February, 2007 Archive

Maxine and Tom

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

Maxine Hong Kingston is a mythic personage for me. I read The Woman Warrior soon after it first came out in the 1970’s while living in Canada. It was so difficult I decided to teach it in my introduction to literature class at Malaspina College. That was the only way I’d devote the effort needed to understand it. Each chapter was a world of its own, with a different style that required many rereadings to decode the mercurial connections between sentences and incidents.

I was gripped by the horror of No Name Woman, having to piece together in my own imagination the chaotic details of its isolated heroine’s torment. I was thrilled by the pent-up fury of the young girl in revolt against the grip of her Chinese heritage and the hateful prejudices of her native Stockton. I laughed at the cross-cultural comedy of Auntie in Los Angeles.

But what got to me most as I sat reading on the old chesterfield in the log cabin was Maxine’s pre-Disney retelling of the story of Fa Mu Lan, “White Tigers.” Its mixture of psychedelic voyaging, epic battle, erotic romance, frontier child-rearing, pacifist militancy, gender-bending feminism and poetic lyricism distilled the whole range of my aspirations over the preceding ten years. It also reminded me of my wife, another woman warrior who, shortly after we met, had entered personal battle with the President of Stanford University and won, gaining the right for undergraduate girls to live off campus and who had ripped a phone booth out of the wall to stop a mob of angry cops from coming up the stairs during the 1968 sit-ins at Columbia. (more…)

Loverspeak

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

loverspeak.jpg

Morning Meditation

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

My pre-dawn run leaves me bathed in peace, pleasure and inspiration. I started up with exercise again last Saturday with an hour’s run-walk on the Miossi Ranch and then yesterday morning with four laps around the track. The sense of self-neglect has been growing for months, along with intensifying bouts of anxiety and depression: body protesting to mind. Yesterday and today I woke up before the 5:30 alarm relieved to escape dreams of embarrassment, frustration and failure. There was no longer a choice, something led me to the tennis shoes in the closet, to the door, and down the steps under Venus and a crescent moon.

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This is What Democracy Looks Like: Washington Protest January 27, 2007 (3)

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Dear Steven:

Here are my reflections on the demonstration in DC: Please put them on your blog if you have room.

Love, Jeff (Parson)

I had planned to meet my old college buddy, Steven Marx, in SF, managing to get a seat on his flight to DC for the major peace demo on Jan 27. The only problem was I had promised myself I would mail out over 200 copies of my CD of 17 original songs for peace and justice, “The Baby and the Bathwater.” (available on porchswingmusic.com) It was important to get them to radio stations before the official release date and I was cutting it very close. If I waited ‘til I returned from DC, I wouldn’t make it. Feeling almost as exhausted as the many printer cartridges I had gone through, I finally accomplished my first goal, but it was going on 10 pm and I had a five-hour drive ahead of me. Gulping a large green tea, I headed down the highway only to arrive sleepless in SF with insufficient time and stamina to meet Steven. Damn it! I had stood up one of my best friends! Not a very peaceful way to begin the journey!

Sadly resigned to this failure, I shifted my focus to my next scheduled meeting, with my 17-year old daughter, Dakotah, a freshman at Sarah Lawrence College. We connected at an international youth hostel, where many other protesters were beginning to arrive and the mood was of growing excitement, determination, even apprehension. What would it be like? There were many college age activists and veterans but there were also lots of older folks and people of diverse backgrounds and occupations not normally associated with peace demonstrations, such as George, a former commercial pilot from Spokane, Washington. As we traded predictions on the coming event I had the sense it was going to be huge. Vince, a parade marshal with a prominently displayed arm-band warned of protest bashers who might try to start fights. Dakotah and I agreed we would try to avoid being arrested. She had to return to school. I needed my passport for an up-coming trip and didn’t want to lose it on some hoked-up charge. (more…)