dilluns, de gener 31, 2005

Synchronicity I (English)

Synchronicity, the world seems full of it. One place in particular, or at least one person in particular with whom I associate a great deal of synchronicity is my friend Barbara Martin from New Orleans. She runs a small B & B in uptown New Orleans, and by itself, it doesn't attract a lot of attention. By virtue of it's small size, it can't really attract a tremendous number of people either. Even so, the connections between the people who come to her house, and the connections those people end up having with Barbara are uncanny.

Our minister, Russ Savage, once gave a sermon on the topic of "It's a Small World," which in fact denied that notion at all. He explained that really it had nothing to do with the world getting smaller that, for example, while travelling in Spain, waiting for a transfer in Madrid, we might spy someone we know. In fact, there are relatively few Americans who can travel outside of the country, and of those who have the means, even fewer who do. It is simply that some people in the same general subset of the population move in circles whose geographic boundaries are relatively large.

Still, there are things in life that are just plum odd, their likelihood just so slim that it makes you wonder. Here are some examples:

About four years ago, I was staying in Barbara's house between Christmas and New Year's to attend the Modern Language Association conference. Four of the other guests in the house were also attending the conference. This is not surprising. All four of them had studied together. While we were conversing over breakfast on morning, they revealed that a friend of theirs had recently begun working in Upstate New York. As it turned out, their friend and I, not only work for the same institution, but were hired in the same year, in the same general department. Two of these four friends, Jon and Kim, were quite outgoing, so I decided to offer to take them out into the countryside. The day was enjoyable, and we exchanged emails. For my kindness, Jon and Kim extended and open invitation to me that whenever I should be in Washington, D.C., I should look them up. Of course, as these things go, I never took them up on their offer. Just last spring, however, I got an email from Kim saying, "We might be neighbors." As luck would have it, she had applied for a job at another local community college. One of more than a hundred applicants I'm sure, the chances of her being selected were relatively slim. Serendipity or synchronicity, whichever it was, she did in fact get the job. Now she and Jon live only a few blocks away from their friend from college, and only one town away from a kind stranger whom they had met in New Orleans four years prior.

Now, as luck would have it, two Kim's new colleagues impinge either directly or indirectly on my life, even though they work at a different institution. The first of those is Sandy. Sandy was my landlady my second year on the job at my college. The way I found her apartment is another great tale of synchronicity. When I first came to work here, I was living an hour away, in Latham. I had begun looking for apartments in Schenectady in order to be closer to work while at the same time, not far-removed from the life I had already begun building in the Albany area. My search, however, was in vain. I was, at first, determined to find corporate owned housing since going the private route can sometimes lead to unwanted encounters with insane or slovenly landlords, but everything I saw in Schenectady was much more expensive than what I was paying in Latham.

At the same time as I was undertaking my search for a new home, I was serving on the Board of my church representing one of the governing councils. At a certain time, our council was supposed to throw an all-church luncheon, but unfortunately, our council chair announced at the very last minute that she would not be able to organize anything, and I was forced to go to the Board and admit her incompetence and total lack of responsability. This would not have been so bad were it not for the fact that this sort of thing was a habit with her. Needless to say, I was not happy with her. The day of the all-church luncheon came, and thankfully or council chair (we'll call her Lady X to protect the innocent and avoid any letcherous libel), had miraculously arranged for an on-again-off-again member of the council to provide a lavish ethnic meal for us. Moreover, Lady X had arranged to actually show up for it as well. I had two choices: either I could light into Lady X for being a royal pain in my ass, or I could discuss banalities with her and maintain a thin social veneer of camaraderie. I chose the latter. While chatting with Lady X, I divulged my conunrdrum of not being able to find a suitable domicile in Schenectady, and she responded, "Why not come look at my flat; I have to move out, and Sandy would love to have someone like you as a tenant."

So it was decided, I would meet Lady X later that afternoon to inspect the flat. By the way, calling them flats is not my attempting to sound pretentious; it's what we actually call apartments in this region that are in up-and-down style two families where the apartment actually occupies one entire floor of the house. At the appointed time I arrived at the flat on Park Place. Sadly for Schenectady, its Park Place is more like Baltic Avenue - ok, on a good day Oriental, but still, it's no Boardwalk. The neighborhood looked dodgy, but still I took a gander, and in fact liked the place very much. I decided that if Sandy, a middle-aged English and Theater professor could live there unscathed, as could Lady X, then I really didn't have anything to worry about. Later on that week, I informed Sandy I would take the flat.

The following week I was in church, and Lady X and I chatted a while. I asked her, "Why are you giving up this great flat?"

"Well, I'm moving to be closer to work," she said.

"Oh," I said, "where are you moving?"

"To Clifton Park," she replied.

For those of you unfamiliar with our local geography, Clifton Park is an expansive suburb between 15 and 20 miles north of Albany, with traffic it can take a good 45 minutes to arrive in downtown Albany where Lady X worked. Schenectady, on the other hand, was even on a bad day, at around 10 miles, not more than 30 minutes with heavy traffic. I smelled a rat.

I didn't bother calling her out on her obvious lie; I just filed it away for future reference.

However now for the rest of this convoluted story, we must go back in time to 1999...

dissabte, de gener 29, 2005

A semi-traditional Welsh meal (English / Welsh)

What, four whole days without writing a real blog? Well, since Tuesday it's been hectic, I've been a bit tired, and very little of interest has transpired, until last night.

Last night I had five friends over to the house for an old fashioned Welsh meal, well, most of it was old fashioned. I last blogged about St. Dwynwen's day on Tuesday. Wednesday was a quiet day, and then came Thursday. I got done at the college in the mid-afternoon and then went to the PriceChopper "Marketplace" in Niskayuna, the "new" PriceChopper that pretends it's trying to be a Wegmans. Wegmans it's not, but you can get things in that particulat PC that you can't find elsewhere, and I had a long list. See, you just can't go to the supermarket and buy ready made Welsh meals, essentially everything, even most of the components, need to made from scratch. An additional challenge in planning this meal was that it was more or less in honor of two of the guests, a colleague of mine Laurie, and her husband Jim, both of whom are vegetarians. The choice of a Welsh meal was due to the fact that Jim, like me, has Welsh ancetry, and he a few years ago when we had our Welsh course at the college, he took it.

Hence my daunting task, to find a traditional Welsh meal that was also vegetarian. I managed, but it wasn't easy. I finally settled on salad (international after all), sides of Selsig Morgannwg - Glamourgan Sausage and Bara Brith - speckled bred. For the main course I prepared a Tarten Winwns Sticlyd a Chaws - a "sticky" onion and cheese pie, and for dessert, Pwdin Efa - Eve's pudding. As an opening cocktail, I prepared Coctels y Ddraig Goch. Following is a brief description of each dish.

Selsig Morgannwg - Glamourgan Sausage: These are not sausages at all, but a kind of "Welsh eggroll," composed of breadcrumbs, milk, egg, feta or Caerphilly cheese, fresh parsley, thyme, ground mustard, coriander, salt, pepper and chopped leek. You mix up all that ingredients and roll them up into sausage shapes, coating them in flour and chilling them for a while before you fry them. Just before you fry them up, you roll them in egg and breadcrumpes to give them a cruncy outside and a soft, very sausage-like inside.

Bara Brith - Speckled Bread: Real, traditional bara brith is not really a bread at all, but more of dried fruit loaf. It's very hearty and heavy. I used an old fashioned recipe with which I began actually on Thursday night. You have to soak the currants and raisins in tea and whisky liquer over night, and it's the juice from this kind of "marinade" that actually binds the flour, you use no milk it the recipe at all. The result is a thick, heart, mildly sweet loaf. It went well with the fairly salty selsig and tarten. Besides the fruit and flour, you also add eggs, sugar and allspice.

Tarten Winwns Sticlyd a Chaws - Sticky Onion and Cheese Pie: this sounds like it would be disgusting at first glance (and no, it does not sound more appetizing at first in Welsh either), and this item in particular was the grand experiment for the evening as I had never tried it before, never mind made it. Luckily, it came out well, and tasted really good! First you take red onions and slice them thickly, about an inch thick, and then you simmer them in a combination of butter, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and fresh garlic. When they're cooked through, you put them in a pie shell and bake them covered for 25 minutes. Then you take them out and you heap a full pound of gouda on top and bake it some more until the cheese turns a golden brown. The result was really quite pleasant. The onions are no longer tough or stringent, but soft and fairly sweet.

