Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mountain Rain

     A wonderful online journal, Roadside Fiction published my story, "Mountain Rain".  It comes at a perfect time.  It is a story that confronts the unknown, what we can sometimes call a spiritual or even a synchronous event. 
    The story is set in a town, Port de la Selva, Spain, which is down the mountain from a Benedictine monastery, San Pere de Rodes.  The records of the monastery date back to 878.  It reached its maximum importance in the 11th and 12th centuries.  What suprised me was that at one point it was run by the abbot and his son.  Celibacy was not always a given in the Catholic church.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

American Culture Revisited-Gun Violence, Corporate Greed, and Religion

American Culture Revisited-Gun Violence, Corporate Greed, and Religion

When I lived abroad the US was a beacon for me of a place where things functioned, freedoms were possible, and the standard of living was high. After several years back I’ve categorized the culture into three areas.

First is gun violence. Gun violence is so common as to be ignored. Every day in Buffalo, a medium sized city, there are at least one or two shootings. While I was working at a West side community center, two shootings took place. On another occasion, I was caught in a lockdown in administration building when I went to sign for my pay. In the 20 years I lived in Barcelona, I only remember one incident of a shooting that took place in a nearby plaza. In any case, gun violence was not at all commonplace and for the most part, I felt very safe living in a large European city.

And, why should anyone here own an assault weapon? To blow a deer to bits or shoot up a school? I’d take it even further, why weapons at all? Weapons are the last male realm of control, a very symbol of maleness. And there is the huge weapons industry propagating this ok corral mentality.

Next is corporate greed. Enron, cruel mortgage practices, the medical industry, the list goes on and on. What are CEO salaries and bonuses like? We know minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Contrast that with Australia’s $15.96 hourly wage and low unemployment rate. The choice here has been to maintain a huge underclass dependent on government assistance for survival. This system penalizes- why take a job at minimum wage with no health benefits while public assistance at least provides health care for the family?

This leads me to health care and my limited experience with it here. The only decent attention I’ve received was at a urgent care facility. That is the only place I’ll return to if, unfortunately, the need arises. For that I pay a high rate monthly. I do have a primary care doctor (almost impossible to find one accepting new patients). The office was a dirty space, poorly organized and terribly inefficient.

Freedom of religion leads to the same issues France has been facing. At what point are the tenets of a modern society eroded by the fundamentalism of its citizens? My own beliefs are constantly challenged in my work with immigrants. We bend to accommodate but lines must be drawn. Wives beaten, marriages arranged or overruled by male family members, keepers, and so many abuses against women are part and parcel of many religions.

So I struggle on, looking for the positive and fighting the good fight.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Year of Living Dangerously

Contact from two old friends dropped me right back into the Medellin of decades ago, the Medellin of drug lords, of violence, and the great passion of life lived in the shadows of all that intensity. Thanks to Patricia and Harold for reminding me that it was real. I was there in all of my naiveté.

Years later, it’s still almost too delicate to touch. I have rarely written about it save for a few poems. And I’m reminded of Alexandra Fuller (wonderful writer and speaker) who said you have to write with honesty. I’m not quite ready for all the stories.

How did I not know? I’d done research and read all that I could yet I arrived to teach in a binational center and was picked up in a bulletproof station wagon. Many incidents- I’ll save them for later but what remains is innocence, with the world surrounding gone mad.

And connectedness with friends. There were poetry readings, long lunches with my girlfriends, and trips to the country- returning to the city with its sparkling lights on the mountains. Love and language, beauty surrounding, and enough passion to last a lifetime. That was Medellin.

A poem from then…

Santa Fe de Antioquia

The smell of decaying fruit hangs

in the hot sun,

A green as strong

I´d never seen

in years of temperate moderation.

Ceilings beyond reach

in a room very old,

matching the inhabitants

busily fashioning

caskets out of wood,

the family trade.

Neatly stacking them

just beyond the bedroom

where I sleep in coolness,

for babies, tiny and white,

for adults several wait.

This night double church bells

announce another loss.

Bats flutter, then

rest flat

blotting out

paradise in palm trees.