Lighting the corners of my mind

September 7, 2021

It seems the older I get the more I reminisce. Similar to the lyrics in The Way We Were by Barbra Streisand, my memories are lighting up the corners of my mind–a lot. Sometimes it’s with candle light and other times with strobes! Sometimes they come with the shadow of guilt, others with a great, big smile. According to some, ‘it is a healthy exercise to share thoughts and feelings of one’s experiences to recall and reflect upon important events within one’s life.’ 

A friend of mine on Facebook wrote a post today about her parents’ memories and how she realized the importance of capturing them before they were gone.

My mom passed away four years ago and every single day I regret not filming her when she was with us. I regret not asking her more questions and capturing her answers along with her voice, her smile, and her radiant love for our family. My dad is 79. He spent the year of the pandemic alone with his two dogs (Stewie and Jessica). He’s an amazing man… I wanted to be sure not to miss his stories about growing up, meeting my mom, becoming a dad and a grandpa.

There are many things I wish I had talked about with my parents including their own history. In my defense, they didn’t always make it easy. I recommend making conversation with one’s parents, the best you can, and learning their history. It’s your history as well.

This is a hard post to write. I loved and respected my dad, but I wasn’t particularly good at showing it. I was too busy being the rebel to appreciate my dad until much later in my life, when I began to see the interesting, kind and artistic man he was. The shame is on me. But I stick to saying no regrets, because I am who I am–kind of like Popeye.

My Dad in me in Germany right after WWII.

Albert Victor Kinslow grew up on a farm in a small, central Texas town. The story he told me one time was his father went to his job as postmaster, and when he came home that evening my dad had been born. He exclaimed ” Oh, what do you know, a little jackass” And, that’s why my dad was always called Jack.

He married our mother, Lula Bell McEntire, when in his mid thirties right before being deployed to fight in World War II where he was awarded the Silver Star. He consequently made the US Army his life’s career. My father was a trusted advisor to generals and had earned the rank of Colonel years before he retired in 1966. A man who never drank a drop of alcohol, he made it available at our home when it was his turn to host dinner for his circle of officers and neighbors.

Col. Jack was a gardener. When we lived in Hawaii he was mentored by our Hawaiian landlord/neighbor on growing orchids, plumerias an other tropical plants He had an eye for art and took craft classes. This is where he learned to make these beautiful glass lamps. He’d take long walks nightly to gather sanded glass on the beach. Much of this type of glass can no longer be found–the reds, greens and blues. He also made furniture, and jewelry out of the local seeds and nuts. Later in retirement, he was the neighborhood widows’ favorite person to call for small fix-it jobs.

I saw my father cry when a lot of men wouldn’t. I’ve heard him speak harshly when he lost his temper. Dad was deemed honest, fair and ethical by all his friends, family and colleagues. He loved our mother with a passion and almost always let her have her way. He loved all three of his children, though I’m pretty sure he never really understood us.

When he took the role of granddad/mentor to my the son he was different, but also still the same. My son to this day appreciates what he learned from his granddad. That is the heart of his life he passed on.

My parents’ 47th anniversary. In the corner a pre wedding photo. They were married at Travis Park Methodist, San Antonio.


Top of my Best Book List

June 12, 2021

Every once in a while I run across a question on Twitter or Facebook that goes something like this, “what are some books you read and still think about? Or, what’s your favorite book or author?”

That’s a really hard question to answer for anyone who is a life-long reader such as I am. And, anyway, I always go especially blank when I see those questions. So, I started making a list that, over time, probably includes some of the books that answer those inquiring minds.

This is a quote from a reviewer on Amazon who tells it better than I could. Sir Richard Francis Burton was a mid 1800’s British explorer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. (and I’m going to add ‘lover’) Known for entering Mecca as a non-believer disguised as a Muslim, a act that would have brought him death had he been discovered, is also credited with translating the entire original sixteen volumes of “The Arabian Night” and Kama Sutra. Furthermore he is known for his public debate with Captain John Hanning Speke over the discovery of the source of the Nile. After I read this book I thought, If they ask me what deceased person I would like to meet, I will always say Sir Richard Francis Burton first. He could teach me some Kama Sutra poses. Also, check out the excellent movie “Mountains of the Moon” about the trip to find the source of the Nile.

The Scar by China Miéville This book won many awards in the Sci-Fi genre. I have a hard time imaging the brain this book came from. What a long strange trip it was reading. And, I’ve never forgotten the wonderful uniqueness of this book. Shucks, I might read it again!

Gertrude Bell Queen of the Desert If you saw the movie about this book with Nicole Kidman–forget it!. Read the book! Seven facts about Ms. Bell from Wendy Mead

Bell was the first woman to earn first-degree honors in modern history at Oxford; Bell was unlucky in love; A skilled mountaineer, Bell almost met her end on a slope; Bell’s fascination with the Middle East began with a visit to Iran in 1892; Bell was passionate about archaeology; Bell was the only woman working for the British government in the Middle East; Bell helped establish what is now the Iraq Museum.

