Monday, March 30, 2009

Shhh, There Is An Orange On Stage

I just ate an orange. So sweet and juicy. I love smelling the peel, it has the scent of springtime. A quiet simple moment. Quiet is what I need. I am, generally speaking, a soft person. Some say I think too much and that I am too idealistic. All through my adult life I hated that harsh judgement on me. I may be MORE idealistic than some, but I am not TOO idealistic. It's a matter of degrees. I was fired Monday morning from my temporary job scoring English compositions. I failed to pass three surprise validation tests. It's ok, it is not the end of the world. But I must say something about the experience.

Such coldness in hiring and dismissing people. I was translated into a percentage number. I did not survive on account of my under 65% number. I will keep on looking for a new job. I am considering becoming a teacher. It will definitely lift me from poverty. But I know first hand the challenges that it would bring. Being a teacher is not an easy job. Teaching will not make any sense if you are not committed to it. Burnout is a reality. In my last teaching job I broke my voice 7 times during the Academic year and had a bout with bronchitis. Still I believe that we can improve our lives through education. Education is the true equalizer among us. Everyone should be given the opportunity of Education. In this I firmly believe.

So I'll keep you posted on that one.

In the meantime, a hot bath, poetry, and oranges.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gods and Heroes

"... black-winged night,
into the bosom of Erebus dark and deepLaid a wind-born egg, and as the season rolledForth sprang Love, the longed-for, shinning with
wings of gold."

The Birds, Aristophanes (circa 446-386 B.C.E.)

The wind is blowing fiercely outside and the temperature has dipped into the 30's. I decided to stay home and warm up with a cup of coffee and a book I recently took out from the library. The book, Mythology by Edith Hamilton (1867-1963), was one of my favorite books growing up in the balmy Caribbean. Even though my island was thousands of miles away from the Aegean Sea I could see war clad heroes and immortal gods roaming about the rugged acantilados (sea cliffs) of Borinquen (PuertoRico).

I was a sick child. Bedridden by asthma I took to reading from an early age in order to placate my anxiety. My father lost his first child in Spain due to a very negligent medical system. He was overcautious about any of his children's health issues. I perceived his deep anxiety every time he saw me gasping for air and crying in fear that I might die. Asthma was an existential affair to me. At only six or seven years old I could feel the mayhem I was causing in my home. I was the center of attention because I had to be taken care of and monitored. I vividly remember my father injecting Adrenaline into my arm at 3 o'clock in the morning. My lips had a purplish undertone due to the lack of oxygen. Back then, the 60's, there was limited knowledge on the condition. My Catalonian grandmother, Abita, would sit next to my bed giving me chest rubs with alcoholado (bay rum) filled with eucalyptus leaves. She would pray to the Holy Infant of Prague for my survival. Those prayers still inhabit my soul. They were tender, heartfelt prayers. In moments of fear and panic in my life I go deep inside and connect with the deep vibrating sounds of Abita's husky voice.

One day my father brought me three gigantic books with very colorful illustrations. One of the books was the The Iliad. I was captivated by the stories in that book. I saw myself in them on account that my name is Hector like the Trojan warrior prince. I read about the capricious gods and combatant mortals. From my bed I imagined the real world to be a n heroic saga. These stories whetted my appetite for creativity and critical thinking. The Greek myths are, simply put, lessons in human ethics. A child that learns about the gifts of antiquity in the form of literature and art is a child that realizes that he or she is a vital cultural descendant of those marvelous people that gave us civilization. Zeus, Dionysus, Demeter, Odysseus, the Muses and Medusa the Gorgon stand for the complexity and meaning of our innermost human traits. Love, triumph, defeat, betrayal, happiness and sorrow among them. In our present world we have forgotten our past. We are very much disconnected from the glory and richness of the Ancient World.