Pwdin Efa - Eve's Pudding: also called pwdin afalau, apple pudding, this is a traditional "British" style pudding which is not what we in the States would ever consider pudding. Basically you just layer some stewed apples in a pie tin and then make a sort of crème brûlée batter and pour it over the apples; you bake it a while till the batter turns golden brown, and voilà, Pwdin Efa.

Coctels y Ddraig Goch - Red Dragon Cocktails: served in martini glasses and named for the red dragon that has emblazened the Welsh flag and symbolized that Welsh people for 1500 years, these are very tasty modern day cocktails. Of course cocktails are not an old part of Welsh tradition, but Welsh culture is not a museum exhibit... these cocktails contain vodka, gin, Cointreau, grenadine, cranberry juice, orange juice and a little bit of lime juice. The result is a drink with the equivalent of two full shots of alcohol without tasting anything like alcohol, a beguilingly dangerous drink ;) It puts a whole new spin on the old Welsh motto Y Ddraig Goch ddyry cychwyn - The Red Dragon leads the way!

At any rate, this meal was two days in the making. Thursday, as I mentioned, I was off to get the provisions, and later that evening I did all the prep-work I could. I got up at 5AM Friday morning to get the bara brith in the oven, and when I came home at 4, I had to make the rest of the food. It was worth it though. Besides Laurie and Jim, Jon and Kim were here (people whose acquaintance I had made in New Orleans - more on them and other synchronosities later), as well as Carolyn. Everyone enjoyed themselves, and while people had arrived at 6 for cocktails, no one left till around 11PM.

dijous, de gener 27, 2005

The jazzband playing it's oddly joyful "dirge" as is traditional in a New Orleans jazz funeral. Posted by Hello

Hail to the Thief: Jazz Funeral for Democracy Posted by Hello

Photos from the Jazz Funeral for Democracy, New Orleans, LA, Inauguaration Thursday, January 20, 2005. This is the coffin that carried the American Democracy to its grave. Posted by Hello

Cross as seen through a window in from within the ruins of Llanddwyn, Ynys Llanddwyn, Môn Posted by Hello

dimecres, de gener 26, 2005

Ruins of a Tudor church built on the site of Dwynwen's priory on Ynys Llanddwyn. Posted by Hello

dimarts, de gener 25, 2005

Saint Dwynwen's Day (English)

Little known outside of Wales is that this tiny country has not one, but two days to celebrate love and lovers. The more well-known of the two is of course the one which corresponds to Valentine's Day, in Welsh, Gwyl San Ffolant. The other day for Welsh lovers is today, January 25th, Gwyl Santes Dwynwen, or St. Dwynwen's Day.

Unlike Valentine's day, named for St. Valentine, a man, Dwynwen is a woman, a woman whose love in fact goes unrequited.

There used to be a very good website with the history of her life in English, but it seems to have disappeared; there are still several good sites in Welsh, but that won't help the English readers who might come across this page.

Picture it, the Brecon Beacons, 460 C.E., an early medieval feast in a former Roman Villa in the highlands (yes, I will be taking some liberties in relating this tale, alas, the purchase of the storyteller!)

The short version of her story is that she was a young and beautiful princess, a daughter to Brychan, King of Brycheiniog in southeasterly Wales. One time, Brychan held a great feast, and nobles from far and wide came to celebrate with him. One of these was named Maelon, a handsome, we would even say beautiful man in Welsh. His gaze crossed Dwynwen's, and like in the romances of old, there was the predictible coup de foudre and they fell madly in love. Maelon and Dwynwen spent most of the feast making eyes at each other, and stealing bits of conversation away from the main celebrating (Brychan was a big bearded, mead swilling man, what we would call a bear these days). At the end of the night, Maelon took Dwynwen aside and asked her to marry him. She had fallen desperately in love, overwrought with all sorts of hormones, but she had her head about her enough to remember the law of the land. It was required that she ask her father's permission first.

Off she went to counsel with Brychan, and he being the free-spirit minor monarch that he was said, "Of course Dwynwen fach, you can marry Maelon, but it is the tradition of this land that after being asked for your hand in marriage, you wait one year and one day before marrying!" Dwynwen was a little disappointed, but willing; Maelon on the other hand was recalcitrant, in other words, he was having nothing doing.

He told Dwynwen, after Brychan had stepped out to get more mead, "Listen Dwynwen, if you love me, then you better run away with me to my castles, because while I find you comely, I ain't waiting around a year for you. A catch as hot as me can always find a willing bird."

Dwynwen was unwilling to contravene her father's commandment, and so Maelon left Plas Brychan in a rage. Dwynwen was beside herself with sorrow, and she ran out into the woods.

Here's where the story has several traditional paths. I will tell you the one I remember hearing first. She ran out into the woods, and she tripped on a root. She fell and struck her head against the tree, or the ground, and passed out.

While she was unconscious, she had a vision. See, back in the 5th century, most of Wales was Pagan, but there were a lot of these Christians running around the place cursing everyone and trying to get them to convert to the New Religion. Of course, in her delirium, who should come to her but the image of the Christian god. He told her that if she committed to spread his word around Wales and work to convert people, he would take away all the pain that she was suffering. She consented, and when she came to, she didn't feel one iota of love for Maelon. She went back to Plas Brychan and told her family what happened. Brychan, being the Hedosnist that he was just shrugged, grabbed a concubine and a picther of mead and wandered off. Two of her siblings however agreed to join her in her crusade to "bring the Light" to Wales.

They spent many sexless years converting the willing and unwilling alike, until at last they came to a small island off the coast of Ynys Môn, the Isle of Anglessy in northwest Wales, the wildest and most remote part of the land. Some little voice told Dwynwen that she should build a church there, and so she did. Dwynwen and her brother and sister spent their remaining years devoting their life to this tiny and remote religious community. Dwynwen never saw Maelon again. More than likely he forgot about her.

Some versions of the story have Dwynwen seeing different images in wells and having Maelon turned to ice, but of course, that makes the story totally unbelievable. More than likely Dwynwen and Maelon were real people, and their story went more or less like the one I have just related.

The Welsh of a deep sense of irony, and it is of no real surprise that they would make Dwynwen, a woman whose love is unrequited, their patron saint of lovers. It's sort of like the line from Selznick's movie "Portrait of Jenny" where the character of and elderly lady, Spinny, tells the protagonist, a youngish artist, "You man, no one knows more about love than an old maid!"

To this day people remember the sad story of Dwynwen, and with it all the many Welsh love songs that end in death, separation, rejection. There's a realness to Welsh love that we're missing really. During this week of remembering love and its vicissitudes, Welsh lovers will make the trek along the beach out to Ynys Llanddwyn, where the ruins of a Tudor church stand above the site of Dwynwen's original priory. Still in love, they will hold hands or kiss, and stand in thanksgiving that their love, unlike Dwynwen's, came to fruition.

And what about the other lovers' holiday, Gwyl San Ffolant? That's just like ours, with candy and big read hearts, with one difference: in Welsh San Ffolant's name translates as something like Saint Foolish...

dilluns, de gener 24, 2005

'Nhad, yr hwn sydd yn y nefoedd... (Welsh / English)

Mae'n dwp, ond ydy, bod cân yn gallu 'neud i di feddwl am rywbeth. Daeth cân Reba McEntire ar y radio heddiw fel roeddwn yn gyrru i'r swydda, sef The Greatest Man I Never Knew. Gan wrando'r gân, dechreuais i feddwl am fy nhad, sydd rwan mewn byd arall, os oes byd arall i fod ynddo...

Bu farw 'nhad i bron tair mlynedd yn ôl rwan. Dyn trist oedd o drwy'i oes i gyd, yn dioddef o afiechyd seicolegol, sef GAD. Roedd ofn arno fo fyw yn wir. Rwyf yn cofio nad oedd yn gallu mynd i'r siopau ar ei ben ei hun i brynu'i ddillad. Roedd yn rhaid i fam ei wneud drosto. Yr un chwedl oedd efo mynd i'r banc, neu allan i fwyta. Tra roeddwn yn hogyn bach, nid wyf yn gallu cofio mwy na ddwsin o weithiau yr aeth yntau a fy mam allan i dy bwyta; yr unig dro yr oedd yn digwydd fel arfer oedd pan ddeuai'u penblwydd priodas.

