Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Caught in Celluloid

Image result for the spy who came in from the cold movie

I was born in 1957. When my parents went to the movies they almost always took me. Of course, none of the films were aimed at little kids. Regardless, many of the ideas made very vivid lasting impressions on my young mind. I still remember them with that little boy's worldview, which makes them all the more compelling. Some I've re-seen as an adult, but the original imprints remain.
These I can recall off the top of my head. Not every movie I remember by any means, but the ones that still matter:
Lord Jim
The Subject Was Roses
Mutiny on the Bounty
The Quiller Memorandum
A Man for All Seasons
Taras Bulba
Pillow Talk
Dr. Zhivago
Fistful of Dollars
Spy Who Came in from the Cold
The Sandpiper
Dr. Strangelove
Fail Safe
Zorba the Greek
Lilies of the Field
Lawrence of Arabia
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Miracle Worker
Breakfast at Tiffany's
The Train
The Sand Pebbles
Fahrenheit 451
A Man and a Woman

"There's no hiding in my memory/ each thought and gesture are caught in celluloid"
The Carpet Crawlers, Genesis, 1974.

Just Hair

We are usually not out and about when schoolkids have lunchtime. I don't play close attention to the schoolday schedules, but I think they get out from 1 to 2 or so. Many, if not most businesses, close between 1 and 3; so we have learned to run errands before and after.
On Friday we were headed home from erranding right when schools let out. My impression is that the schools physically close, so students either walk home to eat, or get food from street vendors who are ready and waiting right outside the gates. They are entirely at large until school restarts, a virtual antithesis to school in the US where kids are typically forbidden to leave campus.
So as we drew near one school, a torrent of teens began to spill out, overflowing the sidewalk, around parked cars, and into the street. Everyone is in dark navy blue uniforms with white shirts. And the hair- as we slip into and through the crowd, we're surrounded by dozens of long, thick, and glossy tresses of straight black hair played against the navy and white. Long feminine hair is a kind of wealth, a splendor; and the gleaming ebony opulence is on luxuriant display for the couple of minutes it takes us to pass through the crowd.
It's the same at Mass every Sunday, but not with such density, and not so uniformly long. The indigenous women all keep their hair long regardless of age. Mass is a great place to see the older women, usually with braids, but some with hair unbound. They're always so beautifully turned out.
So anyway, we're squeezing through the kids, and I was saying to Janet, "Look at all this awesome hair, it's so healthy and affirming. You see how good it looks? That's how good your long hair looks." When we got married, Janet's hair was long, i.e., between the shoulder blades. It was the best, I felt good about life just by looking at it. At some point she thought it was too long, and cut it short for at least 15 years. But it's been full and long again for the last 5 years or so, and I remind her daily how glorious it is and don't miss a chance to compare it favorably to all the competition.

Friday, May 17, 2019

La Serenissima

This is not a movie set
Met with our lawyer yesterday afternoon about wills, then had a pleasant happy hour at Goda Bar. Can't beat the glass wall for panoramic people-watching. May is Mary's month, so we had a pair of men come by: one in front playing his accordion; the follower holding a shadowbox Marian shrine. Three little uniformed girls out of school, at large and unsupervised. Dignified CaƱari women in habitual dress. Sleek young folks all in black, the women with scarlet lips and teetering on spike heels. Janet stayed busy smiling and saying hello to folks examining The Blonde Gringa as they passed. I just sat there and let her make me look good.
Another serene day.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

