fotos: lullaby

It’s been a while since I posted an entry for “friday fotos.” It’s appropriate that I ran across this beautiful picture of the culmination of my husband’s recent work with Opera-matic, a small non profit street opera company he’s been developing. You’ll be glad to know that you can see more pics from the event held last weekend in Humboldt Park on the Facebook page. You can see more of Jim’s great photography on his site:  

Years ago, when the idea of Opera-matic was very young, the idea of the Lullaby Parade was percolating in the minds of a number of artists we knew and worked with on other projects. Dave and his partner, Mark Messing (who you’d know from the amazing Mucca Pazza fame) would often stoke the fire of this idea in between paying gigs, in between deadlines and the daily pressures of being creative small business owners in Chicago.

I saw the maiden voyage of this parade before we moved to Tennessee I think. My kids were small, some still toddling, some clinging to me. The bikes began it on that side street near the office we kept for Maestro-matic, Dave and Mark’s sound design company. The bikes rolled out, slowly on those dark streets in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. The name of that neighborhood even now gives Chicagoans pause. They shake their heads at the sound of it, it’s a place you wouldn’t catch any decent person after dark, they’d say. But the truth is that there are and have always been decent people, even in the roughest of neighborhoods. Humboldt Park is no exception.

There were children here, playing and singing, long before the attempts at gentrification. There are families everywhere-  good people, loving folks, needing beauty no matter how gang infested, graffiti covered or low income. In the food deserts and the abandoned lot riddled areas, in the places where the city shrugs its big shoulders and throws up its hands, here we hold the first essences of the Lullaby Parade. And we roll out the bikes first, like an ice cream truck without the dairy treats attached, and the singing begins as they pedal down Talman Avenue from North. And the Paper Moon is projected on, the face singing sweetly, an easy song to catch, to hold, to carry. We are a small group at first and I am, I admit, a bit afraid because my children are small, some still toddling, some clinging to me as the parade makes its way down the road.

Then a child comes to the porch, then another, then a parent, a caregiver, a grandmother and they all wander down to follow along. And we sing as we wind our way down one street, then another, never going far, never going fast. The singing continues and the streetlights burn above our heads and the Moon smiles and the stars feel closer than they have ever felt. There is some laughter and some head shaking. There is some apprehension and some unbridled joy. There is confusion and honesty and the feeling that something important started here with something so small as this, something lasting, something truthful and beautiful.

There were more tastes of this between that first Lullaby Parade and the one held last week in Humboldt Park, more small starts, more important moments, lasting, truthful and beautiful. And it’s something, that given the chance, you should not miss and I mean that. Take some time and check out the amazing work of Opera-matic and the lovely photography of Jim Newberry (and others on our Facebook page.)

See what it stirs in you.

Momentum Muri

Momentum Mori OCT 30TH 2010:Opera-Matic in the Haunted Paseo Boricua Parade.
The procession featured a Crossing Guard, Ghost horses, and Ghost bikes and was performed in collaboration with West Town Bikes and Cyclo Urbano.
Photo credit: Jim Newberry



I got a rejection recently on a piece I submitted to a new literary magazine. I had some expectation that it might not be what they were seeking but I submitted it anyway mostly because the non-fiction editor is Kathleen Norris. There, I said it. I submitted my essay because the editor is a writer I love a whole lot.

Now, it’s entirely possible she read the first line only or had her cleaning lady read it, I’ll allow for that. It’s really ok with me. I’ve been rejected by a LOT of people in the publishing field in the last few years. I’m a little giddy, frankly, that I got rejected by Kathleen Norris. Lord knows, I’d be a great deal giddier if she’d accepted it, nonetheless, it’s fun to have Kathleen Norris (or her assistant or her cleaning lady) send me an email.

I realize now, this being the maiden voyage of that particular literary review that I had no idea the scope of the non-fiction category. Frankly, when I read that a magazine is looking for non-fiction essay I often forget that what I write is more “personal” essay. The piece that showed up in the magazine was ASTOUNDING. You should read it, I mean…it was astounding and beautiful.

Now that’s not to say that my personal essay is not also astounding in it’s own way. The point is that I sent in jellybeans and the piece that got in was a dark chocolate torte with ganache and white chocolate piping. Really.

I like jellybeans, I’m not bashing my own work. I like chocolate tortes better and could probably write one given the time and interest and brain space. It was, however, a treat to read the one made by the hands of Olga Sedakova entitled “The Morality of Art, or the Evils of Mediocrity.” Ach du lieber…loveliness…and decidedly not jellybeans.