Doedd dim llawer o Gymraeg rhyngddo fo a fi ychwaith. Roedd o'n ddyn pell, yn oer ac ambell waith roedd o'n greulon, yn ddig llawer gwaith. Am beth, doedd neb yn gwybod. O'r tu allan dylai fo wedi bod yn hapus. Roedd gwaith iddo, roedd ei iechyd yn weddol, roedd teulu a thy ganddo. Mae'n wir yr oedd blynyddoedd main ynghylch yr unau go iawn, blynyddoedd pan nad oedd digon o bres i gario ymlaen o fis i fis yn ddibryder, a thrwy lawer o amser, roedden ni'n dibynna ar dân pren i wresu'r ty yn ystod y gaeaf oherwydd doedden ni ddim yn gallu fforddio'r olew i'r ffwrnais. Hyd yn oed, doedd dim ffwrnais gynnon ni dros amser maith, ond stôf pren yn ei le, a'r pren i gyd yn dod o'r coed tu ôl i'n ty. Oedd, roedd blynyddoedd main, yn byw ar fwyd o'r llywodraeth sef caws, llaeth sych, a bwydydd sych eraill fel'na, oedd yn dod yn rhydd ac am ddim o'r llywodraeth i fwydo'r tlodion, i'n bwydo ni.

Doedd fy mam ddim yn gweithio, hyd yn oed y dylai hi, ond chwedl i amser arall fydd hwn.

Treuliodd fy nhad ei ddyddiau i gyd yn gweithio mewn swyddi anodd nad oedd yn talu llawer o bres. Graddiodd o o'r ysgol uwchradd, ond nid aeth o ymhellach na hyn, ac rwyf yn siwr rwan yr oedd hynny oherwydd ei ofn. Dyn claf oedd o wedi'r cwbl, heb lawer o allu i dorri'n rhydd o'r pethau drwg yn ei fywyd.

Y gwir yw un o'r pethau drwg oedd eu deulu, ni. Dylai hynny fod yn anaws o lawer i ysgrifennu, ond yn wir, dydy hi ddim. Ar ôl bod i ffwrdd o'm teulu, rwyf yn gallu'u gweld nhw yn glirach. Od ydyw, ond ydy, bod dyn yn gallu gweld gwir pethau yn haws o bell nag o agos, ond fel yna mae pethau.

Bu farw fy nhad yn 57 oed, dyn ifanc, a dyna beth tristach o hyd, yr oedd yn rhy ifanc o lawer i ymadael. Cyn diwedd ei oes, roedd o wedi dechrau gwella ei iechyd meddwl rhywsut. Dwi ddim yn gwybod sut, efallai roedd yn dod efo henoed, ond dechreuasai fo fynd allan efo cyfeillion o'r gwaith, a mynd ar wyliau heb fy mam, a hyn oedd achos anhapusrwydd rhyngddynt. Mae dyn yn gallu barnu perthynas fy mam a nhad fel yr oedd: yn wag, yn ddrwg, heb serch fel y dylai serch fod, a heb ryw ar ôl geniaeth fy mrawd. Arhoson nhw gyda'u gilydd oherwydd cyd-ddibynniaeth, rheswm drwg iawn i aros gyda'u gilydd, ond dewis y wneith llawer iawn o bobl.

On yn ôl i bam taw ni oedd un o'i broblemau. O'r olwg, doedd o ddim yn ffit i reoli teulu, i fagu plant. Dyn trist ac anhapus oedd, heb ddeall ei fyd yn iawn. Un dydd, a fi yn fwy nag ugain oed yn barod, dywedeodd wrthyf: "Sonny," roedd yn fy ngalw fi'n Sonny trwy'r amser, a f'enw gwir erioed," How did a guy like me end up with a son like you?" Doedd o ddim yn bod yn gas, roedd o eisiau'n wir ei wybod. Roedd o'n sylweddoli taw dyn bach oedd o, dyn drwg hyd at hyn, dyn cas, a fi oedd yn y brifysgol yn darlithio ieithoedd yn barod.

Mi atebais yn onest,"I don't know," ac yna i 'neud jôc o'r peth wedais i," I guess you're just lucky."

Bu farw ychydig o flynyddoedd ar ôl hynny, a hyn oedd ein sgwrs gorau erioed, efallai un o'r sgyrsiau unig oedd rhyngddon ni. Nag oedden, doedden ni ddim yn glos o gwbl. Yntau oedd dyn ffatri, dyn dig, dyn meddw, dyn cas, a fi oedd yn wr bonheddig ifanc, wedi mynd i'r brifysgol, wedi gweithio mewn swyddi meddal yn ystod fy nghyrsiau, wedi'w fagu gan hen fenywod Fictorianaidd; roedden ni'n ddau'n byw yn yr ty ond ym mydoedd oedd yn wahanol yn llwyr. Nag oedd, doedd dim Cymraeg rhyngddon ni o gwbl.

Ac yna, roedd o wedi mynd, i'r lle, i'r peth bynnag y bo lle mae bodau'n mynd ar ôl bod, i'r Cwestiwn Mawr.

Wedodd y bardd: "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."

Roedd Gwasanaeth Coffa iddo, a daeth llawer o bobl o'i waith, ei fyd arall, byd nad oedden ni, y teulu, yn gwybod amdano. Roedd llawer o bobl, pobl oedd yn ei hoffi, efallai yn ei garu, a ni, eu deulu, angharedig. Syndod mawr ini oedd y gynulleidfa mawr o bobl a oedd wedi dod i gofio'm tad. Ni oedd eu broblem, ond roedd gormod o ofn arno fo i'n gadael ni fel y dylai fo wedi'w 'neud petasai fo wedi bod yn ddewr, pe nad oedd o wedi bod yn glaf.

A dweud y gwir yn onest, doedd dim tad gwir gen i, roedd tad biolegol gen i a dyn oedd yn byw yn yr un ty â fi, ond dim dyn oedd yn dad imi. Dyna fy mhroblem i, yn fodd bynnag, os problem ydy o hyd. Ac wedi'r cwbl, ydw i'n ei gasáu, yr hen wr cas oedd yn llenwi'r ystafell fyw efo mwg ei sigaréts a drewi'w gwrw? Oeddwn, roeddwn yn ei gasáu'n ddwfn, yn gweddïo y byddai fo'n marw'n syth ymlaen, yn melltithio'i enw. Ond roedd hyn i gyd yn amser maith yn ôl. Mae pob bachgen bach am dad i ofalu amdano, a fi oedd yn fachgen bach unwaith, ond dyn mawr ydw i rwan, a maddheuais i fo amser maith yn ôl, hyd yn oed cyn iddo farw. Ydw i wedi dweud hyn wrtho? Naddo, wrth gwrs, rwyf yn siwr na fyddai fo wedi deall. Roedd yn ddigon imi nad oeddwn yn ei gasáu mwy, hyd yn oed canfyddais i dipyn bach o gariad iddo. Yr oeddwn yn sylweddoli taw dyn claf, trist oedd o, ac yn dristach o hyd oedd y bu farw ar yr un pryd yr oedd o'n dechrau tyfu'n ddyn hapus, dyn dewr. Dwi ddim yn gwybod yn llwyr, a fydda'i ddim yn ei wybod rwan, pam dyn mor drist oedd o. Mae'n siwr nad oedd ei rieni ddim yn dda iddo ychwaith, a felly etifeddiaeth anodd roedd ganddo. Efallai roedd profiadau ei fywyd yn rhy anodd iddo gario ymlaen yn ddyn llawen. Pwy a wyr?

Mewn hedd y mae o rwan, rwyf yn tybio. Mi gariodd fy mrawd a fi ei olion o'r arlosgfa i'r coed tu ôl i'r ty lle treuliasai fo gymaint o amser yn torri'r coed ini gael gwres yn y ty, ei goed o. Efallai yno oedd lle "daeth o at ei goed" ei hunan, a phenderfynu codi bywyd hebddon ni, bywyd lle gallai ganfod ychydig o lawenydd. Yna yw lle mae ei olion o hyd, yn bwydo'r byd naturiol lle gweithiasai gymaint cynt, wedi mynd yn ôl i'r tragywydd. Trueni nad oedd o ddim yn dod at ei goed cynt...

I gloi, mwy o eiriau'r bardd: "The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed- It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes."

diumenge, de gener 23, 2005

A Day of Zen, or something (English / Welsh)

A day of Zen, or something...

The snow fell in fluffy sheets across the northeast; to the south of us, it seems that few people are able to cope with the snow. As the climate changes, it seems that the means by which one can easily adjust to winter weather are being erased from the collective memories of millions of people. Now when snow falls in Philadelphia, it's as if the whole world were coming to an end. On the other hand, in these parts it really doesn't seem a whole lot better. Carolyn informed me tonight while we were at dinner that only one other person came to Yoga class last Tuesday due to the extreme cold. Yes, it was cold, there's no doubt about that, but why would one forsake money that one has spent on a course when one has no intention of coming everytime the temperature drops below freezing, or a snowflake falls anywhere on the continent?

