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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What I Don’t Yet Know and Still Want To Believe – Part 2


Part 2: But Seriously Y’all

What I don’t yet know and still want to believe…

That is, about the Basque Story. The Basque Conundrum. The Basque Conflict. The Basque Saga. The Basque History. The Basque Herstory. The Basque Problem. The Basque Solution. The Basque Enigma.


If Euskadi won it’s independence and became a sovereign nation, the people here would tear each other to pieces.

Without a common foe, its internal divisions would be exponentially amplified. No longer in the shadow of Spain or France, the once external demarcations of ‘us and them’ would implode and once symbiotic alliances would turn inward upon themselves. A mutual enemy,‘them,’ would have to be refashioned from those who were once some of ‘us’. Gone would be the diversity of values and stances, the very checks and balances that democracy depends upon.

There. I said it and I got it out of the way.
This is a fact that I don’t yet know but still want to believe.

In Part 1 of this series, my final meditation wondered about our divergent understandings of courtesy. In this context, I tend towards having mucha cara, ‘a lot of face’ and not letting on enough of what passes through the mind behind it.

I had to get that out of the way, The Mutual Enemy Problem, because it takes a conscious, concerted effort to emulate my new neighbors and just g’on ahead and let it tumble out. I also closed Part 1 alluding to my perspectives, this being the first of a few I’ll look at in this post (and in Part 3 to follow), regarding some serious subjects that could really piss people off.


 

If it weren't for all this deep red libation, high on quality and low on price… sharing the cup makes playing the devil’s advocate a bit easier, no lie. (Full disclosure: this is actually killer Chilean wine from some killer Chilean pals)

If it weren’t for all this deep red libation, high on quality and low on price… sharing the cup makes playing the devil’s advocate a bit easier, no lie. (Full disclosure: this is actually killer Chilean wine from some killer Chilean pals)


Correctness in Offending Political Senses of Humor

Before I go any further, I must clarify how I “Basque in the Reflected Glory” of all this tendency toward critique.

The title of this blog hit me one morning, after weeks of worrying about being too serious and being taken too seriously (or not seriously enough… merrily we go along, go along…. It hit me that if I was worrying about taking myself (and my writing) too seriously then the terrorists had already won.

This America!n’t happen, this America!na won’t let it. So, America!

“Basque-ing in the Reflected Glory” came out of observing the people, institutions and media of Euskadi, in daily self-reflection, raise clenched fists of success proclaiming:

successkidbasque

And man, I couldn’t blame them. I still can’t. Surrounded by all this glory, I could just sit back and soak in all the reflected light of Grade-A, Top-Shelf Awesomeness that I get to be a part of. And then, there’s the innumerable times when I’m belly laughing alone because the hyperbole and hype is just so absurd while simultaneously so warranted, and oh so recognizable…

Greatness superimposed on Greatness, like when all the Power Rangers’ battle vehicles would combine to form the ultimate fighter bot.

Greatness superimposed on Greatness, like when all the Power Rangers’ battle vehicles would combine to form the ultimate fighter bot.

That ditty by Queen is playing in my head, you’d know it even if I wrote the last word of the title in Euskera (remember that the “tx” combo is pronounced like “ch”): “We Are The Txapeldunak”. Consider these lines in particular…

And bad mistakes
I’ve made a few.
I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I’ve come through.

I don’t yet know how to best give this situation the alternative view it deserves. Going along giggling, but only over the matters most trite sure wouldn’t be fair nor sane. The atrocities of Basque story bounce back at the same light-speed as any reflection of glory. The visage of ache and anxiety, humiliation, distress, and betrayal can still look at itself in the mirror and practice the jokes it’ll tell later.

The stand-up comedian, has an interesting position in a particular culture’s spectrum of the arts. Generally speaking, a creator who works in fiction, has a buffer against committing scandals of offensiveness that the comic does not. Their jokes we usually see as a more unfiltered extension of the humorist. We can forgive the author of fiction if they’ve humorously conveyed something too brutal to say live on-stage because they’ve set it back into an imagined frame of an imagined mind.

I’m no comedian. However, I still want to believe that my writing here can be: sufficiently serious in the pursuit of comprehension to risk offending people; respectful enough to swear off radical political correctness; loose and limber enough risk a slap on the hand to get that slap on the knee. A few hits on the tongue-in-cheek target are worth the chance of a miss that, in bad taste, bites down hard.


To Know Thyself is to Know Thine Enemy

So, to revisit the opening poke-in-the-eye polemic, I know I’m not crazy to still want to believe that an EuskalHotMessería would likely be the immediate (but not necessarily permanent) result of independentzia for Euskalherria. I’ll go as far as saying that they’d have a harder time, at least in the first decade or beyond, between themselves than they do between them and their respective Nation-States. With a shallower pool of Us and Them to choose from, we become our own enemy. Euskadi is presently particularly united, but since before the Carlist Wars and up to contemporary voting trends, a Basque consensus is an oxymoron. I would expect to see a sharpening of the already exaggerated divisions between provinces within the Basque Autonomous Community, not to mention the inevitable emergence of rifts between those who cannot or refuse to dissolve their cultural ties to Spain and France.

