Of Moms and Men

A morning not unusual, many months ago, began with the same sort of dialogue…
Phone rings. Son picks up mom on the line, and in unison they yell:
QUE? SER? WHAT?
There’s some back and forth between amatxu (Basque: ‘little mommy’) bug-a-boo pesada baby momma, then the first born replies:
WE WILL COME FOR THE GREEN BEANS LATER! PLEASE! ALRIGHT MOM! OH MY GOD, THIS NOOSE YOU WAVE IN MY FACE. AT ALL HOURS OF THE MORNING! WE HAVE THINGS TO DO AND FRIDGE FOOD TO EAT! OK LOVE, ALRIGHT, TALK TO YOU SOON SWEETHEART.

And so, for the sake of everyone involved, I went over there later that day. I went over for the green beans which turned out to actually mean, also not unusual, the beans plus 4 pounds of steaks and chicken wings, 4 apples, a handful of chocolates and box of breakfast cookies. About 5 blocks away.

I imagine that I was once ready to say something back to the man asking for change at the grocery sliding doors. I had ignored his asking and in a second he switched tunes, took silence as a cue to call me something like ‘honey’ or ‘good-looking’. As it was nothing remarkably creative, I can’t remember it.

I passed the grocery in front of amatxu’s house again last week, and saw him there again. I prepared to tell him this, but never had to in the end:

¿Así te parece la manera más apta para conseguir monedas?
Venga, niño. ¿Que diría tu madre?
Oye, aquí, eso no se hace,
y punto.
Cuidado porque la próxima
igual no se pasa de ti tan fácil y sin incidente.
¿basta, no crees?

Does that seem like the best way to get a few coins?
C’mon, child. What would your mother say?
Listen, here, that shit just ain’t done,
period.
Careful because the next lady
to come by might not let you off so easily and without incident.
Enough, don’t you think?

– – – – – – – –

All her coffee is filled with chicory already, and all the walls tinged a pink smell. Her freezer full of what might be needed. It’s enough to upset her, it’s enough to turn and tell her, “it’s impossible” and then “it’s all I can do” and “thank you” with stone-set eyes before turning away. One of a hundred rude heartbreaks they could claim I’ve taken out on the elderly. After a December morning marathon of shouldering in line for lamb chops and shuffling the talking points to kvetch positive for once. It’s never enough though, so I go ahead with a dozen ways of misanthropy that only I can feel; they are little city ladies with armor taking licks and thick skin under that. When they bruise, everything did it. But we don’t remember which exactly, considering it’s all a matter of politics, es asunto de política.

More transgressions against another’s mother’s love than there are sycamores,
more than the orange fanning and splaying sidewalk tiles,
more than the baby cockroaches in the silverware drawer that don’t phase her one bit,
more than the virtues she extols about her newest culinary discovery: broccoli,
more than the men that sit in black and suck their teeth as the last sun before winter falls.

The ladies are going to finish their sentence, you oughta know, and were they menfolk in stead of matriarchs, they’d spit to punctuate; Be it on weathered concrete or marble showroom floor. I could read these folk for ages, summarize them with typos, and sell off the stories like paper printed with news and wetted by rain.

a man - my man - The Man

a man – my man – The Man

– – – – – – – –

Medio morado = half purple = half drunk
and that would be a generous guess
	and yes, that's
		nice that you grew up with a 
siesta for the hot hours
and yes i'm here I 
	appreciate
		you
	trying to tell me 
		teach me
		about 
	7pm cool-
	ness
but you have to get along
	now,	take that
copper-like peanut butter
and just as sticky fingered wire & 
			coil
	in a plastic fertilizer bag
		to the
		"STORE" 
I can handle lawlessness that
keeps me from getting 
	examined
with eyes & questions
	that are not at all 
disguised as lessons

your partner in crime has good
sense to call you
off of me
		since he knows that
		my male escort in this 
plenty medieval civil setup
		is a pretty aggressive little
scamp.		
isn't it just precious that
I always wear men's boots with a tank top
to make sure things remain crystal clear?

a construction site
now shadowing our plot
from the other side of the tracks,
 from the north or	west a bit,
	or more of both.
i am supposed to be grateful for these homegrown hardhats
because
@ least i won't have to shy away from too much of that wordiness
because 
that sort of thing
 that the whooperwill makes
the only feeling of tweeting i get is through beaks
	thank you very much 
	for this peace
	that i shouldn't have to bow
	my head in November for anyway. 

I smile but only 
to myself and for myself 

and I'm 
gotten good, all fit and sure with 
no hood up 	except my mental burka
	and my readied comebacks
in that temperate 19:00 voice
veiling me visible.
thX aLot - miLa EskER

thX aLot – miLa EskER

– – – – – – – –

Half-pint hero, pale by the bus stop, imagining himself as upstanding while thinking nothing of his own predatory eyes, thinking biology says, “go for it,” thinking instead this is a good distance, thinking silence is the better introduction, thinking the complication of introducing her to mom, by story first, over beans and sausage. His amatxu’s pork tenderloin adobado, served up to the imagination, deflects the loins urging a man to make a mom out of somone. Looking away, he realizes he owes the matriarch a baguette. She tried to raise a good guy. She still tries to get a grandchild out of him.

