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.

 


You can’t take it with you

October 6, 2019

Lately, I’ve been reading articles about why and how to simplify your life.  Simply Magazine is one of the sources I was introduced to by a friend. “Even better, removing the physical clutter from our home lays a foundation that makes significant life changes possible. It encourages us to question assumptions and invites thoughtful consideration of all aspects of our lives.”  There’s also Becoming a Minimalist which states “Becoming Minimalist is designed to inspire others to pursue their greatest passions by owning fewer possessions.”

Because y’all know you or your parents have so much stuff that nobody wants I once wrote this vignette.

I always knew my son and his family would have no use for my precious mementos after I am gone. Bric-a-brac, knick-knacks, stuff! The furniture I inherited from my grandparents–a phone table with a little seat for comfortable chatting, the antique mantle. The beautiful set of china on which my mother served holiday dinners that shaped generations of family gatherings. I cherished these and many other family pieces passed down to me. But, who wants a framed, handmade baby christening gown?

My books are all going for a dollar. People are rummaging through my clothes, handbags and jewelry. A bowl full of sea shells or a scorched set of kitchen pans–not treasures for sure. The estate sellers are doing their job of clearing the house for sale. But, there’s no one there to tell the stories.

Many times I tried to tell the story behind the porcelain figurines. The ones in the glass cabinet that I stared at my whole life. My parents bought those beautiful little ballerinas, with their tutus of Dresden lace, in 1947 from a German family who had to sell their precious keepsakes to feed themselves.

But, how could that matter now? Surely someone will see their value and give them a good home, where they can be admired everyday as the beautiful works of art they are. After the good things go, it looks like the sad remnants of an inconsequential life. I hover over this scene, on my last pass through this world, the memories fade along with the disbursement of my possessions. And, now I surely know the truth of ‘you can’t take it with you.’


the boundlessness of divine love

May 20, 2017

I’m just guessing, but I think I came to embrace the joys of living in a multi-ethnic society during the three years my family and I lived in Hawaii.

Each year the school I attended, Radford High School, celebrated Aloha Week by electing Kings and Queens representing their various “racial backgrounds” gathered in their “racial costumes” Hawaiians, Samoan, Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Samoans, Negro, Portuguese, Korean Caucasian, and Cosmopolitan. Despite the dated terminology, it was a respectful celebration of the many peoples who made up the Hawaiian population–the very definition of a melting pot.I wonder if they still do this.

Pew Research Center’s recent article gives credence to ‘Mainland’ America’s march towards its own modern diversity “…one-in-ten married people in 2015 – not just those who recently married – had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. This translates into 11 million people who were intermarried.”

Right after I read the above article I saw a reference to an article by Paul Salopek, The Case for Xenophilia. Salopek explains, “For the past four years I have been walking across the earth. As I retrace the paths of our species’ first Stone Age migration out of Africa, I’m writing about my encounters along the modern global trail. ” His walk takes him through many different countries in Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Turkey, to name a few, on his march towards Tierra del Fuego.

He includes this lovely thought.“The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world,” wrote the 12th-century French theologian Hugh of St. Victor. “The strong person has extended his love to all places; the perfect man extinguished his.”


May you stay forever young

June 1, 2016
Me at 6 months

Me at 6 months

This is me with my mother at about six months of age, 68 1/2 years ago. We were living in Germany where my dad was posted for three years. I really don’t remember anything about Germany.  I used to think I’d had this dream about looking down and seeing all these tiny houses, people and trees. But, after talking to my mom about it, I realized it was what I had seen through the airplane window as we were landing back in the good ole USA.

This is a picture of me almost 42 years ago. It’s my son Jack’s, first birthday party and we are at the Besson family’s house in Austin, Texas. As my 69th birthday is Me at 28 years old, Jack at oneright around the corner, I’ve been reflecting, once again, on what an awesome life I’m living. Nah, I’m not rich or famous, but I am for the most part healthy and happy.

I am grateful for the many times in my wilder years God pulled my butt out of a metaphorical fire so that I can continue to enjoy life. I am grateful He gives me the energy to keep on learning. I am blessed to continue to meet and make friends with some smart, creative people—young and old. I’m glad I’m still around to grow older together with my hubby and kids and grandkids.

I know 69 years is not that old in these times.

But, it does feel like it’s down the road a piece.