We are three months into winter in the North Country now, and so far it has been very gentle. This is only the third snowstorm we've had that has warranted shoveling, and the first one that really made you put your back into it. The reality is that we have at least two full months of winter left, and possibly more. Indeed, in years past, even in my tenure in Upstate New York, we have had years where freezing temperatures and/or snow persisted for seven months. If we escape with five months, we'll have something to write in our memoires! And yet, life has to go on, but many people in this neck of the woods choose to hide through the winter. Then they complain about how bored they are. Really, managing in a clod and snowy clime is not all that difficult; one has only to dress sufficiently warmly and be slightly more cautious on the roads. So far this winter, I have been out on the roads during each "dramatic" snow event, and have not even so much as slid on the ice. Oh well, if they stay indoors, that means they won't be out and about to do anything I find annoying ;)

Speaking of Zen moments and snow, clearing the snow is like cleaning, and in this way meditative as well. It's good work for our bodies that rarely see enough good work, and when done carefully and only as vigorously as our health will permit, it is very good for us. I would not like to have to do it every day, but three or four times a month is fine, and even quite pleasant. Today I was out in the snow shoveling for an hour and a half doing the various walks and the driveway. Yes, it was very cold, but I wore layers and thick gloves and boots, and not one part of my anatomy was pinched by frost bite. The sun was out, and really it was a beautiful day, a day that totally disregarded Capital News 9's forecasts of blizzards and imminent doom.

In the afternoon then, I met up with Carolyn at the Crossgates, Albany's largest indoor mall. We went to the 18 to see House of Flying Daggers. The movie was visually excellent; the acting was fair, as was the storyline, typical as it was in that it portrays a legendary story, and hence is filled with hyperbolea. As a side, and somewhat sad note, Regal, who owns most of the movie auditoriums in the Captial District, has announced that it will be closing the Crossgates Regal 12 cinemas, thus reducing the number of auditoriums in the Crossgates from 30 to 18. Many people would have said that 30 is an excessive number, but for those of us who are fans of movies that go out in more limited release, we might be losing the opportunity to see some films which otherwise would have come to Albany. It is true that we still have the blessing of the Spectrum 8 in downtown Albany, but it makes its money by playing some big run films to finance the art films, thus the intermediate film has no other place in Albany but the 12.

Now tomorrow it's back to the battle, i'r gad, i'r gad, dewch Cymry hen ac ifanc, dewch i'r gad! Actually tomorrow is a needful day of preparations for the spring battle with ignorance.

A Thri ar Hugain? Do, daeth o yma neithiwr. Oeddwn yn gam? O'r olwg. Dynion: ni fyddaf yn eu deall byth!

dissabte, de gener 22, 2005

Tá an oíche fuar agus garbh s'abhaile - Poth yu an nos yn Orleans Noweth (English / Cornish / Welsh / Irish / German)

Yeyn yu, ha nyns esov vy yn lowen moy. Ergh a wra omma lemmyn, ha gwyns. Ple'ma Orleans Noweth lemmyn gans an pothder, h'an dus poth ow hwari y'n tir gwerdh yntra'n dinas ha'n dowr? Trist yu an bys gwyn y'n misow du.

Ok, enough kvetching in Cornish... I'm really not that down about the change in temperature, but I don't feel like shouting in joy-filled rapture from the parapets either. It's friggin' colder than shite here, at 5 degrees with snow still falling. I had to extricate my car from the airport parking lot, then charge through snow-filled avenues and boulevards to home. My driveway was just passable.

Wow, what a change from New Orleans where it was 71 this morning when I got in the car for airport. The trip home was arduous, but still better than walking ;)

Nothing of note to report really, tu hwnt i'r Tri war'n Ugens - kewsel dhymm a wra unwaith eto. Pandra vynna'n gwir? Ich habe keine Anung!

divendres, de gener 21, 2005

Estranha forma de vida (English / Welsh / Portuguese / Cornish)

Today was a strangely somber day, and I know why. In fact, there are two distinct reasons, both of which are, however, linked by some common threads.

This was my last full day in The Big Easy, and as I had mentioned in an earlier post, dywedeais i gelwydd wrth Th. am ddod yma. Roeddwn yn wir yn edrych ymlaen at ddod yma o fy nghalon, mwy nag yn flaenorol. Am un peth, Barbara has made a full recovery, and when one has made the custom of doing something over a period of years, and one enjoys the ritual and the habit of doing it, one is loathe to let it go. I had little doubt that Barbara would recover her health, but I didn't know if she would have lost her verve, if the struggle with the cancer would have changed her personality. Fortunately, it did not, and for the time being, this part of my life is as it was. Still, I was anxious to find that Barbara was the same gwraig ddiddorol yr oedd hi gynt, efo'r un hen fodd i ymchwilio i ddadlau, yr un hen fodd i fyw.

Additionally, I was looking very much forward to the weather, the warmth, the high angle of the sun in the sky, the smell of the mighty Big Muddy's perpetual influence and threat on this fragile slip of land poised as it is between sundry possibilities of destruction. I had spent so much of the spring, summer and fall outside this year on the bike, walking or hiking, that I was unhappy at the thought of cocooning myself through the winter. So far, there hasn't been really enough snow to be out doing snowshoeing or cross country skiing, and since diwedd mis Hydref, dwi wedi bod tu mewn, yn y nyth.

Today the weather has been exquisite; it was warm enough today that during my perambulation of Audubon Park, I broke a little sweat, such a divine pleasure! The temperature had risen into the 70's, and the Earth was warm enough to exude that summery fragrance of slowly baking and decaying plant matter; during this week, even with the cooler temperatures, spring had begin to show up in New Orleans, and today several blossoms made their presence known. The park was full of people, and ducks and geese and egrets. Tomorrow this time, I will be back in Albany, the frigid air will surround me like it's Tuktoyaktuk and the snow will be falling. What a dreadful thought...

Luckily today was otherwise lovely, the warmth welcome, and tonight's main event was another delicious meal prepared by Sylvia, Alfred's (Barbara's brother) girlfriend, accompanies by good conversation and good Scotch. Besides Barbara, Alfred and myself, a friend of Sylvia's, also named Barbara was there, and added good whit and intrigue to the night's tales. For dessert we had a kingcake, and I was the one to get the baby, so if any of these folks find themselve on a snowy northern sojourn, the meal will be on me. I would be anyway, of course, since they have been so kind to me, but the tradition of the kingcake baby just reinforces the invitation.

Ond yn y parc, y bobl, yn arbennig y dynion, dyna achos arall y digalondeb sydd yn fy mod rwan, ohwerydd gweld dynion heini, ifanc, yn rhedeg yn hanner noeth, yn chwysu, roedd yn anodd i beidio â meddwl amdanon nhw, a pheidio â meddwl am yr unig golled sydd gennyf. Do, daeth yr hen freuddwyd yn ysglyfaethu'n ôl o'r sbwriel lle roedd o wedi bod yn gwersyllu ers meityn rwan. Y gwanwyn, the white weakness, the weak whiteness, that furtive feeling as life returns from cold places; those living in coldish climes cannot help but feel its pull and influence in ways those who come from hot places cannot appreciate. 'Tis better to have love and lost than to have never loved at all, so goes the time worn cliché, but for those of us in the North, where we are willing slaves to the changing cadence of the season, each year the embers die, and then return with the warm air, and our biologies are sensitive to it even now in a modern era of central heat and artificial light. Hiraeth, dyna beth sydd yn fy nghalon heno, hiraeth am Yntau, pwy bynnag y bo, os yw o'n bod o gwbl tu hwnt i'r breuddwyd cas... ond an gwir trist yu my a vyn den yowynk dhe gara, dhe gysi, den yowynk fel fi, yr un oed â fi neu tipyn bach moy yowynk py moy cos. An nos a dheu, my a vyn cara, pothder. Ydy, hiraeth, morrinha - estranha forma de vida...

Two songs then for tonight...

