Friday, December 25, 2009
Helene visited me today. Our visit was so wonderful. Here we are two working class immigrants made good (sort of). Helene is laughing at this. Well at least creatively navigating life anyway. We've known each other going on nearly 22 years from the early years in San Francisco during the punk heyday. After we quit smoking a lot of anger came up and Helene taught a women's wrestling class (she had 5 brothers) but San Francisco style where we "processed" how we were feeling before and after we wrestled. It was in a qonset hut in the Mission. At one point we went to a professional women's wrestling competition where most of the women were on steroids and we were um "processing our feelings." One of us would go out to wrestle and the rest of us were yelling to the other wrestler "don't hurt her." Everyone looked at us as if we were from another planet. I wasn't a very good wrestler, too flyweight and wimpy. But I was good at monkey moves, jumping on and hanging on, but I never had the gravitas to actually pin anyone. Over the years we've worked on many wonderful projects together - mostly art (Helene did the ants in Baby Rattlesnake and some of the lizards in Uncle Nacho's Hat)(see http://www.childrensbookpress.org/our-books/native-american/baby-rattlesnake or Amazon)among other projects.
Here are some of the things we talked about:
Aging and how difficult it is without positive public models thanks to cosmetic surgery and the media fixation with youth. We talked about mourning our youthful good looks and how even Meryl Streep had her wrinkles Photoshopped out to the point of looking unreal. I confessed that I sometimes Photoshop myself to look better. Interesting article on botched cosmetic surgeries http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/12/15/hearstmagbeauty603638.DTL&type=living#ixzz0aZn7HXUn The author writes that the reason women go to shady plastic surgeons is because they are cheap but she misses the important step before that the reason women who don't have the money to go to expensive reputable plastic surgeons go to shady plastic surgeons is because of the incredible pressure to look young and how difficult it is for this generation of older women to age gracefully with practically no media models. Aargh.
We talked about a time ago when Helene gave me $150. I was broke at the time and she just said "Mira sometimes accepting is a gift. I want you to have this because I can give it right now and I want you to not give it back or do anything in return but just accept it." Evidently some time later when her dad was visiting I told him this story and unbeknown to me it had a powerful impact on him because it showed him a side of her that he didn't know about and he repeated the story years later. I know that at one point I was in a position to do a friend the same service and I basically repeated Helene's words and it felt wonderful.
We talked about the creative process and being artists and Helene's passion for performance art. I shared my dissertation text and the art I created for it and told her how when it came time to defend the dissertation I was very nervous and decided at the last minute that I wanted to have a good time, that this was the culmination of an insane amount of effort and that I wanted this to be more about me than about the institution so I dressed up as a pirate and had an 11 year old friend who wore a pirate eye patch and a hello kitty T-shirt that said "it's all about the booty!" as my assistant. The dissertation referenced pirates in that I wrote about crossing and transgressing boundaries and going in search of academic treasure and freedom. I made a self-portrait as a pirate steering with a color wheel and a spyglass with one eye looking to the future and the other to the past and a treasure chest of academic books and art supplies. I had a wonderful time as did the people at my defense. It was great talking with Helene about this and about her own PHD path which I know will be spectacular. I'd love to share more about it but will wait till she starts her own blog which I'll link to here so she can share her own stories.
I could write a book about Helene and perhaps one day I will. I feel very fortunate to know her. In one of my next posts I'll share some of the places we visited and sites we saw playing tourists in Sacramento
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
My beautiful friend Helene is visiting from Toronto where she is doing a PhD. I've known her for over 20 years from when we met in a cigarette cessation program. She's an extraordinary woman who I greatly admire. If she's up for it I want to take her to some galleries downtown (Solomon Dubnick, Axis, Museum of Contemporary Art) and then for a walk along the American River at my current favorite Sacramento park - Ancil Hoffman, before bringing her here to talk about dissertations and cultural studies. Ancil Park includes the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, which has an animal rescue program with animals that cannot be returned to the wild (I wish their cages were bigger, or better yet that they didn't have to be in cages) and lots of land with a multitude of animals. My favorites have been deer and wild turkeys. Here are some pics from the last time I was there with my friend Diane. If it's OK with Helene, I'll blog about some of her accomplishments in my next post.