Monday, July 13, 2015

Hello, it's me...

I've missed being in touch with you.

The last three weeks have been filled with day to day obligations and surprises.

The day to day obligations still include time reserved for wrist exercises.  It may not impress you, but I am excited that I now am doing my exercises alternating one and two pound weights.  It is a quiet excitement, but excitement nonetheless.

The person who has been pushing, massaging, and encouraging me for the past couple of months is Jeri.  Tall like the letter "J" and cuter than the letter "i".  We exchange stories and laugh when I'm not about to break a sweat lifting the two pound weight.  Go ahead and chuckle; I started with four ounces.  I will miss Jeri when the days of rehab are done.

This is the third week that Lali will be attending her training classes.  She is bright and determined as is displayed by this nest she created for herself.  We just have to help her get a little more "civilized". As in not barking her fool head off when people are walking on the far side of the street or deciding that anything she sees on the ground while she's out for her constitutional needs to be tested to see if it is correctly seasoned.  

First week she was the only dog in attendance so we covered a lot of ground.  Last week, the sweetest calmest, longish-haired dog joined the group.  She's taking the class as a refresher.  She is Lali's role model.  Her name is "Homie".  I don't know how she got the name, but I am curious.

Went to a meeting on June 24th; came out of the meeting and began to walk to my car.  Walked and walked and did not find the car.  Called Pasadena Police Department to let them know I thought it might be stolen.  They shared that it was impounded!  For unpaid tickets.  Tickets that I think were paid.

A Dickensian saga followed: offices, walking in the heat, officers, tellers, expired license - not mine, bus, walking, AAA, and more.  Result: we again have the car.

May I share with you that if you pay tickets electronically, you know via the 'net, the DMV doesn't always let the Police Department know that this transaction has taken place.  This must happen with some frequency because we were automatically sent a form to be used to contest the action.

Good surprise
We are now a two car family.  There is a FIAT 550e that is a part of our two car fleet.

Name and license plates are pending.  
Front runners for name are Chica and Chapita.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A fine line between indulgence and debauchery

7:23 Slept in, unintentionally.  Need to zoom, I have an 8:00 meeting in E. Pasadena.
7:40 Yes, friend, I'd love to meet you for coffee and breakfast.
7:45 Let person know that I'm going to be a little late.
7:55 Who is in that truck in front of house?  I need to get to meeting.  Oh, Dear Friend, thank you for the birthday concha.  Chocolate AND vanilla with a birthday candle.  "Gotta go, see you Sunday for coffee".
8:15 Good meeting - lots and lots of possibilities.

9:30 I'm here.  Oh, oatmeal and coffee.  Yesssss.  And we finish with some cheesecake from URTH CAFE?  Would I like the leftovers?  Well, normally I'd be gracious and say, "oh, no".  But not today.  Sure I'll take it home in a box.  jajaja
Courtesy Burstible
11:38 Home again.  Hi, critters.  Peanut butter sandwich for lunch. With milk.

11:45 Read good wishes and felt so happy to see the names and faces of friends and family from all over the place.  BIG smiles.

12:40 Leave for meeting
1:00   Oh, I'm going to enjoy serving on the City of Pasadena's Civic Center Public Art Advisory Committee.  Lots to talk about in the Public Art Master Plan.

3:15 Happy All Saints is open.  A moment of reflection makes my day happier.

3:50 Twohey's with another friend.  I unabashedly order onion rings and we share the decadent fudge sundae.

5:15 Ross Dress for Less - I go to buy a bathing suit and find some sandals AND a dress.

6:45 Home again.  James has fed the critters.  And then he walks the dogs.   Meanwhile, back on the sofa, I watch "Mothra".

8:30 Dinner at

Oh, yes, I'll have a second glass of the tempranillo.
Oh, no, I couldn't order a dessert.  Hmmm...I could take a couple of forkfuls of that happy ginger filled creation.

9:45 Home to the critters and the end of "THEM!"

10:45 Time to hibernate, I mean, sleep.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Okay, June 18th, I'm ready

Boy, this 62nd year was quite something.   

Summer and early fall saw a lot of energy focused on identifying why things were as they were and then dealing with cancer and a hysterectomy.  
Neither the cancer or the hysterectomy were on my to do list.

Goodbye thoughts of entering a doctoral program, hello thoughts about what do I really want to do with whatever time I have left?  A week, a month, a decade, a couple of decades?  Having cancer makes the finite aspect of life real.  I'm planning to be around for a while, but I was reminded that I am not exclusively in charge of how long that might be.

Being as ill as I was also brought about the kindness of the many friends who cooked food for James and me AND those who helped to organize the deliveries of that same bit of love.  

Fall was spent healing.  Early winter was spent on catching up from healing and doing all the things I'd meant to do before the focus was switched.  

Things were moving back to normal and then the concrete walk provided a moment for me to experience the word trajectory in a first hand way.  The result was the wrist that was somewhat shattered and needed surgery.  