I extend to you Bob Dylan’s words sung by Joan Baez “May you stay forever young”

May your heart always be joyful

May your song be always sung

May you stay forever young

 


In between Netflixing, what I’m reading

December 2, 2015

If you’ve read my blog post Confessions of a Streaming Addict, you might think that’s all I’ve been doing to while away the hours. However, I’ve managed to squeeze in several books—some of which are listed below.

1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse: Remake, Restyle, Recycle, Renew

book cover reuseThe concept of creative reuse aka upcycling, remaking or repurposing is not new.  According to Grant Johnson, author of the book “1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse: Remake, Restyle, Recycle, Renew, “…materials reuse has been around since medieval scribes scraped off and reused parchments, and the ancient Greeks melted down older bronze statues to make newer versions.”

Creative reuse, in its current incarnation, combines artistic expression with ecological responsibility served with a side of thrift.  1,000 photos of artworks and projects from artists around the world inspire us with infinite creative possibilities.

Spin

book cover spinWritten by Robert Charles Wilson, this is science fiction, but with plenty of plausible science based theories. The novel starts out simple, but grows with complexity as the story progresses. The main characters are exceptionally well developed and likable, too. Stick with it, as it becomes an engrossing read.

 

 

Last Train to Istanbul

book cover last train to istanbulA historical novel about Turkish Jews during WWII. It was well researched by the author who used historical aspects taken from written files and oral histories. I was surprised to learn the Turkish government has a history of not only welcoming, but protecting its Jewish citizens.

It is a tale of escape from the Nazi regime with realistic characters and plenty of suspense. I plan to read more of Ayse Kulin’s books in time.

 

City of Stairs

book cover city of stairsThis is a novel in the fantasy genre. I follow the author Robert Jackson Bennett on Twitter @robertjbennett. He is an irreverent hoot sometimes, but don’t be fooled, he is an amazing writer. It’s a tale of people and politics, a mythology of gods and magic. His imagination runs wild. Yet, Bennett manages to build a highly organized and absorbing world with a storyline and characters which will definitely grab your attention and leave you wanting more.


Mission musing in San Antonio

July 13, 2015

This morning, while brushing my teeth, my mind went wandering, and I found myself thinking about the San Antonio Missions. On July 5th UNESCO designated the four Spanish colonial Missions and the Alamo as the first World Heritage site in Texas. In a post I read on the Rivard Report, Nelson Wolff, Bexar County Judge, is quoted as saying, “This is a great day to celebrate our culture, our heritage, and the great historic structure of the Missions and the Alamo.”

I drifted just a few seconds to recall the crazy antics of weekend protesters who rallied in front of the Alamo fearful of the United Nations “taking away our control of the Missions.” No doubt, there are some who are worried Jade Helm may be hijacking the Missions for tunneling, secretly sending troops to overthrow the Texas gov’ment, and make it part of the United States.

the alamo

In my life I have been so fortunate as to have worked within walking distance of two of these great Missions. For six years, I worked downtown in the beautiful old building, 110 Broadway. The Alamo was one block from my office. I passed by it almost every day as I weaved my way through the tourists and other downtown workers to lunch or shopping. I never passed by the Alamo that I wasn’t aware of a slight emotional tug from the historical site.

mission conception for blog

Now, I drive past Mission Concepción on my way to Blessed Sacrament Academy campus at 1135 Mission Road. Both the history of the Mission and that of Blessed Sacrament seem sacred. It also feels, as they say, “Puro San Antonio.”

Come visit San Antonio and our historical sites and treasures.

selfie at the missions2

Me trying to take a selfie at the Mission was pretty funny.

 


Celebrate Black History Month by reading

February 11, 2012

Every February since 1976, Americans have been celebrating Black History Month. Black History Month is an extension of Negro History Week created in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson and Rev. Jesse E. Moorland to make all of us aware of the significant contributions of black people to our country and the world.

Way back when I was in college, I took a sociology course entitled Black History. I was attending, what was then, Southwest Texas State College in San Marcos. It was a shit-kicker and future teachers school, so just the name of the class got the campus all lathered-up. The slightly-nutty professor–sometimes standing on his desk to make a point–opened our eyes, and minds, to the accomplishments of black people in America. Included were black authors who brought forth their experiences as individuals and as a people. So to help celebrate Black History Month, I’d like to recommend a few books I was introduced to in that class.

