Saturday, August 22, 2020
On my first night in Istanbul in August a huge wind was coming in from the north west. My bed was right by the big double windows. Of course I was exhausted from the excitement, long flight and time change. I lay there all night facing the widow with the big wind hitting me in the face and pouring over me. Later I found out that in Turkey the wind is a magical force - maybe a god - in the ancient regional cosmology. Rusgar is the name of the wind, ruya means dream and ruhum means spirit in Turkish. I was blessed by the mighty wind on my first night there in Turkey. If you're on a mini bus the covered women don't want a window open with the breeze blowing on them for this reason. In the old days, if a girl got pregnant they said - the wind did it! The Magical Turkish Wind -
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
RE Labor - I worked at Waunakee Canning Co canning corn in late summer of 1970 when I first moved to Madison. I had transferred down to UW-Madison, had been a student at Eau Claire for two years. A school bus picked us up around town and we went 30 min out of town to the Waunakee Canning Factory. My shift was 6 or 7 pm until 1 or 2am. Lunch 30 minutes at 10:30 or 11. My job was standing pulling de-husked corn off the conveyor belt and feeding it into a decerneling machine - zip, zip, zip. I was the relief person, going repeatedly down the row so each woman sequentially could get an 10 minute break. I got a break when I got to the end of our row of about 10 people. The workers in this part of production were all women. Mostly young "kids" and quite a few farm wives. Federal minimum wage, of course - maybe $1.60 hr.(Amazing!) When there was a mechanical problem somewhere production was shut down everyone went up on the roof to relax and enjoy the stars in the cool summer night. Our happy paid breaks lasted from about 20 min to an hour or more. While working on the line I mentally reviewed every life experience I'd had in my 20 years and remembered every dream I could. After 3 weeks, at the point of * mental numbness,* went to lunch then just walked off the job without notice. I couldn't handle * one more minute *. I started hitchhiking back to town and a county policeman picked me up on Highway 113. He said - What are you doing out here? He took me to the Madison city line where a city squad car met us and that cop drove me home to the coop where I lived. I went back a week later to pick up my check that was ordinarily passed out at the end of the shift on payday. So my little brush with labor/factory work was - an education. After that I got a job at Yee's Cafe, one of just two Asian restaurants in town, in the old Capitol Hotel on King St (now a site of a big state office building). It was a big improvement. Business was great and I made good money in tips. Federal/state pay rate for this kind of work was around $.75 an hour for tipped employee, we did get an included meal. ************* After 4 years of working various jobs and not being able to save money for school, the Pell Grants / loans started (in '74) and I was able to go back to school in Jan of '75 with matching grants. I went to school full time and worked 3 part time jobs. One job was school bus driver on the morning shift, did sign painting in the graphics dept of the Memorial Union in the late afternoons (maybe $3.50 an hour) and did life modeling in the Art Dept($7.00 an hour?) where I was also a student. Both were work study jobs. In the summers I got some pick up work waitressing. I went all 3 semesters each year for 5 years total. I took one summer off - in '78 I finished my BS in Art Ed and I went to Europe with my "rich" Jewish boyfriend. We were there for 9 weeks. We travelled around most of western Europe on Eurail passes, did some camping and stayed at penosionies. My backpack was 35 pounds with the sleeping bag. It was a glorious summer and long way from the canning job! I started grad school that fall I finished in two years with one MA and one MFA degree working the same 3+ jobs. Finally a "professional!" I got job teaching art in the fall at McFarland Middle and High School. Was paid the entry level rate (:-( ) because it was a semester long sub job, but I designed and taught the whole art curriculum 7th - 12 grades with 5 classes (100 students) a day... ********** The long and winding road of - W-O-R-K!
