It felt like those endless summer days when you were a kid.

I had a lot of time to sit and think about where I am now and where I want to be going. A poem I wrote while sitting in the woods on Saturday speaks to me of hope in troubled times. I will keep it as my mantra whatever happens in November.

Winds of Change

I hear the wind before
I see it. Waves of
sound draw my eyes
skyward. Treetops dance
to its music while

trunks remain deaf to
the rhythm, clinging to the
security of their

Do I miss the pulsing
beat of change, content
to remain planted in
unmoving assumptions
that keep me rooted
to the spot?

Or do I raise my
eyes, my arms, my heart
and sway in unguarded
hope with those who
dare to dance, dare to
dream, dare to believe
that the winds of change
they are a blowin'
and our world is not
as it seems.

listen to the
sounds around

Look up not
for the truth
is there, swaying
in the branches

All that is
will be.
the same.

Patricia Lay-Dorsey
September 11, 2004

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Home again 

I'm home after a wonderful weekend away. Peg and Jeanne couldn't have been more loving and helpful companions on the drive and throughout the weekend, and being with Mary at her magical home in the woods was a dream come true. As I said to them this morning, it was like having a three-night sleepover with your best friends! I'm not going to try to tell you about it tonight or to show you all the photos I took, but I will share the writing I did while sitting at the dining room table on Saturday morning with Mary and Jeanne. In it, I speak of what we'd experienced on Peg and Jeanne's land the night before.

September 11, 2004

We sit in a circle around the fire. Coyotes' laughing screams come out of the woods. They sound like teens at play. Jeanne and Peg break dried pine boughs and feed them to the fire. Sparks explode like fireworks and take their fleeting place among the stars. We sing.

Stars emerge one by one in a velvet sky. In time they cover us, a comforter sewn with dazzling sequins and tiny white beads. We sing.

Mary is bundled up in a Mexican blanket, her now-curly grey hair peeking out from under a black knit cap. The fire roars. It warms my chilly hands. We sing.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Off again... 

I know it seems like I'm never home but what can I say? Life is to be lived full out; that's my motto. Anyway, I'm off again tomorrow, this time to go visit a friend who lives in a solar-powered home in the woods near Lake Michigan. You know how we Michiganders always hold up our right hand with the palm facing in to point out where we live? Well, Mary White lives up by the outer left edge of the top knuckle of your little finger. Just to orient you, Detroit is on the outer right edge of your hand between your thumb and your wrist.

My friends Peggy and Jeanne and I are driving up tomorrow in Sojourner my handicap-accessible minivan. All three of us have to go to school first--Peg teaches 4th grade, Jeanne is a reading coach, and I volunteer in art classes with K-5 age kids--so we're hoping to be on the road by 4:30 or 5 PM. We plan to return home on Sunday night.

I've never been up to Mary's, but have seen photos. It looks utterly magical. And, to be honest, it couldn't be any other way. Mary White is one of our era's magificent human beings. She's contributed so much to the world as a foremother of the women's movement, a spiritual seeker, peace activist, environmental advocate and gentle loving friend. When we almost lost her to a life-threatening illness a year and a half ago, we couldn't imagine our planet without her. Thank goddess she was given more time to nourish and guide our world community. You'll see what I mean when I bring back photos of Mary from the weekend. I don't know anyone who doesn't love her.

As you can imagine, I am looking forward to being in the presence of such grace and beauty...not only Mary's but Peggy's and Jeanne's as well. I am so rich in my friends.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A perfectly jazzy weekend 

If I ever had doubts about my being a jazz freak, last weekend laid them to rest. Not only did I experience 30 hours of live jazz in three days and nights--including last night's late night jam session at the SerenGeti Gallery that got me home at 2:15 AM--but, as I write this, I'm listening to Ed Love's show, "Destination Jazz" on WDET-FM in Detroit. I just can't get enough!

What is it about jazz that touches me so deeply? How can you express in words what plucks your heart strings and sings in your soul? It's as though jazz moves me on a cellular level. As though I AM the jazz I hear.

Now my dear Ed, an intuitive musician who plays the piano by ear, simply cannot hear jazz. And no one in my family of origin was into jazz. I found it myself when I was 14 and finally had a bedroom of my own. That year my Dad gave me the greatest gift anyone before or since has given me--he converted our den into a bedroom for me. That meant, for the first time in my life, I could listen to whatever radio shows I chose. That was when jazz found me. Soon after, I met a small group of kids in my high school who also loved jazz. We were lucky to live just outside of Washington, DC, home of one of the best jazz clubs in the country, the Stables. I think it was near 15th and U Streets in SW. I do remember it was in a black area of town and although we were young white kids from the suburbs, the folks at the Stables made us feel so welcome. This was the late 50s and we heard all the greats there: Thelonious Monk, Mose Allison, Ramsey Lewis, Dave Brubeck and George Shearing to name a few.

