Saturday, May 24, 2014

So Much of the World

So Much of the World

by Gregory Djanikian

So much of the world exists
without us

the mountain in its own steepness

the deer sliding
into the trees becoming
a darkness
in the woods' darkness.

So much of an open field
lies somewhere between the grass
and the dragonfly's drive and thrum

the seed and seedling,
the earth within.

But so much of it lies in someone
standing alone at the edge of a field
with a life apart

feeling for a moment
the plover's cry
on the tongue

the curve and plumb
of the apple bough
in limb and bone.

So much of it between
one thing and another,

days of invitation,
then of release and return.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Flashback- Mother's Day another time...

                                     Shouting Isn’t Necessary

          “One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade.”
                                         -Chinese proverb

                                           By Glen Creason

It’s been a while since my Mom has been able to hear the normal sounds we take for granted. Sometimes that is good as in the bass thumping “music” that thunders from kid’s autos. Sometimes it is sad as in the subtle softness of rain on our roofs. After eighty-five years of screaming kids, blaring televisions, loud car radios and several million phone conversations with friends and family the hardware of her hearing apparatus just gave out. Like always, she doesn’t complain or blame others for this affliction but it can be alienating. People with all their physical senses tend to become easily frustrated with those who don’t and often the hard of hearing get shut out of the fun. Speaking at a higher volume really doesn’t work but nine out of ten folks believe they can overcome hearing loss by screaming to no avail. Since my Mom has always been at the heart of every family affair for the past century this makes our gatherings centralized and very loud.
     Still, some things don’t need to be said and just a look can communicate a chapter. Each year brings me increased appreciation and understanding of just how treacherous the twists and turns of parenting paths can get. How could she make it all look so easy? How could she go years without giving up and erupting like a volcano at our tomfoolery? How did she ever make it to this place where she is beloved by several generations of family members? I want to know. I want to be like that.

      She can tell fascinating stories, put history in perspective, add color to family lore and plop all of us in our place with just an upturned eyebrow. She has seen more, done more and witnessed more changes than we can imagine. At eighty-five she continues to be the omnipotent force who doesn’t miss a trick with or without the hearing that once could identify you opening the cupboard where her hidden chocolate chip cookies lay from the other side of the house. Yet father time takes his toll on all of us. While hearing aids bring pieces, bits, small parcels of the world of sound she once knew we can no longer assume that she is part of a conversation. We must face her and speak to her, not mumble, as is our custom and continue to the end of our speaking. As my generation stumbles forward we experience first-hand just how difficult it is to hear in crowded restaurants, acoustically brittle rooms and moving cars.  Then again, most of the affection we express isn’t dependent on the senses and as the ears fail we turn to actions to express our devotion.  If our shouts don’t reach then we have our presence, our physical support, hugs, kisses, family photographs, e-mails and even those old fashioned customs of yesteryear: the written card and letter. My Mother has planted the trees and we have enjoyed the shade she created with her patience, gentility and wisdom. Now we must speak to her in ways that leap over her ears and into her heart. It just takes the words “I Love You Mom, “ written somewhere, read sometime, preferably on Mothers Day.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Jose Paiz August 22, 1960 – April 24, 2014