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
A Date With Fate? As two mid 20-something art students in 1975, we took off to Northern California for winter break. Yes, hitchhiking - the only way to travel. Speeding across Nevada (or was it Wyoming?) on the Interstate Highway we surveyed the stars. A tiny light moved faster than possible in the middle heavens witnessed by two. My first UFO. The driver missed it with his eyes on the road. With pretty good luck, after three days and singing "every song that driver knew" to several kind strangers we finally arrived in Mendocino. Molly, Tom's old girlfriend, and her honey bun were house sitting just outside of town in large furnished redwood home. It had a full-wall stone fireplace and a bank of windows along the length of the house with a view of the Pacific. A spindly catwalk stretched 20 feet from the yard to a rocky out cropping 40 feet above the crashing waves. It was a cool windy day, the sun glinting on the water. A narrow cliffside footpath led in either direction on grassy low hills studded with scrub oak and dwarf cypress trees. We thought we could see the curve of the earth. Pausing to to drink in the view, I stood right on the cliff edge then looked down at mighty waves smashing into the rocks below. A little of the weather-worn sandstone started to give way, and as quick as a cat could wink its eye, it collapsed beneath my feet. Instinctively I grasped a scraggly little cypress tree. Tom grabbed my other arm and pulled me back.
Thursday, January 31, 2019
Time To Jump In by Brandy Larson A white brahma bull stands alone on a high hillside - red earth and tufted green grass. We drive past with meadow and acacia trees on either side. The small fruit stand is next to a rocky outcropping on the edge of the road. Stopping for a cold coconut our vendor deftly hacks off the top of the green husk with a few strikes of his machete and offers a straw - cool and not too sweet - coconut wata. Down to the last drop he wacks the shell in half and we scoop out the jelly lining with a wedge of green husk for a spoon. Food of the Goddess. (Time to turn on the space heater in the basement to prevent the pipes from freezing...). A roadside restaurant trails fragrant smoke. My driver Jefta pulls in and we place our order as we watch the smoke rising from the wood fire coals roasting half jerk chickens. Sitting at a picnic table beneath a thachroof we sip from sweating bottles of ginger beer and Red Stripe. The pretty young woman who took our order calls us up to the tall counter as she chops the roasted meat into irregular pieces with a cleaver, crunch crunch, on a thick round of wood. She has prepared plates with chopped cabbage and carrot salad and a stack of white bread and butter in a basket. We nibble the meat off the bones, eating with our hands. (Put on some layers and insulated boots to brave the morning air. I brush off snow here and there to set out some seeds out mostly for sparrows, my flock of over 30 birds. I put out peanuts in the shell for a couple of crows that have also been hanging around. The suit is frozen, so they can't get at any of the much needed tallow). On the back veranda the sea is visible about 75 yards down our yard and a slope above purple flowering lignum vitae. The narrow path is footworn. A goat enclosure is on the left on the gentler side of the hill. The humble gate is tied closed with a bit of fraying rope. In the morning Miss B (79 and not counting), staff in hand, heads down to let them out to free range for the day. They come up behind her single file with a big nanny in the lead. The kids, many recently born, frisk about exploring, hopping everywhere and butting each other. They are tan and white, spotted tri-colors, some black, some grey and two white ones. Last trip I named her Milk and her kid Milky. Some are smaller African goats suited to this semi arid land, but recently some larger goats have come into the herd, the big nanny produces triplets instead of twins. Up in the yard they drink from buckets and nose around for tossed out kitchen scraps. (Clearing off the snow off the car again. There is a light crust on the top. I check the food I put out for the rabbit and the opossum last night. It has been covered in snow). I walk down the footpath to the bay thinking how long feet have smoothed the way, many bare feet even today. First the Taino people nearly wiped out by disease sometime after Columbus arrived in Jamaica in 1503; the pirates starting around 1655; the Africans, freed in the British Empire by law in 1834, they (the men?) were eligible to vote as of 1838; and more recently the local folks, some descended more than several generations ago from shipwrecked Scottish sailors who stayed, became fishermen with last names of Elliott, Gordon and Strachan, who bought large tracts of land. Billy's Bay, named after a pirate, stretches for a mile to the north ending in tall sedimentary cliffs and below sharp reef rocks above the water level. I wander down the beachfront, one of only a hand full of people, wading knee deep in the surf and plan to go to Frenchman Bay Beach with bigger waves for body surfing and people to hang out with. Pelicans reel and dive for their dinner. I see someone out on the reef with a spear gun, maybe he'll stop by B's later and sell me some fish. (School cancelled again today, on Monday for snow and now for the bitter cold and brutal winds. The weather guy said it's colder here now than in Alaska or even in the Antarctic! Lowest temperature here in 20 years. Even my cat Alsan is getting cabin fever). I'm packing my shoulder bag with journal, book and swim suit. Coated in sunscreen I put on my sunhat. First I'll walk to the bakery (called the coffee shop by the locals) to hang out with some resident tourists and tourists. The bouganvilla riots over barbed wire fences and privacy walls of homes and villas. Tiny lizards dart here and there. There are cacti of many sizes and shapes, huge blue agave plants and flowering poincianas. Later at Frenchman I hope the surf is up. Time to jump in.
