Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

“Yes, the wind came up–” Mrs. Sharpe began. She paused. “And changed us all,” Petra said softly.” ― Blue Balliett, The Calder Game

Eyes Wide Shut, graphite on paper, A4 (8x10)

Eyes Wide Shut, graphite on paper, A4 (8×10)2015 —

The story Continues….

In my 3 decades as a professional artist, I learned that no one survives on talent alone. It takes sponsors with connections, galleries with connections, and other artist willing to bring you along with them up the ladder, and most importantly it’s all about timing.

I knew nothing of these things in those early days as I was wrapped in the warmth, comfort and magic of the great grandfather mountains of Santa Fe, my illusions were undauntable, my addictions intense; because for me it was all about the paint. I jumped into that rich emulsifying pool of art and swam with the sharks never realizing that what I was painting was unique and would give way to a lifetime of exploration, adventures and more failures and rewards than I could even imagine.

Those first years I rode the western wind which allowed me to define what I would paint giving me my women in robes who took center stage and brought much acclaim as I participated in multiple shows dealing with women in art. My landscapes of Stairs and Awnings brought my first exclusive contact with a gallery. Everything clicked; I was in the right place at the right time with the right stuff. I became a member of a very small group of 5 artists called the Multi-Cultural Artist Group and we painted large murals on the sides of many buildings in Santa Fe. The one on the old Records and Archives Building on Guadalupe St is now considered a local landmark. In addition I was elected to the Board of Directors of the Santa Fe Society of Artists. I began teaching on the side to mostly young and talented teens. My reputation was growing, and it was quietly said I had created a new genre.

Five years in Santa Fe and then we moved to Tijeras, New Mexico. By then I was represented by 2 galleries in Florida, one in Houston and a third small gallery in Albuquerque. My work was too different to be considered “New Mexican” and I rarely sold within the state. Aside from the galleries, I was getting into multiple competitions nationwide taking many awards.

Twelve years later as my work was continually growing and evolving with the times, the west wind changed course bringing a warm southernly breeze that entered the window one cold Thanksgiving and a seed was planted. It was watered by my love for the woman who was my aunt but whom I thought of as a mother, one who came to me and begged a favor.

When I could not say no, another path opened, this one darker. In my Pollyannaness, I did not know at that time it would require every ounce of my heart and soul, every fiber of my being in order to accomplish was was set before me, and to survive the battle to come. My husband would latter say that my whole life was leading up to this point, and was preparing me for the final confrontation with Capitán.

I would not pick up a paintbrush or a pencil for the next five years.

A Leap of Faith

Posted: November 23, 2014 in Art, journal, Women, Writing
Tags:

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit………

fetish-sitting, 2005, oil on canvas, 28 x30 (71x76cm)

fetish-sitting, 2005, oil on canvas, 28 x30 (71x76cm)……

The story continues……

I am not ashamed to admit that my work and life as an on-air radio personality in New Orleans was grand and quite fun. It all reached a peak you might say that Mardi Gras season when I was asked to be the Grand Marshal of the oldest and largest all-female organization, the Krewe of Iris.

I was terribly honored, but my aunt was even more honored by osmosis and demanded that she ride along side of me in the Cadillac convertible. That night became the culmination of one of her societal dreams. A grand night it was, we both wore exquisite gowns, had a ton of beads and trinkets to throw and the ball that followed was glorious; the memory of which became part of every dinner conversation at my aunt’s house for years.

In early February before all this excitement, I received a telephone call from a very old and dear friend and former lover I had not heard from in at least 6 years. I remember well when we broke up prior to my leaving to go sailing as he re-married his first wife. During our conversation, he said he had been divorced for a couple of years, would be coming to New Orleans and would like to see me and with a bit of trepidation , I agreed.

By March of 1977, the city had quieted down and things were back into the same old routine. Of course in New Orleans, the parades never end, there is always something going on to keep one amused! My old friend arrived for the weekend and we enjoyed the time catching up on each other’s lives. I asked how he found me since I did not have a telephone and he had left a message at my aunt’s house. He told me he managed to get the telephone company to allow him to look though the microfiche from 5 years ago. He remembered me making a call from his apartment to my aunt.   I of course found that rather remarkable. He said my spirit had haunted him ever since. He returned to Houston and I did not give the visit a second thought until several weeks later when he invited me to visit him in Texas. The wooing began.

After that visit he called every other night, sent me small gifts like a cheese burger via express mail and other silly things. In April he returned to New Orleans for the weekend and asked me to marry him, said he could not live without me, and ever since we met I was part of his soul. He said he would take care of me, protect me, that he wanted me to paint, to use my God-given talent that he would help to make that possible. He said many things and over a dressed oyster po’boy and a beer, I said yes.

My family screamed when I told them…he is not the one! They said. But then swimming against the current was my forte. The newspapers filled with the announcement and carried pre-wedding photos. One of which was translated into an unsigned oil painting and arrived as an anonymous gift accompanied by a note saying I would be missed.