Read the book especially if you are a woman. You’ll say, “Why haven’t I heard of her before?” Yeah! good question.

Whatever your reading pleasure–just do it.


The Other Grandmother

March 7, 2021

Creating a human being takes two sets of genes–male and female (unless you’re a clone) and each child created is unique. Those genes go back many generations–all the way to Adam and Eve if you like. I’m not a stickler for traditional family structures. A family when I grew up typically had two grandmothers. But there can be step-grandmothers or other women of varying influences in your life. I used to think it was having been born a Gemini that I ended up with traits including adaptability, gregariousness, intelligence, impulsiveness and being interested in almost everything. But after writing a post on my Granny from my mother’s side, I realized that my Dad’s mother influenced me in very different, but significant ways as well. So nature vs nurture vs horoscope?

We called my father’s mother ‘Grandmother’. She became an invalid after the birth of her last child. We kids were never given any information how that happened medically speaking. They lived in big house in Oglesby, Texas and were farmers in addition to my grandfather being a Justice of the Peace. By the time I came along, they had leased out the land, but still had a barn and chickens. She had a four poster bed set in the fairly large living room with big windows where everyone gathered for visits. Bertie was from a family of very tall Texans. With satin slippers on her feet she took up the length of the bed. My grandfather sat at the end of the couch and played solitaire on a well-worn ivory board thru all the hubbub of family visits. He was not a talkative fellow. Below is a photo of my grandparents and all five children and the Reid family of tall Texans.

Every visit with her was precious. She would ask the grandchildren, one by one, to lie next to her on the bed and talk about us, our interests, our lives since we last visited. I value to this day that she gave me the feeling of unconditional love. We played Chinese checkers and sometimes watched TV on small black and white set at the foot of the bed. She taught me how to crochet and I can still manage a small afghan on occasion. She also made quilts of which I still have two. I figure they are at least 100 years old.

Grandmother was a Christian like Jesus intended. She had many pen-pals from all over the world with whom she corresponded in letters or postcards sharing news and giving blessing. She wrote poems. I’ve felt many times I learned the value of correspondence from her–of course with a decidedly modern look.

She lived to be in her nineties, though I did not see her the last few years. Several years ago I made an impulsive decision to buy a plot for myself and my husband in the same cemetery in which most of the Kinslow family is buried. I guess I’ll never know if we ever really get there.


Texas weather and other weird shit

February 17, 2021

Since Monday, weather in Texas has been really weird. It got really, really cold and snowy and wet and frozen. Then, it got worse. The electricity went out over most of the State. Not because of frozen windmills and the Green New Deal–which isn’t even really a thing, but because the State energy manager failed Management in a Crisis 101. Blame the State leaders who decided that our power management company should be separate and unregulated–which really means make money for the board, politicians and management and fuck the citizens.

In San Antonio where I live the power went off and on and off and on ad infinitum for several days. Then the water system, who must have felt left out, began losing pressure because of all the burst pipes and stopped or barely trickled. Now we’re boiling our drinking water–this is pretty much state-wide as well.

All this in the middle of a pandemic.

Oh, and did I mention the previous assault on the Capitol? Insurrectionists, anyone?

In my 73 years, I lived through a lot, but 2021 so far has taken the prize for weird shit happening.

On a good note, Rush Limbaugh died.

Also, plumbers and other tradespersons will make tons of money. Which, you know, is a good thing.

More weird shit: February 18. It’s actually snowing again!! Three inches and counting. We’ll be closed up for another two days.


What’s in a name?

January 30, 2021

I have two names–Mary and Laura. I was named Laura after my grandmother Laura Bell. My family called me ‘Laura’ from the beginning. But, my official first name is Mary. So every time I went to a new school, doctor’s office, anywhere they didn’t know me, I was called ‘Mary’. I used to hate it, and always corrected the perceived error. Now I just figure I have two first names and go with the flow. Laura Bell McEntire with me at about four years old.

Yesterday, I virtually attended a speaker series hosted by SA2020. Folks from right here in my San Antonio community spoke on a range of topics–pulling from their own passions and projects. Deborah Omowale Jarmon, Director and CEO of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, was an enthusiastic advocate for making sure we all tell our own stories. Her encouragement comes from the place of knowing how much the African American population’s stories has been ignored, lost or destroyed. Her task is to reclaim as much as possible of that history as it pertains to the San Antonio community. People with attitudes like this are who make me love my City.