This stormy day I feel fragile and a bit distant from the insane speed of our society and the bumpy roads of modernity. I feel reduced to a number (read NUMBer). This is contrary to my spirit. Those readings about gods and heroes give me strength for I know I am the son of their triumphs. I am not longer isolated from my humanity. I am of a race (Human race) that emerged from vicissitude and need. Metaphors are necessary for this voyage. Symbols are important roadsigns. They keep you guided. Symbols clarify the reasons for our longings and infuse our understanding with the vibrancy of life itself. Let the wind blow so I may take refuge in an otherworldly Theban cave where the lyre merrily sings Sapphic poetry of Love and courageous heroes set aside their glimmering helmets for the luminosity of the glowing fire of our human adventure.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Old is Beautiful

I am looking forward to growing old. Very, very old. I would love to see how the little hair I have left turns white. I think it will complement my skin tone and my eyes. I want to look like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. I wonder if my hands will look like my Basque grandfather ancient hands; brittle and spotted; gentle and warm. I hope I get lots of wrinkles, seriously. You see I love maps and I would like to wear one in my face. Imagine a continent full of bays and peninsulas drawn in your forehead, just gorgeous. By then I would have accumulated hundreds upon hundreds of personal anecdotes. I will soon become a great conversationalist. And I will not be agitated or mortified by hasty people or desperate circumstances because I will be totally convinced that Love conquers all. I think of old age as an elegant waltz full of joy and enchantment.

I have been always fascinated by old people. They are walking encyclopedias of the human experience. Being surrounded my old people enriches my life. I am deeply grateful for them.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Someone calibrate me, please!

Evaluating and being evaluated. I evaluate you and you evaluate me. If your evaluation does not match my evaluation then I must be evaluated. If I evaluate well I am promoted. If I do not evaluate well then I am given a second chance. That second chance is called a calibration. If I am calibrated then I have nothing to worry about. But, if I am not calibrated then I have to take a validation test. There are two outcomes to that specific validation. You can be successfully validated or unsuccessfully invalidated. If you are invalidated you are ousted from the project. You are sent to Devil's island to do hard labor (Read unemployment). But if you are successfully validated then you can start evaluating all over again. And so it goes.

We have achieved a true form of civilized living. I am being ironic, well maybe cynical. Though I hate to be cynical. You see I got a temporary job. I am grateful for it. But I am baffled at the level of supervision and total control of mind and body. You are being timed. You score papers for 7.0 hours. English compositions from 4th and 7th graders. Fair enough. You cannot talk to the person sitting next to you. The supervisor lets you know every hour on the hour what your percentages of accuracy and speed are. "Careful, your validations are running low. You are at 72.5%. And your speed is at 76%, so hurry up, don't think too much", that's my hourly labor lullaby. We humans are strange animals, I must say. Such a need for calibration and validation. I never knew Orwell's 1984 really existed. I am glad I have a job but the only way to get through this one is to laugh at the absurdity of it all. So, if any of you needs to be evaluated or validated let me know I have a place that's perfect for you.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's To All!

Wishing you the greenest St. Patrick's Day. I listed 5 of my favorite Irish contributions to our world heritage. The Pink Ranch turns kelly green for the week. BEANTAS!

The Book of Kells- This illuminated manuscript dating back to the 9th century is kept at Trinity College in Dublin. The best calligraphy the Western world has ever seen, in my most humble opinion. The majuscules are exquisite examples of art and religious devotion. A feast for the eyes.

Turlough Carolan (1670-1738)- The blind harp virtuoso. His composition are evocative of the beauty of the Emerald Isle.

The Anam Cara- The concept of soulful friendship is both inspiring and profound. Its ideals of true intimacy, loyalty and love truly articulate our sacred bonds.

County Donegal- The sweet sounds of Irish can still be heard in along this stunning landscape. As part of the Gaeltacht, designated area where Irish is the predominant language, it is a treasure trove for the study of Irish culture and philology.