Hiraeth (tradd./trad.)
Dwedwch fawrion o wybodaeth
O ba beth y gwnaethpwyd hiraeth
A pha ddefnydd a roedd ynddo
Na ddarfyddo wrth ei wisgo
Derfydd aur a derfydd arian
Derfydd melfed derfydd sidan
Derfydd pob dilledyn helaeth
Eto er hyn ni dderfydd hiraeth
Hiraeth mawr a hiraeth creulon
Hiraeth sydd yn torri 'nghalon
Pan fwy' dryma'r nos yn cysgu...
Fe ddaw hiraeth ac a'm deffry
Hiraeth hiraeth cilia cilia
Paid â phwyso mor drwm arna'
Nesa' tipyn at yr erchwyn
Gad i mi gael cysgu gronyn
Nem às paredes confesso (Amalia Rodrigues)
De quem eu gosto nem às paredes confesso
E nem aposto
Que não gosto de ninguém
Podes rogar
Podes chorar
Podes sorrir também
De quem eu gosto
Nem às paredes confesso.
Não queiras gostar de mim
Sem que eu te peça,
Nem me dês nada que ao fim
Eu não mereça
Vê se me deitas depois
Culpas no rosto
Eu sou sincera
Porque não quero
Dar te um desgosto
De quem eu gosto nem às paredes confesso
E nem aposto
Que não gosto de ninguém
Podes rogarPodes chorar
Podes sorrir também
De quem eu gosto
Nem às paredes confesso.
Quem sabe se te esqueci
Ou se te quero
Quem sabe até se é por tique eu tanto espero.
Se gosto ou não afinal
Isso é comigo,
Mesmo que penses
Que me convences
Nada te digo.
De quem eu gosto nem às paredes confesso
E nem aposto
Que não gosto de ninguém
Podes rogar
Podes chorar
Podes sorrir também
De quem eu gosto
Nem às paredes confesso.
Não queiras gostar de mim
Sem que eu te peça,
Nem me dês nada que ao fim
Eu não mereça
Vê se me deitas depois
Culpas no rosto
Eu sou sincera
Porque não quero
Dar te um desgosto
De quem eu gosto nem às paredes confesso
E nem aposto
Que não gosto de ninguém
Podes rogar
Podes chorar
Podes sorrir também
De quem eu gosto
Nem às paredes confesso.
De quem eu gosto nem às paredes confesso
E nem aposto
Que não gosto de ninguém
Podes rogar
Podes chorar
Podes sorrir também
De quem eu gostoNem às paredes confesso.

dijous, de gener 20, 2005

Jazz Funeral for Democracy (English / Welsh)

No one does funerals like New Orleans does them. When a local worthy kicks the bucket, his family and friends hire an old timey jazz band to lead his funeral procession. Today New Orleans saw another jazz funeral, but this time it was for the American Democracy. As a touché to Bush's inauguration in Washington today, around a thousand people marched through the streets of the French Quarter from Congo Park to the Moonwalk in front of Jackson Square where they assembled, and nine of New Orleans and the mid-section of the country's liberal pundits took to a riser set in the middle of the crowd. They spoke passionately and eloquently about the deterioration of due process, and the rise of the Neocons, the representatives of the Neo-Conservative movement in America. Most dressed in the somber black of the traditional jazz funeral, the marchers listened for nearly an hour to an array of leftwing pundits and activists.

While I do lean left, very far left on some issues, I couldn't agree with some of the Marxist anti-bourgeois rhetoric I was hearing; at the same time, I could agree with their general sentiment. With the election of George Bush, an important part of the democratic process feels like it has been supressed. Of course, in large part this is due to the fallacy of perception: the day for American democracy, in my opinion, is not lost... yet. The mechanisms for justice and self correction are still in place, and these days, while duly dark, are not yet quite as dark as the McCarthy era or the Vietnam era. However, that's not to say that they cannot get that dark, and vigilence and continued prodding from the left into the middle, hopefully stirring the complacent and politcally sedentary masses will have to continue.

It's very interesting to observe this kind of protest here in Louisiana, a definitively red state. While New Orleans will always be blue, it's a blue (and black) island amid David Duke Land. I have the good fortune to come from one of the Blue Fortress States, where the plain old conservatives who, even though they won the rural vastness of Upstate and some suburban swaths on Long Island, are a minority; moreoever Neocons are very quiet, and I imagine them meeting in secret locations in old I.O.O.F. clubhouses scattered in tiny and fading rustbelt burgs, plotting the overthrow of larger left-leaning cities like Schenectady and Albany, chanting, "Today Little Falls, tomorrow Albany, then the World!"

With all the rhetoric -and the complacement among us should be paying attention to it, and, to my taste, falling in line with the pot smoking, swinging Neo-Hippies rather than the goose-stepping pro-Natalist anti-gay Neo-Nazis, oops, I meant Neocons... could it be that something rubbed off on my today in the Quarter, and it wasn't one of the typical things to rub off on me there?? - with all the rhetoric it's easy and perhaps alluring to get wrapped up in name calling (see above) and fear mongering of imminent fascism in America, but I really don't believe we've come that far, nor do I believe that we shall.

Dark days for America? Well, they're cloudy at least, but it makes me think of the original words to "All through the Night," "Ar hyd y Nos," where in in the second stanza the songwriter implores us, "Ac i harddu dyn a'i hwyrddydd, rhown i'n golau gwan i'n gilydd, ar hyd y nos!" - and to beautify man in his twilight, let us put our weak lights together, all through the night!

One final thought for tonight, I recently read an article on the BBC (thank you Carolyn for forwarding it to me), where some Neocons in this country are trying to make out that Spongebob Sqaurepants is gay. This led me, since the BBC website always gives a more fair and balanced view of the world than say, FOX, to two American pro-family sites, both of which decried homosexuality of course. One got on the ballywick that so fewer than 10% of America is gay, citing a number more like 2 or 3%. The true proportion of gaydom in our world will probably never be known, since like so many parts of life, it's an evolving fenomenum. A person who feels he is straight at 19 may well be on his knees practicing his pucker for a pickle by the time he's 45. All I know is that Gay.com has around 4.7 million profiles, which, if my math is correct - and it may not be, comes out to 1.4% of the population, or about half of all the queers in America according to the 2-3% theory. Now, what website has ever had 50% of any given population on it? If Gay.com is one, it would shock me immensely.

The other interesting, and somewhat heartening thing about these so-called pro-family neocon cites is that they themselves seem to be under-representing families, since the American Family Association claims on it's opening banner to have around 2.4 million members, and Focus on Family, the principle Spongebob detractor, doesn't even mention it's membership. What's clear from looking at these cites is that the old adage that hate begets hate is true, and in that adage is a warning for all of us. I'll go spelunking in dangerous territory here, but it seems to me that in the Christian Book of Revelations, there's a passage that warns true Christians not to be suckered by false prophets, something to the effect that the guys who say they're the most holy and righteous are the ones to watch out for....

dimecres, de gener 19, 2005

Days of Art, Beer and Roses (English)

Days of art and beer, hardly a bad way to pass the time...

In the past two days, I have been to four museums, three art museums and one historical, and three of them were ones that, even after having come to New Orleans seven times, I had not previously visited.

Yesterday I made my way to NOMA, the New Orleans Museum of Art located in the expansive City Park, a huge green space amazingly kept tame by uknown means. Nature is the task master in New Orleans, and anything not constantly trimmed, cut, pruned or otherwise kept at bay will quickly devour whatever man-made endeavour is put in its path. City Park is a vast green swath of open parklands, ponds and public spaces the center piece of which is NOMA; amazingly it is relativley dry there, as thought someone were considerate enough to wring out the land before laying it in the park. Most of the city actually lies below sea and river level, making for persistent ponding and random pockets of standing water. NOMA itself is worth a trip, sitting at the end of a a beautiful oak alley looking a little bit like a miniature Philadelphia Museum of Art. They have the typical kinds of art one would expect to find in a late 19th century vintage museum, their crowning collection being a permanent display of some of Fabergé's work including a couple eggs.

This trip tho, I was not lured indoors; really the quality of the collection does not strike me as that much grander or inspiring than that of the Albany Institute. On the other hand, their new sculpture garden is worth a second look. It has only been open about two years, and last year when I went to see it, the weather was not cooperating, and I wasn't able to spend much time musing. This year the weather, while crisp by New Orleans' standards at around 58, was otherwise dry. I snapped some pictures of my favorite sculptures, and once I get home, I will post some here and make further commentary. Suffice it to say, the mid-morning excursion was worth the short drive across town.

