Friday, June 28, 2013

Marriage Isn't what it Seems

After 47 years, I’d have said my favorite parts of the day are the morning when I wake up and find my husband in bed with me, and in the evening when he comes home and we make dinner together.  My life has its rhythm because I enjoy him.

A few weeks ago, he got a call asking if he’d consider an interview with a head-hunter in Singapore.  I freaked.  

 I was willing to leave the US to go to Canada if his draft board went after him. I would be willing to leave the US now, if we had to. Or even if Romney had been elected, and was as bad a President as he looked like he’d be.

But to leave for a job?  We both have jobs.  We like our jobs.  Why leave?  He has a talent for languages.  I do not.  He would have a job there. I would not.  And since I fix people’s computers in their homes and businesses, I could not create such a job where I don’t speak the language. Even the computers there speak a foreign language.

I told him I wasn’t interested.  He wanted the job interview.  He spent over an hour on the phone and said this was just the head-hunter.  The next level would be talking with people at the institute that wanted to hire him.  

I said something I never thought I’d say to him.  “If you go, you go alone.”

This stunned me.  Had anybody asked me – what do you value most in life? I’d have answered “my husband’s company.  I love be-withing him.”  I had no idea there was anything I value more.
That I value being independent – able to talk to people around me – earn money – understand directions, and get help in words I understand – I never even thought about how much I value that.

I am not aging well. I cannot imagine trying to explain my health issues in Chinese, Malay or Tamil.  I get lost frequently, when I bike more than 3 or 4 miles from my home. Would I be able to use a smartphone and get google maps in English if I was in Singapore? I eat weird foods. Could I even get chocolate sweetened with stevia? Or seaweed dried seaweed for making sushi. Do they even sell brown rice there?

My mind was going crazy – what do I really value?  Who am I? Would I really become a prisoner of the English language?  I can master the Pimsleur basics for travel – but that’s not the same thing as real communication.  I know there’s an ex-pat community there from England – but I don’t want to be a member of a culture that lives in an enclave.

It shocked me that I would throw away my marriage, which I enjoy, rather than move to another country. Discovering new facets of my personality can be a shock.

Fortunately I won’t have to deal with it – at least this time.  My husband decided he liked being wanted, but he doesn’t want that job.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Freedom of Speech is Dead

When my girls were in elementary school, I attended PTA meetings.  At one meeting, a member suggested that we spend PTA money to buy a Christmas tree for the school.  I objected because there are plenty of other religions and if we honor one, we should honor others, too.

The woman who wanted to buy the tree insisted that the PTA had to buy the tree because otherwise poor children might never see one. I said if the parents want their children to see a Christmas tree, they can take them to a department store or a church. It is not the job of the PTA to push one religion.  You’d think I’d declared war on religion.

I was expelled from the PTA.  I haven’t attended a PTA meeting since, and now my grandchildren are about the age my children were then.

So much for freedom of speech.

Yesterday I tried to exercise my rights again.  A few days ago, I received a flyer about a neighborhood meeting to put a mural on the wall beside the veteran’s park, which is mainly a few chairs and benches on a vacant lot, and a couple of flag poles, and a memorial stone for a neighborhood man who died while in the service.  On national holidays, the veterans run a huge flag up the wall on the adjoining row house.  Now, they wanted a flag painted on that wall.

Philadelphia is a city of murals.  Over 3000 walls have murals.  As the story goes, neighborhoods meet and decide what they want on their walls.  I thought about it.  People don’t go to war for a flag.  They go to war for their communities, their families, their friends.  These are WWII veterans.  I thought they knew that.

I thought about what might say Veteran on a mural.  A 4th of July barbeque with portraits of the veterans, both alive and dead (from photos), and some of their loved ones seemed appropriate.  And I wanted to paint in the two trees with huge stuffed animals perched in the branches that used to be on the lot. The painting could show the flag poles, and people at the barbeque could hold flags on sticks. I’m not being anti-flag.  I’m just saying there could be a much better mural than a painting of a big flag like they already hang there.  Yes, the wall needs painting. Yes, it’s work to pull the ropes to display the flag. That’s no reason to have a boring mural.

Almost nobody attended the “meeting.”  It was during working hours.  The notice was short, and most of the surrounding blocks of residents were not notified.  A few of the veterans, a few neighbors, and a former neighbor who is a veteran, but who never sits in the park. And a city councilman.  Not even a dozen people.  When I stated what I wanted, you’d have thought I declared war on the United States.  The veterans thought I wanted to really host barbeques in their park all year long. They were angry that people have picnics on Memorial Day, and thought my mural idea had something to do with that.  They want a painted flag and they want it before they die.  They are in their 90's.  They did not want a discussion. They had obtained 5 signatures from nearby neighbors okaying the flag painting and they want it painted this week. No delays.

A woman from Mural Arts said that any delays would cost money and put the project over budget.  She wanted the flag.  The city councilman said he thought a flag at a veterans’ park was a no-brainer and he didn’t even see why a discussion was necessary.  The machinery for lifting the painter up the wall was already on the site.

Freedom of Speech is dead.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Botanic Cleansing

When I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, it was bad enough that the girls had to deal with an alcoholic father, but when they finally got a tree – it was a stinkweed!

I have been on a war against stink weeds for most of my life.  My husband, the alien, calls my crusade: Botanic Cleansing.  I’ve pulled as many as a hundred on a single walk around the neighborhood. 

My husband uses his trash-picker to collect potato bags and beer bottles (not all of which are empty, or even open).  I pull up stink weeds.

I was clearly propagandized by this song and story:

I like to get them while they are young and easy to uproot.  I don’t wait until they’re lifting up sidewalks and destroying front steps.  They are all guilty of future evil. And, if they are allowed to live, they’ll make seeds, and the seeds will grow into even more giant stinkweeds.  They may look like cute green trees – but I know better.

Touch them and your hands will stink  – a stink that mere soap will not wash off.  Buildings downtown have needed major repair because a stinkweed rooted itself between stones, or in a crevice beside a window.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Zagar's Gardens

“Every tile is the right tile. Every place is the right place.”

Isaiah Zagar has created murals from tiles, mirrors, pottery, bottles, bicycle wheels, and other bought, made, and found items on over 100 walls in Philadelphia. He also built a mini-labyrinth in a former vacant lot, which he calls “Magic Garden.”

His work is controversial. The mayor gave him a citation for creating one of Philadelphia’s most loved artworks.   Angry neighbors come up to tour groups and tell them they’re wasting their time looking at junk.  Some are on homes where people have asked Zagar to design murals for specific themes.  Others seem more to show inspiration of the moment.

Some are playful. Others reverent. Still others seem to be designed from personal images.

Zagar only works near his home on South Street. His students work all over town. 

Most of the works have messages worked into the designs.

This is the front door of his home.

This is a nearby door stoop.

Below are some murals.