Thursday, February 22, 2018

Diego discovered

Trying to find my Japanese teacher's office proved to be a bit of a challenge. Her office is located in the Arts Building, but, come to find out, there's more than one building named 'Arts'. I took a wrong turn at a massive Olmec/Toltec stone head and found this housed within the campus theater---

Diego Rivera's Pan-American Unity Mural ca. 1940

Founding Fathers, John Brown, Frida Kahlo, Bay Bridge snippet...
I had no idea the mural hung at our campus. Given that there was no one here when I stumbled in, it would seem that hardly anyone else knows either.

Yes, that's Edward G Robinson in the bottom right corner.

I've been back a few times since my first visit. Each time I view the mural I'm struck by the fact that I know very little about the subject matter, and more precisely, how it all ties together. History buffs and those better educated than I would do well with this piece.

The mural is much larger than the two pictures would imply. I'd say I'm showing about 1/5 of the mural in these two snaps. The reason I took these specific photos was because they show figures I recognized. (I'd be a right failure if I hadn't at least clocked both George and Abe, for goodness sakes.) The man in the tan suit in the above image holding a blueprint caught my eye, so I asked the docent on-hand for a bit of info. on him. She refered me to a detailed pamphlet highlighting who the 'key players' of the mural are. -turns out our man in tan is an architect of great renown around these parts and whose work I had already greatly admired: Timothy Pflueger. Pflueger was born in SF to German parents in the late 1890s. He started as a draftsman, entirely self-taught, and moved up through the ranks. He is responsible for creating some of the Bay Area's most stunning movie houses & contributing to SFs burgeoning downtown scene with the creation of a few choice Beaux Arts style 'sky-scrapers'.

His works include:

The Castro Theater, SF

The Paramount Theater, Oakland

 The Pacific Telephone building, ca. 1925.

I'll need to take another gander at the mural, with pamphlet in hand, to absorb a bit more. Maybe I should bring along a History of the Americas book as well.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Change must come.

Holy shit, these kids are on fire. 

Cameron Kasky: 'There is a segment of this society that will shrug this off and send their thoughts and prayers, but march for hours over a rainbow wedding cake.'

Emma Gonzales: "We are going to be the last mass shooting. We are going to change the law. That's going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook, and it's all going to be due to the tireless efforts of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most importantly the students."

Carly Novell in response to a paid agitator for right-wing media called Tomi Lahren who makes money by saying offensive and outrageous things. She's sort of like a much younger version of Katie Hopkins, but less educated.

Said Carly: 'I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren't there, you don't know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.'

David Hogg: 'It's a midterm year and it's time to take action. I don't care if you're a Democrat. I don't care if you're a Republican. Stand up for what you believe in.'  

Listening to some of the reporting on Stoneman Douglas, I'm startled to learn how well prepared these kids were for an armed gunman to show up to campus. They drilled extensively for this day, and, guess what, it didn't do squat. According to some, Stoneman Douglas was one of the most prepared schools in the school district. They had an armed guard on premises, only one point of entry for students to access campus grounds, etc.
And yet, and yet...

These students see this horrific moment as a catalyst for change. I'm hopeful, I'm inspired.

Now is the time to talk about gun reform. Now is the time to act. A majority of Americans are in favor of gun law reform. These poor students will soon be of voting age, and they clearly know what to do: vote out of office those politicians lining their coffers with NRA blood money.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thoughts and prayers

'Thoughts and prayers' don't cut it. Sensible gun laws do.

Teachers routinely have trainings on how to deal with this sort of situation. It seems they are now expected to be sort of SWAT-team ready to protect their students' lives. Maybe teachers should be issued bullet-proof vests in case of emergency. I mean, if we're not actually going to pass sensible gun laws, then maybe this is the direction we're to go in. The 19-year-old shooter had been able to legally emass weapons--an assault rifle among the cache--and had boasted about planning to become, get this, a school shooter. He'd been known to the FBI, little good that did. Now, 17 people, mostly children, are dead.

Speaker Ryan, having already taken tens of thousands of dollars from the NRA during his career, offers his paltry thoughts and prayers.

