Sunday, November 20, 2011

California Blue

My world is frosted in sparkling snow this morning, the sun firing each crystal, the world a'glitter. The sky is a perfect Crayola sky blue. I learned my spectrum of blues from the Crayola box - blue, midnight blue, blue-green and sky blue. I wore down sky and midnight quickly; I've always been fond of extremes. You can tell a lot about a girl by the crayon colors she wears out first. This morning the sky was a true sky blue, not pale or milky or weak. It was a saturated pastel, which would seem to be a contradiction. You have to see it to know it.

I'm old enough to remember when Crayola include a crayon called "Flesh", which was a white-man beige color. Segregation wasn't that big an issue in the California of my childhood, but we were all casual racists. My kindergarten class in 1964 included a little African-American girl. Who knows, maybe she was the first African-American child to integrate that classroom. I have vague memories of her being a cause of conflict. She once yelled at our kindergarten teacher, walked out of class, and rode a tricycle around and around the blacktop while all of the little children watched from the window. My parents said that she was yelling something about the fact that the teacher couldn't kick her out because she was black, but what did they know? What did I know? I don't remember her saying any such thing, but I do remember her riding that trike around the blacktop all by herself. I was horrified, fascinated, more than a little envious.

There were plenty of "Mexicans" in my elementary school, which was our ignorant term for anyone who was brown. It being Southern California, most of them probably had roots in Mexico, but it didn't matter. Honduran, Venezuelan, El Salvadoran, Chilean, in Southern California in the 60s, they were all "Mexicans." I remember one girl in particular who always took offense at the term "Mexican." She would insist that she wasn't Mexican, her family was Castillan Spanish. She repeated this assertion frequently. I had no idea what "Castillan Spanish" was, just that it was code for white.

It was a rough and tumble neighborhood. Most of the dads were steel workers at the Kaiser plant, or truck drivers, or construction workers like my dad. There were no playgrounds or community centers, we played in the orange orchards. There really is no better place to play than an orange orchard. The leaves form this perfectly round, green igloo, the branches underneath are low to the ground and easy to climb on. They were like sweet-sented playhouses. As I recall, I played with everybody - the steelworkers' kids, the "Mexicans," even the kid whose mom was periodically hauled off by the cops to Patton State Hospital. I didn't what that was all about, I just knew it was shameful.

As much as I loved playing house and war and epic, neighborhood bouts of hide-and-seek, my favorite memories are the hours and hours I spent on my Huffy Stingray bike. It was my most prized possession, my faithful steed, my ticket to the world. I would ride for miles, sometimes with other kids but usually by myself. When the Santa Ana winds would stir up hot and restless, I'd climb on my bike and fly, that wild wind sailing me down the asphalt like a Yankee Clipper. I loved that bike more than any other possession I've ever owned since. It was blue. Not midnight, not sky, just blue.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Return to Love

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

-- Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


The old saying goes, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’m here to tell you that it ain’t necessarily so.

I’ve been meditating on the nature of work. I love playing music, but it can feel like work sometimes. Recently, I’ve been working my ass off for both of my bands, taking more of a leadership role, researching purchases, coordinating schedules, soliciting opinions, making decisions. I keep telling myself that I should be willing to work as hard for the things I love as I work for money. But, make no mistake: this is work. it can be hard, frustrating and annoying as hell.

It’s rare that playing itself feels like work, but it happens. Sometimes the vibe isn’t there; the audience is unengaged, we aren’t listening to each other and I pump like hell to inflate the balloon. That feels like work; not digging ditches mind you, not completing a stupid government grant application, but work all the same.

The thing is, I like to work. For some reason, that realization shocks the shit out of me. I complain about work all the time, but I like feeling useful and to getting things done. I do get frustrated when my concerns go unheard, my efforts goes for naught, when I labor mightily at something I consider useless or meaningless.

I have a low tolerance for boredom.

All this is preface to an apology for being an unfaithful correspondent. I read somewhere that the most frequently used phrase in the blog-o-sphere is “Sorry I haven’t posted in so long.” What can I tell you, I’ve been busy – working.