My aunt and uncle would host the wedding in their house; it would be a small affair. I asked my uncle to give me away. I sent my father a letter explaining my decision, there was no comment other than.. “ perhaps that was not the man I would have chosen for you”, and I responded “I never would have asked you to choose for me”. Needless to say he would not be coming to the wedding, my mother also declined. One sister did come, not sure why, and on the 6th day of the 6th month in a 6 year, with a few friends and some New Orleans family members who were willing to be seen with me, a lovely little ceremony with a chocolate wedding cake was held, and I made a promise.

Sixty days later, we left Houston and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I realized I had possibly made a mistake. Perhaps I was still on the re-bound from my one true love, perhaps I thought there were no further options based on my past history, perhaps I had misread all the signs, perhaps my expectations were not reasonable. I loved this man, but I was not in-love, and yet I still considered him to be my best friend. It all came down to one fact, I was here, it was now and I had made a promise.

I remember having a very vivid prophetic recurring dream: I was standing on the edge of a cliff, around my feet were scattered remnants of past things. Behind me a great storm was gathering, ahead of me on the other side of this great crevasse was a softly lighted path. In the dream, I was terribly frightened and would wake up in a sweat.

In real life, I took a deep breath. I gave up my pretty dresses for jeans and flannel shirts, my heels for boots, and my manicured nails for ink and paint stained fingers. My hands would grow strong and calloused. I held tight to that paint brush as I stepped off the cliff.

I did not fall.

I have been remiss in my Blog for I have been assisting my husband edit, design, finish and publish his second book called “The Aestrah Cycle”.  I also quit my job, did not want to -but was left with no choice; and after nearly a month of searching I finally was offered a position I am ecstatic about, and will talk more on that subject later. For now, this is the press release for the book titled The Aestrah Cycle……a most excellent read available in soft cover and for Kindle.  Rather exciting!

Cover for the Aestrah Cycle --Design and layout by C. Gordon-Harris 2014

Cover for the Aestrah Cycle –Design and layout by C. Gordon-Harris 2014

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 23, 2014

New Mexico-based author E.L. Harris has announced the released of his second novel, The Aestrah Cycle. Harris, a free-lance writer for 45 years, traveled worldwide extensively, and has used his skills to create the story of a matriarchal-dominant society pre-recorded history hidden deep in the Amazon jungle.

Based upon the legend of Las Madres de Sombra – the Mothers of Shadow – Harris introduces the reader to a society where men are mere herd animals bred for work and pleasure. Without a developed male consciousness, the women of Aestrah rule with a ruthless hand, guided by a word-of-mouth history and prohibitive laws. The story follows one female who begins to understand the inequity and seeks to bring about the dawning of male consciousness.

The Aestrah Cycle seeks to shed light on today’s repressive attitude towards women, especially in those parts of the world where women are regarded as little more than property. The reasons, Harris theorizes, is really nothing more than payback for centuries of matriarchal rule. The Aestrah Cycle examines the rationale for much of today’s turmoil as part of a cycle of growth and development that eventually could lead to a society less gender-based.

The Aestrah Cycle is now available as paperback and Kindle e-book, from Amazon.com. Harris’ first novel, Wings of the Fly, is also still available at the same location and deals with the South American cocaine wars of the 1980’s in Peru and Columbia.

He is currently working on a third book, So Simple A Name As Eden, a novel of the Galapagos Islands.

For more information, contact Harris at scribester@q.com.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Aestrah-Cycle-E-L-Harris/dp/1499672713/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403559081&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Aestrah+Cycle

“ …and a new day will dawn, for those who stand long, and the trees will echo with laughter.” Led Zeppelin

Girl with Bird (2008) conte crayon on paper 22x24

Girl with Bird (2008)
conte crayon on paper 22×24—

 

The story continues……….

Funny how when I look back on my days in the Galapagos, I never realized at the time that I was the only woman running any kind of boating operation.  There were lots of women there doing wonderful things from scientist to photographers, shop owners to hotel managers (there really were 2 hotels!), it just all seemed natural.

So, there I was managing 2 boats and an all male crew of fifteen.  Actually I gained the respect of the captain and cook of both the boats and they in turn kept the unruly crew in line, I only had to intervene a few times.

Six months after my arrival construction began on “the road”.  Steps would be built down one side of Baltra Island and up the side of Santa Cruz Island; a small makeshift ferry would unite the two landings.  At the top of the stairs on Santa Cruz Island homemade “buses” would carry the tourist across the island down to the bay.  The road was poorly built to begin with, using red scoria as a base, which under the heavy rains would melt into pools of rusty-red giving the impression of a bleeding wound in the land.

Better material over time would be brought in, better busses enabling more traffic; and with more traffic came the first murder, the first rape, and the first outbreak of measles. A jail had to be built for the drunk and disorderly that the potential of tourist dollars attracted and at the same time little bars and restaurant sprouted up hoping for its share of new source of income.

