Thursday, August 16, 2018

Morning Encounter With a Millennial

This morning, I picked up my daily Houston Chronicle on the ground floor of my downtown apartment building. I am the only person in the building who subscribes to a hard copy newspaper.  Perhaps, I am the only person in the building who even reads the Houston Chronicle or the NYT in any form. With morning paper in hand, I busied myself with iPhone alerts as I entered the tenant elevator. Buzz Feed and  Huffington Post both reported the death of Aretha Franklin, 76, Queen of Soul.
I am immersed in this news and my mind is replaying her songs. Absorbed, I inadvertently pass my floor, riding upwards to the top of the building where a young man steps into the elevator. He is dressed for business, sporting chic rimless eye wear and hair with the sheen of product.
“Good morning.” I say, “I see I've gone right past my floor.”
I hold up my iPhone as evidence of inattention and say, “Aretha Franklin died this morning.”
He looks at me, as from a great distance.
“She was terrific,” I say, still hearing 'Respect' in my head.
He is silent, and then asks, “Did she die of old age?”
I am flummoxed. I am Aretha Franklin’s age. 
I say, “I think not. She wasn’t 90.” 
The elevator door opens. I nod to the young man, tell him to have good day, depart with both hard copy newspaper and iPhone in hand.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Lamentations Upon Reading the News

In Houston, TX, there is intense sun and debilitating heat by mid-day; forests are burning in the Arctic Circle region of Sweden. This morning I read hard copy of the Houston Chronicle and on-line Huff Post. I lament all of the following:

The Trump administration is planning a $12 billion bailout for U.S. farmers to help protect them from the ravages of a trade war with China, the European Union, and other countries that Trump started.[HuffPost]

This after a self-created trade war to which China and Canada and the UK all reacted strongly. Trump will bail out his voters with a giveaway, yet looks with distain upon monetary help for veterans and the poor. I read last evening on Facebook that a retired marine with 26 years of service got a postcard in the mail announcing that dental work is no longer covered by his insurance. It’s the little nicks that kill you.


A man with an AR-15 assault weapon held up a bridge near the Hoover Dam demanding the government release a report that had already been released. Like Pizzagate before it, the QAnon conspiracy has jumped from the Internet into real life. [HuffPost]

OK, I’ve not read much about the QAnon conspiracy but if it’s like Pizzagate, it’s disturbingly nuts - and it's white men with guns. Trump must love this altercation because it means that truly made-up facts are making headway.


The White House has edited an official transcript of the joint press conference by Trump and Vladimir Putin to remove a question from a reporter that asked if the Russian president wanted Trump to win the 2016 election.[HuffPost]

Can the White House legally edit an official transcript of a presidential press conference?  Will they be sued for reshaping what we can read about an event already in the public domain?


Thousands of “involuntarily celibate” men in online forums are consumed by misogynist entitlement and a skin-deep quest for self-improvement. We go inside incels “looksmaxing” obsession: penis stretching, skull implants and rage. [HuffPost]

I keep reading about these celibate men whose unrequited sexual energy kindles rage within. Perhaps they cannot ‘can’t get a date’ because they look at women as foreign bodies to be conquered?  I am sure there is a connection between their inchoate rage and the growing clampdown on women’s rights in state legislatures. 
The world does not need men for whom power-over is necessary to feel whole. Who raised such men? I wonder about their moms and dads. Just how did these men become ‘involuntarily celibate’? 


The White House will no longer publish public summaries of Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders, according to reports.[HuffPost]

Is this even legal? Can the flow of public information be stemmed, once again? This faux president runs the country like he ran his businesses. No clue or interest in governing within an open society. Will enough folks vote in November to change the course of events?


Trump has criticized the Federal Communications Commission for not approving Sinclair Broadcast Group’s $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, calling it “disgraceful.”

Sinclair is a monster, a vehicle for spewing way-right propaganda in single market communities. Hope the FCC can hold them off.  