Then I lost touch with jazz for a number of decades. I got into R&B--Jimmy Reed was a favorite--rock & roll, and later into pop. When Ed and I married in 1966, he introduced me to classical music and to songs by his favorite composers, Cole Porter and George Gerswin, not to mention good old boogie-woogie. But, as I said earlier, he wasn't into jazz so we never went to any jazz clubs. It wasn't until my 40s that I picked up the jazz thread again and started weaving it back into the fabric of my life. Year by year, it has become more and more essential to me. When I lived out in the Bay Area, I'd frequently take BART by myself over to Yoshi's in Oakland to hear famous and not-so-famous jazz artists. Here in Detroit I've been fortunate that my friend Pat Kolon is a jazz-lover too. And a year and a half ago I was seated at the same table as Akira and Miki at the Firefly jazz club in Ann Arbor. Since then we've seen countless jazz concerts together. Through Akira and Miki I've met a community of jazz lovers who introduced me to the SerenGeti Gallery and its late night jazz jams. Of course Pat, Akira, Miki and my other jazz friends were all down at the Ford International Jazz Festival in Detroit last weekend.

And I saw a new friend down there as well. Josef Deas is a young gifted jazz bass player whom I'd heard and photographed when he performed with Urban Transport at the 2003 Detroit Jazz Fest. I'd been moved by this young musician's passion and unique sound. Well, last week I received an email from Josef. In it he said he'd been doing a google search on how people often misspell his name--Josef Diaz--and had found a link to his photo on my web site. Apparently he went to my home page and started reading some of my stuff. I was deeply touched when he said that as a 20 year-old black professional musician, he felt the need to learn more about the political situation and had bookmarked my site because he found it interesting and informative. I can't recall being more pleased with a reader's response. The fact that our differences in age, race and gender did not get in the way of our connecting--even virtually--meant a lot to me. Josef also told me he'd be playing with Urban Transport, Bop Culture and the Charles Boles Quartet at this year's festival. I put them on my list of Must See's.

As it turned out, I had to miss seeing Josef play with Bop Culture--I was off seeing the new star drummer Cindy Blackman--but I did see him perform with Urban Transport on Sunday at 1:30 PM at the Pyramid Stage , and on Monday at 4 PM at the Waterfront Stage with the Charles Boles Quartet. After his gig on Saturday, he came up to where I was sitting, and hung with me and my friends chatting for the half hour between acts. He also introduced me to his drum partner, Sean Dobbins, another gifted young musician and a most friendly fellow. Then Josef sat with me while George Davidson and Hip Bob performed. It was fascinating to hear the music through the ears and informed consciousness of a professional musician. On Monday, he brought his mother Joan over to meet me after he'd performed with the Charles Boles Quartet.

As you can imagine, I felt proud as punch every time I heard Josef perform. I must say that his performance with the Charles Boles Quartet was a real highlight of my weekend. Not only did Josef show that very receptive audience why veteran musicians like Charles Boles want him to play with them, but the entire group performed at an exceptionally high level--Charles Boles on piano, -Jeff Marx on tenor saxophone, -Sean Dobbins on drums and -Josef Deas on bass. They played standards and original material, always putting their own twist on things. Charles gave Josef a fabulous introduction, and when an audience member--whom I later discovered was a professional jazz vocalist himself--called out, "Let the bass take a solo!", Charles turned Josef loose. And did my friend ever soar! He does things with a bass that I've not seen anyone else do. And, remember, he's only 20 years old. By the way, a great thing about the Charles Boles Quartet was their age range--72 (Charles) to 20 (Josef). Talk about bridging the generation gap!

As glorious as the music was for these three days and nights, the people were no less so. I've already talked about Josef, but let me introduce you to some other wonderful folks.

There was Josef's buddy, the drummer Sean Dobbins, who, after performing with the Charles Boles Quartet, met a young fan--perhaps 8 years old--who identified himself as a drummer. Sean asked if he had his own "sticks" at home and the boy shook his head. Sean said, "Wait here a minute." He went back onstage to get his drum bag, took out a pair of drumsticks and brought them down to give to his new friend. From that moment on, we heard the play of drumsticks wherever that little boy went.

At the late night jam session at the SerenGeti Gallery, most of the early performers were young musicians of high school and college age. But after awhile two headliners at the Jazz Fest, Ron Blake and the already-legendary James Carter--both saxophone players--came in and added their voices to the mix. Not only did they play side-by-side with the younger/less experienced players (photos #1 & #2), but I saw James Carter answering questions and giving pointers to DeSean Jones, an especially talented 16 year-old, and to another sax player over in the corner. This is why Detroit's such a great music city--the professionals are committed to mentoring the younger/less experienced musicians.

