Monday, October 22, 2007


The Urban Mermaid is one year old today!! Maybe I should bake a carrot cake with turquoise frosting!

Autumn Orange

Today we're going to the orchard to get apples and look at the foliage. I have been taking every excuse in the world to walk everywhere and soak up the colorful trees. I've been taking detours three times a day to walk by the red and orange maples on Social Street. It's that little bit of green mixed into the red that kills me. I laugh when I look at my redheaded friends - as if their hair has turned orange like the leaves!

Quotes of the Day

I expect to be astonished, to hear things I haven't heard before, or haven't paid attention to before, or that I understand in a new way. . . I'm never finished with anything, nor do I think one should be. My motive forces are wonder and curiosity, and I think these are good motive forces. People want to know about the wonders of the world, whether it's white tigers or the total wonderland of being human.

     - Oliver Sacks

A tree grows up out of the ground, but it uses a lot more ground than just the ground that’s right under the tree. There’s got to be a whole lot of music that you don't play in front of people. There’s got to be something that you play when you're by yourself. It could be anything. I'll play along with Tuvan music, or I might play “Oh, Danny Boy,” or I might take a guitar in standard tuning and start playing Elmore James chops. It doesn't matter as long as you're playing with it. That’s why they call it playing guitar, they don't call it working guitar. You've got to be having some fun with it, and particularly if you're going to entertain people. If you're just hacking the stuff through, you're not going to get anywhere.

     - Maynard Silva

My City

I've been thinking a lot about literacy and languages. There are so many languages spoken in my little city. I would like to learn them. Maybe we need a language exchange program. I can picture it. I teach English while learning Spanish. A linguistic enrichment tutoring teaching exchange. At the public library. Our city is enriched by multiple languages and cultures; Spanish, English, Laotian, French, Portuguese, Polish, and many more.

There's another grant-funded job-placement program opening for kids ages 14-21 on Main Street opposite the Heritage Coffee Shop. I am going to go talk to the kids and show them my portfolio. Maybe they will be inspired to chase their artistic dreams. It always helps to meet someone doing what you'd like to do, and it's really cool to discover they are doing it in your town! I'm glad there is a lot here in our city to help young people get a good start. Many of the kids need all the help they can get.

There's a guy in my neighborhood who rides an adult tricycle with a huge black speaker in a box attached to the back of his seat. He plays Latin music while he pedals. It's run by a motorcycle battery, and my favorite part is how the sound gets warped as he pedals by.

The girl next door has her bedroom window facing the alley literally four feet from my kitchen sink. Our houses are that close together! In the warm weather all the windows are open and the sounds travel. I worry that my morning coffee grinding will wake her up. Her mother told me don't worry she sleeps like a log! At night she has her friends and cousins over and they play music and laugh and watch movies until well after midnight! I am glad to know she is having fun. It's like I have a daughter!

A World of Faces

I have met a few emaciated women who have exceptionally large and theatrical facial features. My theory is that they are trying to make their noses and eyes and mouths smaller and more conventional by losing weight. It doesn't work that way! It saddens me because it is important and wonderful to embrace what you've got. I was lucky to walk through Grand Central Station often as a kid and there were always inspiring faces from around the world. Faces in magazines or on television are never as interesting to me as faces on streets and buses and subways.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


A dear old friend of mine is a well-known blues guitarist living in Martha's Vineyard. He was interviewed about his music-making, and I'm quoting from that interview:

. . . Music is how I express my essence, express my spirit, and I share it and get closer on a real level with other human beings.

The thing is the relationship between the truth of the music and who you are. There've been nights in my life where my only friend is that guitar. Everybody’s got something they do on those nights, and me, I play music for myself . . . and I'll share that with people, because there’s a real closeness, this is who I really am, that’s who you really are.

I don't want any other cards, I just want to be able to make a better hand out of the cards I've got.

You don't have to add stuff to the music; it just accumulates. One note leads to another. If you can play one note, after a while you can fit two in there, and it just grows.