Go Tell it on the Mountain A short, but powerful book, written by James Baldwin, a prominent voice in the civil rights movement. His partially auto-biographical novel echoes the struggles of the soul blended with the social struggles of being black in America. He expresses the role of the Christian church in the black community as both repressive and hypocritical.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin So, Griffin, disguised as a ‘Negro’–he actually darkened his skin through medical treatment–traveled in the segregated South and journaled his observations. Even though I thought I knew the injustices perpetrated on racial minorities, this book took me to the depths of the crushing world of racism as Griffin aptly describes how he becomes filled with hopelessness and despair after only a few weeks of living as a black man.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Hailey). Malcolm X was big back then another rallying point in the civil right movement. His conversion to Nation of Islam, and association with leader Elijah Muhammad, directed his preaching the radical and controversial concepts of black pride and social justice.

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois Manning Marable says about this particularly intellectual book, yet moving book, “Few books make history and fewer still become foundational texts for the movements and struggles of an entire people. The Souls of Black Folk occupies this rare position. It helped to create the intellectual argument for the black freedom struggle in the twentieth century.”

So, why are these books important? Because they provide evidence to the racist attitudes and practices that are our history. In a recent study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, it seems the Texas State Board of Education is trying to erase the reality about segregation from the standard history/social studies curriculum at public schools. “Incredibly, segregation is not even mentioned except in a passing reference to the 1948 integration of the armed forces,” the study states. Even though we think “we’ve come a long way, baby” there is still work to be done to ensure everyone is treated as belonging to the same race–the human race.

“Always look for another point of view, always learn from people not like you.” Hey, I said that!


Race Relations

July 16, 2010
Uncle Seymour Washington-The Walking Blacksmith

Uncle Seymour Washington-The Walking Blacksmith

Updated December 29, 2016: Found two old pictures, one of Townes and Mikey, and one of me and my baby son Jack Berry at Unk’s place. 

The other day, I was wondering just what constitutes “family” anymore? It seems that in one or two short generations, the definition of family changed from a mom, a dad, and 2.2 kids to include ex-husbands, your kids, his or her kids and your kids together. Does a relative have to be blood or marriage related? Last Thanksgiving, I had dinner with my sister’s ex-husband’s daughter from his first marriage and her children. Can’t that be family, too? And now, on June 26, 2015, I add a family of two dads or two moms to the possibilities.

This post is a very late tribute to Uncle Seymour Washington, affectionately called Unk. No, not my “real” uncle, but a treasure of a man who adopted, like family, a whole lot of folks in Austin during a time in the late 60’s-mid 70’s.

A retired blacksmith, Unk had worked on many ranches in South Texas including the famous King Ranch. He was a simple but wise, peaceful, Christian man who opened his front yard and home to a motley crew of people–hippies, musicians, elderly neighbors, and more. I’m not sure how it all started. I am sure he did not understand many of us, but accepted us into his life and his heart with kindness and some of the best smoked chicken and sausage I ever ate.

Unk came by his home in the Clarksville area of Austin, just off West Lynn, by way of his ancestors. Clarksville was land originally deeded to freed plantation slaves after the Civil War. Most of the people who lived there were actually descendants of those slaves. The streets were unpaved and many did not have indoor plumbing.

townes-and-me0001-2Unk’s front yard consisted of a few wooden benches under a tree, a big wash tub for icing down the beer, a really big Bar-B-Q smoker, and an outhouse. There was frequently something cooking, guitars playing, kids chasing each other and the dogs–we were all feeling the love. Unk would hang out with us until he got tired or it just got too rowdy and then he would go in his little house and take a nap. His neighbors didn’t know what to think about all these white kids hanging around, but they finally warmed up and joined the gatherings when they saw we were helping take care of Unk.

townes-and-me0001-3

Townes Van Zandt & Rex Bell

Besides musicians like Joe Ely and Jessie “Guitar” Taylor, Townes Van Zandt always came by when he was playing in or around Austin. Heartworn Highways, a music documentary, includes the late, great Townes sitting in the Uncle Seymour’s kitchen singing “Waitin’ Around to Die” tears running down Unk‘s face.

When Unk passed, his “adopted” family, along with his one nephew, packed the Sweet Home Baptist Church for his funeral.

So, what is family? I like to think it is the human family, but, I am not sure we have all caught on to that yet. I miss Unk, I miss those days; but as humans, we keep on creating our own unique family relations. How’s yours?

If you were a friend of Unk’s, please leave a comment.

Also read my blog post “And we all shine on” about a March 2020 Townes Van Zandt Tribute in Austin. Flashbacks and fun.