Clannad- One of the most famous Irish music groups. Haunting music that embodies our mystical longing for a world where mystery and revelation are common day occurrences.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In Praise Of Opera

It is a day for Grand Opera at the ranch. I have been watching my favorite arias on Youtube. Opera has been part of my life since I was a toddler. Dad loved his Verdi and Wagner. I used to sneak into his room and quietly sit in a corner while he was listening to the bombastic sounds of Carmen's "Overture" and the "Anvil Chorus" from Il Trovatore (1853). Back then my world was a strange combination of asthma and Opera. Maybe the symphonic whizzing of my constricted lungs had something to do with it. Opera was my first alphabet. I learned to decipher the desperate emotion in arias such as "O Mio Babbino Caro" from Gianni Schicchi (1918) and the patriotic "Va pensiero" from Verdi's Nabucco (1842) long before I learned how to read and write. Melodies such as that of the aria "Viens, Malika" from Léo Delibes Lakmé (1883) offered an amplitude of feeling and sensitivity to the concept of living and loving. Years later "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana..." from Alfredo Catalani's La Wally (1892) and "La mamma e morta" from Umberto Giordano's Andrea Chenier (1896) would accurately reflect my feelings of irony and loss. Opera is probably the most complete artistic genre ever invented. It combines music, theatre, poetry and song at a grand scale. Opera is a brilliant equation in music form. It gives wings to our ideas and emotions. Operas are sagas for the heart. After I have seen an opera onstage I have come out of the theatre feeling a transformed person. The grand drama of Opera idealizes our life experiences. This idealization of our struggle to survive and persevere gives us the triumphant perspective of the human condition. The experience of Opera immerses us in the intensity of our humanity. The deep, almost overwhelming drama of life and circumstances is what gives the genre its inner fire. The undulating cascades of song and symphonic music create a landscape never to be forgotten after we have left the theatre. In a way, opera combines the indelible memory of music with the vibrancy of an emotional adventure like the human heart only knows.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This Cowboy Is Riding Again

Five days ago I woke up, shook my empty gallon of Motts Apple Juice container filled with small change and headed for shelter at my local Starbucks. I needed the comfort and the coffee to relax me in these most unemployed days. As I was sipping my coffee I picked up a wrinkled copy of the Dallas Morning News left behind by a hasty customer. I started to read it. A few minutes later a Korean gentleman sitting nearby handed me a section of the newspaper. I was a little bit startled by his broad smile and the fact that he subtlety insisted I take that other section. He did not speak a single word. I figured out he was Korean because he had a shopping bag written in that language. I took that other section of the newspaper timidly, thinking he must have thought the newspaper was mine. The Korean gentleman bowed slightly and left. I finished reading the headlines of the newspaper and took a brief glance at the section handed to me. It was the Employment section. In a second my eyes were focus on a rather small ad by a major educational publishing house looking for test scorers. I rushed home, gathered all the required documents and made an online appointment. Two days later I was taking a lengthy test on the subject of grammar, vocabulary and expository writing. Two hours later I was hired for a two month project. I start tomorrow. Even though it is not a permanent job it is the first job in almost 6 months. I am beyond myself. MIRACLES DO HAPPEN. Fellow cowboys and cowgirls you are tops. I know your positive energy and support made a difference. DARE TO BELIEVE.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Run, Cowboy, Run

It's been a hectic week for me. Going north and south, around and about this sprawled city looking for a job. I'm going for anything aside of vice or prostitution. Vice sounds nice. Well anyways, it has been a adventure going to hotels, publishing companies, bookstores, supermarkets, rodeos (Just kidding!), pizza delivery shops (I was reminded I needed a car to be able to deliver the pizzas), barista and store clerk. Pretzel, the affable dachsie, only sees me rushing in and out of the apartment. The weather is gorgeous so that helps to keep your spirits up. It feels like I have been thrust in the middle of a rush hour tornado. I've been between jobs for more than 4 months now. The pressure to succeed is so strong it almost paralyzes you. Sounds like a paradox, but it is true. You need to be the best life coach you have ever been. It's a long distance race. It reminds me a bit of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Britisher Allan Sillitoe (Silly Toes I call him). This short story deals with a poor youngster who is serving time in prison school for petty theft. He is given the opportunity to enter a long distance race. If he wins then his jailers get credit for successfully "rehabilitating" a criminal. The protagonist becomes empowered as he starts running and makes a decision that will define the rest of his life. I won't ruin it for you in case you would like to read it. This is a story about dignity, inner strength and not giving in to peer pressure or false rewards. At least that is my interpretation. So, I see my present situation in a similar light. I feel like that long distance runner. There is a big amount of inner and outer pressure to succeed. But in the end I am the one person that defines success for myself. So far I am successful because I KNOW I am of value and will soon find my niche. All this unemployment and scarcity of resources shall pass. I also realize that this blog exists as a result of my need to reach out specially during my unemployment....and I met you all, followers and visitors. And got to know about your adventurous lives. What richness to feel connected to all of you from all around the world! I'm going to keep on running.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Pink Ranch Welcomes The Pinkerton Twins

