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TUESDAY, MAY 25, 2004
This is my last entry until next Monday night, May 31.
At 10 AM tomorrow (Wednesday), Pat Kolon and I will head south on I 75 in Sojourner, my handicap-accessible minivan, pass through Toledo, Ohio, and get on the Ohio Turnpike going east. From there until we drive under the Hudson River via the Lincoln Tunnel and arrive at our hotel in Times Square, we'll keep following turnpikes through Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We'll probably spent tomorrow night in the Pocono Mountains, and hope to make it into the city in the early afternoon on Thursday.
After checking in at the Westin New York at Times Square--a new 45-story hotel where my niece Gretchen O'Connell got group rates for her out-of-town wedding guests--Pat and I will probably head off towards Greenwich Village where we have reservations to see the blues great, Taj Mahal at the Blue Note , for the 8 PM show. In phone calls to the Blue Note about accessibility concerns, I've found them to be helpful and friendly. They've even promised to carry me and my scooter up the one small step into the club if necessary! They've also offered to reserve us a table, which is something they only do for VIPs. Does that make me a VIP? My niece, Carolyn Dorsey, who lives in New Jersey, is going to meet Pat and me in front of the club at 6:30 PM, and we'll go in, get our table, and have dinner before the show starts at 8 PM. Carolyn, who has been to the Blue Note before, says it is tiny and they "pack them in like sardines." Well, we sardines want to stake our spot before the can gets too full!
Friday is our "see New York" day and we'll just follow our inclinations. On Friday night we have tickets to see the legendary jazz pianist, Marian McPartland at Birdland , at 9 PM. Again, folks at Birdland are going to hold a table for me. I'm feeling at home in the city already. Saturday is my niece's wedding day, and I plan to be with family all that day and night. Gretchen and Matt, who live in Manhattan, decided to get married in Central Park--please hold thoughts of nice dry skies--at 4 PM, with a reception at 6:00 PM at an Italian restaurant near Times Square. I expect we'll all go someplace after that. My friend Pat will spend the day with her dear friend Bernadette who is coming up from Washington, DC for the weekend.
Sunday we'll check out of the hotel, pick up Sojourner the minivan--that will have been on a barge in the middle of the Hudson River because that's where vehicles go that are put in NYC parking garages overnight--drive to Greenwich Village, hopefully find parking, and go back to the Blue Note for brunch and a performance by the famous jazz bassist, Kiyoshi Kitagawa. We'll leave directly from there for our trip home. After spending Sunday night on the road, we plan to arrive in Detroit on Monday afternoon, May 31.
Seeing it all laid out like that makes me VERY EXCITED!!! But it also makes me realize I'd better get to bed early tonight. I'm in for some wonderfully long days and nights. Have a great weekend yourself, and I'll talk to you next week. And of course, I'm taking my digital camera so later in the week you'll also have a NYC photo album. And now to bed.
MONDAY, MAY 31, 2004
What a marvelous trip! New York was thrilling, my traveling companion Pat Kolon was delightful, my niece Gretchen's wedding was tender and lots of fun, the weather was perfect, the people we met were friendly, and the jazz and blues shows we heard were exceptional. What more can I say? I've got tons of pictures--two photo memory cards' worth--and many stories to tell. But these must wait. For now, I'll show you a handful of images from Thursday, our first day in the city:
from our elegant hotel
room near Times
--Thursday's lunch hour crowd relaxing in front of the NYC Public Library at 5th Avenue & 42nd Street.
--The Empire State Building.
--Pat in front of the Madison Square Park.
--A charming street in Greenwich Village.
--My niece Carolyn Dorsey and I just before we three--Pat too--went to the Blue Note to hear the blues legend, Taj Mahal.
TUESDAY, JUNE 1, 2004
When you see my New York Photo Album #1 for Thursday, May 27, 2004, I think you'll understand why I'm not going to write about today's hard workout at the gym with Matt my trainer, or lunch at the Subway with Ed, or the magician who put on a show for us there, or my lovely scoot up and back amid irises and peonies in bloom. Yes, I think you'll definitely understand.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 2, 2004
It's now close to 1 AM on Thursday morning, and my alarm will be going off in six and a half short hours. Tomorrow is a school day--one of the last of the year. Sigh.
Except for time for dinner and my usual Wednesday night swim, I've been at the computer all day. Not only did I complete my photo-journal for Friday, May 28--see New York Photo Album #1--but I also archived my journal.
And now I MUST go to bed.
THURSDAY, JUNE 3, 2004
Too often we idealize childhood. We'll say things like, "I wish I were a child again. Life was so simple then." Well, many of the children I know poke huge holes in that theory. For example, let me share a conversation I had today with a fifth grade boy as we worked on our weaving project in art class.
"In every single one of my dreams," this 11 year-old said, "I'm either killed by someone or I kill them. I've never had a good dream in my life."
Can you imagine that?
He then described a couple of his dreams: they were truly terrifying. He said that sometimes he wakes up in the middle of a dream, but usually has to go through it to the end. I asked if he watches violent TV shows or plays video games before going to bed. He said no, he isn't allowed to. Then where do these things come from? And why do they plague him?
By the way, his affect as we talked was sad and almost hopeless. It's obvious that he can't even imagine what it would be like to have a good dream. I'm not sure which Middle Eastern country he comes from originally, so I don't know if he has personally experienced the horrors of war.
However, I'm afraid that some of our children are going to enter real-life nightmares. As I mentioned two weeks ago, a number of our students are moving to Iraq after school lets out. Even though the kids might have been born here in the U.S., their parents are Iraqi and anxious to return home. How I wish I could seal them in a protective bubble so they wouldn't be put at risk. But all I can do is seal them with my love and hold them in my hearts. May they be kept safe.
FRIDAY, JUNE 4, 2004
It's time I learned to chill out. No one--I repeat, NO ONE--expects as much of me as I do myself. For example, not one of my journal readers has pushed me to hurry up and get my New York City photos up online. But you'd think I had a gun to my head and a stopwatch beside my computer the way I've been pushing myself.
Gawd, woman, give it a rest!
I've already spent countless hours on this project since returning home late Monday afternoon. I've stayed up until at least 1 AM every night but one since then. Wednesday night it was 2 AM. The Thursday and Friday photos and journal entries are up, and all of Saturday's photos--86, including my niece's wedding pictures--have made it throughthe first step and many of them through the second step in their journey to the world wide web. But there are hours to go before I can rest. That is, if I insist on driving myself to a state of exhaustion over this unpaid job.
Nope. I'm not going to stay on that fast track. Life is too short and these early June days too precious to waste sitting with my nose to the computer. Ed helped me see that earlier today. I called him at 12:30 PM and said that I wouldn't be down to see him and to work out at the gym until later in the afternoon. I'd already spent an hour and a half on Saturday's photos and wanted to finish the whole batch. He said, in essence, are you crazy? This is the most perfect day and you need to get out in it. Now!