I also saw that Diego Rivera, a professional sax player who plays with the Professors of Jazz and teaches at Michigan Stage University, had brought two of his students to last night's jam. One of them, a tiny young woman, even had the courage to take a solo.

I will also remember Bill whom Pat and I met at the Pyramid Stage on Sunday. A jazz drummer and former English teacher, Bill drove the three hours from his home in Stratford, Ontario--as he has done numerous years in the past--to spend the weekend at the Day's Inn across the river in Windsor so he could attend the Detroit Jazz Fest day and night.

And Cassandra comes to mind. A sister jazz-lover whom I'd seen at the standing-room-only James Carter concert at the Waterfront Stage on Monday night, Cassandra came by herself--as did I--to last night's jam session at the SerenGeti Gallery. She sat with me and we shared a bit of our stories. It turns out that she'd known James Carter, as she said, back before he was "THE James Carter." James is originally from Detroit but has been based in New York for years. Before Cassandra and I left the gallery at 1:45 AM, she asked if I'd take this picture of her with James. By the way, the jam was still going strong when we left!

I also had a most interesting conversation with Jeff Marx, the Chicago-based sax player who was part of the Charles Boles Quartet. We were joined by the jazz vocalist who had called out asking Charles to give the bass player (Josef Deas) a solo. It was fascinating to hear from the inside some of the concerns and perspectives of folks who make their living playing jazz.

I took lots of pictures over the weekend that I've been working with today. I hope to put up a photo album before I take off on Thursday to go up North with friends to visit our dear friend Mary White, but if it doesn't get done tomorrow, I'll just put it up another time. I still have more photos to add to my most recent Pt. Pelee photo album too. Gosh, I've got to stop being so active or I'll never get caught up ;-)

Friday, September 03, 2004

Labor Day weekend jazzfest 

It seemed like everyone was at the park on this lovely warm September day, especially in the pool (photos #1 & #2) and on the beach (photos #1, #2 & #3). Moms, dads, grandmothers, granddads, babies, children and teens. It felt like the last day of summer. All the kids were off from school and it seemed like many moms and dads had taken off too. A nice long Labor Day weekend.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the start of my BIGGEST jazz weekend of the year! It's the 25th annual Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival--formerly known as the Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival--the largest free jazz festival in North America. And, sadly, this will be the last such festival, in Detroit anyway. As attendance has dropped, so has corporate sponsorship. They're talking about putting on more of a pop music festival in Detroit next Labor Day weekend, but it won't be at Hart Plaza, nor will all of the concerts be free. So I don't want to miss a minute of music this weekend. I'll be down at Hart Plaza by noon on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and plan to stay until the last concert ends about 11:30 PM every night.

I expect to be an irregular blog keeper, so don't worry if I don't post daily entries. But I'll be taking pictures to share later.

Have a great weekend, and if you live in Florida, know you're been held in protective energy.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Out of the mouths of babes... 

Today was a school day and we worked on our drawings for the front of our lockers. OK, so I don't have a locker, but everyone else does. We were to put our names--using a stencil--at the top of a long thin sheet of paper. On the rest of the paper we were to draw things that we had either learned to do for the first time or learned to do better this summer. We were to write a sentence describing each activity. I first drew myself working out on the quad-strengthening machine at the gym and wrote, "I learned how to use harder exercise machines." Above it I drew my face and hair with my hand holding the dye wand and painting my hair pink. Beside that drawing I wrote, "I learned how to pink my hair."

As you can imagine, the children--grades 1, 4 & 5--were fascinated with my newly-pinked hair. Among the comments/questions I heard were:

"How come your hair's pink?"
"Why'd you do it?"
"You should have done the braid." (Referring to the tiny long braid that hangs over my right shoulder.)
"I like your pink hair!"
"Did you paint it?"
"You know, people in Japan dye their hair like that...especially rock bands."
"I've never seen someone so old do that to their hair."

A day in the woods 

Nine hours ago I started preparing a selection of photos from my day at Pt. Pelee National Park in Ontario, but the sleep bug bit and I had to go to bed with my journal unfinished. So now it's almost 7 AM and I've been up for an hour doing the job I'd hoped to do last night. By the way, this Alone In the Woods photo album #3 is not complete. I have lots more pictures to include, but it gives you an idea of what that glorious day--now yesterday--was like. Warm but not hot, and sunny with a crystal clarity that hinted at autumn's return. I met very few hikers on the trail, and the ones I met were silent walkers. Pure bliss.

And I have Penny's dog to thank for it all! If that little doggie had not run out the door and refused to come home, I would have been in Royal Oak at a restaurant with Penny, planning our women's community's Equinox celebration, instead of savoring my solitude in the woods. Remind me to give him a doggie treat next time we meet...

P.S. Be sure to click on the last picture on the photo album. The thumbnail doesn't do it justice.

This gif is freely copyable. Just right click, save
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