San Miguel de Allende, Writings

The Log: April 24 — Stories help us understand, Alicia Keys helps us heal

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FREE ANNOTATION AND HOT LINKS:

#1. GREAT ESCAPE: The plan was for me to get up early and walk Moppit so Rose could take an online yoga class before the sun turned up the heat.

The internet was down.

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Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

The Log: April 23, Thinking about running. Yeah. Thinking very, very hard …

IMG_1415ANNOTATED LOG and HOT LINKS:

#1: FEVERED DREAMS: Still in a stupor, with the sun barely over the horizon, I started thinking about exercise — creating walking and running routes — both inside our compound and outside. Came up with some excellent ideas, both included steps — lots and lots of steps.

I concentrated really really hard to fix the routes in my mind, to gauge the aerobic benefits, and to estimate the caloric burn.

#2: AND THEN … Completely satisfied, I dropped my head back on the pillow and went back to sleep. My work here is done.

#3: KEEP IT CLEAN: Gave Moppit a bath. Then I took a shower. We both needed it. For different reasons.

#4: WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA: Today is a day for grand schemes I fantasized about building an online roots music festival. All the great roots cities — Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, Austin, New Orleans — must have radio stations dedicated to the kinds of music that defined them as the sources of blues, jazz, rock, Americana, swing, country.

When I was a rock music writer and starting to pull some juice, I proposed spending a summer traveling the country from music festival to festival filing reports from the road. The idea got about 30 seconds worth of consideration in newspaper time. Thirty seconds equals the amount of time it takes to say No!” in the real world.

I still think it was a good idea.

Instead, I got to spend two weeks that Spring, driving my kids to every theme park in Southern California to test out their newest attractions just ahead of the season debuts. To them, at least, I was a hero for about half the summer. You should have seen the expense check. There are A LOT of theme parks.

#5: SO, INSTEAD:  I made lunch.

#6: BIG READ: And read some more of “The Invention of More.” While the book was published in 1940, the author pretty much nails our modern-day concept of holograms.

#7: GIFTING GONE WRONG:  Neil Gaiman was offering free downloads of his classic “American Gods” until April 26 but, um, the download site @NetGallery and his publisher “weren’t ready.”  Neil deleted his generous offer with a promise to iron out the “snags” and try again soon. If I were you, I’d “friend” Neil real soon. On Twitter: @neilhimself.

#8: MEDITATION: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29. It is short. Let me just post it here. Quick synopsis: Love conquers all

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

#9: WATCH: “Live with Carnegie Hall”  Pianist Emmanuel Ax hosted an hour-plus broadcast with Yefin Bronfman and Marc André Hamelin from their homes. The informality of great musicians in their homes — Ax has grown a shaggy beard and his piano is out of tune slightly — is as endearing as their music is stunning.

Shows next week: Angélique Kidjo (4/2) and Joshua Bell (4/30). (Note to self: Learn how to spell “Carnegie.”)

#10: PODCAST: “Rabbit Hole” Episode 2. The series is exploring how the Internet is shaping minds (and ensnaring many of them). It is as disturbing as a slasher flick. Social media algorithms analyze your viewing habits then feed you more of the same, and more, and more and more.  Imagine your kid watching an Alex Jones video and then seeing 10 more backed up on his recommended list. And it gets worse. Watch and know your enemy.

#11: MOVIE NIGHT: Another oldie, “Topper Returns” (1941) In a case of mistaken identity, Joad Blondel gets bumped off and comes back as a ghost to solve her own murder. Who else but America’s milquetoast Topper (Roland Young) is recruited to help. Just a lot of goofy B&W fun, except for the cringe-inducing role of Eddie “Rochester” Anderson as the easily-frightened chauffeur.

He does get off the best lines in the movie, including:

Eddie, the Chauffeur: “Doors closing by themselves. People talkin’ to nuthin’ and gettin’ answers. I’m going back.”

Clara Topper (a ditzy Billie Burke): “Back where?”

Eddie, the Chauffeur: “To Mr. Benny. Ain’t nuthin’ like this ever happened there.”

Sleep on it.

 

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Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

The Log: April 19 — Fight the dark side: Dance, sing, read, write poetry

IMG_1393ANNOTATED LOG:

#1 CONNECTED: Rose Alcantara’s daughter, Caira Button, celebrates her birthday today, far from her Chicago home but in very good company in Western New York. Rose sang Happy Birthday to her from our home in Mexico. Technology rocks.

