Friday, June 08, 2018

I Miss Living in Houston's East End

For 24 years, I lived and worked in Houston's East End. The place was home. I loved my house and garden, knew the folks who lived next door and across the street, worked with businesses and elected officials as part of my job, knew where to find the best breakfast tacos and kolaches, shopped at Fiesta on Wayside, bought my tires and had my oil changed at local shops, voted in the HISD elementary school nearest my house, and walked my 10,000 steps in the neighborhood and paths along Braes Bayou. Twenty-four years of all this stuff is a long time. It's part of who I am.
Eva, Martin and me. Worked with them at the Greater East End District.
They are still at the district. Miss them in my everyday.
Yesterday, when I headed east to Canal Street to celebrate Gonzo 247's repainting of Leo Tanguma's iconic Chicano mural (painted first in 1973), I had little idea that I'd become tearful just feeling the familiarity of Houston's East End. Parked my car in a gravel-covered lot and approached the street where seniors, bought by bus, filled rows of chairs under two tents and one could pick up paper fans printed with Precinct 6's Constable Sylvia Trevino name. Suddenly, I was 'so home', enveloped in the familiar. I've attended countless events staged like this one. Know what is going to happen, and in what sequence. Yesterday's sun and heat were intense. I heard the music, a cumbia. That's when my eyes teared up. It was just all so familiar. Good as comfort food.
Saw Gonzo247, the artist-of-the-day, waiting on the sidelines for the arrival of the esteemed Leo Tanguma. It seems that these two men of different generations formed a tight collaboration to get Tanguma's historic mural repainted. Gonzo 247 was obviously moved by the Chicano activist and senior artist who studied under John Biggers at TSU. The speech he gave at the podium was broken time and again by emotion and tears. Good for Gonzo247 to feel this unprecedented project so deep in his heart.
The mood was  festive. I kept seeing friends and former colleagues, elected officials with whom I'd worked. And then the speeches began, their format so familiar. I've given speeches like these and prepared similar speeches for board members to deliver. I was delighted that I knew what each would say, delighted to feel the coming together of so many in this community.
Melissa Noriega and Gracie Saenz, two great women, former
Houston City Council members, serve there community well.
Freddie and Blanco Blanco and Eve Quiroz.
Veronica Chapa Gorczynski, GEEMD president, MMH, Eva Quiroz,
Martin Chavez and Blanca Blanco.
Leo Tanguma, man of the hour,
creator of this 1973 Chicano mural.
Toward the end of the speeches, I smelled food, and was soon in line for a plate of rice, refried beans and small open-faced beef tacos with grilled onions, hot green salsa and lime. I tasted the beans and was transported. I am serious here. Since 1993, when I moved to the East End, I've eaten hundreds of plates of refried beans and rice with all the accoutrements, but when I tasted them today, I was truly carried back in time, to the days when I called the East End home.

Refried beans and cumbia? I really miss this place. I am not Hispanic and my upbringing was not in this culture. But 24 years is a long time to live and work in a community. My job was to implement plans that improved services and infrastructure for this part of Houston. I became attached to this primarily Mexican-American community. Returning for the mural celebration was a reminder that it is possible to incorporate what I left behind with what is my 'new-now'. Houston's East End is still there - alive and well - and it is definitely a part of who I am.
This iconic Chicano mural, now repainted,
is tribute to the vitality of the East End. 





Thursday, June 07, 2018

Lulu Shines in Wizard of OZ and Mameau Returns Home

Wonderful trips to WDC with Kelan, and then to the Pacific Northwest to see daughters and three other grandkids. May was a very full month indeed. Flew back to Houston the morning after seeing two performances of Green Lake International Elementary School's WIZARD OF OZ, in which Lulu played the straw scarecrow with vigor and a bit of zaniness - she mimed a selfie with exquisite timing and caught a laugh from the audience.

Caroline created Lulu's costume. Sewed colored patches all over a big plaid men's jacket, stuck straw from the hem of this jacket and from under Lulu's broad brimmed hat. Great face makeup with a carrot of a nose. The play was extraordinary for an elementary school production, but then they have a very talented parent who majored in theater in college, and she is surrounded by other talented parents who design and build sets, sew costumes, arrange for publicity and bake cupcakes and cookies to sell with raffle tickets during intermission. The annual production is a hands on community effort, and Caroline laments that this will be her last year with this remarkable public school where her two children have thrived.
Glittery red frosted cupcakes at intermission for $2 each. I couldn't resist.
Production's rendition of the tornado that swept Dorothy right out of Kansas.
Caroline's Houston friend Karen and her son. They work together at UW.
Look at this beautiful straw man with celebratory flowers.
So. After seeing this fine production and giving hugs to all, on Sunday morning, I flew to Houston. Not lost on me was the fact that my return home to Houston paralleled Dorothy's return to Kansas/Spokansas. We were both longing for home even though we'd had a pretty good time away.
Checked two bags and read an entire book on the plane. Thorton Wilder's first novel titled 'The Cabala' was written in the 1920s in response to his time at the American Academy in Rome. Who knew? I was enthralled with the story and all the references to places ES and I have seen.
My apartment feels like a nest. Today, I did not leave the building. Read and wrote and made lists. Also spent time looking at dozens, if not hundreds of collages made with my iPhone. Will get back in a grove, see where I left off and make more. I hate to tell you how many photos I have stored in my cloud. Readying myself to make many more, with leaves and oyster shells from Seattle and Portland.