Thank goddess, I heard him. I closed down my computer, got on my trusty scooter and went out into a sparkling blue-skied day that fairly hummed with beauty. I saw my first roses--photo #1, #2 & #3--a flowering shrub that resembled an azalea but I don't think it was, and an early daylily. On the way, a friend of Ed's--who is the son of a woman I used to play tennis with in the '70s--stopped his car, got out and introduced himself. We had a wonderful conversation, and I even learned that his Mom, who is now 92, has a new gentleman friend! I'm not surprised. Betty was a lovely woman when I knew her, and I'm sure she still is.
When I got down to the gym, I checked in first at the Subway and had a quick visit with my Eddie. He insisted on taking several pictures of me, and one of them turned out fine. Then I went next door and worked HARD in the gym. I asked Stephanie, who works there, to take a picture of me doing my third set of 20 push-ups. That's just one of the seven exercises I do when I work out on my own. Don't want you to think I'm faking it when I say I'm working out!
Next it was time for lunch. Ed joined me as I ate a Middle Eastern veggie platter, and he helped me finish off a walnut and green apple gelato, size small. Yum. A quick trip to the market was followed by a lovely scooter ride home. Then after dinner, Ed and I took a walk/scoot beside the lake. And tomorrow the O Beautiful Gaia singing women are spending the day together on Belle Isle, which I'm anticipating greatly.
So let's just say that the New York pictures will get online when they do, and no sooner. Life is to be lived not just photographed and written about. I know you agree.
SATURDAY, JUNE 5, 2004
What a perfect June day! My Great Lakes Basin sisters and I sat under the shade of trees beside the Detroit River on Belle Isle today and sang songs from our O Beautiful Gaia CD, talked about how each of us is trying to live the precepts of the Earth Charter, heard a poem Joan had written about the elephants our Detroit Zoo is finally releasing to live in wildlife preserves of 1000s of acres instead of the one acre they've been confined to for decades, explored the indigenous plants at the Nature Center and shared about upcoming activist events in Windsor and Detroit. But most importantly, we simply spent six glorious hours together on Gaia (the earth) we love. After all that time breathing such wonderfully fresh river air, all I want to do is put up my feet and watch a Merchant Ivory DVD ("Quartet") that Ed rented for me over a week ago. I have photos to share but they can wait.
Photos from the day (put up on Sunday):
--We women from the Great
Lakes Basin gather
on the Detroit side of Belle Isle and form a
circle with our lawn chairs under the shade of trees, our
altar at the center. We are especially grateful to have Mary
from Toronto and Jean, our beloved elder, with us today.
--The Detroit River is directly in front of us with men and women fishing and boats sailing and motoring by on this sparkling June day.
--We sing "O Beautiful Gaia", spontaneously making up verses to celebrate where we are today.
--Helen leads us in chi gong movements and a guided meditation to center us as we begin the day. We then sing and do hand motions to a chant dedicated to earth, sun, air and water.
--We begin our program by going over our parts to Carolyn McDade's song, "Among the Many," but after finding that too difficult, we simply sing that song and "Great Waters" (photo #1 & #2 & #3). Birds in the trees sing along with us.
--Joan tells us about the recent announcement by the Detroit Zoo that after having had elephants since the zoo began, they are finally releasing the final two elephants to wildlife preserves where they will have 1000s of acres to roam instead of the one acre they'd always had at our zoo. One of the elephants being released is 52 years old and has been at the Detroit Zoo for decades. Joan, who loves animals more than life itself, tells us how she used to mind dogs next door to the zoo and she could see the elephants' heads over the fence. "Every day I looked into their dull and hopeless eyes." She then reads us the poem--"Another Dream Deferred"--that she wrote upon hearing the news of their release. There are not many dry eyes in our circle by the time she finishes.
--About noon, Judy announces that it's time for lunch. The planners are giving us an hour and a half so that we might explore some of Belle Isle's wonderful features, among them the Nature Center, the Aquarium and the Conservatory.
--We sit in the sun and enjoy the lunches we've brought from home. There is much sharing of special treats.
--A good number of us decide to walk over to the Nature Center, about a block away. We're particularly interested in seeing their natural garden of plants and wildflowers native to our bioregion. My scooter Ona shows herself to be a hardy traveler in some of the tall grasses (photo #1 & #2).
--On the way back to our singing spot, we walk/scoot by a lagoon sprinkled with swans and gulls, and see a beautiful view of Detroit's skyline.
--Before we start up again, I go over and talk to one of the fisherpersons, Acton Anderson. He tells me how he loves hearing us sing and finds it very spiritual. He even recalls some of the phrases from "The Blessing Song" that we had sung before lunch. I get his address and promise to send him one of our O Beautiful Gaia CDs.
--After our lunch break, we sit (photo #1 & #2) and share announcements of upcoming environmental/social/political events in Windsor and Detroit. We follow that by breaking into small groups and discussing a portion of The Earth Charter.
--Then Mary facilitates our going around the circle and sharing what each of us is doing personally to try to help sustain our planet. Our comments range from hints on composting to not taking as many showers to bringing our own cloth bags when we grocery shop to joining cooperative organic farming groups, among many other things.
--We finish the day in song (photo #1, #2 & #3).
SUNDAY, JUNE 6, 2004
Many say "de mortuis nil nisi bonum" (speak only good of the dead) when a public figure dies. I disagree. I believe that is the time to speak the unvarnished truth, for it is only after death that we can see the length and breadth of a life as it fits within the context of history. Besides, if an individual has not borne the full consequences of their decisions while still alive, this must be accomplished after their death. And the sooner the better, before the myth-makers take over completely.
When Ronald Reagan died yesterday I prepared myself to hear a lot of glossed over, if not actually fictionalized, accounts of his presidency. So I was deeply grateful to Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, for speaking the truth in his blog. You can read Prof. Cole's historical perspective on Ronald Reagan's presidency by going to "Informed Comment" and checking out the June 6th entry. William Rivers Pitt, editor of the progressive news site truthout.org, has also written a straight-forward account of Ronald Reagan's legacy as president. "Planet Reagan" can be found online at truthout.org.
So that is the past, but we have an even more dangerous situation in the White House today. This article was emailed to me by a Muslim friend in Egypt. Isn't it interesting that the rest of the world sees more clearly than we what is actually happening in our country today? Not surprising when you look at who owns the U.S. media.
Bush's Erratic Behavior
Worries White House Aides
By DOUG THOMPSON
Publisher, Capitol Hill Blue
Jun 4, 2004, 06:15
President George W. Bush's increasingly erratic behavior and wide mood swings has the halls of the West Wing buzzing lately as aides privately express growing concern over their leader's state of mind.
In meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as "enemies of the state."
Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home.
"It reminds me of the Nixon days," says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. "Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That's the mood over there."