Our business was booming, the company growing in fame and fortune, which made Capitán happy and kept him completely off my back, which made me happy. I went out with the one of the boats whenever I could but mostly my work became managerial with the exception of meeting each group of tourist as they arrived and getting them settled either on the boat at Baltra Island or bringing them across land to pick up the boat in Santa Cruz depending on their scheduled tour.  I fell into a routine that would vary only slightly from my morning meet with the milk truck from the highlands to afternoon coffee with the Port Captain who was the highest authority in the land.  Those afternoon coffees were most pleasant conversations on just about any topic. The Captain turned out to be a former math teacher of mine, I did not remember him, but he said he always remembered me as “La Dorada” (the golden one).  The nickname took and it was by that name I came to be known and respected.

Evenings were either spent at my house with a good book or with friends on one side of the island or another, good conversation, wine, food and laughter melted the nights.

Two wonderful years full marvelous adventures, some heart breaks, much joy, unique and fascinating people both natives and tourist from all walks of life filled my experience file and gave me great joy.! I felt I had finally found a home, a place where I could stay forever, a place where I was just one more different person among many strange and different people.

That was unfortunately an illusion.  Unbeknownst to me, the money Capitán was making off the two boats was being re-invested (with the help of a few associates) into the refurbishing of an old cargo ship into a cruise vessel that would enable him to carry 125 passengers at a time for one and two-week cruises. During the last trip into Guayaquil for a re-fit, I was invited to dinner with him and his new partners.  The people he would be working with on the new ship and the people to whom he had just sold the business along with the two smaller boats.  I was informed I could stay on with the new owners or join him and work on the larger cruise boat.  It would mean leaving the islands and living in Guayaquil. I told him I would give it some thought and let him know.

The new owner of the island business was an Englishman married to an islander. He was a fanatical re-born Jehovah Witness zealot who had harassed me every chance he could get on the islands for my manner of dress, mainly shorts.  Although his wife and I were friends, I could not tolerate this sanctimonious man and his died in the wool religions convictions.

The writing was on the proverbial wall and I certainly did not want to work on a large cruise ship.  Never liked the big boats, and I did not want to live in Guayaquil. So I searched around the island for alternatives and was offered a position at the Darwin Station, which I thought I might accept, until the nightmares began.

The first dream came and I saw myself lying in a coffin, peaceful, but there was terrible sense of foreboding and I was afraid.  In the second dream I saw myself standing next to the coffin looking down at myself and I was crying. Again, the same sense of foreboding and fear.  In the third dream, I was standing next to the second me with my arm around her shoulder, as we looked at the first me in the coffin. In the dream I told the second me, in a very sad but comforting voice: “It’s time to go now.”

I turned in my resignation the following week, contacted my aunt in New Orleans who screamed “yes!, yes! Come!” Within the month I was on a plane bound for Louisiana.

 

 

 

We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in their place.

Daniel J. Boorstin —

Kachina Dream,2013, oil on canvas, 35x50 cm (14x20)

Kachina Dream,2013, oil on canvas, 35×50 cm (14×20) —

 

An aside to the story……

Capitán’s eldest sister and the first-born, was named Eleanor after her mother.  She went by the nickname Noni but behind her back was called “the war department”, for her iron fisted, unrelenting rule over not only her parents but also all her siblings.  A milky skinned redhead, her thinking was completely linear, a progressional,  pre-determined path to personal and societal success, there were no deviations, and no obstacles she could not overcome to achieve her goals. She was beautiful, graceful, intelligent, cruel, selfish, and very determined.

Patricia Roberta was Capitán’s youngest sister, and although he was the last of his siblings, Patty was the last girl, only 11 months his senior. A green-eyed brunette she stood in the shadow of her successful elder sister and watched with admiration and jealously.  Unlike Noni, Patty’s thinking was complete circular and it revolved around herself.  Spoiled and petulant she obtained whatever she wanted by whatever means necessary.  She considered herself to be quite special, and in many ways she was, but her values were shallow, based on what she thought society required of her, her personal needs superficial and her innate view on life was that it owed her more than she got.

Noni was very good at setting and achieving goals; Patty was very good at making other people tend her needs and make her happy. Noni allowed Patty to hang at the edges of her success and Patty never forgave her for the cruelty.

Noni choose carefully and married into an established local Irish dynasty. She gave birth to 4 children. Patty married the man she fell in love with, contracted a debilitating internal virus at a young age and was left barren.  Her greatest desire to be a mother would go unfulfilled and her sister would remind her of this failing for the rest of their days.

While Noni never had a kind word for anyone, Patty had a heart that was too big compensating for the great emotional need for a child; and it was that emotional need that softened her edges giving her an almost irresistible sheen, allowing her to move with ease at the mid to upper levels of New Orleans society.

When I was born Patty bonded with me like no other, and I must have reciprocated, because from that day forth, unbeknownst to me, she became my surrogate mother.  When my own mother had the 4th of her 6 children, Patty asked if she could adopt me, as my mother was capable of having many more children.  My mother was horrified at that thought and never forgave Patty.  Denied the one thing she wanted more than anything, Patty’s love for me grew exponentially over the years. Something I would not discover until much later in life.