Imagine a generation of children having to grow up performing 'shooter drills' at school. We had earthquake and fire drills. ---not terribly upsetting. Now imagine those poor school kids having to experience the actual terror of an active shooter killing teachers and children on their campus.

I'm sick of this shit.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Nihongo, oh no!

Japanese is now officially super hard. I have memorized hiragana characters a-ho. That's 30 plus characters. While that's nice, that's sort of like memorizing only a sliver of the Latin alphabet. I can write simple Japanese words, but instruction takes place, at this early stage, in romajji--Japanese written phonetically in our alphabet.

ねこ becomes neko (cat)

いぬ becomes inu (dog)

borrowed words in Japanese are also written in romajji--

San Francisco becomes Sanfuranshisuko

Smith becomes Sumisu

engineer becomes enjinia

We're learning motion verbs, and two out of three bear no relation to anything in English (that I know of).

ikimasu--to go (away from the speaker) kinda like hingehen in German

kimasu--to return to the place where you currently are/to invite someone to your house this is some strange circular shizz that I can't plug into anything I already know

kaerimasu--to go home (whatever 'home' means to the speaker) sorta like kehren/zurückkehren in German

The negation of the these verbs, or any verb in Japanese, is pretty easy. The verb ending drops its -u and adds an -en.

ikimasu/ikimasen    (Watashi wa) Ashita Oosaka ni ikimasu. (I am) going to Osaka tomorrow.

kimasu/kimasen  I am at school now when I say: (I am) Asatte gakkoo ni kimasu. (I am) coming to school day after tomorrow.

kaerimasu/kaerimasen (Watashi wa) Korekara uchi ni kaerimasu. (I am) going home afterwards. 

I need to find a language partner, but, maybe more realistically, a language tutor given I can hardly say anything yet.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bio grandma

'Meeting' my mother's birth father has brought up the one memory I have of visiting with my mother's birth mother. She was a woman with whom I had had no contact growing up. I suppose it could have been different, but as a young'un I don't know if I had been given the option of meeting her.

Unlike Butterworth this woman didn't up sticks and leave, but rather she gave her child to an acquaintance so that---my words---she could be well cared for. This woman and her husband adopted my mother when she was 8 years old. My mom has a memory of going to the courthouse, not realizing that she was to be adopted. When my mother heard her first name being called with Butterworth following it she didn't realize that she was being spoken to. My grandmother had to nudge her and say, 'That's you'.

Family secrets are strange. Some are unearthed, some stay hidden, and some are partially uncovered. I had known who my mother's mother was. Like my extended family, she, too, had lived in San Francisco. One of her children had raised a family in my hometown of Pacifica. I have a vague memory of meeting my cousins just once when I was little. I don't know if I understood who they were, to be honest.

The story I had heard about my mother's bio mother was that she was a widowed mother of two young children by the early 1940s. She worked outside the home. In 1943 she had given birth to a third child, a girl. She may or not have been married a second time by this point. That girl was given to the woman who would eventually become my grandmother. My adoptive grandmother then gave the girl to her sister and husband to raise as their own. Unfortunately, theirs was not a happy home as it was tainted by alcoholism. My mother, born three years later, was again given to this same acquaintance. Unlike the first girl child, she was kept. The sisters were raised as cousins and none was the wiser until the 1960s.

These cousin-sisters had very different reactions to being told who their birth mother was. My mother felt betrayed. Her sister, having had a rather unhappy upbringing, in turn, was glad to know that she had a 'second mom', if you will. A relationship was forged. My mother wanted no relationship with the woman who had given her up. As a result, we had largely no connection to that other family.

I don't know whose bright idea it was for me to meet my bio grandmother for the 1st time when I was 19 years old. Was it my mother's? Was it mine? I certainly wish now I had handled that visit differently. I was kind of an a-hole. I had no tact. I had wanted to know who my mother's father was & I wasn't able to see at the time that my questions to this woman were painful for her. Or maybe I saw it, but I didn't care?