Also noteworthy was the chance to behold the extended Canal Streetcar Line, which now has its terminus at City Park. When I first came to New Orleans, there were only two Streetcar lines left in operation: the St. Charles and the Riverfront. The Riverfront Line was mostly just for tourists wanting shuttling from one end of the Quarter to the other, leaving just the St. Charles Line to do any real work in the City. Now, the Canal Street Line ferries passengers from the Quarter clear across town to City Park, with a spur line to some of the famous cemeteries. So far there has only been speculative talk about restoring the famed Desire Line featured in the classic film "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Today I hit the other three museums, all in the Warehouse District along Camp Street leading from Magazine to the Quarter: The Confederate Memorial Hall, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Contemporary Art Center. In fact, not only were all three on the same street, they were all on the same block! The first, the Confederate Memorial Hall was a bit of a fluke. Being a dyed in the wool yankee, I don't cater too well to the whole Confederate Rebellion, but for five bucks I did get a good look at some very interesting artifacts, and while I don't feel especially comfortable with what the Confederacy actually represented (the maintenance of human beings in bondage), the Libertarian in me sees a certain justification for presupposed reason they rebelled, that being a rebellion against a growing and centralizing government. Moreover, there was important history to be learned in the Memorial Hall, noteably that there were Black Confederates, something I had not known before.

Next I went literally next door to the Ogden Museum, which housed a fine collection of 20th century art all from the South. In places like New Orleans, with Confederate Museums adjacent to Southern art museums, it is really underscored that the United States still does not, and really should never, have a single homegrown, invariable culture. The South is still distinct, and within that distinction, southern Louisiana and again New Orleans are yet again distinct. My favorite exhibits in the Ogden were the photographs, which I found to be the most revealing and pertinent of all the displays, but that could be because I myself enjoy doing photography.

The third museum was also the least interesting, sadly. The Contemporary Arts Center does not have the caliber of art that the MassMOCA has in North Adams, MA. They did have several works which I held in some esteem, but nothing of any great note.

After several hours of musing, I went to the Whole Foods supermarket on Magazine and got some grilled tofu in Ponzu sauce, some vegetable fetuccini, a couple organic Braeburn apples and a six pack of Warsteiner beer (I had to replenish my stock, as I had already tippled all the Abita Amber I had gotten at the WinnDixie several days before) and returned to Pitt Street to have lunch, blog and have a siesta. Yes, this does sound very yuppyish, but heh, sometimes, I have my moments.

Oh yeah, the roses: in City Park at the Sculpture Garden, yup, roses in January, and then today at Whole Foods they had fresh tulips!

dilluns, de gener 17, 2005

Two Sleepy Southern Days (English)

Two relatively quiet days in New Orleans...

Being on a vacation, a vaction for its own sake is a quickly dying pleasure in this country. it sems so few people know how to just sit back and do absolutely nothing. Fortunately, I am a Hedonist, and I can find lovely ways of filling up time without being in the least way productive. For the past two days, I have done little aside from eat, drink, sleep, read, stroll and loll around.

The weather is a little colder than I am used to in New Orleans for this time of year, but so far it has been very sunny. While a bit nippy, the sun has a way of warming you up nonetheless; the sky is a radiant, lovely blue, and the perfume of exotic woods burning in Uptown fireplaces all along St. Charles Avenue fills the air.

Yesterday, Sunday, I joined Barbara on a trip to her brother's house for dinner. Her brother, Alfred, and his almost fiancee Sylvia were the hosts, treating us to a real Louisiana Delta meal of broiled chicken, stuffing, eggplant with shrimp and iced tea, nothing exotic, just good, down home food. In addition to Alfred and Sylvia, Barbara's other brother, Donald, and his wife were there also. Aside from eating and conversing, all I did was wandered around this lovely monstrosity of a house and relax. I caffeinated myself through the morning and tippled beer through the evening.

Today was not so different. I caffeinated through the morning, then went out to souvenir shop for those who have insisted on my bringing something back, making this my only likely day to spend in the French Quarter, a place which has become kitchy and somewhat boring over time, being, like so many things in America, toned down and filled with common place rwtsch. I spent the afternoon lounging and reading, and nodding off. Normally, even on vacation, I would take more advantage of being in a place like New Orleans, but the two slowest days in these parts are Sunday and Monday, especially when that Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Interestingly, in a city which is more than 67% black, I saw no signs of MLK celebrations, eventough I was out in the middle of the day for several hours. The fact that today was a holiday, no matter which holiday, was one more reason to lay low; everyone had off, and since I tend to like to go to places locals frequent, the places I like to visit were full of locals, so it was hard to do much of anything!

One thing that has not taken a break: my brain. Barbara is an extremely intelligent and fairly eccentric person, so we have a lot to talk about, with relatively little argy-bargying. Tonight, for example, we have been discussing the evils of the Bush regime and that of corporate welfare. One product of our conversation tonight was the reinforcing of my firm belief in the necessity for everyone to go to college, not even so they can get a better job, or a job at all, but so that they become more well-rounded people. Frighteningly, only 24% of people in this country have bachelor's degrees or higher. It hardly seems surprising then that so many people voted for Bush. Some of his voters would have been college educated as well, but he slid through on the votes of the uneducated underclass of America who tumps Bibles, lives in fear and sin, and votes with their knee-jerk reactions rather than their heads. Of course, it is true that a person can be open-minded and well-rounded without having gone to college, but the chances are without a doubt much slimmer.

dissabte, de gener 15, 2005

Arrived in Safety (English / Welsh)

Saturday night, and I've arrived in one piece in the Big Easy; it was great to get here and feel the moist air from off the Lake and the Gulf and drive along the oak lined streets where the trees still have green leaves. Winter does come to this place, in its own way, although nothing l ike it does to us in Upstate New York. In Southern Louisiana the winter comes sauntering past, just a ways off in the distance; it gets close enough for the occasional freeze to torment the locals, but mostly it just brings the day time temperatures down to what we would consider to be a very lovely mid-sixties range. Every winter that I have come here, I have always been amused at the curious habit of the locals who, when the temperature approaches the 50 degree mark, dig deep into their closets and find their furlined jackets and hats and don them as though they would really need them to ward of the wee tinge of cool air that comes down this far south, even in the middle of January. On the other hand, we in the Great North, once the temperatures reach the 40's in the Spring, start wearing our shorts.

The trip was generally uneventful from Albany. The first leg of the flight was meant to be Albant to Charleston, but that flight was delayed. The attendant very kindly found me another flight by which I would come to New Orleans via Washington, D.C. Sadly, my duffle bag with most of my clothes did not make the change with me, and I am currently awaiting the courier from US Airways to drop off my clothes. In the end though, as long as my things arrive in a more or less timely manner, I really canm't complain. I ended up arriving here three hours earlier than otherwise I would have, and for a nominal fee, I was able to upgrade by seat on the Washington-New Orleans leg of the trip to first class.

My arrival at Barbara's house found her well and very much back in the swing of things after her battle with cancer, and it was good to see her back in top form. She invited me to have some chicken pot-pie and wine which was a welcome relief after travelling all day, and knowing that I would have to wait around for my goods and chattles to arrive.

Being here leaves me with a curious feeling. Like being in Wales this summer, I no longer feel like a stranger here. While Wales always felt like it was a part of me, it wasn't until this summer that I really felt at ease there in the same way I feel at ease in Schenectady. This trip to New Orleans feels the same way to me. It is perhaps the effect of frequent trips, but it may also be a sign of the continuing process I have gone through of letting go of worrisome things. The parts of travel that can sometimes be disconcerting just seem not to bother me anymore, and I am able to slip into the spirit of the place without anxiety.

Who knows what my week will bring here. Each trip has been different and unique, and the best have been the most interesting when I haven't even been trying.

Ond un peth bach: roedd Barbara a fi yn gwatsio ffilm. Nid yn bwysig ydyw nag enw na phwnc y ffilm, ond yn sydyn daeth Tri ar Hugain i'm meddwl. Gallwn i weld ei gorff, ei wyneb, mor glir yn fy mhen. Y gwir yw nad wyf wedi ei weld ers y noson honno cyn Nos Galan, a dwi ddim yn credu y byddaf yn ei weld o eto. Wedi mynd y mae o, i rywun aral, rwyf yn siwr, ond ta waith, mae o'n aros yn fy meddwl. Blwyddyn oedd hi o fod gyda'n gilydd, ac rwan mae hwn wedi dod i ben; dwi'n ei deimlo. Yr unig beth anffodus yw na fyddaf yn gallu ei anghofio mor hawdd, dim o'r olwg.

divendres, de gener 14, 2005

The Little I Know (English / French)

Tomorrow at this time, I will be in the Big Easy, half a continent away from home and from whatever minor annoyances haunt the edges of my life. It's good not to have anything of scale to run away from, but it's still nice to run away for a while.