     I was thinking all the way back to when I first met Jose in 1983 and I was struck by the fact that he made me laugh every time I saw him. Even when he knew just a few hundred words of English he used those with humor and humility. It might seem odd but despite this terribly sad occasion I am determined to laugh with him one last time today. Despite his desperate struggle to come here from El Salvador and to get a job with the library, he never lost that twinkle in his eye and he was never intimidated by a screwed up system that made it as difficult as possible to assimilate. He had a sense of humor that was rare and refreshing along with a spirit that lifted those around him. He took our differences and differing status in the library hierarchy and laughed at the silliness of it all, thus making us equals. Like everyone here who worked with Jose, I feel like he made me a better person, a more understanding man and a more compassionate worker in a place that gave us glimpses of the best and worst that mankind has to offer. He was tested many times but never defeated. We had a running joke that lasted over thirty years that I was the white oppressor and he was the Latino victim but in reality we were peers from the minute we arrived late to... the walk up the hill to the Savoy garage after work. I think I truly bonded with Jose when we shelved and shifted the entire (and I do mean entire) History department book collection in the dank Spring street basement by ourselves back in 1989. During that time he exchanged many a bit of Salvadoran philosophy with me and the evil brought upon our world by the character known as Chepito.  I told him when I saw him the last time a couple of months ago that in 34 years and hundreds of co-workers he was in a small group of my favorites.  I really want to keep this brief and I can hear Jose saying to me “hey Creason, cut the bullshit, let’s get on with it man” but I would like to mention just a few of my favorite things about this unforgettable guy.
     He taught me how to curse in Spanish. While many of these phrases I cannot repeat here it was Jose who gave me verbal ammunition to take to the streets of Los Angeles where I surprised many a Latino driver with my observations. His tutoring allowed me to say with no hesitation “NO MAMES! Or…oh never mind.
     When we shelved and shifted together with our other pals like Miguel or Ricardo or Teresa he taught me about all the nicknames in Central America…of the Catrachos, the Ticos, the Chapin, the Nica, and as Jose said the pince Gabachos. During that time I tried to bring in music for the crews to listen to including wonderful salsa, meringue, cumbias and for Jose some live Foghat! We got to hate “slow ride.”  Just to bate him sometimes I would bring in “folk music” and then we would howl with laughter hearing him say “Folk music” which sounded very much like a well-known curse in English.
    We had thirty full years of insults back and forth as to futbol or soccer as I call it versus baseball which Jose called a sissy sport. Eventually, he got me to pay attention to the World Cup and several times he even took Van to a Dodger game on Library night. I even have pictures of Jose at the stadium! We used to joke that I would ride with him to Huntington Park after Mexico lost to the US in 2002 but luckily he never called me on that one.
     Probably the funniest running comedy act in Central history was Jose and Koala the parking lot attendant at the Savoy garage. Jose gave as well as got- each day trying to outdo each other with practical jokes and I remember being doubled over with laughter seeing him driving out the driveway unsuspectingly toward home with a string of twenty noisy tin cans trailing behind his car like a newlywed. Koala left us a few years back so I would assume he will be waiting in paradise with some prank to welcome his old pal-nemesis.
     I could go on but I wanted to add one last note about Jose that always struck me. About 90% of the time we talked it was banter but sometimes we talked about family and our kids. There was glow he had when he mentioned his children and a soft light in his eyes when he talked about his wife Ana, even when he mentioned her watching how many beers he had had. He worked at the library and was truly beloved by his peers but everything he did was for his family. That, to me, is a pretty good man.
    Adios muchacho.

“You Learn”

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure…

That you really are strong

And you really do have worth…

And you learn and learn…

With every good-bye you learn.” 

Jorge Luis Borges

Después de un tiempo, uno aprende la sutil diferencia 
entre sostener una mano y encadenar un alma;
Y uno aprende que el amor no significa acostarse 
y que la compañía no significa seguridad;
Y uno empieza a aprender que los besos no son contratos 
y los regalos no son promesas;
Y uno empieza a aceptar sus derrotas con la cabeza alta y los ojos abiertos;
Y uno aprende a construir todos sus caminos en el hoy, 
porque el terreno de mañana es demasiado incierto para planes 
y los futuros tienen una forma de caerse en la mitad.
Y después de un tiempo uno aprende que si es demasiado 
hasta el calorcito del sol quema.
Así que uno planta su propio jardín y decora su propia alma, 
en lugar de esperar a que alguien le traiga flores.
Y uno aprende que realmente uno puede aguantar, 
que uno realmente es fuerte, 
que uno realmente vale, 
y uno aprende y aprende…
y con cada día uno aprende.