To add to news of Sinclair’s predatory acquisitions of heartland news channels, there is an Associated Press story about newspaper job cuts. Doesn’t matter these days if a journalist wins a Pulitzer Prize. He/she can still be laid off for lack of ad revenues. Will newspapers find their bearings and stage a digital comeback?
I begin to understand why the Washington Post insists I pay to read their stories on-line.  We need a plethora of newspapers, staffed with seasoned journalists reporting real news. 
I will pay to read real news on-line.

P.S. And yes, I live in luxury - now receive the Houston Chronicle at my new place in downtown Houston. I took my paper to read by the rooftop pool very early this morning. Couldn't help myself.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

One Fading Flower, One Clam Shell

My Building Has a Rooftop Pool

 Often, in the very early morning, I take the elevator to the top floor of the apartment building.  The sun is rising, the pool shimmers in the light,
You might think this rooftop is a quiet place. Not so. Club music pounds from far too many speakers.

If I stand at the far edge of the pool, away from the lounge chairs, I can almost NOT hear endless bass beat. Day is arriving. Clouds are pink.


Lizzy Hargrove lives with a bevy of parrots, two dogs, several cats and a goose named Honker. She lives in what was an old Heights neighborhood corner store, a one-story brick building she's surrounded with shrubbery, vines, patios and mini-gardens. Moment by moment she creates and lives her world, and from time to time invites us in.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

20/20 Seeing 24/7

Collages in this blog post may have something, or nothing, to do with the text.
You decide.
Three days ago a cataract was lifted off my left eye and a new lens implanted. I opted for a Multifocal/Accommodative IOL, which means that for the first time in my life, I have 20/20 vision without the aid of glasses or contact lens. It's wonderful and a bit disconcerting at the same time.
First of all, Medicare doesn't pick up the tab for this type of lens, so it's a luxury of sorts. Second, because I've been nearsighted since childhood, simple stuff like getting into bed at night is now a new experience. Each of the three nights since the procedure, as my head touches the pillow, everything in my bedroom remains in sharp focus. And I think I've forgotten to remove my contacts. Which leads me to a third disconcerting thought. I have another cataract removal procedure in several weeks. I am actually wondering if I want a second 20/20 lens inserted. Do I want two eyes that see 20/20 all the time? A bit of blur at bedtime is not a bad thing.
When I was a third grader, my mother took me to an opthamologist. He pronounced me quite near-sighted with astigmatism. He wondered aloud if at my young age, I would keep my new glasses on. Really? I never took them off because they showed me a world I'd never seen. When I looked up, I counted individual leaves on every tree, no more green blur. When I looked down, I saw cracks in the sidewalk. My mother was briefly guilt ridden, wondered why had she not taken me sooner for testing. I wonder now how I managed to see blackboards in my classrooms, how I'd managed to excel academically. I cannot imagine how I compensated.
After my freshman year in college, I decided I wanted the still relatively new contact lens. Again, my mother took me to an ophthalmologist. After testing, he declared I was a good candidate, though he wondered if I could withstand the lengthy protocol involved in adjusting to hard contact lenses. One had to develop expertise in inserting them. For weeks, hard contacts could be worn for only an hour or two at the time while corneas developed callouses, or perhaps just became accustomed to foreign bodies lodged beneath eyelids.
I was just fine during the time of adjustment, because I became smitten with contact lens. Not only was the world in focus - I myself was suddenly visible. To others. Hometown folks looked at me as if I was a new person, as if they'd never seen me before. They said I'd grown up. They said what a beauty I was becoming. My life was different back on campus too. Boys noticed me. This was new. Being 'seen' was a heady experience.
I had a good long run with glasses and contact lens. Seeing after cataracts will be different. As I put drops in my left eye four times daily and remind myself not to lift anything over ten pounds, I wonder how it will pan out - this ability to see 20/20 24/7. And when I look in the mirror at my 76 year old face, I see a need for the invisibility that eyeglasses offer. I know I will never do without some sort of eyewear.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Precious Time, How Do I Spend It?