Listen to (Tuvan bands) Hu’un Hu’un Tu, or Chirgilchin. Beyond that, slide players should listen to trumpet players, and people who are playing rhythm guitars should listen to piano players. They're the chord doctors. Listen to everything. I also think you've got to listen to stuff that isn't music. A friend of mine took me for a ride last night in an ancient Volvo station wagon with this little four-cylinder engine. And they own two huge French poodles. And driving up Lambert’s Cove Road, with the wind blowing by, the sound of that motor, every once in a while the poodles barking - it was just such a great sound.

     - Maynard Silva

Crone of the Year

We are approaching the old age of the year. Autumn is in the air and winter is coming. We are all on death row. Every morning I sit and write in the last patch of sun in my yard before the shadows take it away. Honey and I sit squinting in the warmth. Our maple tree is nearly completely orange! I have been sleeping ten hours a night.

Recently I met an eleven-year-old boy at a performance. The boy is a classical pianist and he had rosy cheeks and was wearing a suit and tie. His father said he practices twice a day; pre-dawn and evening. The boy was an old man in a child's body. He told me he has three music teachers and has been playing since he was six. Maybe when he is 40 he'll get to be a kid, like what happened to me! The hostess for the event had a wild face. Her pale translucent skin was taut and smooth and her helmet of gray curled-and-sprayed hair was an eerie halo. Only later did I realize she must have had a face lift. Her 75-year-old skin was tight as a drum across her jaw bone. There was no extra skin on her neck; in fact the muscles and arteries on her neck looked like the exposed drainpipes under my kitchen sink. Her hands were arthritic and her knuckles were frozen into a slightly bent position. It scared me when I reflected on her face. Why hide your age? Wouldn't you like to set a good example for those of us who will be old soon too?

I just saw the Chagall Man walking through the parking lot of the elderly high rise. His back is so bent over he looks like a walking question mark. He walks in little clumpy steps, determined and animated, wearing a dark green baseball cap and a cobalt blue fleece pullover, white pants and white sneakers. He focuses completely on the ground while he walks. Maybe he has always been an old man. My friend's daughter just turned 21 and we celebrated with her. She went from being a kid to an elegant, elongated, graceful woman in ten years. I am now the age my mother was when I turned 21.

I am enjoying the quiet of closed windows and neighborhood children indoors at school. In one hour everyone will be out again. Our neighborhood schools start extremely early, 7 AM, and the kids walk home at 2 PM.

Quote of the Day

The fundamental aspect of bravery is being without deception.

     - Chogyam Trungpa

I Love My Town

It immediately caught my eye; a signed imitation Botero oil painting in the window of the junk store on Main Street. It was pretty good, complete with fat man in a suit, cigarettes strewn on the floor, and the artist's unique interpretation of light falling through a doorway.

More on Food

My dough had to wait two days before I had a chance to bake it. By the time I did it looked a bit odd but it had become a real tangy cheesy sourdough! Delicious!

I made mashed potatoes for supper with milk and butter, then sauteed three bunches of steamed kale with garlic and olive oil and mushroom soy sauce. Yummy mushy foods.

Someday I want to make my own wine from my own grapes and cheese from my own cow!

I love pumpkin and apple and the first cup of coffee of the day - perhaps I think about food too much!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Quotes from Grist for the Mill

The greatest thing you can do for any other human being is provide the unconditional love which comes from making contact with that place in them which is beyond conditions, which is pure consciousness, pure essence.

There's nowhere that you have to go to work on yourself other than where you are at this moment, and everything that's happening to you is part of your work on yourself.

I have three major instructions for my life from my Guru: Love, Serve, and Remember. Love everyone, serve or feed everyone, remember God.

There are many stages on this path, many lessons; don't stop anywhere. It's all part of the process of awakening. You have all the time in the world but don't waste a moment.

As long as you are attached to your separateness, you can't help but perpetuate fear, because there is a subtle fear in you of losing your separate identity.

When you acknowledge that your life is a vehicle for your liberation it becomes clear that all of your life experiences are the optimum experience you need in order to awaken. And the minute you perceive them that way they are useful within that domain. The minute you ignore that perception, they won't work that way.

     - Ram Dass

The Chagall Man

There's a little hunched man I have seen for years in my neighborhood. I finally discovered he lives in the tiny red cottage behind the Romanian Orthodox Church. I call him The Chagall Man because he looks like he stepped right out of a Chelm story or a Chagall painting. He must weigh all of 90 pounds. When I see him he is always walking briskly, with small steps. His shoes slap the sidewalk noisily when he walks. You can hear him tramping down the street. One day while I was with Honey he walked right up to me and growled "Got a cigarette?"