Noni had a wealthy, powerful life, a full life, a rewarding life, and while her 3 sons succeeded in law, government and the arts, she would abuse and bully her only daughter into obedient submission, leaving her to grow into a fragile, bitter, narrow-minded, clueless, uneducated woman. My first cousin and one who would become the underlying sponge that soaked up the lies, the half-truths and innuendos, created by Capitán, spreading them as gospel.

I was in New Orleans when Noni was released from the hospital after a major heart attack at age 82.  None of her children, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren had time to collect her from the hospital and bring her home.  Patty and I did. Physically weak, breathing shallowly, her fragile body seemed to disappear within her big four-poster antique canopy bed.  As I sat in a chair next to her listening to her breath, I could hear Patty down the hall on the phone making more arrangement with the maid, with a nurse and others when Noni reached for my hand and pulled me over.  “How could I have never known you were so kind?” she asked, “I am so very sorry.”   “Its OK, Noni, rest now.” I answered.  She died quietly 3 weeks later in that same bed.

With Noni’s death, Patty stepped with ease into the societal vacancy gaining the respect and admiration she craved.  In exchange for all she did for me over the years, I would help her go even further, by becoming her ghostwriter. She achieved great acclaim and fame if you will, for her talks, her committee installations, her prayers in multiple women’s groups and organizations throughout the city.  This would open the door to other latten talents and others would come to compose the tunes she heard in her head that would later be recorded by the Boston Pops.  Her world would grow, bloom, flower; her ego was now off the charts but her personality became child-like, loveable, generous, kind and those qualities made the superficial side of her seem insignificant.

A lovely side effect for me in this relationship was that Patty rarely bought anything off the rack.  All her clothes were classic in style, color and hand-made by her personal seamstress.  Worn only one season, she would give them away to charity each year making sure the charity knew exactly from whom the clothes came from; I received my yearly donation as well, and for about 25 years except for jeans and flannel shirts I never had to buy another stitch.

There is no lesson to this tale, no moral, no insight, just an observation, just a story to set things in perspective.  A family not unlike others who held grudges all their lives, who made people pay dearly for real or imagined offenses.   A family who lived and died by the drama they created, thereby giving their lives a reason for existence, meaning and purpose.  They lived two lives, their private ones which were “nobody business” and the public ones where “saving face” was paramount.  They were all unforgiving until the end, on their deathbeds, asking for forgiveness for a lifetime of cruelty.

I was not like them, never wanted to be like them, never truly understood them or their reasoning, never admired them, but I did find them amusing and I always loved them all in spite of their multiple failings.  All I ever asked of them was to be accepted and of course never was, except by Patty.

 

 

“I am sailing into the wind and the dark. But I am doing my best to keep my boat steady and my sails full. Arthur Ashe –

Collaborated Dyptich with Naomi Rebouf (top) acrylic on canvas- overall size  30 x 60 x 7 cm (12” x 24” x 3” )

Collaborated diptych with Naomi Rebouf (top) acrylic on canvas overall size 30 x 60 x 7 cm (12” x 24” x 3” )-

The story continues….

 

I have often wondered what  life would have been like if my parents or any family member actually cared enough to push me in a direction instead of just letting me drift and then condemning  the action.  When there was a dilemma I always wished there would be someone who would say “do this”, “try this” or better still “let me help you”, but alas that never came to pass and so I just went with the flow.

That flow led me to accept my sister’s invitation to come back to Ecuador for the holidays. Capitán had not interfered in my life for nearly two years now, busy with his new trophy wife and the potential of more children.  However, fate had other immediate plans and a rush translation project kept me working though the holidays.  It would not be until after my birthday in late January when I boarded a plane for Guayaquil and a 2-week holiday.

It was the rainy season and the invasion of “grillos” a cockroach/cricket hybrid, invaded the city by the millions. Most people had left or were in the process of leaving for the beach and clearer weather; my sister and her family were no exception.

Salinas was not the Miami Beach it is today, back then it was a quite beach town with a few high-rises, many good restaurants and open beach bars serving ceviche and good Pilsner beer. I was siting in one of those bars when I saw her sail into the bay.  My heart skipped a beat and a great longing rose in my soul.  She was a 65-foot ketch, painted white with a single blue stripe and cut the water like knife; I could feel her spirit from the shore.

It was love at first sight and I began to ask around.  Her owner was a retired ex-patriot Russian and the yacht had achieved a bit of fame, as she was the first ferro-concrete sailing vessel to be built in Ecuador and was in Salinas doing trial runs.  Rumor had it she was preparing for a maiden voyage across the Pacific and looking for crew.

Bedazzled, I could not help but stare longingly at the yacht as it sat at anchor and when I could stare no more, I had a friend motor me out and requested permission to come aboard.  Alexander Bell was the Russian Capitan’s name, whether that was real or not was unimportant.  A man in 60’s, this was his life’s dream; we sat and talked for two hours. I finally asked him if I could join the crew. He asked if I knew how to sail, I lied and said yes and I added, “I can cook under any conditions.”  “Then join us at 8am tomorrow”, he said, “and we will see.”