#1A FACETIME WITH FAMILY: Spent almost an hour in a video chat with Ryan and Larisa and grandson Augie, who is saying his first words! They remain in place in San Francisco where it can’t be easy. One of the world’s most beautiful cities outside your door … and you can only look out your window.

#2 BIG OOPS: The worst thing you can do upon waking is open up Facebook.  Trust me, bad news accumulates while you sleep. All this rage with no outlet …

A.Illinois governor forced to secretly buy badly needed medical supplies from China for fear Trump’s government will impound them.

B. Boston hospital team makes secret rendezvous in mid-Atlantic region to score protective medical supplies, as feds threaten to take them away.

C. Stimulus funds will reward more than 43,000 MILLIONAIRES with an average $1.6 million each.

#3 WELCOME RELIEF: Found in Garrison Keillor’s Letter from Manhattan.  Crafting good limericks and simplifying life — that’s the life. “It’s been a quiet week in apartment 12B.” That’s the stuff.

#4 TELEVISION: “CBS Sunday Morning” is like nestling in with an old friend. I can hear my blood pressure settling down for the day.

#5 DISCOVERY: Nobody has a lock on the truth about coronavirus — yet — but everyone has an opinion. I found a reasonable voice in Richard Lehman, professor of Shared Understanding of Medicine at the University of Birmingham.  His post in the British Journal of Medicine opinion page is calm, reasoned, informative, fact-based. I look for more from him.

#6 PAIRINGS:  Pink Floyd’s “Ummagumma” goes especially well with Gore Vidal’s 1977 essay “On Re-reading The Oz Books” from the New York Review of Books archives.

L. Frank Baum wrote 14 “Oz” books, the unevenness of which Vidal excuses because the man was writing 48 other books at the same time.

I’ll admit it, “Ummagumma” and me on psychedelics did not go well in late-1969. It goes better with the Wizard of Oz. Wish I knew that then …

#7 VIDEO: I’m not sure where I found it but there is an amazing video of liquid-limbed hipsters holding a dance-off to the Devil’s Music, jazz, baby. On further research, I found an 8-minute version that says this is a Sunday night party during the Jazz Roots Festival in Paris in 2015. Swing, baby, swing.

#8 I WROTE A POEM: Titled “Remembering to Dance Like Nothing Else Matters.” The first half was inspired by this video and the rest is based on something that happened to me in the early-1980’s in Rosarito Beach, Baja, Mexico.  I’m not a poet. These things just happen.

#9 PODCAST: While walking Moppit tonight, I tuned into the New York Times show “The Daily.” On Sundays, the program presents a spoken piece of long-form journalism borrowed from partner app AUDM. Today’s is “The Woman Who Might Find Us Another Earth.”  Sara Seger is a brilliant astrophysicist, a certified genius, but befuddled by the most common challenges of living on Earth.

#10 SHORT STORY: Edna Ferber’s “The Gay Old Dog”(1917). Chicago man becomes a Loop-hound. That is not a compliment, or, wasn’t back in the day.

#11  I leave you with this, the BEST PLAGUE PARODY SONG YET:

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San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Remembering to dance like nothing else matters

Mural by Thomas Hart Benton

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Enough. Stop.

 Let the outrage machine simmer.

Turn off the echo chamber. 

Take a breath. Exhale.

Invest six minutes in some simple joy. 

Maybe a memory or a YouTube video

Search for something like:

“Crazy good dancing”

And see what comes up.

Wantonly happy dancers

All legs and jazz and smiles

Effortless abandon belying the practice, practice, practice.

Lose yourself in the motion

In the ecstasy

In the rhythm and youth and heat and sweat.

Remember all the times you

Could have danced and chose not to.

Too late for regret but ample time

To remember.

And wonder if every step not taken

On some lacquered floor

Now rises up like bile,

Angry fingers dancing across a cold keyboard

Dance, dance in your room.

Dance, dance in your yard.

Dance, dance in the office.

Dance, dance in your cubicle.

Dance, dance in the post-op.

Dance, dance in the checkout line.

Dance, dance on ZOOM with everyone you know and strangers.

For once, we have the space to dance.

Social distancing creates its own stage.

Dance as if the sanity and safety

Of the whole world depends 

On your awkward, gangly, unique

Beautiful, joyous, free steps.

Don’t post, don’t throw more flames on

Facebook fires already consumed.

Step away from the keyboard

And dance, dance, dance.

Recall that long-ago Sunday trip

To storied Rosarito Beach Hotel,

Safely south of Tijuana’s gamey streets.