She likes today’s hurried batch, soft on the inside with a barely tanned crust. She likes a sourdough treat on the weekends. Guilt and duty forget the peripheral field of vision. The damsel of his racketeering and the old bird in the house robe: depending on the quantity and/or quality of blessed or damned be your era plus geography plus chaos, the bellicose torpedoes of attention and intention are coming for you.

Hath I the Force like Darth, emanating from mine hands, those eyes would avert of their own volition. Because ladies needn’t notoriety or claims of authorship when we even out the world, warped as it is. A simple peace is all we ever wish to milk from our brethren, a peace as simple as not having to change seats on the bus.

We do our best to imagine our phones in transit ritual – that social psych-out of seek and find, pulling them out in silent and uncomfortable moments – not as proof of any modern crisis of alienation, but rather as a leading source of emotional security for women in public.

Headphones, earbuds, little speakers on strings, all together now and in position. On mute. The plug unplugged in a pocket or tucked under a bra strap. Eureka upon the protection, a modern sigil, new and improved.

Our daily bread in details could soften up the menfolk. Let’s hear it for the kinfolk, pull em up on speed dial. We are readied, yes. With apps launched and batteries charged and operating systems updated and homescreens tidy, yes. Lose yourself in technophilia, welcome those transitional moments awkward and unsteady in between purposes and acts. Another preliminary measure we unwillingly bear to avoid being made moms by men.

 

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Introducing a new segment… Being Brave Abroad

Springing forward sucks. Daylight savings sucks. This is known.

Unless it falls within the realm of His Majesty King Johnny Chaz I. Everybody’s favorite vestige of Spanish Fascism is the selective (un)recognition of longitude lines. As it isn’t a slab of poured concrete, this time zone shared with Berlin doesn’t comply with La Ley de Memoria Histórica (post-Franco law condemning the regime and it’s remaining artifacts); then again, plenty of facha granite stands to this day. What a great and noble land of incongruence in judicial interpretation. By golly, it feels like home.

What do you expect, you know, when Greenwich (that Mean-est of Times) isn’t even pronounced “green” + “which”.

It’s closer to a “grin + itch”.

Contemplating Edward Gorey’s drawing, “Being Brave Abroad,” an itch and a grin prompted a split-minute decision (i tried talking myself out of it, like usual) and got me out the door. An extra hour of daylight.

Bilbao is hiding up here too.

Bilbao is hiding up here too.

Destination: Peñascal (Spanish for ‘rocky crag’ while the Basque name Iturrigori means ‘red spring’)

Method: Getting on the number seventy-something and taking it to the very end.

My bus driver has got to be a nice guy. Yeah, he’s got the look: chases chonis (affectionate name for Jersey Shore-esque ladies, but in Euskadi we spell that txoni, aight?), lifts weights and tans in a box, probably maybe all accomplished on the same city block. But he’s definitely got the look of being a nice guy.

Start: Mina del Morro, the Santutxu brink that could fall into the river, if it weren’t for the deep roots of the eucalyptus grove (any unbroken stand of trees in an urban setting is AKA feral cat piss depository, and I can’t get it out of my tennis shoes).

End: Peñascal.

Two ends of the tract, save the best for last, good hoods of a working class.

Three generations of women at the park sit facing the monkey bars and my attention goes to my ankles exposed and I’m fine.
Because, girl power.

PenascalParque

In the thin valley sliced by centuries of rain, the Peñascal sidewalk presses against a high wall, where the terracing starts staking claim up the hill. A break in the solid concrete there’s a black chihuahua doglet.

I couldn’t tell if he was puppy. Passed him, backed up (and in that simple decision and follow-through, interestingly enough, made me feel less like an outsider and more like a documenter, someone with the right and reason to be in that neighborhood… my bravery in confronting this mighty tiny thing suggests that if I start with the dogs and their jean jackets and bejeweled raincoats, surely I can end up taking shots of bipeds), and readied my camera to peek.

His screech-howl confirmed he was not a baby dog.

NotPuppy

No ma’am. This cartoonishly steep staircase is mine. Go. Now.

No ma’am. This cartoonishly steep staircase is mine. Go. Now.

In this neighborhood I expected to find gitanos and the usual marginalized state of affairs. I think to myself about how I do so enjoy the stuck-on buildings of sharp gradients, as if they were slums and slums being the first word that came to mind and my privilege won’t stop reminding me that it’s very much alive and well. The real problem with that thought is that I am not seeing what I’m in; instead, I’m imagining an elsewhere, a cloudy fold-out spread from National Geographic, vaguely São Paulo. I’ve never seen either of these places before and prejudice is boring.