Now I know this may be hard to understand, how as a young girl, hardly ever having put a foot on a moving vessel let alone a sailboat that size, how I could succeed, but I knew what to do and when to do it.  The ship and I bonded that day, she told me everything I needed to know and when it should be done, voices in my head, feelings in my being, visions in my eyes. It was all very magical.

At day’s end we caught a grouper and I cooked, for desert I was given the job.  There would only be 3 of us plus the Captain: John a British engineer, myself and Charlen a coastal Indian marine carpenter who would take his turn at watch and finish some of the final touches on the woodwork as the voyage went along. We would sail for Panama in 2 days as a knockdown cruise.

Without a second thought, I packed my bags, moved on-board and the adventure began.

We sailed the evening of the second day and for the first time in my life I was truly terrified. On engine power only we motored thought the navigation channel to open ocean. There were only the channel lights and compass readings to guide, I had to rely on every available sense and trust Alex’s voice adjusting the course to compensate for antiquated maps.  My heart left my body several times as we slid along side what seemed to be a dark monster of a cargo container vessels before entering the open ocean.

It was only then the sound of other ships, foghorns, lights and moving ghost in the dark disappeared and the silence of the night overwhelmed. I sat at the wheel feeling I had conquered the world, reveling in this exhilarating feeling of slicing almost soundlessly though the swells at a steady 6 knots.  We followed the coast up to Panama for the next 7 days; went though the amazing Panama Canal and anchored at the Balboa Yacht Club on the Caribbean side.

The Yacht club itself was nothing more than a huge wooden building with a covered deck/bar restaurant/seating area, with a view to the entrance of the Canal.  A well-known landmark to boaters and cruising yachts from around the world.  A place where you could find line-handlers to help get your boat though the canal, mechanics, food, drink, showers and served as a port of entry to the country of Panama for many years.

We would anchor here for 3 months. Alex Bell returned to the US to obtain a new refrigeration unit as the one installed in Ecuador ceased to work.  John would be left in charge while he was gone and the new Briggs and Stratton engine would be given a complete overhaul, including the generator and a few other mechanics that acted up during the trip up the coast.  I flew back to the US, quit my job, quit my apartment lease and packed a travel bag of minimal items of clothing and necessities. The remaining clothes and nick-knacks went into two boxes and stored at my Sicilian grandmother’s attic in Galveston.

Three days after my arrival back in Houston I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket to Panama City and my grand adventure began.

 

“But it’s no use now, to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!”― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Other Moon, 2013, oil on canvas, 61x76cm (24x30)

Other Moon, 2013, oil on canvas, 61×76 cm (24×30)

“It’s just a jump to the left, and then a step to the right, with your hand on your hips, you bring your knees in tight………,” one moment,  time warp to the present if you please……..

I remember the sound of the incoming evening tide as it swished across the low rocks and shifted the basaltic pebbles in the sand, rattling them around the mangrove roots.  How rich the air was with the smell of salt and fresh bread calling you to make the hike down the sandy path to the bakery and obtain a loaf before they were all gone.  Then stopping for a chat at the bar/gathering place to catch up on the news of the day.

There were no interrogations, no condemnations, no judgements; there was just the doing, the anticipation of the next day, the challenges ahead. We were all in the same boat, so to speak, the same island. The world was different then.

I go back to my island days in my mind and listen to the incoming tide whenever I am feeling trapped.

Not meaning to whine and trying to maintain some integrity as an artist and being a cashier are diametrically opposed forces that are pulling me apart.  Two customers in the past 4 months have reported me to management for being “rude”.  The first was dismissed for what it was, the customer having a bad day, the second, well the second is why I am writing this.

There was a truly crazy customer whom I felt was trying to scam me, and after listening to her rant for nearly 10 minutes about what she wanted, how she wanted it, what she wanted to pay and what she was going to do to me if I did not give her way……well, for some ungodly reason I simply said “no”.  She stormed off saying she would report me.  I called my manager and advised her what had just happened, she told me not to worry. The other customers in line just shook their heads.  But upper management considered it a fatal error and I had unwittingly violated a prime directive…”no customer shall be told no.” Paraphrased, of course.

I was called into the small office with 2 managers present and read the riot act.  I was called in again 2 days later and read the riot act again but this time there were 3 managers present, a bit crowed and slightly intimidating.   They were they said, filing a formal written complaint on my behavior. This was my final notice (I asked where was the first notice), because now I had formed a pattern of bad behavior, and should one more customer report me  I would be fired.  Later that afternoon I went back to ask politely why I was called in twice on the same incident and was once again lectured on how bad a person I was, told they had to run a formal investigation on the incident.  I called HR Corporate Counseling in Atlanta the next day.

My record they said is squeaky clean, no reports, no violations, no nothing, but they would investigate the situation and let me know.  I do not expect any results, but it made me feel better.  My days of employment are numbered, at the whim of the next angry customer.