Another beautiful blue sky day in Houston. It will also be a hot day with still air and intense sunshine.  I am watching that sunshine stream through north windows and wondering why I am not working on/toward my 'next BIG project'. I feel it out there in the ether, waiting to manifest. I have hints of its form and shape, but it's not yet become a concrete idea that gives me goose bumps. I think I know why.
My mind is overtaken with dismay and horror at the daily news. I peruse email updates from the NYT, Huffington Post, The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal and Truthout. I follow Amy Siskind's posts on FaceBook of things 'not normal'. (Her first year of 'not normal' was published in hardcover last April as The List, This is How Democracy Ends.) I attend rallies and vigils, march when called, send donations to the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood and The Sierra Everyday, I lament the fate of our country under the current administration.
I lament. Such a short time ago the U.S.A. was a world leader, imperfect, but steady. America is now a rogue country. Our government is picking fights with close allies, initiating world trade wars, sowing hate and fear among its citizenry, giving money to the 1% (that would be the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act), dismantling federal agencies, stuffing Federal courts with ideologues and/or unqualified individuals and of late, denying asylum seekers on our southern border, instead calling their entry into our country a criminal act, thereby justifying separating children from their parents.
This last outrage - small children incarcerated in internment camps along the border, or flown away to faraway cities - has gotten far more attention than the administration anticipated. Thank heaven, tens of thousands of Americans are incensed and have taken to the streets in protest. I will march again on June 30 and just signed up to volunteer at RAICES (refugee and immigrant services).

I spend precious time every day (and at 76 years of age, time is very precious) obsessing over Trump's latest infliction of cruelty and bigotry. Important doings in my life are being neglected.  Though you wouldn't know it from my Instagram feed - a log of visual prettiness.
Tableau afternoon teatime. Really.
It's 11:00 a.m. already. Perhaps, I can let this endless news reel go for the rest of Sunday. Perhaps I will take deep breaths and be open to the next BIG idea, the one that will give me goose bumps. I know it's out there. Somewhere. I need to bring it into my world. Very soon. Time is precious. I will march for moms and children, separated by villainy and caprice. And I will breath and await goose bumps.