If you have the opportunity I’d invite you to pick up a copy of St Katherine Review. The poetry by Jennifer Aktinson and Nicholas Samaras in particular broke open the tastebuds of my soul in a way that I did not expect. It may very well be the sweetness you crave today. Check it out. I’m going to hole up and start work on a three layer, triple fudge cake with coconut cream filling…and topped with jellybeans.


Is Sarah Palin responsible for the fatal shootings in Arizona that took place yesterday?

If you are reading me today and you do not know me in person you have probably reached this post because of a google search. I mean, it’s possible that is how you arrived here. Welcome. I’m glad you’re a person who is looking for the answer to that question.

I’m sorry that I cannot answer it definitively for you. I’m afraid that no one you find, writing about it on the internet, in the paper or speaking about it on television or in person, will be able to answer that question to any satisfaction.

Yes, we can all point fingers. It’s easy to point fingers. Point ’em if you got ’em seems to be the resounding chorus in our country these days.

It is a disturbing trend. Perhaps it’s not a new trend, perhaps we’ve lived this all throughout our history and I’m just beginning to notice it and subsequently, loathe it. Placing the blame has old roots in young parts of us, doesn’t it? When I was a kid I blamed a lot on my younger brother (sorry, Ed.) I may have gotten away with it for a little while but once he started to really be able to articulate things I’d be challenged on my finger pointing and then it would come down to character. Who is more trustworthy? Who is less likely to lie?

See, here’s the thing. I believe I do know who is responsible for the tragic events of yesterday and so do you. We are all responsible. We are responsible when we fail to speak out against acts of violence anywhere in the world, not just our own backyard. We are responsible when we fail to speak out against hate talk, violent imagery used to get a point across, extreme anger masked as righteousness, discrimination disguised as piety. We are all to blame.

The winds are always shifting, make no mistake. We are always and will always be the culture of change. We will fall, as a nation, when we stop taking responsibility for our actions, our words and even our thoughts. Is Sarah Palin responsible for the injuries and deaths of yesterday? Does she have some culpability?

I’m not a Palin fan, truth be told but I also have no ill wishes toward her. What I want most for all people is not failure but growth. I’d love for Sarah Palin to lead the way in being responsible with words and judgements and actions. I, for one, would like to hear her “woman” up about it…come to the table and speak the words, “this tactic was a mistake…” and perhaps “we need to change our national vernacular in political discourse…” She did not put a gun into this man’s hands any more than I did but we all are responsible when we cultivate a culture of fear and hate, violence and anger. I know I am guilty of buying into the rhetoric and the hyperbole and I confess my desire to slam down anyone who thinks differently than I do, I know this about me and I admit it. I am working on it. I don’t want to be that person and so I am not going to defend a wrong and hurtful position when I take it.

All I’m asking of all of us is to move out of our prospective corner toward the middle ground. Let’s meet there and talk about the bigger opportunity we have here. Put your finger pointing and proof texting and blaming away. We’ve had quite enough of that. Come forward and join this human circle where we all understand loss and grief, where we practice words of love and peace and integrity…and see where that takes us.

Radical Thought: Paying Compliments

I have this little rule that I try to live by. I never pay a compliment I cannot afford, meaning, that I do not pay idle compliments. I happen to think that words are powerful and truth telling is important. While idle compliments might not be lies, they are at the very least a cheap use of one’s words.

If compliments are currency then I suggest that you pay only with cash. The real stuff. What you have in your pocket or what you keep in the bank. It’s authentic.

Bartering might work for a short time but frankly giving a compliment should never be dependent upon receiving one in return so this may pose problems.

Credit is how we are all tempted at one time or another. We borrow against what we think we MIGHT see in someone but over time all we accumulate in the end is debt we cannot afford.

Counterfeit currency is the probably the worst of all the non-cash transactions. These are compliments which are simply not true. We pay them freely and feel we’ll never be caught but alas, lies do always catch up to us and at some point along the way we are found out.

I am not saying in all of this that we should be miserly with compliments, just authentic. What this does is it forces us to really look and listen to the people we meet in the everyday. We find in those moments when we really look and listen that our bank account is much fuller than we imagined. We realize in that moment how much more we can afford to truly give.

So, my advice…make your words mean something and when giving compliments, pay only what is real. It will reward the receiver greatly and will make you rich beyond measure at the same time.