This incident has changed me a bit, I have now learned how not to do the right thing.  So if someone complains about the price, I just take 10 -50 even 70% off and smile. If someone starts yelling, I call a manager, if someone is trying to steal, I turn a blind eye, if someone is using someone else’s credit card I look the other way, if someone is returning obviously stolen items billed on another persons credit card I smile and refund them the money.  If drug users return items without a receipt, I smile and give them cash…not my problem right?   This is the new retail philosophy in the great US of A, employees are highly replaceable, and at my age, have even less value.

After reality set in, I was saddened when I was told by one of the head Cashiers, to “…..just close your eyes, do your job, and pray for forgiveness every night.  It’s not your store, it’s not your money.”

What is even sadder is she is absolutely right.

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie —

Receiving Information ©2003- graphite on paper, 25x30 cm (10x12)

Receiving Information ©2003- graphite on paper, 25×30 cm (10×12)

 

The Story Continues……

Been giving a lot of thought to time and memories, how the memories we do hold, can be distorted by time. Sight, sound smell all come together to form the perceived image of what transpired, our eyes seeing illusions of what we want to believe is true.   I just may have too much time on my hands right now not painting and when I have too much time, I think……dangerous, because then I ask questions!

What I know now, I did not know then and when I look back I wonder how is it possible not to have been aware, not to have known, not to have remembered.  The answer is quite simple: it was safer to forget.  My Pollyanna attitude and can do spirit found itself when I left for Europe and buried the reality of my childhood.  This allowed me to frequently return to Ecuador, hating Capitán, but not truly understanding why; so somewhere in me for the next 20 years, I searched for redemption.  If that makes any sense at all!

Truth is always hard to believe, it never paints a pretty picture. My personal painting formed the image of what others saw:  the bravado, the fearlessness, the voice saying I could do anything, I was something, I was somebody.  Beneath the thin veneer, I was part of nothing, belonging to nothing, being nothing.  I had no real self-esteem, I saw my self as ugly and not having much value, conditioning that had constantly been driven into my being with the words of my family. Two different people, the child and the adult, fragile and strong, day and night.  Like waves it flooded me, lifting me up, dragging me down, only to lift me up again.

Coming to New Orleans to live with my aunt was a revelation, a freedom, a blessing, a gift.  They gave me the space to find myself, or at least search for something I could hold onto outside of myself.  They provided the foundation, the base, the balance, from which I could come and go, do or not do, be or not be, as long as I was there, with them, part of them, as long as they could touch me, talk to me, hold me, love me.  I reciprocated with equal intensity.

Via summer school I finished my missing classes with honors and got that American degree to add to the others. But at the time, my need for education had evaporated.  I spent my afternoons with my aunt at luncheons and teas, roaming the dense and dangerous vegetation of New Orleans high society.  At night I found a waitress job at a little joint in the French Quarter called the Kings Room.  Managed by a wonderful, older Italian man named Stanley who instantly adopted me, letting it be known that I was under his wings.  I was now “street people” of the Quarter, and could go anywhere in the city safely without fear.  The Kings Room was just one of Carlos Marcelo’s Mafioso enterprises and Stanley was one of his Capos. The bartender was a handsome tall Irish lad nicknamed Dino. I fell in love for the first time.

My relationship with Dino was passionate, strong and lasted for nearly 2 years. What I did not know was that he was an enforcer for the mob, he was an alcoholic, and when he was drunk he talked.  I was living upstairs in the small apartment on Philip Street, but my nights were spent at his place in the Quarter.

Of course my aunt and uncle were not pleased about this situation, but understood, they had met him, he attended family affairs, he was charming, gracious and ultimately was acceptable.  I was happy. Then a series of events came to pass, fate manipulating my life again.

It was in December, a typical cold, wet day, the dampness eating down to your bones. Stanley was not in the bar that night, I was informed he had a sudden heart attack and died, the funeral would be the next day.  The sense of loss was great, but more so was the knowledge that I was now on my own without protection.  After the funeral, on Dino’s advice, I quit the Kings Room and went to work at the Hotel Monteleon rooftop bar.  Dino went to work at an upscale restaurant down Bourbon Street. Christmas passed quietly and the New Year was looking bright, then shadows began to emerge.

Dino’s alcoholism became worse, something had triggered even heavier drinking, and from his babbling I knew his enforcer responsibilities had taken him a step deeper into the mob and there were  “disappearances”.  I was giving serious thought to perhaps it was time to leave him and this situation when my aunt informed me Capitán was in town.  I stayed away from Philip Street trying to avoid his presence.

The next night after work Dino informed me that Capitán had made an appearance in the restaurant bar and with gun in hand created a scene, threatening him, and advising  him to leave me alone least he be eliminated.  Dino of course laughed at that situation, but at the same time that confrontation was unacceptable to other powers that be and people began to notice and to question.  I no longer felt safe on the street.