All Roads Lead Away From Rome

Now it goes everywhere

I got married in 1988 to a woman whom I'd known for 11 years. She was a few years older than me, and had a son; both of which I thought made me look pretty cool, which they did, and still do. We got busy doing the Stability Thing right off, bought a 1930s Cape Cod before the wedding. We did most of the fixing-up ourselves after work, made a nice nest. That first summer the son was away for a week, would return Sunday. That Saturday I said to the wife, let's go for a drive in the Smokies. So having no destination, off we went: Flat Rock, Asheville, the Parkway, Boone. That afternoon I was vaguely headed southwest out of Johnson City, Tenn. on a rolling, traffic-free 2-lane that was perfect for my new 5-liter Mustang. Janet was sleeping with her bare feet stuck up on the dashboard, hair blowing out the rolled-down window. And for a fast and serene hour it was, as the song says, Just Like Heaven, we could have done anything, gone anywhere. When she woke up I said, hey you ever been to Gatlinburg? Me neither. Let's check it out.
Gatlinburg was quite a pleasant surprise: a good place to forget the car, stroll, have a relaxing, beguilingly unpretentious low-key evening. I didn't want to drive back to Greenville, so we stayed at the epically modest River Park Inn, long since torn down and replaced by something sleeker. Woke up Sunday to discover the room's balcony overhung the river, with its mist, whitewater, and ducks. Had breakfast, walked a bit more, got back home in time to retrieve Jacob at the airport.
And then we made two more children, adopted two more from Russia, bought a bigger house, and for the next thirty-plus years raised a family, and it was transcendent. But that hour snaking through the sticks of East Tennessee remained a touchstone: not of the family, but the marriage.
April 30th was our 31st anniversary. We dressed up and dined in one of Cuenca's toniest joints. At age 68, Janet more than ever is elegant and self-assured and desirable, and all the other things men dream of about women. I did so well to marry her. We talked a bit about visiting Italy later this year, and for the first time since 1988 I got that Tennessee 2-lane vibe again. For a while at least, we can go anywhere and do anything, just the two of us.
Some years ago I first heard the song 'Free,' by country singer Zac Brown. Until this week this song has been a little anthem of a future I hoped would come if I were patient. Now that future is here. 'Free' is still the same song, but now it's an anthem of the actual instead of the potential.
My life is just incredible beyond any reckoning.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

La Churona

Image result for virgen cisne  ecuador
La Churona*

We moved to Cuenca, Ecuador in 2017, and about 20 years of catechizing has been put on hold while I work on Spanish competency. In the meantime I'm in a Bible study group, and sit in on family catechesis. Plus I have developed a surprisingly cordial and substantial relationship with the nearby Jehovah's Witnesses congregation.

Once every couple of months or so,  JWs will call. At this point they know me, I know 5 of them. We don't agree of course, but I'm happy to talk about Jesus with anyone. My pitch to any evangelizer at my door is, if you are so motivated by your faith to go door-to-door, why aren't you Catholic? So we always have a good time disagreeing without arguing. They have their Bibles, I have mine. I like the chance to present the Catholic worldview in a scriptural context, which I don't think they've heard before, not even the former Catholics. I don't press them, so they can hear me without feeling threatened.

On another note, we have no car, and walk almost everywhere. Occasionally we take a cab, some of them will have a statue of the Madonna on the dash. But these aren't generic Madonnas, they are specific to a given locale, of which there must be dozens in South America. So I make a habit of asking the taxistas about their Virgens. Two days ago, after grocery shopping we took a cab  which sported a Virgen with Rapunzel-length hair. The driver said she is La Virgen del Cisne, the Virgin of the Swan. Her shrine is in Cisne, not too far from Cuenca.

This morning about 9:30, we were in Centro (downtown), and noticed streets were blocked off around the stadium, and hundreds of people are briskly headed to it, walking, in cabs, and in buses. I figure, soccer game. I ask someone what's up. It's not soccer: rather, the statue of the Virgin from the shrine in Cisna is visiting Cuenca, and the Cathedral is too small for the crowds. Quite the coincidence! Once home, I checked a local paper for info, here's an excerpt from an article:

"A welcoming Mass was offered yesterday, as the image of the Virgin of El Cisne visited Cuenca on the occasion of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Diocese of Cuenca. From 17:00 the devotees gathered in the Miraflores parish church, where the Mass was celebrated. This was followed by a procession carrying the image to la Cathedral de La Inmaculada ConcepciĆ³n. A second Eucharist was celebrated and youth groups kept vigil.

Today's program will begin at 11:00 with a ceremony of thanksgiving that will take place at the "Alejandro Serrano Aguilar" stadium. In this event the official anthem of the Archdiocese of Cuenca will also be presented."

So folks were already arriving en masse at 9:30 for an event starting at 11:00.

It's a good place to be Catholic.

*La Churona, the woman with lots of curls.