Friday, June 22, 2018

My 76th Birthday Wish - Act Like a Mom

It is 6:00 a.m. on Friday, June 22, 2018 and today is my 76th birthday. I can already see that this day will be a blue sky day. This year is different in so many ways from other birthdays, other times. After 24 years in my very own home, I've resettled in an urban nest, a pied-a-terre, in downtown Houston. I've downsized, for sure, but my new place is way over-stuffed with curated possessions from a lifetime of collecting. I like the place.
Today, on my birthday, my two eighth grade grandsons, Charlie and Kelan, graduate from middle school with ceremony, congratulations and perhaps trepidation over the big unknown of high schools. I wish I could be in Seattle to share their accomplishments. Lulu, my fifth grade granddaughter just finished her days at elementary school, going out with a bang as the strawman in her school's imaginative recreation of the 'Wizard of OZ'. Lauren, my sixth grade grand daughter is already at camp in Tennessee, living her summer days as I know two of my daughters long to do.
Today should be a day of celebration. I sit at my dining table with my Kaui mug of coffee admiring the beauty of pink blooms from Central Market. How delicate they look in my friend Leslie's leafy green pitcher atop a stack of books that include that include Vogue's 125th Anniversary Collectors edition (Really? I own such a volume? It was a gift and I like it, but really?). Three pink ceramic women from Caroline's 2000 wedding day flank this bouquet. All is set on vintage Guatemalan fabric and an Indian patchwork dotted with sequins and embroidery. Which is to say, I live in visual luxury in a comfortable space with north light. I am privileged to the max.
I could live my days mired in small beauties, visiting good friends, cooking healthy organic food, reading books, traveling to the Pacific Northwest to see daughters and grandkids. Few would fault me.
BUT, despite my rarified setting and my Instagram indulgences, my heart and mind are subsumed by Donald Trump, this crafty, ignorant, self-important man whose lies and hateful cruelty spawn hate and fear. He is shoving America into uncharted territory where fairness, decency, honesty and empathy are deemed weak. He plays on race as the great divider. Civility receding, our citizenry has been unmasked and we have been found to be racist to our core.
The U.S. Constitution is suddenly negotiable. Our Congress no longer legislates. Political donors, lobbyists and corporations are on full throttle. Our enemy, the former Soviet Union, now Russia-under-Putin, may have infiltrated our political system, calling our democracy into question. While this owned-man plays to the media cycle with distractions, our laws and regulations are being quietly dismantled. Clean rivers, clean air stand in the way of short term profit; public lands are under assault and ready to be plundered for corporate gain.  Government programs we citizens paid into for generations are now deemed entitlements, ready to be slashed to make up some portion of the deficit generated by the recent tax giveaway to the few. Government agencies are being hollowed out. Scientists, diplomats, educators, consumer advocates are encouraged to leave government service, their knowledge and expertise no longer needed in the 21st century.
American life has become a reality television show, its star a master of 24/7 media manipulation. The man has made the cover of Time Magazine for three weeks in a row. I am sure he considers this a win.
The latest - and on-going - tragedy is happening on our southern border with Mexico with the separation of children and those of 'tender age' from mothers who've travelled as many as 2000 miles to escape death and danger in their own countries. Who would make this fearsome trip with young children if not in fear for their lives? Yet, parents are denied legal asylum entry and are brought into custody, charged with criminal misdemeanor and separated from their children. Children are whisked off in airplanes to Miami, New York, wherever, to for-profit shelters that care-take these desolate children for $700+ per day. Children carry no papers with names and identification numbers and indeed, what small, perhaps non-verbal child can carry their ID safely? There seem to be no lists with corresponding numbers and names and no process for reuniting parents with children.
Many of us are horrified and are sending donations to the ACLU and non-profits whose sole mission is to represent immigrants and now, locate their kids. I wonder how effective these efforts can be without paper trails?
Then, there is the matter of young Stephen Miller, racist extraordinaire since his high school days, now at work in the West Wing of the White House. He is a thorn in my side. Miller drafted the Muslin travel ban in January 2017 without review by Federal agencies or attorneys. The president signed with flourish and havoc ensued. Miller has hit once again over immigration at our southern border, declaring that separating children from their mothers was 'a simple decision''. The president again decreed, and chaos and horror reigns. I wonder if Stephen Miller has ever in his life held a small child or spoken with a young mom. We know that Trump's kids were raised in the company of nannies.
Add caption
So, these days our government sees fit to take the children of brown people seeking asylum at our southern border, taking children without documenting exactly where the children are going. I am seized with horror and worry, and I know I am not unique. I also know that separating families of color is an American tradition.
Pine Ridge School for Indians, South Dakota, 1890 (Getty Images)
Our government sent Indian children from reservation homes to boarding schools to learn new ways. We separated enslaved African families via the auction block. We interned Japanese families - can we say they were better off because we did not take their children?
Can we stop this habit of ours? Can our country's white majority stop breaking up families of color when fearful and angry? Some folks must be very afraid of the distinct possibility that in our country, brown will overtake white. Some of us know that race is a cultural construct, and we'd all do well to give it up and turn to inclusivity.
Can we take a step toward redeeming ourselves by finding the children of 'tender age', finding the girls, freeing the boys in fenced cages, reuniting children with parents?
My 76th birthday wish is that the many-of-us commit to work to reunite these kids with their parents. If we can't volunteer, we can send donations. Better yet, we can send donations AND volunteer.
I know many smart, strategic, creative, tenacious, tough women and we are moms. If the agencies whose mission is to serve immigrant families will give us tasks, we can spring into action. The most fierce foe is a mom, human or animal, protecting her young. We are moms.

Here are links you and I need so we can chart a course of activism. 

ACLU Texas with an office at 1500 McGowan, Houston, TX, 77004, (713) 942-8146 

Together Rising

Is this the America we want?

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.