That may be far more collages than you want to see, but it's a sampling, with more editing to be done.
Heavy duty morning sunlight.
It's good to be back in Houston, good to be sleeping in my own bed and good to watch the morning sun stream in my northern windows. Also good to be able to take Metro rail to the downtown library just two stops away from my place. On Monday, I carted home a heavy bag of books. Intend to go to the library every single week this summer, just to wander through the stacks and pick out books that look interesting. Came away with books on the history of banquets through the ages, a book on Merchant Ivory films, and volumes on Buddhism and consumerism (I really need to dig into these two) and two novels for which I'd read reviews.
Made a light salad supper this evening for a friend, and tableaued the dinner table to death. She and I faltered after a little red wine, and I had to make coffee midway in the meal so we could carry on a conversation. It worked. We talked until midnight.
Tomorrow I will be at the celebration for the recreation of Leo Tanguma's iconic Chicano mural on Canal Street. Gonna 24/7 was picked to repaint the work. At last, we'll see it as it was, perhaps thirty years ago. I am really going to call it a day and a night now. It's after 3:00 a.m. Enough.
My traveling May was terrific and I sure am glad to be home. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My Days Are Full, Very Full

I am away from home and Houston, sleeping in my daughters' homes, living from my suitcase and numerous shopping bags, walking, calling Lyft and riding public buses, buying books that I read late at night, or while everyone else is off at work or school. This morning I am in the quiet of Caroline's house - everyone departed early in the day - and I am at the dining room table perusing several hundred photos I've taken since Kelan and I flew to Seattle after our WDC trip (chronicled in two previous blog posts). Pictures confirm that I've made use of every moment.
May 2018 has been filled to the brim, and the trip is not yet over. Still to come - all before June 3 when I fly back home to Houston: Charlie's end-of-year choral concert at Hamilton International Middle School, and Lulu's starring role as the Straw Man in Green Lake Elementary School's production of 'The Wizard of Oz'. The play is updated so that Dorothy wears red rain boots and Wizard is ensconced in Seattle's Space Needle. BTW, this annual event is a very big deal and parents are involved making costumes and helping design sets and overseeing behind-the-scenes volunteers. Lulu and Caroline will be out every night this week at rehearsals.
Alisa is librarian at North Portland Library, Multnomah County Library. 
There have been a raft of family events this May, and I've attended most of them. I took Amtrak to Portland to visit Mary and Queta and attend an event celebrating the culmination of a two-year project undertaken by Portland Archives and several non-profit organizations to claim and highlight the city's African American community. At the same time, Charlie played the last game of the Ultimate Frisbee season and his co-ed team won the championship.  Of course, I wanted to be in two places at once.
May is Lauren's birthday month. She celebrated with Tootsie Roller Derby teammates after Friday evening practice. She and her mom baked two sheet cakes and Dan supplied pizza.
Lauren is not photographed willingly, so I have no birthday photos to show off. Do have one of her sliding past the opposition, leaving them all behind, again and again. She skates like water flows - always finds an opening and it appear effortless. That would be Lauren in green with 713 as her number. Readers from Houston will recognize 713 as Houston's area code. Her derby moniker? Naylor Swift.

Amazed at the profusion of blooms in Portland. Mary B says it's unprecedented. Every tree and plant is giving its best. Roses bushes are twelve feet tall, peonies abound, new green growth is over the top, the air is pungent with fragrance. I walked a lot in Portland, just to be in the midst of all this blooming.

Mary and I drove to the Oregon coast for a day. It's a bit like driving to Galveston and the ocean is spectacular. And as always, a day on the beach clears the mind, makes one mellow, able to carry on.
And always there are the bookstores in the Pacific Northwest. Spent well over a half day in Powell's Books in Portland and restrained myself, departing with just half a dozen books. I took photos of the ones I lusted after and left behind.
There were other books I left behind at UW Bookstore. Always, there are more than I can carry away with me. I photograph them so I can find them later at Houston's public library, now within walking distance of my new place.
More events. Attended Charlie's Jazz Night at Hamilton International Middle School. Terrific bands and choral groups. Talented faculty and students. So proud of Charlie.
Walks around Green Lake with Caroline.  New generation of ducklings swimming with their parents at the edges of the lake, mom leading and dad bringing up the rear. Wonder-filled processions.
Watched Kelan play a baseball game and get a hug from his mom. Went to the Wallingford Farmer's Market for an Indian roti dinner with Caroline.
Took a bus downtown to Pike Place Market for lunch at Matt's in the Market. Best bowl of steamed mussels and clams with chorizo that I have ever eaten. Bought an old paperback of Kipling's short stories from a used bookstore, spent time in a map store, where I decided I really need a small globe for reference when reading the news.
Dan brought back buckets of fresh oysters from Lilliwaup and Caroline put our allotment on a tray in a hot 475 degree oven, and then presided over us as we quickly downed them one after another. All in all, good times with my daughters and grandchildren, and there is more to come. Am moving back to Jeanne's later this afternoon, and I'm not flying home until Sunday.
And back in Houston, Earl is painting like crazy. I like this new landscape. And he's painting portraits this summer. And in a throwback to Mexico, he's painting skulls too. Busy, busy.