Who are your parents, your grandparents? How did you come to be where you are? How did you become who you are? Who are the people or events in your life that influenced you? I thought, well I have a blog and I do tell my story, just maybe not enough. I always say to my family and friends, “If you want to know me, read my blog.” I’m fairly certain not so many actually do that. Oh well. It helps me record my past–something that seems important to me at my age.

Granny with my Aunt Marlene–still living in McGregor.

My grandmother Laura Bell Walton was from a small town in Texas near Gatesville called The Grove. She graduated from High School in McGregor, Texas in 1917. She lived there with her husband Ralph McEntire until he passed I think in 1961. She then moved to Abilene a few years later with her grown daughter, my Aunt Marlene, and family. Granny had book cases in the living room full of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twin books. Also, the somewhat bawdy Decameron by Boccaccio and Shakespeare’s play and many others. Throughout the years I read most of them. Granny and Papa also smoked, drank whisky and played cards with their friends. I used to like to listen to them talk and laugh. There was an outdoor shed always stocked with cases of 7Up, Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper and Ginger Ale bottles.

There’s a lot more but that can wait. This is a small blog after all. What’s your story?


Damn the Fireworks and Pass the Black-eyed Peas

January 2, 2021

New Year’s Eve in San Antonio sounds like a war zone. Sleep is disturbed, our pets run under the bed or cower in a closet. But this year, I didn’t curse the noise, or even what I’m sure was some gunfire as well. I was hearing it as a proclamation that 2020 was done and the possibilities of a better year are on the horizon.

Five suggestions for the New Year

Here in Texas, we eat our Black-eyed peas for good luck. I think it works, I forgot mine last year and look what happened!

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: means stop buying stuff from Amazon or anywhere except thrift or reuse stores; make interesting meals from left-overs; repurpose things around the house. Some great ideas for materials reuse are on the Spare Parts webpage.

2. Do some yoga. There are lots of resources online. I personally use the chair/standing classes available on the Silver Sneakers Facebook page. You don’t have to be a member to view the videos. Also take a walk everyday outside if you can.

3. Find activities that give you joy. Modify or quit doing those that don’t.

4. Appreciate what you have. Help others however you can. Pray for those in need.

5. Wear your mask when you go out.


Turkey Day Approaches

November 19, 2020

Entry for the Nineteenth Day of the Tenth Month Since COVID 19 Virus Came to America. (Assuming it was February 2020)

For those of you who’ve read the latest novel from Susanna Clarke, Piranesi you’ll know I ‘borrowed’ her format for a journal entry. Piranesi possibility alludes to Giovanni Battista 1720-1778. Italian artist whose etchings of Rome’s ruins contributed to the revival of neoclassicism. His depictions of cavernous imaginary prisons influenced later romantic and surrealist art.

So, Thanksgiving approaches, and from what I see at the grocery store, way too many of you are planning big dinners with lots of folks–indoors. I believe this is irresponsible and could even border on reprehensible. But I realize I’m either preaching to the choir or speaking upon deaf ears. There seems to be no in between. How about reassessing the possibilities of illness and maybe death to innocents in your sphere?

You could just go fly a kite or eat the whole dang pie yourself instead!


Count Down

October 9, 2020

I woke up this morning from a recurring nightmare of mine–not being able to remember a phone number I desperately need to dial. I’ve often had this dream even before it happened in real life when my mother died and I was unable to remember how to call my brother or sister.

The first telephone numbers were four numbers, then they had letters and numbers. Now, where I live, one has to type in the area code and a seven digit number. Therefore, I store all phone numbers in my phone ’cause there’s no chance at all that I can remember anyone’s number.

It’s going on seven months of isolation for the hubby and me due to COVID-19. Every day I try to spend one hour doing some kind of exercising. I usually watch about three hours streaming shows on my TV. Approximately four hours are frittered away on the computer (or phone), and or reading a book. I’ve lost five pounds (hooray).

You’d think I’d be bored, but time seems to fly, and pretty soon it’s drink:30 and I have a cocktail with dinner.

I passed my 73rd birthday and it’s been a year and a half since I’ve seen my family living in Colorado and two years since I’ve seen the family with young grand-kiddies in Minnesota. We spent $1K replacing a toilet. (boo)

It’s 25 days to November 3. It’s been only nine days since the faux president caught the very real COVID-19 virus. No amount of denying makes that any less true.

If you value your life and the lives of your fellow Americans vote for the Democrats on the ballot either early, absentee or in person.


The past is past except when it isn’t

August 15, 2020

I’ve been asking myself lately, why, oh why, do I keeping thinking about things from my past–specifically from the 1960s and 70s? Especially, when I can’t remember what I ate for lunch or my neighbor’s last name?

I questioned does this happen to others and why? I Googled: why do older folks dream of the past?