We met at her shabby apartment in a part of town that, too, had become run down since she'd moved in decades before. This was the Tenderloin in the 1980s and there wasn't anything 'tender' about it, let me tell you. I recall asking my bio grandma point blank what my mother's father's name was and she answered by telling me about the clock on the wall of her living-room. She told me that in thirty years it had not stopped ticking. I think I am recalling this correctly. I praised the clock and asked again. It didn't work. She told me she loved me. That felt weird to hear. I truly think she meant it.

She called one of her sons living in the area to come over and act as referee. We three went to a diner on the corner for lunch. He interpreted any questions I had for his mother and then they,  in tandem, gave vague answers in response. I didn't get the information I was looking for, but I did meet someone who physically resembled my mother: her brother. That was pretty neat.

This woman had had a rough go of it. She did what she had to do to live and that included giving up two children. I've recently seen a picture of her dated from the 1950s. In it she's sitting in a kitchen, smiling wide, cigarette in hand, a man that I presume to be her husband is perched next to her. She looks happy in the photo and that's good.


'Pa' Butterworth

The above photo of my maternal grandfather arrived in the mail today. It came with a small sheaf of papers regarding his life. I don't feel happy to know about him, to be honest. I feel bothered. It's not like this person abandoned me. My mother was just six months old when her birth father saw her last. If anyone, it's my mother who should be a bit miffed, but she isn't. She's very glad to know who her birth father was and what he looked like. It made her feel good to learn where and how he lived. This wasn't always the case. Growing up, I'd occasionally ask her who or where she thought her birth father might be. She told me she never wanted to think about it. 'But why don't you want to know?' I wanted to know. Well, we sort of already knew. We knew his name & where he came from, but not much else. His surname was Butterworth. This was also my mother's surname until she was adopted at the age of 8. Butterworth seemed like the most English name you could come up with. I liked it.

'What if I find out he was an axe murderer'---she always specifically chose to say axe murderer---'or, worse yet, what if he had gone on to have a new family without me?' 

Yes, yes, I'd say. But don't you want to know if there's a history of fill-in-the-blank illness that runs in the family? (To date my septuagenarian mother is healthy as a horse.) No, she didn't want to know, thanks very much. 

She now knows probably as much as she'll ever know about the man and she's happy. I'm not. Silly, right? He lived to be 95, dying when my mom was 50. He knew where she was, for the most part, but never sought her out. I guess that's what's getting under my skin. 

Thumbing through the paperwork, I found out that not only had Mr. Butterworth not gone on and become an axe murderer, but that he also didn't have anymore birth children. Relocating from San Francisco to NYC, he remarried two years after divorcing his first wife, my mom's birth mother, in 1947. His second wife pre-deceased him in the 1970s. During his prime, he'd seen the world as a merchant marine, having sailed to Africa, East Asia, South America and Europe.

My mother told me that she thinks I have his nose. Hers is sort of turned up a bit and fairly dainty. I'd like to think I have his jaw line, to be honest. My mom had the most lush head of thick brown hair when she was younger. I think she inherited his locks. 

What really struck me about his story was that he, too, had been adopted at the same age as my mom had been. His mother had born him out-of-wedlock. She'd then met Butterworth 'Sr'. They wed & he adopted her son. 

I think what might be bugging me most as I type this is to learn that we are really not Butterworths at all. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Jogging in Central Park

Jackie O reservoir

This lovely reservoir was my running spot when I lived on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Back then, one had to contend with all manner of visitors along the narrow path directly circling the lake. Running there would test your ability to think fast. Previously, one had to contend with zipping around strollers, hopping away from nosy (& noisy) dogs & dodging cyclists who were seemingly intent on running into you. I always felt like I was starring in my own video game. 

Now, however, jogging the reservoir is truly bliss. Signs flank the entry points to this walk/jog path stating something to the effect of: In the interest of safety, no strollers, bikes or dogs are permitted. One is meant to move in a clockwise direction as well. The only thing one has to worry about is cutting off a faster jogger when overtaking a slower jogger. ;) No great shakes, a quick turn of the head to check the peripherals before making a move and all is right with the world.

For those who do have bikes, strollers and dogs, the much wider path that rings the smaller path welcomes all.  

Shore length: 1.58 miles around. Two loops & you've a pretty decent run!

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