Radcliffe and Heathcliff Pinkerton are identical twins born conjoined at the tongue. After a 15 minute procedure involving an unknown topical anesthesia and a rather unfit doctor they were successfully separated at age 36. As a result of this most unfortunate surgery Radcliffe and Heathcliff only speak in tandem. Well it gets a little bit more complicated than this. While Radcliffe speaks his mind in the English language, Heathcliff speaks only in Spanish. This bilingual phenomenon was first noticed by a nurse that wishes to remain anonymous. It is a bit of a challenge to fully understand what they are saying, but I must state that they are very nice people with impeccable manners and a radiant disposition. I noticed this immediately when they filled their application forms (Why do you like pink so much?, Do you enjoy your latte with a touch of cinnamon or a twist of cardamon?...and the sort). Their credit is not that good but the Ranch accepts residents no matter of their credit history. Their application was accepted yesterday at 9:00 am. So a big Texan welcome to Radcliffe and Heathcliff Pinkerton!!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Calling Poetry Forth

A Walk On The Beach, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923)

This day calls for poetry. Poetry soothes our souls. I cannot stand the pessimistic mood I feel all around me. The economic mess is difficult to understand. Many people are suffering. Many more are apprehensive and afraid. My own unemployment has been the source of many frightening thoughts. I call forward the muses of poetry. I believe in the secret language of intimacy that we find in poetry. If treated with reverence poetry can reveal the innermost truth of ourselves. You can call it a kind of oracle if you like. We need our oracles. We need to talk with our ancient ones if only to make sense of this long arduous process called life. Poetry connects you with the sounds and music of our human heritage. If you cannot connect with your neighbors in this so isolated world or if your family and friends are far away, poetry will bring the warmth of their loving kindness. Mom and Dad are gone. They were my poetry because I loved them so much. I find solace in poetry. In poetry we find welcoming arms. A good poem is a sincere poem. Some are simple and other are full of tropes and highly inventive metaphors. That is just style. But the essence of the poem is to reach out to you, that you may never feel detached or lonely. A lifelong dedication to the garden of poetry will bring you the most exquisite flowers. Your life deserves flowers. Your life deserves song. Let's reconnect with the gift of poetry.

One of my most beloved poets is Antonio Machado (1875-1939). His poetry is delicate and deep. His music in verse is the glory of the Spanish language. His poems are the soul of 400 million speakers of the language of Cervantes. I am one of them. He speaks about life, the passing of time, Love and the beautiful landscape of Spain, the motherland. This is one of his most famous verse translated into English. Breathe this poetry. Your tired soul will find a resting place in these verses.


All goes, and all remains,
but our task is to go,
to go creating roads,
roads through the sea.
My songs never chased after glory to remain in human memory.
I love the subtle worlds weightless and charming,
worlds like soap-bubbles.
I like to see them, daubed with sunlight and scarlet,
quiver, under a blue sky, suddenly and burst…I never chased glory.
Traveller, the road is only your footprint,
and no more;
traveller, there’s no road, the road is your travelling...'
Going becomes the road and if you look back you will see a path none can tread again.
Traveller, every track leaves its wake on the sea…
Once in this place where bushes now have thorns,
the sound of a poet’s cry was heard-‘Traveller there’s no road, the road is your travelling…’
Step by step, line by line…
The poet died far from home.
Shrouded by dust of a neighbouring land.
At his parting they heard him cry-‘Traveller there’s no road the road is your travelling…’
Step by step,
line by line…
When the goldfinch can’t sing,
when the poet’s a wanderer,
when nothing aids our prayer: ‘Traveller there’s no road the road is your travelling…’
Step by step,
line by line.