In interviews with a number of White House staffers who were willing to talk off the record, a picture of an administration under siege has emerged, led by a man who declares his decisions to be "God's will" and then tells aides to "f**k over" anyone they consider to be an opponent of the administration.
"We're at war, there's no doubt about it. What I don't know anymore is just who the enemy might be," says one troubled White House aide. "We seem to spend more time trying to destroy John Kerry than al Qaeda and our enemies list just keeps growing and growing."
Aides say the President gets "hung up on minor details," micromanaging to the extreme while ignoring the bigger picture. He will spend hours personally reviewing and approving every attack ad against his Democratic opponent and then kiss off a meeting on economic issues.
"This is what is killing us on Iraq," one aide says. "We lost focus. The President got hung up on the weapons of mass destruction and an unproven link to al Qaeda. We could have found other justifiable reasons for the war but the President insisted the focus stay on those two, tenuous items."
Aides who raise questions quickly find themselves shut out of access to the President or other top advisors. Among top officials, Bush's inner circle is shrinking. Secretary of State Colin Powell has fallen out of favor because of his growing doubts about the administration's war against Iraq.
The President's abrupt dismissal of CIA Directory George Tenet Wednesday night is, aides say, an example of how he works.
"Tenet wanted to quit last year but the President got his back up and wouldn't hear of it," says an aide. "That would have been the opportune time to make a change, not in the middle of an election campaign but when the director challenged the President during the meeting Wednesday, the President cut him off by saying 'That's it George. I cannot abide disloyalty. I want your resignation and I want it now."
Tenet was allowed to resign "voluntarily" and Bush informed his shocked staff of the decision Thursday morning. One aide says the President actually described the decision as "God's will."
God may also be the reason Attorney General John Ashcroft, the administration's lightning rod because of his questionable actions that critics argue threatens freedoms granted by the Constitution, remains part of the power elite. West Wing staffers call Bush and Ashcroft "the Blues Brothers" because "they're on a mission from God."
"The Attorney General is tight with the President because of religion," says one aide. "They both believe any action is justifiable in the name of God."
But the President who says he rules at the behest of God can also tongue-lash those he perceives as disloyal, calling them "f**king a**holes" in front of other staff, berating one cabinet official in front of others and labeling anyone who disagrees with him "unpatriotic" or "anti-American."
"The mood here is that we're under siege, there"s no doubt about it," says one troubled aide who admits he is looking for work elsewhere. "In this administration, you don"t have to wear a turban or speak Farsi to be an enemy of the United States. All you have to do is disagree with the President."
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the record.
Check back to yesterday's journal entry to see the photos I took.
MONDAY, JUNE 7, 2004
Almost done! Today I completed my New York Photo Album #1, and am partially finished with NY Photo Album #2, the photos from Gretchen and Matt's wedding in Central Park and reception at an Italian restaurant on W. 44th Street. Hopefully that will be completed by tomorrow.
Today was such a summer day, hot and sunny. Even now, at almost midnight, it is still warm and the cicadas are singing their summer song outside my open window. My window fan is on in my bedroom so I know I'll have a comfortable night of sleep.
In addition to lots of hours at the computer, I also sat out back and read. Such a fragrant place to be! I don't know the name of the white-flowered shrub that blooms at this time of year, but its scent always makes me think of high school prom corsages. Late in the afternoon I scooted down to Ed's office and sat outside enjoying a small dish of cantalope and walnut gelato. Then it was time for my next-to-last evening swim at the middle school.
I wish summer would last at least six months. It's my favorite season of all.
By the way, be sure to check out the Toronto Star article, "Gaggles of Grannies Get Off Their Fannies." My gawd, are we Raging Grannies getting famous???
TUESDAY, JUNE 8, 2004
I'm done! The wedding photos are now up on my New York Photo album #2. Just to clarify, NYC Photo Album #1 has been updated to include photos and journal entries for Saturday and Sunday, May 29-30.
This was the sort of day we dream about in February but can't believe will ever come again. A day where all you need is a loose cotton dress, bare feet, a good book, a full water bottle, a plastic chair on a back stoop, a shade tree over your head, the color green everywhere you look, a gentle breeze, and fragrant flowering bushes at your side. If you want to take it to the level of Nirvana, simply add a gelato cafe, flutists practicing at a public gazebo, yellow roses climbing a fence, and sailboats out on the lake. Life is SO good.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9, 2004
I knew this week would be tough to take for any American who remembers the "Reagan Years." Not the fantasy landscape that's being painted as his legacy, but the killing fields that were the reality.
El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras. Ask the survivors of the wars and massacres in these beleagured countries what they think of Ronald Reagan, the president who supported death squads and militias like the Contras with weapons, military advisors and billions of dollars. I'm afraid you can't ask the 800 men, women and children of the Salvadoran village of El Mozote because every one of them was executed on December 10, 1981 by the Atlacatl Battalion, an elite American-trained unit of the El Salvadoran armed forces.
Ask Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandala what they think of the man who refused to take a stand against the murderous apartheid in South Africa at a time when the international community was applying economic and political pressure for it to cease.
Ask the friends, families and lovers of persons who died of AIDS how they see this former president who ignored the so-called "gay plague" until it had become a raging epidemic. The man who was a great buddy of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who called the illness "divine revenge on homosexuals."
Ask Saddam Hussein, Pinochet and Marcos how they liked the American president who supported their brutal dictatorships, even as they openly repressed, tortured and killed their own people.
Ask mothers who were trying to raise their children with government assistance, mothers Reagan called "Welfare Queens" as he cut their already inadequate benefits at the same time that he gave massive tax breaks to the rich.
Ask the trade unions that never recovered from Reagan's pre-emptive firing of the striking air-traffic controllers.
Yes, there are those who remember. Just go to alternative web sites like commondreams.org, truthout.org and alternet.org and scroll down the links to articles and columns written since Ronald Reagan's death.
On a personal note, I want to say that I wouldn't wish on anyone the pain and suffering--especially for the family--that accompanies Alzheimer's. I know it from the inside. My Dad was lost to us years before his heart stopped beating on June 27, 1987. But that personal and family tragedy does not relieve an individual of bearing the consequences for decisions they made when their minds were still intact. Please don't let compassion blind you to the truth. Alzheimer's does not wipe away our collective memory, only the memory of the individual afflicted.
THURSDAY, JUNE 10, 2004
When I heard from my brother Rabih Haddad in a phone call early this morning that Israel had dropped three missiles on a neighborhood near his apartment in Beirut two nights ago, it made me wonder what else we Americans don't hear about.
Is our American media so inured to violence that they don't even bother to report such a significant event? Or is their choice of news dictated by political and economic concerns, such as who buys advertising space in their newspapers and TV programs, and who sits on their editorial boards? Or was it reported and I just didn't hear about it? I checked with Ed who reads the New York Times cover-to-cover every day, and he didn't recall seeing anything about it.