Again I was reminded of the fragility of the human body and the idea that the spirit need not also be fragile.  I was also reminded that love that can be shown in so many ways by friends and family.

I was reminded that the man that I love is willing to do so much for me.  He will help me bathe, help me get out of bed when a small crane would have been handy, feed me the goodies that are a part of a nurturing diet, and not judge me as I binge on TV shows.  Shoot, he will sit with me and get all romantic as we watch the British telenovela - Doc Martin.  

I was glad that I was able to be healthy enough to finally give my lecture at the Huntington Library.  A special thanks to those who saw value in the topic and the generosity to offer me the chance to reschedule.  The night was a dream come true for this history nerd.  

This spring to summer has been a series of re-energized efforts to work on one of two books that I plan to write.  

The second will be a book about the Bandini and Elliott family.  I'll need a bit more time for research and a lot more time for organizing the footnotes.  

The first book I write will be about my Garcia/Villa roots and their life in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.  

I have no idea what the format will be.  I'll think on that as I begin my 63rd year.

And I plan to catch as many sky scapes as possible.

The Journey to Pueblo or Remembering One's Place

Train ride to La Junta, CO was good.  Lots of room and a chance to wear comfy shoes.  
I will ride the Southwest Chief again.
I wish it still stopped in Pueblo.  
Oh, well, a quick layover in La Junta tonight and a short bus ride to Pueblo tomorrow.

Ready to de-board, or is it disembark, or is it detrain?  I don't know at this moment.   
I've been on the road for 24 hours - because I'm serious about my work, y que.
I'll stand for the last hour, thank you.  I'm ready.
After all, I'm an independent scholar and I'm about to do serious researchy-business.

Um, the bus will stop for me, right?  

Even if they don't call the motel to find out if there is anyone who might need a ride?

Did I mention the independent scholar bit?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

1931 - So that's what they looked like

The Rawlings Library, on Abriendo in Pueblo, has a section that is dedicated to the City of Pueblo, the Southwest, and local genealogy.  Part of the documents available to the public are yearbooks from a couple of the local high schools.  

My mom attended Centennial High and, thanks to some sort of gerrymandering or the other, she attended the same high school as the sons and daughters of the very, very well off. 

Here follows pictures from the Centennial yearbook, 1931; her Junior year.

June Kretchmer; my mom admired her so.
When my mom talked about June she'd spend time setting up the story.  She would talk about how full the auditorium was or what the audience was doing while they waited for the "show" to start.  
Different acts would come on stage and sing or dance and folks mostly paid attention.  She'd briefly talk about the performers and performances.  
This part of the story was always fairly short and pretty vague.  

And then...she would talk about June coming on stage.  All by herself, no accompanist, just June. The audience would become attentive and silent.  June would begin to whistle and she would command the stage.  The quiet remained because her artistry and skill brought the house to some sort of reverie.    Or at least my mom became dreamy as she relived the experience.   

My mother's voice became much more down to earth when she spoke of Miss-Grace-Cunningham.  It was never Miss Cunningham.  Always, Miss-Grace-Cuningham.  Miss-Grace-Cunnighham's favorite saying was,  " You can choose to work with your head or your feet".   I can't begin to tell how many times my mom shared this thought with me as I was growing up.  Now, I wonder if in her head she was thinking, "Come on, think about it before you do it".  Same sentiment, but Miss-Grace-Cunningham put it better.

And then there was Mr. John De Vivier.    He accused my mom of speaking in class.  She hadn't spoken.  He demanded that she apologize.  She didn't and wouldn't.  So as punishment she was sent to the back of the class and would be permitted to participate after she apologized.  
She spent the rest of the semester at the back of the room.

Her grade suffered but her sense of self remained strong.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A historical empirical explore.

History surrounds us.  We live it in our day to day experiences.  We go to the store in the morning and it is a part of our personal history.  We talk about where we went to elementary or middle school - boom, history is present.

Family history is often thought of as being a sort of throw away history by some in the most formal settings.  But I think it is like a good family recipe.  If we have the recipe we can enjoy the dish again and again.  Or we might make something new based on the most delicious tidbits of that familiar recipe; memories can be like that.

In this post I won't get into the politics of history.  The "who tells the story" and "who is empowered" part of history.

It was exciting to go to  Pueblo and begin to get some of the details and facts of the history I heard from my mother.  Facts. Questions. Answers.

Fact - I know that my mother and her family lived in a company town.  Fact - Several of my relatives worked at the CF&I Steel Mill.  Fact - My Grand Uncle Agapito died while working in the mill.

Unknown - Did it really happen in accident?  Are there any details about his death? Did the CF&I mention his death or cover it up?

There is always a bit of the Rashomon about the answer to the question.  Different perspectives and different tales for the same story.  Facts are always seem to be open to interpretation.

Thanks to Sara Szakaly, I was able to spend some time in the archives of the Steelworks Museum of Industry and Culture.  It is operated by the Bessemer Historical Society.  They have exhibits and tours.