Powerful Silences

There's a kid in my art class who concentrates so hard while he is drawing that it can be felt; he turns my classroom into a library. He anchors the room. I met his parents when they came to pick him up. They both love him so much.

I used to have moments when I would look at my palette and think it was a beautiful perfection. Why do I need to paint? It's so beautiful as it is.

I am soaking up the quiet solitude and long shadows of autumn. The trees are orange and the sky is clear blue and my dog is itching her pesky fleas.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Apple Schlumpf

I just recently made what I call apple schlumpf, an apple betty which I learned to make as a hippie apple pie! A dozen small apples cored and sliced but unpeeled, baked with a granola-style oat topping. Set the sliced apples in a baking dish. Make the topping by first heating and stirring together 1/4 cup molasses (mine is blackstrap but any kind will do), 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup corn oil, vanilla, pinch of baking soda, pinch of salt, and sprinkles of cinnamon & nutmeg (or you can put the cinnamon and nutmeg over the apples instead), then stirring in a quart of rolled oats until the oats are coated with the dark sweet sticky mixture. Then spread the oat mixture over the apples and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Odds and Ends

What I try to do (with great difficulty): ignore the bad behavior that people throw at me and instead hit 'em with the love bomb.

It is a blessing in disguise; I've always required many hours alone, every day. If I don't get it, I'll stay up all night to have that time. But I'm not completely alone. My dog Honey is always with me, sleeping on her bed, holding down her piece of the world.

In my after-school drawing class at Beacon I turned them onto Edward Hopper and Reginald Marsh. I showed them that Marsh would go to Coney Island and draw guys passed out in the gutter. A good model knows how to stay still!

Teaching is performing! I get wired up and flipped out (in a good way) but then I am wasted, ready for bed!

I'm allergic to bureaucrats!

Every reform, however necessary, will by weak minds be carried to an excess, that itself will need reforming.

     - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

More Band Names

Here are two more band names to add to the list:
Love Bomb
Meat Raffle

Fall Foods

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday but usually arrives too late for catching my happiness! Last Monday was Thanksgiving in Canada. Turkey is my favorite food especially midnight turkey sandwiches on my homemade bread with mayo and purple onions! I love to roast a turkey outside over hardwood charcoal and have parsnips, turnips, carrots, collard greens, and corn with it.

I've been making cornbread with buckwheat flour in place of wheat flour and a touch of blackstrap molasses added too. Wholesome and hearty earth taste. Excellent with cafe au lait!!

Big Day

We had another amazing parade on Columbus Day! The rain held off. We were having a blast. Richard had so much fun he filmed the whole three hours (lots of film editing ahead!) Playing to an appreciative audience is the best high around!! I felt we played our most jubilant ecstatic parade ever. We gushed our full energy nonstop for all three miles! Even Gerry's shy son was beaming. I think he got hit with the love bomb!! Frankie and Justin got to go home wearing their new Munroe Band varsity jackets.

Bill and I stripped off our happy sweaty clothes, jumped in the shower, then had a snack, and finally crashed at five-thirty. Around 10PM we heard many fire engines. The fire trucks had been right behind us in the parade, so I thought I was dreaming of the parade, but no. Bill got up and looked out the window and said that the fire trucks were in our neighborhood. We got dressed and went to investigate. A building in the next block was smoldering. This building has buildings very close on either side of it. All the neighborhood families were in the street watching. It was an electrical fire, and the firemen were having trouble getting to it. They punched a big hole in the side of the building. Hats off to the firefighters! They saved the house and the neighborhood.

Nun's Hat Dumplings

We just made Chinese wonton-style dumplings for supper! My pal Lisa C taught me how. First you grate cukes and carrots into a bowl, then add chopped scallions, garlic, and ginger. Knead one pound of ground lean pork into the ingredients, then mix in a little sesame oil, asian hot sauce, and soy sauce. Spoon the mixture into fresh wonton skins, pinch and seal the dumplings at the top (into nun's hats), and steam or boil! They will stick together, so be careful.

Quotes of the Day

Face the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.

     - Maori proverb

The way you look out at the world is the way the world looks back at you.