Anyway, Rabih said he was at the mosque after evening prayers. It was 10 PM and they heard low-flying planes overhead. But they didn't hear any explosions. He hurried home, turned on the TV and saw that three missiles had been dropped on a neighborhood near where they live, a neighborhood that has no significance militarily. The Lebanese government immediately filed a complaint with the UN, and everyone tried to figure out why Israeli bombers had chosen that patricular site to drop missiles. The only thing anyone could figure was that there used to be some sort of Palestinian enclave living there. But that was 25 years ago!
What IS obvious is that the Israeli military can get away with anything it wants.
We also talked about their new baby who could arrive at any minute. Rabih and Sulaima are delighted that she has been able to carry this child longer than she carried any of their other children, meaning he--they already know this is a little boy--is entering his ninth month. That is VERY good news!
The world situation weighs heavily on Rabih. For years he and his co-workers at the Global Relief Foundation were able to respond with tangible aid for the innocent victims of wars around the world. But since the U.S. government raided the offices of GRF and froze their assets on December 14, 2001, these humanitarians have had to step back and find new ways to respond to the ravages of war and dislocation of peoples. Of course, Rabih had to spend 19 months in a U.S. jail before he could begin the process of finding a new life's work. By the way, the government never found any evidence of wrongdoing, either by Rabih Haddad or the Global Relief Foundation, but that didn't stop them from destroying the Foundation and Rabih's place in it.
So now is one of those "transition" times that we all know are both challenging and full of grace. I trust my brother will find a new way to benefit the world with his special blend of compassion, commitment and creativity. I personally hope it has something to do with teaching and/or mentoring because I have consistently heard from his former students in Ann Arbor that they consider Brother Rabih to have been the finest teacher they've ever had. And his influence shows up in more than their words; these young people are exceptional human beings, wonderful additions to our global family.
To totally change the subject, I must tell you that I'm coming into a busy three days, so busy that I doubt if I'll be able to do very much with my journal. Tomorrow (Friday) morning, I'll be attending the fifth grade graduation at the school where I help out. Following that, I've been invited to join the teachers for a lunch put on by the principal and vice-principal. After lunch I hope to be able to help Susan clean out the art room and organize things for next year. Then I'm off to the Cultural Center down by Wayne State University for the start of the Detroit Festival of the Arts 2004. I intend to be there Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon and evening. If you want to get an idea of what this festival is like, simply go to my Detroit Festival of the Arts 2003 Photo Album.
See you Monday for sure. Have a great weekend!
SUNDAY, JUNE 13, 2004
WOW!!! What a weekend! It's now a little after midnight on Sunday and this is my first time on the computer since Thursday. I feel like I've been in another world for three days, a world where people celebrate life instead of taking it, where music is the common language and people of all races, countries, ages, ethnicities and classes not only get along but love being with one another. Of course, it wasn't perfect, but it was close enough.
And folks wonder why I love living in Detroit. It's because we are one family here and we REALLY know how to celebrate that fact.
I have lots of photos from this weekend's Detroit Festival of the Arts and will put them up by and by. But first I'm going to catch up on my sleep which was in short supply. But, hey, I didn't mind a bit getting home Saturday night at 2:30 AM after having experienced my first real-live jazz jam with some of the Festival performers at a local Detroit jazz gallery. And that, my friends, happened thanks to Sojourner, my new handicap-accessible minivan that takes me where I want to go. Let's hear it for freedom!
MONDAY, JUNE 14, 2004
I have this funny feeling that my Festival pictures are going to be pretty boring for non-jazz lovers, for jazz was what I lived and breathed almost exclusively for three nights and two days.
I had not expected it to be like this, but after savoring four delicious concerts on Friday afternoon and evening, I was hooked. Besides, sticking with jazz meant I could hang out with my friends Miki and Akira, and their friends Terrance, Mark and Charles, each of whom knows as much about jazz as Stephen Hawkings knows about the Big Bang.
And it wasn't just the Festival of Arts that afforded me opportunities to hear upcoming hot-shots in the jazz world like the participants in Marcus Belgrave's Trumpet Summit, today's stars like jazz violinist Regina Carter, and enduring legends like Clark Terry, teacher and performer extraordinaire. On Saturday night I joined Akira and Charles at Bill Foster's SereNgeti Gallery for a music jam that involved many of the Festival performers as well as a Who's-Who of Detroit jazz musicians. From 9:30 PM until almost 2 AM, we heard four sets of excellent jamming. It was especially fun to hear two of the young trumpet players--Corey Wilkes and Maurice Brown--whom I'd seen onstage Friday night, blow their horns within arm's reach of my chair. Wow! That'll keep you awake!
And how could I not mention Detroit's own Marcus Belgrave, whose birthday and 50 years in jazz were being honored all weekend in the Festival "All That Jazz" concert series on the Masco/Metro Times Stage? Marcus is not only a superb jazz trumpet player but an inspiring teacher and mentor who has fostered many of today's up-and-coming and established musicians, including Regina Carter who was born and raised here in Detroit.
But the concert that will stay with me as long as my mind continues to hold memories was Sunday afternoon's performance by Hiromi. I'd seen--experienced would be a more apt way to put it--this young Japanese pianist/composer at the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival last Labor Day weekend. I remember Akira and I meeting afterwards with our jaws hanging down to our navels, sputtering, "Can you believe it???" She was such an unexpected--for us--star shooting across that night sky that we had to pinch ourselves to be sure we weren't dreaming. And we weren't the only ones. The audience--a VERY sophistocated jazz audience, I might add--were on their feet screaming as her last note died away.
Well, you should have seen and heard us on Sunday! You'd have thought a rock star with green hair, tattoos and piercings was performing. And we were about as diverse an audience as you can imagine, from white-haired folks even older than I to a three year old little girl who danced through the entire set. Beside me sat Cameron who, with his wife, had driven up from Youngstown Ohio (four hours away) yesterday JUST to see Hiromi perform. He'd seen her twice at a jazz club in Cleveland, once last September and again last weekend. He now defines the term "fan", as in fanatic.
Cameron and I set up such a roar when Hiromi did anything, that you'd have thought we were 16 years old. And, as had happened at the Detroit JazzFest last Labor Day, we weren't the only ones. In all my years of jazz-loving, I've NEVER heard a more enthusiastic audience than the one that happily sat through darkening skies and, eventually, a gentle rain to hear Hiromi and her trio perform on that tent-covered stage on Cass Avenue in Detroit. Hiromi and her musicians were obviously a bit overwhelmed by our response. But we couldn't help it. When you hear music that rivals birds in its clarity, thunder in its power, lightning in its fiery passion, molasses in the ease of its flow, rain in its ability to seep into the pores of your heart, you just have to give voice to your feelings.
Hiromi is so dynamic at the piano that most of the photos I took of her are a blur. Actually that's what we saw in person...a blur! If you look at the following series of photos in sequence, you'll see what I mean about dynamic. Photos #1, #2, #3 and #4.