Worn out debate interrupted by a valid contribution…

Statement: We are Bilbao too.  Source: these mailboxes.

Statement: We are Bilbao too.
Source: these mailboxes.

At the foot of the way to Pagasarri.

less gunk on the ground than my own damn street which is in the left hemisphere subdivision of my brain. being brave abroad turns out just fine. white girl in broad daylight, white saint of broad brush strokes.

less gunk on the ground
than my own damn street
which is in the left hemisphere
subdivision of my brain.
being brave abroad turns out just fine.
white girl in broad daylight,
white saint in broad brush strokes.

Waiting for the bus again at the Plaza de Errekaldi there’s a man, middle-aged and blond, with rectangular and rounded-edge light orange lenses. On the ground facing up, his longboard’s belly graphic is impeccable and recently bought, a milky turquoise and electric lavender galaxy. My best guess is that guy walked out of a cave where his flux capacitor-powered DeLorean had just landed.

Then, in the span of 3/100th of a second, I decide to move away from this dude, out from under the bus stop shelter.
I do not need to consciously recognize that this is what I’ve learned to do. As a woman.
I do not apologize to him silently. As a feminist.
I do not explain my actions to myself. As a pragmatist.
I do not wonder about seeming impolite. As a realist.
Fuck the possibility of becoming unsettled.

The low-lying center of Bilbao is on the middle of the route. In an Ensanche still with Sunday emptiness, Louis Vuitton shop windows crystallize two bags on the crooks of two arms of two ladies standing in knee high grass 50 meters in front of a giraffe. Photoshopping that has nothing to do with image manipulation.

A beige-because-it’s-not-yet-pastel-season wearing double date of coiffed retirees say agreeable and conclusive things to each other on the corner in front of the Immigration office. This is the uncluttered neighborhood.

PlazaErrekaldi

Way back now,
sitting out the afternoon,
viaduct undercarriage
a flat brightness
accomplishments and
spots of thick paint
dissolved political parties,
one offering, “una vía nueva de la izquierda
a new way left.
I left around 17:20 and
found a new way around 18:45.

Meat Your Fabricator, Get To Know Your Retailer

The baby boy God is incarnate and carnaval is soon upon us.

A month ago, The Three Kings had come and gone. Flanked by the 15 summer sycamores and their draperies of blue LED lights, pressed and huddled wizards and plainclothes sway in the deflected typhoon breeze. Showing us the way to towards the savior they’ve gone to meet 2014 times now. They signaled the forward march and emphasized everybody’s favorite cliché – it’s the journey, not the destination, that really matters. Just so happens that the journey crawls through the shopping district. Economic crises aside, the dawn breaks dripping with hope, and we shop. We’re all tired and totally over the realizing of the reason for the season, we just want to know the legislated dates.

Bilbao's Arriaga Theater

Bilbao’s Arriaga Theater

Four times my location has situated me on this side of the Atlantic for the arrival of these three magicians turned monarchs. Maybe it’s the other way around; kids these days gotta have a multitude of transferable skills. Jack and Jill went up the hill and came back down, seeking internships in all trades.

It’s snowed after an 8 year pause on the flat, swooping inner south. The Cantabrian has licked the ash of dumpster fires, coming over the sea wall, nearly France. It’s been a few years of asphalt and evergreens, a few years held close in a tight fist, and still more pushing towards a few kilometers shy of Algeria. Here, like home, a few clicks past democracy.

I find myself wondering how they managed to keep the Mediterranean carefreefall out of their sand. The old lady we got says, vaya, vaya, aqui no hay playa = ‘right, right, here there’s no beach in sight.’ That’s as far from the truth as I am from the Cantábrico‘s lappings and floatsam. 9 miles is 20 kilometers is a hop on the train is a day’s walk. Once there, the closer you get to naked is correlated with how likely you are to build castles with buckets, excavating an anthropology of nicotine and polymers with each dig.

These lengths from home have been sunned and sullied and shadowed. Distance is a thing I would measure in time and space, neural reconfiguration and cellular regeneration. It’s a simple enough Ameri-utilitarian sequence of events that made this the destination and glue and detonator of an otherwise uncertain and unconvinced homebody. A girl that don’t know, don’t care at times. But she, me, sloughs the old bits off and hopes the whispers of both good and evil can someday reanimate with breath and clay.

Nearing six times around the sun is almost unthinkable for the fledgling realist I was, but I think I’m getting close enough to assimilation, at home and abroad. Prudence most certainly allows revisions to that long list of to-dos and hallowed values. Heretofore, an addendum – No expenses spared on imports: fermented grain, roasted beans, and cured leaves.

Primordial flesh, don’t eat on Tuesday what you’ll burn on Wednesday. The best damn advice I’ve never been pious enough to follow: submit thyself to the throngs-a-raving during the first and last lunar cycles of the price point reaping.

Meat your fabricator, get to know your retailer. Follow in the footsteps of the freelancing sages, see the deity made carnal.