It is exciting work in the archives because the amount of information they have is vast and somewhat untapped.  Well, it may not look vast, but in addition to the bound volumes of the mill's weekly newspaper, there are records of workers and the jobs they held.  If you want to learn what a family or community experienced you can look and see when someone was first employed, where in the mill they were working, who was working with them, and, on occasion, how they died.

Imagine a workplace that is big enough that you have a weekly newspaper with a bilingual section and adds placed by local businesses.   If you've imagined this, you begin to get a sense of the size of the labor force that was employed by the CF&I.    

To read the columns, gives you a sense of the many different cultures and heritages that were working on site and the efforts that were made by the company to develop a sense of workforce unity across languages and traditions.  By the 1920s there were two columns that were in Spanish.

While researching articles in the archives I was able to learn more about the death of my Grand Uncle.  The fact that he was one of five people who died in a week was shocking. Not all died from work related deaths - but five people in one is still a shocking fact.

 How his death is reported is also noteworthy.  

It's pretty clear that there were different people doing the reporting.  

The details of his death matched the stories I was told. 

And the response to his death by his co-workers as well as the response from his family reflects a bit of how his death affected friends and family.  
The formality of responses hints that this was not an unusual occurrence.  

A rough translation reads: 
"We accompany those, in their time of 
pain and sorrow, who lament the loss of him who in
life was
and who ceased to exist when
he fell victim to
an accident on the
14th of the current (week?)"
The Correspondent
"In a most attentive and sincere way we wish to express our sincere thanks to all those who so kindly comforted us during the bitter moments of pain caused by the tragic death of our beloved husband, son, father, brother and uncle.
We especially appreciate the courtesies of the members of the three local lodges of the Spanish-American Alliance and Mutual Society Ignacio Zaragoza .
By means of the many beautiful wreaths, is is not difficult to name all the people who also showed their kindness toward us.  For this we say, a thousand and one times: Thank you.  Villa Family."

Friday, June 12, 2015

Near Routt Avenue, on either side of Canal Street

My TBT is a fairly recent one.  Last week I was finishing research in Pueblo, CO.  I'm going to write a book about my family and how their lives in the Southwest reflects specific experiences set in particular social contexts.  Reading that last sentence makes a bit of smoke come out of my ears and sends my brain into gentle seizures.   Which means that I still have a good deal of refining to do before anything I write is ready for prime time.

The short version of the story would highlight the fact that my folks were immigrants that lived in a company town.  In this case the company was the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company owned by members of the Rockefeller and Gould heirs.  The steel mill was the primary industry for the city.  It was here, in the part of town known as Bessemer, that my family worked and died.  Their lives and how their history was shared is a part of the story.  How did this place transition from the town where the mill was omnipotent to the place that I knew that seemed a bit of the American Dream? 

Bessemer was a city whose community members had strong ties to their ethnic and racial roots.  Some groups still exist but are in small numbers.  There are restaurants and signs that hearken back to to Black, Czech, German, Greek, Italian, and Mexican communities from which the CF&I workers came.  It was here that many families immigrated in search of the American Dream.  

The children of the working class reached the plateau that their parents dreamt about.  Some of the children stayed and many moved on, only to visit on occasion.

Steelworks Museum of Industry and Culture from the corner of Evans and Jones
Beginning in the early 1980s Pueblo, known as Steel Town, saw their economy plummet.  A generation struggled to find other ways to develop a solid economic base for their community.  And with this yet even more community members left.

At this point in time there are a lot of absentee landlords who own property in Bessemer.  Modernization has taken out some of the brick buildings of the 20th and century and replaced them with stucco painted Navajo Beige buildings with nondescript style.  

I have questions about the past.  Who were people who lived in the old neighborhoods?  Who kept the businesses viable a century ago?  I have questions about the future.  How will gentrification manifest itself in a town that has become more vibrant in areas to the North and West?  What will the major sources of income be for a town of over 100,000.  So many questions came to mind as I was doing my research.

Research is not the heavy work that was done in the mill, but it can make you hungry.  Luckily there are cafes and diners in the area that were established "back in the day".  Aunty Bev's Bessemer Inn is "Dedicated to the Bessemer Community".  I didn't go in, but I'm betting that Mexican food is available.  Being in Southeast Colorado, you likely have your choice of red or green chile with any dish.

I had lunch at the Mill Stop Cafe.  It was recommended by a local.  The restaurant to the left was closed, but the Mill Stop continued to have customers come through the door.  All generations, all sorts of languages, all sorts of tanning ability. Not bad for a cafe that is only open Monday through Friday.

I ordered chile verde for lunch.  It arrived with a red sauce and was topped with pan fried potatoes.  It came with a sopaipilla. Bliss topped with honey.  Some folks call this style Pueblo-Mexican food.  I called it yummy.  Yes, I think I need to come back and do more research in town.