Anyway, Hiromi has a new CD called "Brain" and a wonderful web site where you can read about her already-amazing life and see if her itinerary will bring her anywhere near where you live. I personally think we are seeing the Oscar Peterson of the 21st century, but you know me...never one to exaggerate!
I've just begun to work with all the digital photos that I plan to put up in my Festival of the Arts 2004 photo album, so tune in later for an update.
TUESDAY, JUNE 15, 2004
OK. I know, I know. Since when am I a basketball fan??? Since tonight! And I watched the whole game too. My first basketball game in 15 years. And what fun it was...at least for us Detroit fans.
Detroit Pistons 100
L.A. Lakers 87
And the Pistons win the 2004 NBA championship 4 games to 1!!!
Tonight they blew the Lakers off the court in every way--defense, offense, rebounds, lay-ups, and foul shots. The Pistons were HOT!!!
I remember hearing the announcers introduce the first game of the Finals by saying, "Of course, NO ONE is picking the Pistons to win." Well, guess what? Someone forgot to tell the Pistons! Those same announcers were sure singing a different tune tonight...
"The Pistons dominated
the entire series."
"The Lakers never took control. Even the one game they won could have gone either way."
"You know, they could play ten more games and I don't think the Lakers would win one of them."
I know I'm a Janey-come-lately to this particular celebration, but it pleases the punch out of me to see Detroit finally get the respect it deserves. This city, with all its problems, has SO MUCH going for it...so much that out-of-towners never seem to see.
I think of last weekend's Festival of the Arts. I remember on Sunday evening looking around at hundreds of folks of all races, ages and classes singing and dancing together in the rain to the amazing South African, Hugh Masekela, and his band. All I could think was, "We are ONE FAMILY!" Yes, we have more than our share of problems--racially segregated neighborhoods, crime, high unemployment, an ever-growing gap between rich and poor, homeless folks living on our streets. Even with all that, we stand together in good times and bad.
And do we know how to celebrate!!!
May tonight's celebrations be safe and respectful. And may we recognize our goodness, both on and off the basketball court.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 16, 2004
I've received countless wonderful gifts for my now-62 birthdays, but the gift I received from Ed this morning rises to the top of the list. And it wasn't the loving card, generous check, beautiful flowers or little cake with a candle burning in it that he thought were his gifts to me either. It was this dear man cleaning up the mess I left behind on the floor when I didn't make it to the bathroom in time. Not only doing it, but with good humor and understanding. How he can make such an unpleasant situation not seem the least bit weird is beyond me. What a guy!
What a perfect birthday!
Early in the afternoon, I drove out to Peg and Jeanne's home in the country. Our women's book group was meeting there about 4:30 PM for a pot luck dinner and our monthly book discussion. I encountered a real downpour on the way, the kind of rain that even slows Detroiters down from their usual 70 MPH to 30 MPH, but Sojourner took it in stride. This minivan is proving to be a real winner.
I arrived early, about 3 PM, excited to try out the new wooden ramps--one onto the deck and the other into the house--that they'd recently had built for me. Can you imagine having friends do such a thing? As soon as I pulled into their driveway and drove under the pine trees up to their house, I saw a laminated handmade blue sign on their garage door that had the wheelchair symbol and the words, "Van Accessible." That was obviously my designated handicap parking place. These women thought of everything!
The downpour had turned into a steady, gentle rain, so I put on my rain poncho before I let down the ramp from Sojourner. And, because the grass was so wet, that ramp gently slid into position even though it doesn't usually like grass. Before I left my nice dry vehicle, I called Peg and Jeanne on my cell phone to tell them I was there. I then scooted down the ramp and around the corner to the back of the house. Their new wooden ramps worked like a charm and I was soon happily settled inside their house.
Not only are they on lovely acres of land, but their house is delightful and accessible. We sat in their family room which was like being outside--see photos #1, #2, #3 & #4. And the birdwatching was superb! In less than fifteen minutes we saw at least ten species of birds at their feeders, not to mention two chipmunks who live in a hole in the side of their house.
I was surprised to find a "Happy Birthday" helium balloon tied to the rocking chair. I hadn't told anyone in the group that today was my birthday, but apparently Joan has a real memory for such things and had called Peg and Jeanne this morning to give them the news. So it ended up being a birthday party--with cake and candles--as well as a pot luck dinner and book discussion. Very sweet.
I got home early (for me)--about 9:30 PM--and found birthday greetings from both of my sisters on our phone machine. Ed and I then watched Part 3 of the most recent "Forsyte Saga" on his new 16" TV. Our old one had died about four months ago and he just got around to replacing it. We've been making do with our 20 year-old 10" kitchen TV but it didn't have a video or DVD player. So now we can watch movies together again. Obviously TV is not high on our list of priorities.
THURSDAY, JUNE 17, 2004
Granny D is running for U.S. Senate!!!
I first read about it on commondreams.org this afternoon. The title of the article is "Granny D Wants to Be Senator D."
Make no mistake, if this 94 year-old paragon of energy and resourcefulness runs for senator in her home state of New Hampshire, she will surely win. But she'll need the help of ALL of us in raising campaign funds and putting together a coalition of supporters. Keep checking Granny D's web site to see how you can help. And they've already put up a campaign headquarters web site at http://HaddockForSenate.org/ where you can get updated information.
We Raging Grannies have a special affinity with Granny D. Last year she joined our Eastern regional gathering of Canadian and U.S. Raging Grannies, and has been to the Detroit area several times in the last couple of years. Our gaggle even had our picture taken with her at a WAND awards breakfast in May 2003.
If you have never had the opportunity to hear Granny D speak, you've really missed something! At least give yourself the gift of reading some of her speeches on her web site. Granny D ALWAYS says it like it is. She may be old in years, but believe me, her clarity of mind and exceptional stamina would make a 30 year-old jealous. She'd be a SUPERB addition to our Senate. Finally, we'd have a voice for truth and the welfare of all, including our planet.
This is what Granny D has to say about running for Senate:
"I intend to win. I want to go to the Senate and serve only one term. In that term, I will use all of my energy, and I have a lot of energy left, to get us back our democracy. I will work for public financing of federal campaigns. I will work to get the Senate back to serving the public interest, not the interests of the big campaign contributors. Maybe they will listen to a great grandmother when I tell them that we have to clean things up."
Let's hear it for Granny D!!!!
FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2004
This evening Ed and I attended a 70th birthday party for Pam, the mother of children who used to play at our house in the 1970s and early '80s. Of course, some of these "children" now have their own children who are the same age as their parents were when they were part of the gang who called the Dorsey's their second home.
Ed and I both loved kids and would have liked to have had a family of our own but I never got pregnant. I guess we could have adopted, but by the time we might have pursued that option, we already had a houseful of neighborhood kids who satisfied our maternal/paternal instincts so completely that we felt no need to have children of our own.