Dreaming of the past and the world beyond

An article by Katy Waldman calls it the ‘reminiscence bump’. “The basic finding is this: We remember more events from late adolescence and early adulthood than from any other stage of our lives. This phenomenon is called the reminiscence bump.” A robust line of research shows that there really is something deeply, weirdly meaningful about this period. It plays an outsize role in how we structure our expectations, stories, and memories.”  Voile! That makes sense to me.

Kate Morton, a truly resplendent author, says this about memories in her book The Clockmaker’s Daughter. “Human beings are curators. Each polishes his or her own favored memories, arranging them in order to create a narrative that pleases. Some events are repaired and buffed for display; others are deemed unworthy and cast aside, shelved below ground in the overflowing storeroom of the mind. There, with any luck, they are promptly forgotten. The process is not dishonest: it is the only way that people can live with themselves and the weight of their experiences.”

I reached a moment of clarity when reading her comparison of sentimentality to nostalgia to “Sentimentality is mawkish and cloying, where nostalgia is acute and aching. It describes yearning of the most profound kind: an awareness that time’s passage could not be stopped and there was no going back to reclaim a moment or a person or to do things differently.” However, as I have previously stated, I have no deep regrets and I hardly ever say “if I had only…”

So out of my head and on to the stars for a moment as I embraced the cosmos with one of my favorite persons on twitter Sarafina Nance, who goes by the handle @starstrickenSF she is an Astrophysics PhD, a stargazer and an eternal optimist.  She greeted today with an out-of-this-world observation about the universe

…some stars explode, their light as bright as entire galaxies, while others collapse in on themselves, stuffing all their mass into a tiny yet supermassive blip in space-time. Some stars are so massive, and their photons so many, that the stellar surface simply floats away, forcing the star to disintegrate others are so small, barely larger than Jupiter, that they live on for trillions of years, bearing witness to the cosmos in a way nothing else can. 

She has also said all of us will be stardust someday, how cool is that?

 

 


A fade-to-gist

August 11, 2020

Maybe it’s retirement combined with #COVID-19 self semi-quarantine, but I find myself using some of my time to wander thru memories for whatever remains of my wild and crazy youth.

“Human memory is notoriously unreliable, especially when it comes to details. Scientists have found that prompting an eyewitness to remember more can generate details that are outright false but that feel just as correct to the witness as actual memories. In day-to-day life, this isn’t a bug; it’s a feature”

I like this psychedelic brain image.

“A key rule about memory change over time is what we call fade-to-gist,” so says Dr. Charles Brainerd, (real name) a professor of human development at Cornell University.

What set me down memory lane recently was Dirt Road to Psychedelia a documentary about the mid to late sixties music scene in Austin, TX including the Vulcan Gas Company

The Vulcan was the hippest, coolest place in Austin (maybe the world). The following are some things I dredged up in memories as a direct result of viewing the film. And, yes, I going to be name-dropping because…

I started going to the Vulcan when it opened in early ’68. Some of my college friends were musicians and we went often together, but not always.

I was introduced to marijuana by a musician friend who went on to play bass with the 13th Floor Elevators. So that got me thinking. During my junior year in college 67-68 I spent much time in the company of the previous drummer for the Elevators. John Ike had quit the band and his mother thought he ought to go to college. He was a fun person to be with.

In the summer of ’68 I spent a lot of time in the company of the band New Atlantis in their Austin rental house. New Atlantis played at the Vulcan often and there I was introduced to Johnny Winter. I was crazy about his blues guitar licks. We became friends. I went to all of his Austin shows and we’d hangout for hours afterward. He called me his ‘college girl’ as I was still attending at that time. He got famous from those Vulcan gigs, and the last time I visited with him was in the mid-70’s when he stopped by the Armadillo Beer Garden.

The Armadillo World Headquarters, an Austin Texas music venue, in September 1976 photo by SteveHopson

By the time the Vulcan closed, I had graduated and was living in Music Mecca aka Austin. The Armadillo opened in 1970 and I was a frequent visitor thru early 1980 when I moved to NM. It felt like I was there every time the doors opened, but that’s not true. I saw so many wonderful shows–Jerry Lee Lewis on New Year’s Eve. Taj Mahal, Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Zappa, Van Morrison, Ravi Shankar… I rented the downstairs room of my house to drummer Jerry Barnett who worked some at the ‘Dillo and played with Shiva’s Headband.  Jerry was kind enough to get me in the door for free many, many times.

A boyfriend once broke up with me while the Dylan song “Ramona’ played on the PA in between stage sets of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. He said, “Oh by the way, I’ve asked Ramona to move in with me, so this is our last date.” It was a rather apropos lead in, don’t you think?

Me and my brand new baby boy 1974

If you want to read more, try Race Relations, which I wrote about 10 years ago and recently updated.

As it all fades, the gist of it is–I had a really good time with little or no regrets. Because what would be the point of regrets?

Feel free to leave comment of your memories.