Sunday, December 4, 2016

Ghost Ship Blues

I've never been there, yet I know this place.  It has had incarnations across the Earth, and in all eras. The one I knew was in Portland, Oregon in the early 90's. I was in my early 20's.

I don't remember its name, or even if it had a name.  There are things I do remember, but I don't think I can put them in any particular order.  (Besides, the order of things, once you can read Heptapod.. hmmm... I find myself thinking about the dialogue that might have happened around the table during the making of Arrival...was there an Agenda Item 2b:  Hepta vs. Septa,  or was it just a discussion that began organically, where someone had an idea and the other person said, "Yeah, and..." my money's on the latter...  all the good jobs in the future belong to the creative class anyway... as I get older, I find I have less and less tolerance for meetings with agendas, real or hidden... whatever, my point is that somehow or other they decided to use Greek instead of Latin...and oh yeah, I forgot it was a book first, so the decision was actually probably the original author's, so never mind).

As I was saying:  the order of things, once you can read Heptapod, is less important, and your linear thoughts may well start talking in circles, just like that parenthetical non-sentence above.

The List of Things I Remember in No Particular Order

1.  The Mezzanine that came alive at night
2.  The beyond-handsome Mexican poet
3.  The openness of the kitchen -  every pot, pan, dish, glass on makeshift shelving
4.  The vintage sofa with warm crocheted afghan
5.  The slight chill.  Hence: afghan
6.  The smell of tobacco and herb
7.  The random communal drum kit
8.  The long hair and knit sweaters and trench coats
9.  The gloves with the fingers cut off, on whose hands I longed to have hold me
10.  The sketchy neighborhood (that would become gentrified in ten years)
11.  The openness of everything
12.  The awkwardness of everything

Awkward because I wanted to belong, fully, completely; there was a heady mix of nostalgia for the past and promise for the future that led to art, and which I understood at a cellular level.  But I Didn't. Quite. Belong.  Not Totally.  I was a first-year teacher, trying to adult for the first time, head still full of revolutionary educational ideas, but also full of an MAT degree, lessons to plan, meetings to attend, and students to be responsible for.

I loved it though.  I loved the company and the conversation most of all.

There are so many moments in your hazy young 20's you forget.  But you never forget dumpster diving with the artist boy/man crush (and that one time you found and hauled out your favorite teak desk that is now in your 16-year-old's room), then returning to his cluttered/clean apartment in the warehouse, and smoking cigarettes, and having a 26-year-old Mexican poet drop in to read to you from his journal.

I was never quite sure if it was safer to take the stairs or the elevator.  They were both adventures.

I don't mean to idealize this life, either.  Some of it was filled with drugs, some with despair. But I would venture to say that it wasn't much different than your average home at the time, just less hidden. And it was alive.  Of that, there is no doubt.  I'm also certain that people will start looking for someone to blame, and that the owner of the building is going to have to "own" his part of the tragedy.

Anyway, that's just a whole lotta words to simply say, no matter what the circumstances:
I mourn the loss of the Ghost Ship, its people, its heritage, and its future.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Strawberry Fields Forever

I am sitting on the bench that overlooks the Strawberry Fields meadow. I say the bench, because there is only one, and I'm fairly certain the city didn't put it there.

It looks pretty bleak now on this 29th day of February.  The dry grasses are resting parallel to the ground, and the scrub oaks are gray.  But the sky is blue and the breeze is light and new life is waiting patiently below the surface.

The city, however, does not appear to be waiting patiently. Everything is happening way too fast.  Final City Council vote may be in April, they say.  April?!  Why, in April around here we have only yet just begun to see new buds, flowers, and grasses!  How can our city council vote to give away something they've most likely never seen up close in midsummer?! This decision will be HISTORIC, will affect the citizens of this city for centuries, and must be carefully and thoroughly dissected.  That takes time.

Do you know this land?  I do.  I know how sound travels in the canyon, and how I can presently hear a lone hammer working on a deck on the other side, and the chimes from Will Rogers above. Imagine the noises of a wedding pavilion/picnic area and horse stable, echoing in the Canyon.  The Broadmoor is trying to sell us on the idea of public access on the 180 acres they are not using, but I'm here to tell you: there will be horses on trails throughout that 189 acres, and that 8.5 acres that is only accessible by Broadmoor guests will include the loveliest meadow, the one where people can just meander up the hill and find, accidentally.

Last summer, I did just that. While exploring the area for the first time, I came of the woods into the meadow unexpectedly.  Upon seeing the tall grass undulating in the breeze and the mountains surrounding me, I instinctively opened my arms and did a couple of 360's.

In summer, the area of South Cheyenne Canyon around the Starsmore Discovery Center  is a cool haven from the heat of the city for many. I understand that Barr Trail and the Incline are also used by many, but they are athletes and outdoor enthusiasts, not families and toddlers.  It is still a scant few of our population who are able to or desire to do the incline, yet almost everyone is able to access Strawberry Fields.  To have this meadow off limits to everyone who can't pay is immoral.

I am especially angry at how this deal seems to be a "divide and conquer" strategy, pitting the trails people against the open space people.  We should all be on the same side.  That's why it's called TOSC:  Trails and Open Space Coalition, but it seems the almighty "T" is taking precedence.

Two men arrived down in the meadow while I was sitting on the bench.  I wondered whether they were city men, business men, or Sierra Club men.  Turns out, they were sort of all three, and were still undecided. They were there, hiking the land, even the steep terrain that I've never done, to check it out. They noted its appeal, and observed that not many people seemed to use it.  They wanted to see for themselves what the fuss was all about. I applauded them for their curiosity.

That's what I think we all need, a hike in the woods and some curiosity.

And now, a chill wind has come up, reminding me to put my down vest back on. A hawk soars.  The sun has traveled farther to the west, yet still warms the left side of my face, and I have to squint a little to write. My greatest hope is that this proposed land swap will turn out to be a good thing, simply because it has put Strawberry Fields on the public's radar.  Curiosity can lead to other possible solutions. Like purchasing parcels the city wants with TOPS money. No master city parks plan should ever include trading away a parcel it already owns, even if that parcel is largely unknown. Perhaps, since one of the major complaints is that it is not well taken care of,  part of a new master plan could be for Parks and Rec. to improve the trail markings and maintenance of Strawberry Fields. That's their job.  And ours.  There is no reason that the public couldn't raise thousands of dollars to help the city with maintenance.

This swap proposal is the product of a private corporation's greed, and the public's failure of imagination.
(no wonder the Broadmoor wants this land- just look at that gorgeous view of the hotel from up here)

Finally, an invitation.   Mayor and City Council: come walk Strawberry Fields with me.  Name the date, I'll meet you in the South Cheyenne Canyon Parking Lot.  Bring your layers and hiking boots;  it's still winter and the snow/ice patches are slippery. Or perhaps you'd prefer to wait until May, when you can wear a t-shirt and tennis shoes, and I can show you my land, our land - green and growing. You might even be inspired to do your own Julie Andrews impression.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

invitation from a dried thistle

prickly stem–
a minor repellent
that would never stop
the most determined,
like parental threats

dried and delicate–
but not yet ready
to be dead,
like the paper-thin shell
of what used to be
your mother-in-law,
who still has enough barbs
remaining to hurt you
in many small ways

the rattling of seeds in the pod–
keep time to the breath of
fluid-filled lungs

you are invited to play a game–
she loves me
she loves me not.
but where will it end
if the answer is both?

and now you only want to write
about your bread and coffee
and about how it crunches and chews
but mostly how it fills
the places only gluten and caffeine
and love can fill.