     - Avon Neal

YMCA Teacher

Part I

I am teaching an after-school art and poetry class through the YMCA. My neighbor Lisa, who is 23, is my assistant. Being new staff members we get to have YMCA memberships for free! We took a tour today of the newly renovated part of the Y, across the street from the pool building and connected by a skywalk. There were half a dozen Nautilus rooms! Lisa was impressed - she loves to do that stuff. I never knew the Y had so many gyms. I like basketball and swimming, but I fell in love with the dance studio! I couldn't believe everything was air-conditioned. There was even a room full of computers. Our class will happen on Wednesdays, 3:30-5:30. It is free to local teens, and funded by a RI Foundation grant. We will be working toward creating panels to install in the skywalk. We'll combine original poetry and illustration into what will be essentially posters!

I am happy to work with Lisa because she is a perfect assistant - joyful, energetic, positive, and good with people. She will probably be hired for more things at the Y. She loves babysitting little kids and has done that her whole life so far. I helped her fill out an application for babysitting work at the Y.

I am having the class meet across the street from the YMCA at the Beacon School, which is a charter high school. They are letting us use the big beautiful 3rd-floor art room which overlooks Main Street and the Stadium Theater marquee!

Part II

I am pleased with how my first art class went and I'm already looking forward to next Wednesday. I had the kids draw their hands a few times and then some objects I had brought; antique shoe forms, an old-fashioned egg beater, and a potato masher. We took an apple break and all ate Empire apples I bought from a nearby orchard, The Big Apple. During the break we looked at books; I showed them a bunch of illustration and art from my library, the diary of May Sarton, and Jimmy Santiago Baca's poetry. Then we all drew a view of Main Street from the window. Each person got their own window. We have such a fabulous view up high above Main Street and so many windows!! Then I had everyone sit opposite each other and draw each other's faces (an exercise where you don't look down while you draw). I was pleased with how they did, and Lisa was great. She knew how to help a grieving girl in the class who she knows. For homework I am asking them to keep drawing and writing in their sketchbooks. They had fun and they are bringing friends next week. There were some Beacon School theater students who wanted to attend, but they had a meeting to go to. Maybe I should put up a shocking pink poster in Beacon's lobby next Tuesday: Illustration/Poetry class Weds at 3:30. Next week I'll show them work by Reginald Marsh and Edward Hopper, Max Beckmann, Toulouse Lautrec - urban visual artists!!

Part III; Burning Up the Baklava

I wanted to publicize my free YMCA art class, so I had the Y print up a bunch more flyers, made some phone calls, and hopped on my bike. I first visited the boys Feinstein School directly behind my house. I was able to speak with the principal (cool dude) and art teacher (cool lady) and secretary. When I made it clear the class was free and that we wanted the kids who don't normally get this kind of opportunity, they were on my side. I could see my house from the classroom windows!

Then I went to the middle school. I carried my bike into the building. The secretary was annoyed. "This is a school!" she shouted. I just smiled. When I told her about my free art class she cheered up. Then she said she would announce my class over the loudspeaker and mail my flyers to all of the parents!

I took another trip to the Beacon School to say hello to Robert and Tina again and give out more flyers. I LOVE THAT PLACE!!! I visited the public library and left flyers with Chris the children's room librarian and Claire at the main desk. I took a pit stop at Sheahan Printers (to ask for paper scraps for the class) and stopped at Joe's Moldy Oldies record store on the way home and told Joe all about it! He was thrilled and thought of some kids to tell.

I took a spill when I saw Lisa and waved to her while trying to pull over and jump the curb on my bike (stupid me!). Luckily more humor than blood. Two more schools to go; Woonsocket High School and the girls Feinstein School next week. I figure I should keep pedaling to burn up some baklava I have been enjoying lately!!

One Man's Trash . . .

Our neighbors were emptying their garage the other night and I saw them carrying beautiful old furniture out to the sidewalk. I intercepted, and they were happy to give us the goods; a writing desk, two wooden chairs (one was an oak rocker), and a white metal toaster! I'll need to re-upholster the chair seats some day, but they are beautiful. Bill fixed the toaster and scrubbed it with a citrus cleaner. Now it's perfect! Better than new because it's an experienced toaster!