A womb of illusions and harmless fantasies,

Behind ancient stone walls,

 And thick oak doors. An escape

For those who could not afford a flight,

Could not afford a house in Palm Springs,

Missed the invite to Malibu.

The bar on the bluff

Overlooking the crystalline capped surf

Contained like a landscape in glass windows

And tinkling bar glasses

All glass and lapping cerulean expanses.

Like flying. Above it all.

With a white baby grand on a lemon oak-panel floor.

And kids, Hollywood kids

Refugees from the studio lots and unemployment lines

And waitress jobs, and parking lots

All tumbled down to Rosarito, answering a primal cry 

For something exotic, something foreign

Something away, just far enough away

To rekindle thwarted dreams

Here, in the Rosarito’s bar

We’re all somewhat mysterious celebrities,

Stars on the lam, like Gable, Lombard, Bogie.

Bar the doors to the imaginary paparazzi,

Warm up the piano, 

Let the revue begin! What

Did they say … Let’s put on a show!

Kids with a thick dossier of rejections

And even more talent

Leap to the floor

Singing and dancing with abandon

Sweaty abandon, finely honed and practiced abandon

From high school musicals and college debuts

And second rows on stage

And gaudy rock-star glutted stripper bars.

Icy margaritas fuel scorching  moves, 

torching songs.

Saucy, sultry, racy chops

Designed for the lines of thin summer dresses

And nicely fitted khaki slacks and T’s.

Star-struck dreams are tossed, 

With flaming hot ambitions, 

Into the dance floor bonfire,

Like nothing matters, when

Come Monday,

Everything will.

But not now, god willing, not now.

Now is only the music and the chops

And the hothouse air and tropic sun

And shimmering mirrored ocean below

And Spanish exclamations from smiling bartenders

And the illusion that we are all 

In a Cinemascope Technicolor

Foreign film, the script of which,

Is within our own power

To write.

Every moment is a closeup

Everyone is a star. Everyone is

Hitting it big.

Monday is an opening-night away.

More margaritas, amigos.

More music, more dance, more song

For up North, a thousand more

Just like us

Are having their dreams coddled and crushed

On the mercilessly hot streets of Hollywood.

But not you, not me

Not today.

The war will still be raging when we return.

 But we will rejoin the fray with smiles

A new, fresh look for the face. 

Isn’t that worth it?

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#smwc2020, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Poet Juan Felipe Herrera: Tell someone today, ‘You have a beautiful voice’

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Poet and author Juan Felipe Herrera reads from one of his 30 published books at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival #smwc2020 on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020.

Prologue: Juan Felipe Herrera was Poet Laureate of the United States 2015-17. He is an artist, a teacher, the author of 30 books across all genres, and he plays a mean harmonica.

As a keynote speaker at the 15th annual San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival, Herrera put the harmonica to good use. He also introduced plenty of “participatory poetry,” goading on the audience to share the load as he read his poems.

Herrera’s commentary is every bit as poetic as his published works. In fact, it was hard sometimes to see where his beguiling banter ended and a poem began.

Herrera’s life was a rough one from the start. His family traveled up and down California in the migrant labor trucks, from harvest to harvest.  Continue reading

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San Miguel de Allende, Writings

I started the day by rescuing a hummingbird

IMG_8883I started the day by rescuing a hummingbird

That had been locked in the atrium all night

And was exhausted from beating

Its wings and head

Against the glass.

It rejected my offer of help last night.

Exhaustion and a cold night made it wiser today.

And freedom is its reward.

And then I walked Moppit, the philosopher dog

While counting the hot-air balloons in the sky.

And took a Pilates class.

And stopped at Buonforno’s for a latte

With Bastoncito de avellanas.

Delicious.

I wrote something funny/mean about Donald Trump

That I do not regret

And something important for a friend

Who is not happy with

The way this world is today

And wants to do something about it.

I gave another friend

Directions to the laundry.

A laundry.

There are so many.

All morning, I said

“Buenos Dias” and “Hola”

To everyone I met and didn’t care

If they returned my smile,

Though nearly everyone does.

And now it is nearly noon.

I could have stopped

At “I started the day by rescuing a hummingbird,”

But I’m glad I didn’t.

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Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized, Writings

Poem: A writer’s lament during the holidays

img_9813That moment when you realize the offbeat lead to a blog post that you have been struggling with since Thanksgiving isn’t really the lead to a blog post, but an offbeat poem that celebrates the particular insanity that grips us between Halloween and Boxer Day.

I say this, fully cognizant of the fact that I am not a poet.

So you must draw your own conclusions:

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