Saturday, November 3, 2018
A Howling Bad, Howling Good Time by Brandy Larson Nov, 2018 We could see only their little tails scooting back and forth. Half a dozen silky black puppies raced back and forth in the dog run behind the neighbors house. I was eight and allowed to hold them. "Mom, oh Mom, can I have a puppy?" Thrilled, I agreed to all the responsibilities. Owwoooh, Oww-hoooo. The full moon was high up in the summer sky. I cradled Tiny, my little black dog with a white patch on his chest, in my lap on the patio. It was midnight when I heard him. Mom already said, "If The Dog keeps this up we'll have to get rid of him." Howling was bad, comforting him in the silence, stroking his long silky ears, was good. Lying on the lounge chair in my jammies with bare feet was cold. A dog's life in the 50's meant living in the yard. Dad built a big house for my smaller dog. My little brother David liked to wiggle his way into the dog house, something only a boy would do. When we moved across town we tied Tiny up at the new house. When we came back to the new home front with another load of stuff, Tiny had slipped his collar and was gone. It was crying time. Back at he old house for another load - there was Tiny. Oh, happy day. He'd run all the way back to his place of origin. "How did he know how to get back here?" I asked Dad. "The wonder of dogs," he said. When the snow came to Salt Lake City we made a comfy little bed and Tiny was allowed in the utility room at night. A few years later we moved to Northern California with Tiny. A few more years later the economy took a nosedive and we upped stakes to move to the Midwest. It was The Grapes of Wrath in reverse. We sold the piano and the beautiful dining room set and were finally left with a tarp covered trailer of essentials and three kids in an overloaded Nash Rambler station wagon. "There is no room for Tiny," Dad said. "This is a fact of life." We had a big tent. Mom said, "It will be an adventure, camping across the West." It had been a long day on the road. A State Park was our destination. We drove and drove, searching and searching. Well after dark Dad finally pulled off the highway into what looked like an encampment. He conferred with another of the many would be campers hunkered down for the night. Wyoming had optimistically featured the State Park on the map - that had not been developed... "Son of a gun." Exhausted, Dad repeated the famous words of Brigham Young, "This is the Place." He pulled our sleeping bags out of the back of the station wagon. "OK kids, we are roughing it tonight." The ground wasn't too hard as I snuggled into my sleeping bag, staring into the starry Big Sky. "Oww-wooooh, oowoooh," sound travels far in the desert at night. "Yip-yap-yip-yip." Another full moonlit up the sky. The coyotes sang to each other in the wide open spaces, having a good time as only canines can. Tiny's cousins I thought, just before I finally fell asleep. B
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Fat - The Anthropology of Obsession Don Kulick & Ann Meneley, Editors Jeremy P Tarcher / Penguin 2005 $16.95 Fat is a word that's often on the lips as well as on the hips. Thirteen professional anthropologists, and one activist weigh in with a variety of international takes on the topic. Fat means very different things to many it seems, a subject no one is indifferent to. Reviewed is how every year in America billions of dollars are spent on books, programs, pre-packaged diets and fitness clubs. "Lite" foods are marketed to every demographic and contrasted with "food porn" as seen in TV commercials, magazines, on billboards and facebook pages. These authors, often imbedded with their subjects for up to a year, go global with stories of: fattening the young, beautiful brides of Yemen; studying teen girls in Sweden who talk about fat all day, every day and their obsession with how to avoid it; as well as the idealization of larger size in the fairer sex in Niger, Africa. Fat is viewed positively by an Italian heirloom grower and producer of olives and olive oil - some more expensive than champaign. In Hawaii, Spam's history in their diet is featured, describing how it is relished and incorporated into many ethnic dishes. One chapter tells how oversized women (BBWs - big beautiful women) and another chapter on very large, furry men called "bears," are both fetishized on line, in magazines and how they are sought after as partners. Fat activists in Toronto, under their homemade banner - "Pretty, Porky and Pissed Off" - emphasize that "fat comes in more than one size." They stage demonstrations accosting people on the street asking them, "Do you think I'm fat?" and have a street performance dancing in leotards to "Baby Elephant Walk," crushing lots of cakes with their ample backsides as the finale. [Who says the personal isn't political?] Also featured are super-sized rappers. Find out why they are lionized in some sectors the US music world. When it comes to fat the authors demonstrate "one size does not fit all." The academic and writing credentials of each contributor is featured at the end of the book, as well as a joint introduction by the editors who contribute a chapter each to the book.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