It all started in the summer of 1972--a year after we'd moved into this house--with 12 year-old Diane and 11 year-old Coleen coming to our door and asking to wash our car for money. Within a matter of weeks those two girls had brought dozens of kids into our home to sit and talk, enjoy a glass of pop and nibble on homemade oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies. Some were their brothers and sisters--Coleen came from a family of six children--but others were the kids they played with in the neighborhood.
Doreen,Lori, Steven, Charlie, Tommy, Sandy, Whitney, Sarah, Buddy, Terry, Linda, Peter and Rick were in the first wave, but to that group were soon added Terry, Tina, Tammy, Billy, Leslie, Lisa, Tripp, Leigh, Stuart, Chad, Lindsay, Carrington, Johnny and Annie. And then each of these kids brought one or two of their friends and our numbers grew exponentially. So did our activities. We bought a ping pong table for the porch--the screens of which we would cover in plastic for the winter, making it possible to play there on the coldest day--a Twister game for the living room, a rubber-tipped darts set for the pantry, bingo, Monopoly, Scrabble, decks of cards for Michigan rummy games, checkers and chess.
In 1976, Ed created an original drawing for a Bicentennial hooked rug, I painted the design on the rug backing, and 42 kids aged 4-17 spent the winter at our house, hooking the rug. We came in second in a Bicentennial Art Exhibit and most of the kids went with us to the art opening/awards celebration. We were also blue ribbon winners at the 1976 Michigan State Fair. A year later, another neighborhood family joined Ed and me in hosting four young persons from our sister city in Japan for ten days in July, and all our kids got to spend time with them.
Every Labor Day weekend we would take a carload of kids to the Michigan State Fair and have a computerized picture calendar made of the group. That calendar would hang proudly in our kitchen until the following Labor Day. In the late '70s Ed and I got into long distance biking, so we'd organize biking trips in the country for the older kids. For twelve years we put on a Christmas party the Sunday afternoon before Christmas. There were many traditions associated with that event. We'd give each child a wrapped gift with their name on it. There'd be ping pong on the porch, bingo with prizes upstairs, Twister in the living room, and rubber-tipped darts in the pantry. The table always had a homemade candy house as centerpiece, surrounded by platters of my special oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies, homemade peanut butter cup candy squares, dishes of M & Ms, chips and dip, salted peanuts and a ginger ale-based fruit punch. The guest list soon climbed to over 90 kids! After awhile our original children grew up and started bringing their children to our parties.
Then, when it would have been time for our children--if we'd had any--to go off to college, the parade of kids gradually tapered off and we were on our own again. For our 30th wedding anniversary we had a reunion party for all our "kids" and were touched to see and hear from so many of them. It was especially interesting to hear what it had meant to some of these kids to have our home available to them. One young man, whose parents later divorced, said our house was the only place he knew would always be peaceful and free of arguments. We had known nothing of his family struggles when he was a child.
So tonight Ed and I had a chance to sit and talk with some of our "kids" and to play with their youngsters. Like any parents, we are awfully proud of who they have grown up to be.
SATURDAY, JUNE 19, 2004
I just did a google search of "random acts of kindness" in an attempt to find the related phrase that we used to see on bumper stickers back in the 1990s. Well, it was "senseless acts of beauty." But I also found out that there's a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a Random Acts of Kindness week and a Random Acts of Kindness show on "Oprah." I was reminded of it because today Ed and I were the recipients of a random act of kindness.
Last Saturday while I was at the Detroit Festival of the Arts, Ed stopped off at a neighborhood garage sale. The fellow running it was apparently very friendly and told Ed some of the stories behind the items he was selling. For instance, there was a pair of fuzzy koala bear slippers that Mike, who was originally from Australia, said his father had bought in Melbourne for Mike's wife. Ed thought they were cute and brought them home for me. I adore them!
Today around noon I saw an SUV pull up in front of our house. A man I didn't know got out, carrying two brass lamps, and started walking toward our house. I expected to hear the doorbell ring, but it didn't. When I looked out again, his car was gone. Ed came home soon afterwards and found the brass lamps in our vestibule. He asked Jan next door, who was working in her yard, if she'd seen anything. She reported that a man had asked her if this was where Ed and his wife who uses a scooter lived. When she answered yes, he went into our vestibule carrying the lamps and left them there. Ed then recalled admiring the lamps at Mike's garage sale. So he just gave them to us. And with no expectation of our thanking him or even acknowledging his gift. If that isn't a random act of kindness, I don't know what is.
We replaced two of our lamps with Mike's--photo #1 & #2--and find they add light and beauty to our home. Don't you agree?
Kindness seemed to be the order of the day. Granny Magi came to our monthly Raging Grannies Without Borders meeting bearing the gift of a pile of old-fashioned, handmade cotton aprons. Just the thing for us Raging Grannies! She'd bought them at the St. Pat's Senior Center where she volunteers--Magi is 83 herself but still VERY active--and wouldn't let us pay her a penny for them. We all came away with wonderful additions to our costumes.
Today we also were beneficiaries of a gift shared by Maryanne, a brand new Raging Granny, who sang a couple of peace songs that have come her way in her years as a folk singer. Actually having her join our gaggle is gift enough! And, of course, just being with these feisty, committed, funny, intelligent, loving women for two hours of song, discussion and conversation is what each of us needs to keep on keeping on.
The final gift of the day was its exceptional beauty. More like fall than spring, this was one of those crisp, clear days where the blues are so blue you could drink them, and greens so green they make you shade your eyes. Sparkling sun and a nip in the air added to its perfection. As soon as the Grannies left, I was out in it scooting happily down to see my sweetie.
I'd like to add this curbside garden to my list of random acts of kindness. Whoever planted it cannot even see it out their window, so it is pure gift for the community. Aren't these delphiniums--photo #1 & #2--beautiful?
After going to the market and visiting my honey, I scooted home. On the way I saw my boyfriend Maxwell fast asleep with his mommy Tiffany and his daddy Dan at his side. Last evening I'd given the little guy a ride on my lap on the scooter, and even though he was pretty sleepy, he chortled the whole time. Such a sweet-natured child, and such loving parents. I feel fortunate that they live on the singing street so we see one another often. By the way, if you're new to my journal, you might not know that I call it the "singing street" because it's so wide and smooth that I can ride in the street--close to the curb--and sing without my voice wobbling...which I do ALL the time.
SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 2004
Canadians and Americans from my women's community came together at Peg and Jeanne's country home today to celebrate the Summer Solstice. From 4-10 PM we took time for creative writing, made music, listened to birds singing and frogs croaking, enjoyed a pot luck dinner, toured Peg and Jeanne's vegetable and flower gardens, created ritual, explored nature (photos #1, #2 & #3), drummed, simply relaxed, shared our stories and creative gifts, sang (lots), laughed (lots), and ended the evening singing around a campfire.