Tonight Leslie, Pam and I went out to celebrate Pam's 43rd birthday. She chose to go to Ferrari's over in the Mont Pleasant section of the city, an area still predominately Italian, and a place with a great neighborhood feel in those sections which have changed little. Ferrari's is a great place. The food is quite good, very hearty southern Italian food, all essentially made on the premises, especially their pasta; one of my weaknesses is for tortellini alfredo, and they have an excellent alfredo sauce. I also really like the way the staff treats the guests; many, if not all of them, are related to the owners. They take a great deal of care in how they customers enjoy their meals, and often the owners will make a point of personally coming to the table, or greeting you upong entering. Sometimes the owner and several of the waitstaff with welcome you or wish you well upon leaving; it's an extremely friendly place to go, and their hospitality only adds to the meal.

After dinner, we came back to my house and chatted for a couple hours; the topic of conversation was quite deep, but it was one of those conversations after which I remain uncertain whether or not the three of grew closer, or perhaps futher apart. More specifically, I feel as though a wedge of some kind may have been driven between the two of them together and me.

As I get older, I realize I know less and less about the world; the realization is humbling, but in a totally pleasant way of being humbled. There are a few things I'm relatively sure about tho, and our protracted conversation tonight made me think about them:

1) We are only here for a finite amount of time - as far as we know with any degree of certainty, this is the only life we have; afterward all that remains is a question mark. When I look at a corpse in a coffin, I always say to myself, "Now he knows." I truly and deeply hope that there is something after physical death, and I suspect that it is likely. I just don't know for sure, and I won't, prayfully, for many years to come.

2) When we have our health and enough to eat and a warm, dry place to call home, we are exceedingly fortunate. All other problems pale in comparison. Having come from quite a poor background, like all picaros, I know what it means to be without. People who come from privileged backgrounds seem to fill the void left by real, life-threatening problems, with self created problems which, quixotically, seem much more difficult to overcome, even when the stimulus for them has evaporated with time.

3) The nature of life is one of dismal iniquities. Given that, we have to accept what we cannot change and flow with it, react not necessarily against it, but in tandem with it, making the best of bad situations. Adelaide Nauman, an old lady who used to work with me at the Historical Association back in Monroe County, PA, used to say, "It could be worse, and it probably will be, so you may as well enjoy today." That thought is not depressing in my opinion, but liberating. We must enjoy the moment since it's all we really have.

4) Life is meant to find joy and be content, at least a good life is. Given that our deaths are likely to be painful, if not long and painful, in the meantime, we have to live for the good times, the things that make is happy. If we find something that makes us happy in a positive and life affirming way, then we should do it as often as possible. I remember very clearly Jean and Marcelle Eber-Munch whose acquaintance I made in Lamballe, Brittany. Both in their 80's and having been together for decades, they knew very well that their time together, and on this earth was limited. In one long conversation about life and experiences, Marcelle said very simply in her Alsatian accent, "Dans la vie, il y a des moments noirs et des moments roses; il faut vivre pour les moments roses. Dans la vie, nous, on a eu de la chance: on a eu plus de moments roses." - In life, there are black moments and rose moments; one has to live for the rose moments. In our lives, we have been lucky: we have had more rose moments. No matter what, we have to life for the rose moments, and create them whenever possible.

5) Worry is essentially pointless. In the end we die. All that we worried about dies with us. It is better to let go of most troubling thoughts and behaviors, except for maybe correctly placed guilt.

6) We are responsible more or less for our own fates, at least inasmuch as we can choose who we react to situations before us. In the end, if we end up in a good port or bad one comes down to decisions we have made, with rare exception.

7) To strike balance, we should live like we're going to die tomorrow, but plan like we'll live forever.

Other than that, I don't knwo bupkis. I doubt I will ever understand why some people choose to be miserable and complain about their lots in life while doing nothing to effect change. If I'm very lucky, I may have another 50 or 60 years on this mortal coil, and I want each of them to be as good as they can be, as full of joy as they can be. Life is worth celebrating; it's rich and vibrant and most wonderful in the most unexpected ways. What saddens me is that so many people are unable to see that.

Part of my difficulty in understanding so many people's point of view as it differs from mine on the above points I think is because, expressly, I come from the poor classes. It seems to me that many more privileged people believe there is some profound mystery, a hidden key to happiness. They seek outside themselves for a key that has always been within them.

If God exists at all, then It exists as we exist. It is us, and we are It, and all things are It too; that seems pretty obvious. God may well be the key, the center of joy, but then all we have to do to find it is stop looking outside in the wide world, and simpling start being, really being in the world. Each simple act of life is then an exhaltation of joy an expression of good and an affirmation of life's worth.

dijous, de gener 13, 2005

Climate Control from Heaven (English)

The Great Being turned the climate control on Wales, in January. He must have been confused or something, since this is Upstate New York. Hard for me to tell, but it's around 50 degrees farhenheit outside, and the snow is nearly melted from the driveway, and has all but disappeared from the walks and the street. I went out to hit the circuit breaker in the garage without a coat tonight. It was comfortable, almost balmy. While the temperature was pleasant, the sky was sullen and angry looking, and the earth pot marked with patches of peasoup fog. My next door neighbor, Mary, joked that we haven't seen more than two hours of sunlight in the past week; she might be right.

Beyond the interesting weather, I have no deep thoughts tonight. My brain is full of MSG and Zombies, since Carolyn and I dined at Yip's tonight. Then I had to come home and busy myself with banalities. Fortunately, tomorrow is the last day of the winter session. The goner whom I mentioned in an earlier post, well it does look like he's going to do a Titantic and sink like a lead balloon. Alas, so much for being wrong. Luckily, he will probably be the only one. Then tomorrow evening, it's time for Pam's birthday; Leslie and I are taking her to Ferrari's over on the other side of town. That will be nice.

What will be nicer still, Saturday I pack up some needful goods and chattles and I get on a jet plane for the big N.O., New Orleans, Louisiana, what has been for the past seven winters, my yearly respite from the grey, dense winters of Upstate New York. Generally I'm not this anxious to go, and when I dined with Th. and M., I told a lie, saying that I was not excited. I am. The reason is simple; I spent so much time outside this summer, hiking, biking, walking, working on the house, that having to essentially remain indoors so much of the time now is stifling. I'm really looking forward to the relative warmth and that thick, sultry southern Louisiana comfort I've come to know and adore.

Each year that I go to NOLA, something interesting happens too, and in the past couple weeks, life has become a little ho-hum. A trip to New Orleans to see Barbara and her crazy house full of guests will be a welcome diversion to day to day life. Soon it will be chicory coffee, begnet's and bourbon ;)

dimarts, de gener 11, 2005

Yn rhydd o'r diwedd (Welsh)

Yn araf deg, mae'n marw, a pheth bendigedig ydyw hefyd. Roeddwn yn sicr y basai, un dydd, petawsn i aros am amser digon hir. Beth sydd yn marw? Hen freuddwyd. O pa mor hir, pa amser mor faith yr arhosaswn i ymadawiad hwn ddechrau, ac o'r diwedd, y mae. Pa fath o hen freuddwyd? Hen freuddwyd o fy ieunctid, breuddwyd sydd yn tarddu o hen amserau, ac yn ei ffasiwn sydd wedi dod yn hunllef.

Unwaith, roeddwn yn credu yn serch, yng nghariad cywir. Rwyf yn gwydod rwan paham credwn mewn peth fel yna, oherwydd roedd cymaint o straeon, mewn llyfrau, ffilmau, ar y teledu, yn dweud yr oedd cariad fel yr hwn yn bod. Roeddwn yn credu hefyd yr oeddwn yn adnabod pobl oedd wedi canfod y fath hon o serch. Ond, dyna'r broblem efo breuddwydion syddyn cael eu codi ar syniad, meddylrithau cam. Celwydd canfyddiad ydyw. Rydyn ni'n gweld pethau yn ein byd, ac rydyn ni'n ceisio eu deall. Rydyn ni'n gwrando ar bobl eraill, ac rydyn ni'n clywed hel straeon o fan i fan, ac rydyn ni'n mynd ymlaen yn creu ffug sydd yn ymddangos egluro'r gwir. Dyna beth a wnais hyd at gariad.