What followed was inevitable, a confrontation with Capitán.  I took it upon myself to defend not only myself, but also my aunt and uncle against his attacks and accusations.  A horrid scene evolved, leaving my aunt in tears and my uncle telling him he was no longer welcomed in their house.

Two nights later, right before my 21st birthday, the new manager of the Kings Room came to the Monteleon and pulled me aside. He advised me what I already suspected, that it was no longer safe for me, that Dino had become a liability, that I knew too much. In memory of Stanley he was providing me passage to California with an associate, there would be a job waiting for me, in addition, he promised Dino would follow in a couple of weeks.

I felt I had no choice, I had to trust the gods that be.  I packed a small bag, told my aunt and uncle that I had to leave for a while and would be back when things quieted down. Would write them when I was settled.

The mills of the gods do grind exceedingly fine with actions and consequences coming together, forming a brew that is not always savory. To make a confusing story short, a week later I was abandoned in New York, on the street with $50.00 in my pocket, my passport and more than a little concerned as to what I was going to do next.

 

 

 

I got treated very badly in Texas. They don’t treat beatniks too good in Texas. Port Arthur people thought I was a beatnik, though they’d never seen one and neither had I.      Janis Joplin

At Days End- ©2003- graphite on paper, 25x30 cm (10x12)

At Days End ©2003- graphite on paper, 25×30 cm (10×12)

-I remember sitting on a veranda overlooking the city of Zagreb, the beautiful clear blue sky, the mosaic tile flooring, the Marine Guard who had driven me from Belgrade sitting across from me talking away; the plane was delayed a couple of hours and we were having that marvelously sweet, strong Turkish coffee.

The next thing I remember is that I am in Houston, I am in a Catholic High School, I am in a kind of hell.

It is quite apparent that the trip back to the US was traumatic, the arrival was traumatic, the situation was traumatic. It is apparent I erase things easily. Later I eventually gleaned what happened.

Upon my arrival my mother had arranged for me to take the SAT’s at the University of Houston so I could continue my schooling, Capitán was to forward all my transcripts.  It never occurred to anyone that I had not spoken or studied English since I was 9 (well I did speak English to my parents), that I took everything “literary” not understanding the subtleties of the language, that I could read quite well but I had immense difficulty understanding test questions.  In South America and Europe most of my test were oral, very little was a written exam, and then only in essay form.  In America the questions tested your cleverness, not knowledge and I could not decipher the innuendo, still can’t to this day! No one even realized that even though I could write, I could not spell!!!!

I managed to make only decent scores except in English, which I succeeded in failing royally. I could not be accepted as a foreign student because I was an American and no exceptions would be made, thank you very much.  To add to my mother’s dilemma, Capitán never sent the transcripts, said they were lost in the mail, would get copies, never did. My mothers solution was to put me back in High School so I could graduate from an American school, be able to learn English and hence get into an American college.

I was 19 at the time, going on 30.

My memories of that High School as you might expect, are quite fractured. I spoke with a British accent, which my Texan schoolmates thought to be pretentious and snotty, so I was bullied and mocked on a daily basis. I learned to keep my mouth shut and tried to get rid of the accent. I use to practice talking when I alone at my mother’s apartment. To make matter worse, I was clueless to the culture of American “teenagerdom”.  Not harboring any concept of what America was  except what I saw in a movie or two I was lost, and there certainly were no bobby socks here! I did not even know what a football game was, much less a Bar-B-Que.

Severe cultural shock took hold, I was frightened, friendless and having an extremely difficult time learning anything in school to which my teachers attributed to my metal defects as outlined in letters Capitán had written. I asked too many questions and was moved to the back of the class where I could be ignored.  I even had trouble using my empathic skills because I found everything to be not what I wanted! “Dealing” with it all alone was becoming a burden.

To my rescue came an angel named Dee, two years younger, a classmate, fearless and brave to a point, she befriended me outside of school (unfortunately she could not be friends with me in school, social stigma because I was such an alien…..and all that stuff I never understood).  However, she quietly defended me when others put me down, she helped me with my English classes and taught me how to speak Texan.  But the best thing she did was introduced me to Garry her sometimes boyfriend, a junior at the University of Houston, with whom I formed a karmic bond. He became my brother, my counselor, my teacher, and my life long friend.

I rarely saw my mother in those days, she put in long hours working as an executive secretary, we talked even less, although I do remember bits of joy and laughter, so we must have gotten along well. One day when I came home from school Capitán was in the apartment, I think he had come to try to get her back, but I never knew the real reason. What I do know is there was one of those terrible yelling fests and I left, spending the night in the hallway of an adjacent building. When I returned in the morning, he was leaving but not before I received a tirade of what a whore I was (his favorite word to describe all women) accusing me of earing a living on the street. I remember silently standing there thinking how some things, some tones, some words never change and how very much I hated him.

One month after this incident and only 6 months after I had arrived, my mother’s boss was transferred to New York and asked her to come with him to continue her job as his assistant. It was only 1 month before graduation when she dropped me off at the train station, putting a ticket in my hand and telling me my aunt would meet me at the station in New Orleans and I could finish school there. I do not think she kissed me goodbye.  She had done what she could and it was time for her to move on.  I did not see or hear from her again for nearly 10 years.