Whenever I am with these women I am filled with gratitude. I can't imagine life without them. Blessed be.
MONDAY, JUNE 21, 2004
For two years now the same question has regularly come unbidden into my brain: Why do the American people believe George W. Bush?
Yes, it is common knowledge that the American media is biased, some sources more than others, but that doesn't explain why the people I meet in the peace movement, many of whom read newspapers and watch the nightly news on TV, aren't taken in. These individuals manage to take in such information, view it with a critical eye, and discern between lies and truth.
Why do some folks "get it" and others don't? The majority of others if polls are to be believed.
I must admit there have been times when I've simply shaken my head and muttered, "The American people are just plain ignorant." But this didn't satisfy me either. I personally know intelligent, educated individuals who support everything their president says and does. Not many of them, mind, but enough to give me pause.
Is it a partisan issue? Republicans against Democrats, with there being more of the former than the latter? That doesn't wash either. As far as I can see, the decisions that George W. Bush and his cronies make have little to do with party politics. I gather there are growing numbers of Republicans in Washington, DC who are displeased with how things have been going of late.
Is it simply that the American people are conservative in their political ideology? Again, I have trouble imagining that is why they seem to believe everything their current president says. For one thing, George W. Bush is NOT following a "conservative" agenda, and for another, I doubt if the American people are all that sophisticated politically. Most folks simply want a good job, food on their tables, their own homes, discretionary funds to buy what they want, safe streets and neighborhoods, cars (or SUVs) and reasonable gas prices, affordable healthcare and good schools for their kids. I don't think it goes much further than that.
So why did (do) they believe that Iraq had WMDs, that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, that he had ties to al Quaeda, that he was an imminent threat to the US, that the Iraqi people needed to be "liberated", that they even wanted Western-style democracy? All of these reasons to make a preemptive attack on Iraq and then to occupy it militarily and economically have been proven wrong, yet Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney continue to proclaim them as gospel truth.
That isn't my problem. Those guys can do and say whatever they want. But I AM concerned--terribly concerned--that the American people still seem to believe their lies. Why?
I've finally come up with an answer that makes sense. To me anyway. And it all has to do with a cultural addiction. That addiction? To television.
Reports say that each adult in this country watches an average of four hours of television each day. Assuming that most of us sleep eight hours a day and work eight hours a day on the job, that means we use up 50% of our so-called leisure hours watching TV. And now we can even watch TV while we stand in the grocery store check-out line, work out at the gym, wait in our doctor's office and ride in the back seat of our SUV or minivan.
In America today, it's hard to get away from the sound of a television.
So what does this mean in relation to my original question? Simply this: American people see the world as a television show, created for their entertainment, punctuated by commercial breaks, peopled by actors who are playing a part, and intended to make them feel good when it's over. Granted, unpleasant things make their way into the story, but these are temporary and necessary to the plot. Besides, they heighten the excitement. There'll be a happy ending if you watch it through to the end. Even so-called "reality shows" aren't really real: they are artifically-constructed situations filled with ordinary people who know they're being filmed. And their happy ending involves piles of money. Viewers love to identify with that!
If life is a television show, no one expects it to be true.
However, they do insist that it makes them feel good in the end. So horrors like the "bad guys" being tortured at Abu Ghraib prison are certainly unpleasant when you first see them in living color, but you've seen worse before (in other TV shows) and things always turned out OK then. But the "good guys" being killed in the burning World Trade Center towers? That image stays with you like King Kong and The Blob stayed in the consciousness of movie viewers in the 1950s and 60s. The horror of 9/11 is etched into the heart and mind of every American and can be triggered at will by our government's leaders whenever they want to stir up feelings of fear and a desire for revenge. It is the drama that never dies.
I don't mean to make light of what happened on September 11, only to demonstrate how such a tragedy becomes a cultural icon that can be used by unscrupulous leaders to further their own ends.
To go back to my original question--Why do the American people believe George W. Bush?--the answer is clear. They are programmed to do so. Literally. Truth and lies have no meaning to a television-addicted population. Style wins over substance every time, and even 24-hour news stations like CNN are seen as a show. There is nothing to think about or analyze. You don't need to bring past experiences or knowledge to mind because each show is complete unto itself. You are a spectator to life, not a participant. The talking heads and characters you see on your TV screen can be believed because they wouldn't be on TV if they couldn't. Besides, what does it matter as long as they put on a good show?
So, why doesn't everyone believe George W. Bush? That's another question that has set up housekeeping in my mind and heart. Why are there persons in this country who still think for themselves and won't stand for lies?
My guess is that each of us would have a unique story to tell about the awakening of our powers of critical thinking. For me it was the Gulf War in 1991. For a number of my sister Raging Grannies, it was the Vietnam war. For several individuals I've met in anti-war protests across the nation, it was September 11. Whatever the wakeup call, each person describes it as a profound, life-changing shift, one that determined their path from that moment forward.
But everyone agrees, it is not an easy path to follow. It means swimming upstream, sometimes by yourself. Being a critical thinker, especially about your government and its actions, is counter-cultural. It can mean standing alone within your family, school, workplace and circle of friends. Folks who support George W. Bush and his actions don't take kindly to criticism, or even informed questions. They must hold tightly to their belief in their leader because if even a sliver of doubt creeps into their consciousness, the whole house of cards is in danger of falling flat. And that's the last thing they want to happen.
Which brings me to my final thoughts on why the American people believe George W. Bush.
These are basically GOOD people and they want to believe that their government leaders are good too. They'll pull whatever wool is necessary over their eyes to continue to believe that George W. Bush is a good man who is doing the right thing for their country. To believe otherwise would crush them. That's why they were so willing to believe George W.'s assertion that those horrible photos of atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib were the antics of a few "bad apples."
The American people truly don't want to know that those photos are the tip of a huge iceberg, the iceberg of truth that America has tortured prisoners since the Vietnam war. No, that is impossible, say the people. America is a GOOD country, a fair country, a free and just country. We would NEVER do such a thing. So don't tell us that we did because we won't believe you. Instead, tell us that Lynndie, Chip, Sabrina, Charles, Jeremy, Megan and Javal are monsters. We're not crazy about hearing that, but we can accept it if it means we don't have to look any further. And, instead of obsessing over this nasty stuff, let's find something to make us feel good about ourselves. Hey, Ronald Reagan will do! Let's give him a funeral fit for a king and say he was the "greatest president in American history." That'll help. Just don't talk about Abu Ghraib anymore.
Now the real question is, will the American people wake up to Bush's lies before the November election? The only way I'd see that happening is if they were given something or someone else to believe in, and I suspect John Kerry doesn't exactly fit the bill.
The American people are culturally unable to see themselves as gullible, and more's the pity. If they could only be mature enough to say, "I was wrong. I believed in a guy who was telling us lies. A dangerous guy whose lies have put us and our world in an impossibly bad position." But I doubt if our country, still wet behind the ears in so many ways, is capable of such courageous self-examination.