What I don’t yet know in particular and what leads me to suggest that this would be the case is that:

  1. Don’t nobody know what the economic ramifications would be for the region while Spain and France are still very much feeling (even if not officially registering/calculating) the economic crisis
  2. Don’t nobody know if a newly sovereign Basque Country could independently manage and maintain the their public sector and infrastructure.
  3. Don’t nobody know how trade and relations with Spain and France would be managed and maintained or if Spain and France would impose unofficial sanctions against a new Basque Country (or vice versa). ~and the one I really scratch my head about… as I imagine many would if questioned on the matter~
  4. Don’t nobody know how a rupture would affect these teams’ membership in the Spanish football league. And that, my friends, is a diplomatic emergency if I’ve ever known one.

You think the US has a problem with dependence on foreign oil? You have no idea. You can’t produce this golden elixir in Euskadi. Or oranges. Or almonds. Or even much wheat. All that comes up from the 'EhSpain' (that being the average Spanish-native's English pronunciation of their country) photo credit: 96dpi via photopin cc

You think the US has a problem with dependence on foreign oil? You have no idea. You can’t produce this golden elixir in Euskadi. Or oranges. Or almonds. Or even much wheat. All that comes up from the ‘EhSpain’ (that being the average Spanish-native’s English pronunciation of their country)
photo credit: 96dpi via photopin cc

These are most certainly questions to revisit. For the observer and denizen alike, the rest of 2014 will pan out as an interesting year in matters of statecraft in Europe. In Spain, the Community of Cataluyna plans to present the Catalan public with a ballot referendum this coming November 9th, an electoral survey of sorts, that could determine how much voter support there is for an ever quickening march towards self-determination. I haven’t been following the UK case as closely but it too implies a larger trend; Scotland will vote on a nearly identical measure this coming September 18th.

To be clear, I’m not saying that the Basque Country, Cataluyna or Scotland should or should not break off to form their own independent countries. I don’t yet know that it is necessary to come to any conclusions right now. I still want to believe that in politics, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t – I don’t care if you’re trying to revive a coalition, respawn a movement or level-up your democracy on this continent, that one, or on the largest moon of Saturn.

My underdeveloped view on the matter is that I don’t yet know what to expect. I simply don’t hear enough about how said accomplishment would be handled once on the other side, once these ‘nations’ become ‘states’. I tend to see an immense amount of energy going towards making the shift happen, but I still want to believe that these cohorts have invested considerable planning for most foreseeable geo-political consequences.


By Scot! What these movements and their detractors (not to mention the undecided) symbolize is a new way of thought in governance and international relations. In store are shifts in organization,  macro- and micro- politics/diplomacy/economics… alas, a later post on these matters would be most prudent. photo credit: mikemac29 via photopin cc

By Scot! What these movements and their detractors (not to mention the undecided) symbolize is a new way of thought in governance and international relations. In store are shifts in organization, macro- and micro- politics/diplomacy/economics… alas, a later post on these matters would be most prudent.
photo credit: mikemac29 via photopin cc


 If You Can’t Keep It All Straight, Just Think Octopus

Put all that aside for now. I suggest stowing it in brain’s back pocket, a spot out-of-sight but still handy. Visualize doing so, as we’re about the expand the metaphor.

Imagine a political debate or conflict currently unfolding in your geographic or psychic vicinity. An issue being one that your personal stake in the outcome is moderate to minimal and yet the matter evokes in you both an intellectual interest and emotional ambiguity. As much as I’d like to, I can’t offer any examples because different strokes for different folks.

So you go to bed, laying there thinking about the issue you just imagined, running through a Rolodex of points and counterpoints, pros and cons of the issue. You doze off with these thoughts bouncing around as your noggin goes to work cleaning up synapses after a productive day.

Next morning, you wake up, and you’re an octopus.
You’re just fine out of water for some reason, but you’re definitely an octopus. Thing is, you wake up still only knowing how to move like a human and now you got all these extra appendages and a hundred new ways to stick to things and your brain stem fits the body of another creature and you go on with trying to live your life and think about extremist views without losing track of your extremities and continue to publish neat stuff that makes sense but you got ink spilling out all over the place and it seems really sensible then to change colors to match the seafloor and and then it’s like screw all y’alls, I’m hiding under this rock.