My Own Extra Room By Brandy Larson I’d made the decision. My second career – body worker – or as some people say masseuse . . . “cowboy masseuse” as an early client said.For most of my adult life I'd done the housemate thing. There'd been several happy years of domestic bliss, living with honey buns and privacy. But due to economic necessity, "roomies" had generally been my fate. Let me count the ways – Stone Manor Co-op, a tiny green room on the fourth floor, view of Lake Mendota shared with college friend Winnie, 30 tenants and a big community dining room in the basement opening out onto the flagstone terrace, midnight nude swims off the pier. My first rental house was on East Gotham Street, another group-living arrangement. My room was illegal, in the unfinished basement. We post-teenagers with our dogs banded together to make the rent. After my six-week hitchhiking tour of more than 1,500 miles, with $100, backpack and dog, I snagged an east-side flat, cycling through 3 different landlords, two honey buns and a handful of roomies. One of the last housemates there was a working girl – not that kind – who, after the interview confessed, she was pregnant. After the baby was born, mother and child shortly got their own place. I helped mom move in January when it was -14 degrees.Next was a second-floor flat with my room in the top floor attic. Over the years, there was an assortment of housemates – guys, gals, students, one honey bun and a former philosophy major 3 credits short of graduation working on the loading docks at Webcrafters. I kicked out another guy due to his head-banger, over-the-top boom box.It was around this time I started having recurring dreams of an extra room. In the dreams,I’d discover a hidden door, sometimes discovering a whole wing next to my room. I’d just wander around, admiring all that space. In other dreams, I’d be negotiating to move into a place with an extra room or even two. Meanwhile, I did have a whole house near Vilas Park with a sweetheart. I helped him transform it. It had been a party house for him and his West High buddies. I spent my spare time – between two jobs – scrubbing down walls and painting. The things we do for love. Once the paint dried, things went south.Then I found a double-chambered room in the original farm house of a former vast acreage on Commercial Avenue. Dave, the leaseholder, was a communist, he said, and the son of a captain of industry. He had a color TV and cable in his bedroom. There was a small black and white TV in the living room. I said why not share the TV wealth? Nothing doing, he said.Some communist.One day, I told him I'd had a dream that I was moving. Dave said that’s right, take your dog – he never liked Raven – you’re out of here.A first-floor flat on Jenifer Street provided the next batch of housemates, mostly students.My favorite all-time housemate was Keiko, a Japanese woman working on a bachelor’s degree innursing. Always sweet, sunny, amazingly considerate, Asian serenity every day. If I’d been a guyI’d have asked her to marry me!I had a very stressful sub-teaching job when I decided to get a massage from the famous Cherie. A light bulb went off. Ten years previously, my mom taught me to give full-body Swedish massages after she took a six-week course at the tech school when she retired. On Cherie’s massage table, I just felt it in my bones – and muscles – this is for me!Soon after this, I had another extra-room dream. I opened what looked like a closet door. I stepped over the threshold. Velvet clothing in glowing gem tones was hanging from a tall door jamb. I moved through the entryway into a series of airy rooms. Shortly after this dream, I met Michelle, a certified masseuse, at a party. I asked if she would be my teacher. She said she’d be happy to instruct me which she did in six lessons for free. After the first lesson, she said I was a natural.A housemate had moved out on Jennifer Street that summer, and I borrowed Mom’s massage table. I self-apprenticed at half-price for a few months in my first extra room, then I found another flat on East Washington. The day I set up my massage studio there with help from Signe, the new housemate had a friend helping him move in. Thirty minutes after setting up my spiffy new studio, I offered a free massage to the moving helper. Here I was, doing massage on a handsome guy in my own dedicated extra room.