We can no longer ask or expect a hero or shero to save us from ourselves. Even if John Kerry were everything we wish he were, it would not be enough. We ourselves must make the change we want.
We who ARE awake and aware must be harbingers of hope even as we speak the truth. We must let our sisters and brothers see that there are alternatives to the current way of governing, that people can organize and operate in a consensus format rather than the power-over model we've used for so long. Circles, no more pyramids.
And words are not enough. We must SHOW our families, friends and co-workers that this alternative way of being together is possible by doing it ourselves. Whatever groups we're part of must be organized in a communally-beneficial way. It doesn't have to be large or showy; small is good.
But, as we model this new way of living together, we can no longer afford to stick to our own kind. No, we must get out there in our neighborhoods and cities and invite everyone to join us. Believe me, it will not be a comfortable process. No longer will we be preaching to the converted; we'll be more like a mini-UN, with all kinds of different opinions being voiced and difficult compromises being hammered out.
But, as they say, now is the time and we are the people.
TUESDAY, JUNE 22, 2004
Do you ever get to the point where you know you must take some time by yourself? That moment came to me this evening. Ed and I had gotten into a stupid political "discussion" at dinner. For some reason it really got under my skin. After dinner I scooted down to the park to sit by the water. I'll never need a tranquilizer as long as there's a body of water nearby.
I sat and watched a sailboat race, ducks on the lake, gulls overhead, and finally the sunset. By then I knew what I needed and had it all worked out in my mind. Time alone, that's what I need. And I know where to find it.
My dear friends Jeanne and Peg offered me the use of their home in the country while they're up north this summer. That was one of their reasons for putting in the ramp, so I'd be able to enjoy their idyllic place on my own. I'll need help getting the door unlocked when I arrive, but except for that I should be fine. Their house is on one floor and wonderfully accessible.
Peg gave me the phone number of their next door neighbors and said they'd be happy to help me in any way they can. I plan to call and ask if we can arrange to meet at Peg and Jeanne's either Friday after work or Saturday morning so they can help me get in. I'd like to stay two nights.
It's been a l-o-n-g time since I've had a solitary retreat. And now's the time.
But before then, my friend Scott from California is coming for a visit. Remember Scott and Phil, my brothers in San Francisco, the fellows who helped make my winter migrations possible? Well, Phil is off to Toronto with his Dad who lives in the Detroit area, but Scott is going to spend tomorrow day and night with us.
I don't think I'll try to put up my journal tomorrow. I'd rather use that precious time to be with Scotty. See you on Thursday...
THURSDAY, JUNE 24, 2004
Before I tell you about my visit with Scott, I have good news to share: Ibrahim, Rabih and Sulaima's fifth child, made his appearance into our world at 5:10 PM yesterday. Mother and child are doing well. According to Rabih, the doctor says he's one of the most beautiful newborns she's ever seen! Loving wishes to all...
Scotty and I had an absolutely glorious day together yesterday. Not only did we take our favorite lunch food--hummous, salsa, tostito chips and Odwalla juice--down to the park for a picnic under the trees, but we joined half a million folks at downtown Detroit's Hart Plaza for the 46th annual International Freedom Festival fireworks last night. We even had a delightful supper at one of Greektown's oldest restaurants beforehand.
How I wish I could adequately describe the family feeling at Hart Plaza last night. And Scott and I should know. We got down there at 7 PM, three hours before the fireworks were to start, and got to know almost everyone sitting around us. That included Kevin from Utah who was there with his grandmother who lives in Monroe, 40 miles south of Detroit, Gloria and Dale, who had come in from Ann Arbor, 50 miles away, Brian who smiled for this picture before we'd even met, and Casey, a home health aid, with whom I had a deep discussion about how hard it is to work with dying patients.
It was the BEST of Detroit, the sense of community and friendliness that I've grown to associate with this city over the past 39 years that I've lived here. We're always culturally diverse, but last night was more so than usual. I saw Latino families sitting next to African-American young men with their fashionable pants ballooning out over their even more fashionable Nike shoes. There were Muslim families sitting next to Asian-American families. There were multi-generational families with coolers full of food and pop, and homeless folks collecting the cans and bottles for their 10 cents deposit. And there were lots of suburban families with stars-and-stripes on every item of their clothing. I even saw a middle-aged couple who reminded me of the folks Ed and I used to see living in the mountain hollows of western Virginia when we'd visit my parent's retirement home back in the '70s. For four hours I saw and heard only positive interactions among strangers, families and friends. It seemed that everyone was there to have a good time.
That was MY lived experience, but sadly, not everyone's. As we left Hart Plaza last night after having seen--and heard--the most spectacular, thrilling and beautiful fireworks either one of us had ever seen, Scott and I passed an area that was cordoned off by police crime tape and guarded by dozens of police officers. We heard someone say that there'd been a shooting, but I hoped it was just a rumor. On our long walk back to the car all we saw were crowds of people obviously having fun. As I say, it seemed like a perfect evening. Until this morning, that is.
Ed came upstairs about 8:30 AM to kiss me goodbye before he went off to work. He told me that yes, there had been a shooting at Hart Plaza during the fireworks last night. I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach. It seemed impossible that such a thing could have happened in the same place where all I saw and experienced was love and family-feeling. Scott and I learned more about it when we saw the headline--"Eight People Shot At Fireworks"--and read the lead paragraphs in a paper outside the restaurant where we went for brunch today around noon.
The reports were sketchy but it appeared that some bystanders had gotten hit by a young man with a gun who they say had gotten into an argument and then dropped to the ground and started firing wildly into the crowd. As of Wednesday night two of the victims were in critical condition, three in stable condition, one in temporary stable condition, and two had been treated and released from the hospital. The shooting had occurred ten minutes after the fireworks had begun so no one could even hear it.
I've been mourning this tragedy all day, holding the wounded in a special place in my heart, even as I hold my city in my heart too. For Detroit doesn't need or deserve the kind of national attention this shooting will receive. Yes, we have our problems, and there are way too many guns in the hands of our people, especially our young people, but Detroit has always managed to keep its residents safe at the free festivals attended by thousands of people almost every weekend during the summers. In my 39 years here I have never been afraid to go to Hart Plaza or Chene Park or Belle Isle or much of anyplace in Detroit...and I've often gone by myself. I'm not dumb about where I go, but I refuse to live in fear.
Just to give another view into this now-tragic 46th International Freedom Festival fireworks display, I'm currently working on an online photo/journal album to show what I saw and experienced there. And I'd guess my experiences mirrored those of 99.9% of the thousands of persons who were at Hart Plaza last night.
May people not become
afraid to come downtown. May they realize this kind of thing could
have happened anyplace. And may the wounded be healed.
© 2004 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.