 

Shame on this apathetic octopussy. photo credit: Dani_vr via photopin cc

Shame on this apathetic octopussy.
photo credit: Dani_vr via photopin cc


 

Taking Things Seriously

Just as I don’t yet know how to handle all these tentacles, I can never decide, if I ought to make political statements or not. There’s a couple reasons for this.

Politics is an inherently uncomfortable discipline; some of the greatest thinkers stayed away from it altogether while others who barely think of much at all get wasted on apathy for good reason and none whatsoever.


 

Righteous fire, outrage and immediacy fading like a sticker that once said… something important… Azkuna Matata… it means don’t worry for the rest of your days…

Righteous fire, outrage and immediacy fading like a sticker that once said… something important… Azkuna Matata… it means don’t worry for the rest of your days…

And then, oh the vanity! A good chunk of us want to look good, look smart, look informed, look like we’re holding all the disparate pieces together. We want to look like we have all the answers while trying to look like we’re not even looking for them. We’re stirring the pot of shit and acting like it don’t stink. Vanity manages the reputations; she works filtering the scraggly, loose, hairy and unbecoming bits; she slaves away at curating the second self showcase on all that masses communique.

Political statements make me squirm, for I tire of these things so quickly when they fail to jump or slide or fly. And then suddenly they do jump and slide and fly, as you drink a cup of coffee in front of the building where a lawyer was arrested for dubious reasons less than 24 hours before; as your boyfriend’s aunt grieves her cousins and uncles behind bars for crimes of ‘politics’; as your Euskera teacher is fired because they were involved in the cause; as that degree they earned in prison got them in front of the class.

Politics for the outsider – the expat, the immigrant – is a slow mediation. For me, a closing in magnification leads to identification; that’s how we come to personal conclusions by reason and necessary emotional involvement; pant-staining residues of what a place makes of us.

I don’t yet know what I have the right to protest. I still want to believe that anybody who shows up to a march engages in a little bit of voyeurism. Frankly, I only agree with some of their discontentment and all of their mobilization. I go for the private bodies and public speech filling a common space, the private property stacked tall and elbows cramped. I still want to believe that my permission slip is being alive, and that agreeing with some but never all their demands is plenty.

Part of me wonders, not yet knowing: what opinions do I have a right to here, given that I’ve splashed into the depths of a day-to-day elsewhere and slithered away from the bubbling crockpot of scorching red-white-&-blue vitriol – it leaves the taste buds blistered with a suction grip. And still, the emotional distance and physical closeness of involving myself in these Iberian issues makes it much easier to portray with sound, symbol and presence my support for stances whose entirety and implications I don’t yet know.

I’m not a political scientist and I don’t profess to be. Nevertheless, I still want to believe that I must interact with a political world, one in which the borders drawn and imagine, could appear or disappear as early as next year.

In Part 3 to follow, I’ll BIRG and bitch a little more about the political as personal and the need to interact with these goings-on. Because I still want to believe that as a woman, I must address the discomfort + disorientation as well as delight that comes with navigating the quasi-matriarchy of Basque society.

To be confused… to be contained… to be continued…


(Source of the W. Blake quote – besides the obvious coiner Blake himself – is Paddy Woodworth’s ‘Acknowledgments’ in his book, The Basque Country: A Cultural History. Goooooooooood stuff. I’ll surely be quoting him often in the future.

Flocking Strays

I’m compelled to say a little something about loneliness. Maybe only a little more and then a little less.

Bitten by that bug we must be, those of us who, neither by choice nor oversight, err from the track, nay, admit that we flee. A stray dog, a stray hair, a stray thread of curiosity – all fodder for nerves ending in teeth and continuity. Away goes the herd, but we not be the ones walking in place, watching the horizon shrinking, catching whiffs of perspicacity.

Geography surely must be an older field of study than theology.

Perhaps we’re only as lonely as far as lonely can see. None necessarily saddle up sidekicking and set off on the trail. But there are the living and breathing within reach of thee.

Geography surely must be an older instinct than breaking bread for unity.

Budapest, Spring 2013

Budapest, Spring 2013

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.

Initial contact

Dear there, from here, it’s a pleasure.

This would be the message that breaks the seal.

I am a permanent visitor here, a grateful resident, a transplant, a new local. Still, I find all these words, along with ‘expatriate’ and ‘immigrant’ problematic; I am too new to this place to know where I stand for sure. I always will be. I carry Missouri and misery with me; the remedy for which is to Basque in Reflected Glory (BIRGing explained) as much as my conscience will allow. I expect that my sentiments will often spill forth as unrefined and ignorantly privileged, but I’ll do my damnedest.

I am a product of the middle west, the middle class, of middle America. What follows is a dossier (three syllables, rhymes with ‘Ray’) of perspectives and participations in a place that resembles, in grit and grumbling and grace, Middle Earth. At least to mine eyes, and the middle brow sights they’ve seen.