I had come to the conclusion that life really was a magic act, just smoke and mirrors: now you see it, now you don’t, very little was real.  Of course I blocked out the memory of the train ride to New Orleans. The only thing I do know is that my arrival was welcomed with open arms.  My Aunt and Uncle became a solid lifeline, became the parents I always wished I had, loved me beyond what was humanly possible and gave me something sacred: they believed in me.

They also made me keeper of the family stories, passing on the good tales and of skeletons in the closet that created the family history. It was from that day forward I never forgot anything again.

 

 

You’ll walk a path of misty truths, Moving you where they will to, The road where you’ll likely be, Living out this Mystery. Michael Brown  —

Philip St

Philip St. circa 1920 —

An Aside to the Story……….

The original structure was headquarters for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. When the war was over, it sat empty and abandoned for many years.  The advent of the reconstruction era allowed renovation to begin, porches were added, palms planted, the property was sold.

My paternal grandmother fell in love with the house while she was still a girl, making a mental promise that when she married that house would be hers.  The house itself developed a long history of being a property of contention, haunted by confederate ghosts, and other entities, bringing anger and mistrust to those who dwelt within its walls. My grandmother could not care less what was said, the ghosts were welcomed guests, she only knew that the on day she married fortune smiled and that house went up for sale.

Unfortunately, there were other forces at work. Her parents did not approve of two things: her marriage to the Scott/Irishman she fell in love with and knowing her desires to have that particular house.  The stout German family did everything in their power to prevent the marriage, but the couple secretly left town one day and eloped, eliminating that problem.  They also did everything in their power to prevent her from buying that particular house. Their reasons remain unknown to this day.

Strong headed and determined my grandmother was not one to be denied her wishes, so she contacted her husband’s cousin in Mississippi, marking arrangements with him to quietly buy the house.  Once the paperwork was settled she could then purchase the property without her family’s knowledge.  The family of course, found out the day she moved in; she would never be forgiven.  “This house”, they would say, was not meant for you.”  A family phrase I would later hear more often that I would wish.

By the time Capitán’s youngest sister married all the older siblings had already married and left home so she and her husband moved upstairs in the big house creating an apartment, which they rented from my grandparents.

My grandmother died only 3 years after my grandfather and in settling the estate, my aunt and uncle wanted to purchase the house from their siblings.  Capitán headed the campaign against this, wanting the property sold and the profits divided.  Following in the steps of her mother, my aunt secretly gained the confidence of her brother-in-law who at the time was a powerful judge.  He arranged for the house to be sold on the open market, reducing the price for a quick sale, and to be purchased by a trusted associate. This pleased all the siblings who received their share of the estate per the Napoleonic Laws of Louisiana.  A month later, the property was quietly sold to my aunt and uncle.  To say this caused a furor among the siblings would be an understatement, their anger about this affair would last an entire lifetime.  That house was not meant for you…they said and the bone of contention was picked clean once again.

My aunt and uncle would live happily in this house for the next 40 years or so with another sister who never married living upstairs.  They would renovate it, keep it perfect, live a life beyond their means and almost lose it to 11 years of unpaid federal taxes.

No one knew about this last item except me and the other aunt who lived upstairs.  My aunt never shared the information with anyone else.  Arrangements had been made with the IRS to ignore the lien and allow my aunt and uncle, because of their age at the time, to remain in the house for the rest of their natural lives on the condition the house never be sold, and if it was, the IRS would then seize all profits.

One sister came to live out the last of her days in the house, as did another brother. Then the aunt that lived upstairs died and the upstairs was divided into two apartments and when my aunt was in her late 70’s my dear uncle died.

Over the years I had formed a deep and abiding relationship with this aunt and uncle. I became closer to my aunt who took on the role of a pseudo mother. This was completely unacceptable to Capitán and other New Orleans family members including my siblings and my mother, and for unknown reasons they all worked consistently and diligently to turn my aunt against me. It would take them a lifetime and Alzheimer’s to succeed.

The death of my uncle left my aunt very alone inspire of numerous family members ready to move her into smaller dwellings and take over the house.  The family began chewing harder at the edges of her sorrow wanting to take control. Adding to the pressure, my uncle’s sister’s boyfriend of 25 years died leaving her with vast amounts of money and property.  My uncle’s sister’s will left everything to my Aunt and my Aunt’s will left everything to her remaining brother: Capitán. Not wanting to wait until the death of the two women, Capitán decided it should all be his now.  My aunt not knowing how to protect herself and her sister-in-law called me, as the only one she could trust, to come and help.  Having made a promise to my uncle many years before that I would always be there in time of need, I had no choice but to go.

My arrival in New Orleans would start a bonfire that would turn into an inferno that would lead to an epiphany that would change my life…….all because of this wonderful old house on Philip Street and those who lived in it.