Am rai, mae cariad cywir yn bod. Maen nhw'n canfod rhywun yn y byd sydd yn teimlo cariad mor gryf amdanon nhw â'r cariad eu bod nhw'n ei deimlo. Nid wyf yn siarad am basiwn yma, nag am ramant ychwaith. Rwyf yn siarad am gariad. Ambell waith, gweithiau prin, mae'r cariad hwn yn canfod ei hun yng nghylch perthynas rhywiol, ac mae gynnon ni wedi arddangos, cariad cywir fel yr hwn sydd yn bod yn yr holl straeon, ond peth prin ydyw, a dim ond cyd-ddigwyddiad ydyw, damwain.

Yn fodd bynnag, fel bachgen, roeddwn yn credu yr oedd y fath hon o gariad yn bosib i bawb, ond rwan, fel dyn, rwyf wedi dod i bwynt lle rwyf yn sylweddoli'n rhesymol nad yw hwn yn digwydd. Oes, mae cariad yn byd. Mae llawer o bobl fy mod i'n caru atyn nhw, a chariad gwir ydyw. Mae rhai o rain yn fy ngharu fi hefyd. Mae'n dod ar ôl profiadau cyffredin, amser maith yn yr un lle, neu yn yr un gwaith. Mae dod efo amser a phrofiad, ac nid oes coup de foudre fel yn yr hen ramantau Ffrengig. Mae perthnasau sydd yn dechrau â coup de foudre yn fwy rhywiol na ddim, ac os nad ydyn nhw ddim yn dod yn rhywbeth mwy, maen nhw'n marw'n chwerw, ond nid yn gyflym o orfod.

Hefyd, mae gen i bethnasau rhywiol, ac ambell waith, mae rhain wedi cymryd agwedd emosiynol oherwydd meithder yr amser o gwrdd, o fod gyda'n gilydd. Yn anffodus, fy f'achos i, mae'r agwedd hon wedi dod oddi wrthyf yn unig, ac nid oedd cyfatebiad gwir oddi wrth y person arall, o'r lleiaf, nid hyd yr oeddwn yn ymwybodol ohono.

Hyd at y perthnasau eraill y yn byd, y bobl sydd yn cwrdd ac yn byw gyda'u gilydd am flynyddoedd hir, neu yn priodi, mae rhai, ychydig iawn baswn i'n ddweud o'm profiad i, yn tarddu a'r fath gyntaf o gariad y soniais amdani, y serch sydd yn dod o feithder amser. Mae mwyafrif o ohonyn nhw yn tarddo o angen neu eisiau seicolegol, neu gymdeithasol - i gael gwr neu wraig hardd, cyfoethog, pwysig, neu i gael plant, teulu, cadw'r traddodiad crefyddol, ayyb. Neu, yn syml, mae'n nhw'n tarddu yn unig o gyd-ddibynniaeth. Mae rhai yn y bydd sy ddim yn gallu cario ymlaen heb gymar. Nid wyf yn dweud y dylai pobl fynd ymlaen yn unig yn llwyr. Mae'n rhaid i ni gael pobl yn ein cylch, cyfeillion, teulu, cyd-weithiwyr ayyb. Ond, os nad ydyn ni am fagu plant, i lawer iawn o bobl, nid oes rhaid canfod cymar, rhywun "i fod yno" fel maen nhw'n cwyno amdano bob tro ar y rhaglenni sgwrs. Basai'n hyfryd petasen ni gael cariad cywir, ond os na, rydyn ni'n alluog o gario ymlaen fel yr ydym.

Rwyf yn gwybod hyn y feddyliol, ond yn fy nghalon, mae'r hen freuddwyd creulon, yr hen freuddwyd sydd wedi fy nghaethu o fod yn llawen amser mor hir, wedi parhau ymlaen, yn fy nhynnu fi bob tro tuag at bobl sydd ddim yn llawn o hapusrwydd, sydd ddim yn chwilio am yr un pethau yn y byd, pobl gan mwyaf sydd yn chwilio am wobr hardd, felly nid amdanaf, neu bobl sydd yn chwilio am gyd-ddibynniaeth, hyd yn oed os nad ydyn nhw ddim yn gwybod eu bod nhw'n ei wneud...

Ond heddiw, tra eisteddwn yn fy nghadair freichiau yn syrthio'n ysgafn i gysgu, daeth meddylrith newydd imi, neu o'r lleiaf aeth o fy mhen i fy nghalon. Rwyf yn yn teimlo rwan fel rwyf yn gallu canfod hapusrwydd gwir heb gael cymar. Roeddwn yn ei wybod trwy'r amser, yn fy mhen, ond rwan, yn fy nghalon, rwyf yn ei deimlo hefyd. Rhyddid mor wych yw, roedd yn rhaid imi ddod i mewn i'r weflog ac ysgrifennu. Rwyf yn siwr nad wyf yn rhydd yn llwyr o'r hen freudwydd cas. Rwyf yn gallu teimlo rhyw nerth ohono yn dal at ochrau fy meddwl o hyd, ond o'r lleiaf mae o wedi dechrau marw.

O'r diwedd hir, rwyf wedi dechrau bod yn rhydd, yn rhydd o'r diwedd, diolch i Dduw fel mae'r hen wr yn ddweud....

dissabte, de gener 08, 2005

I can't remember, a worse December, just watch those icecicles form... Oh, this is January! (English / Welsh)

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

... and it did, all morning, and all afternoon. Our local cable news channel, Capital News 9, was broadcasting, live, up to the minute, on how bad the storm was, how dreadful the roads were. They cautioned everyone to stay indoors, off the treacherous and snow laden roads.

So I went out, in my car, on the roads, of course.

I had to go the bank.

Mae dynion drwg sydd am gymryd f'arian i 'ngwas i, 'lly allan â fi i'r eira ofnadwy, ond doedd y ffyrdd ddim mor ddrwg aniwê, felly ar ôl the bank, it was off the Starbucks for coffee. Yes, the snow was snowing, the wind was blowing, the icecicles formed, oops, no I didn't have anyone's love to keep me warm, but that would have been lovely to add to the coffee.

Those silly duffers on Capital News 9, they must have been trying to drum up ad revenues or something, 'cos really the roads, while snowy, were not very slippery; the snow fell light and fluffy, not wet and gooey. I returned from banking and Starbucking, and took a mere 25 minutes to scoop the driveway out by hand, and the walks, no sweat. My coffee was still warm when I retrieved it from the car. The snow continued to fall through the afternoon, and another couple a few inches piled up. I caught a glimpse of this young guy from down the street using his snow-blower on Mary's next door, so I caught his ear and had him come blow me out as well. Since I had returned, enough snow had fallen to require my redoing the walks in particular.

Bad weather or not, I had no intention of staying home. In Upstate New York, if you decide to stay hom during the snow, you will scarcely leave the house during the winter. As long as I'm feeling up to snuff, I make it a point to spend most of the day out in the bad weather, doing the things I would normally do. Normally, on Saturdays, Anna and I go out and do something relaxing. This weekend, we decided on Chinese at the Ocean Palace and Ocean's 12 at the 12. Hmmh, that sounds confusing, but it's not. As I left shortly after 4:30, the snow was still pelting the area, and the roads were clearly more slick than they had been. Nevertheless, I was able to proceed at near the speed limit all the way to Anna's. Her driveway hadn't been cleared yet, and still I was able to make a running start and achieve the top end of it. For all of Capital News 9's whining and fear mongering, there really was nothing to it. A few inches of snow, and you would think the world were coming to an end! Oy vey!

The snow was still coming down at a nice clip as we wenter the Ocean Palace for Dim Sum and a proper Chinese meal, but some bizarre magical transformation ocurred while we were within: the snow stopped, and it got much warmer. Indeed, when we got back on Central Avenue, the main drag of both Albany and Schenectady (altho here in Schenectady, we call it State Street), there was scarcely any snow left on the road surface. We went to Regal 12 to watch Ocean's 12 (synchronicity? hmmm...), and when we left, the roads were wet, but not slippery at all. I have to admit, I rarely think much about weird weather, but tonight's got me thinking. I can never remember something like that before, at least not in January, and not in Upstate New York. Oh well, if it is global warming, we better enjoy it while we can. If some of those modeal are correct, global warming will ultimately bring on another ice age.

Incidently, the pic was enjoyable. I wouldn't buy a copy, nor rush to see it again, but it was pleasant. A ta waith, mae'n dda bob tro i weld Cymraes yn gwneud joben dda ar y sgrîn. Mae Catherine Zeta yn fendigedig yn wir. Mae hi'n hardd ac yn gwybod sut i actio, a hithau'n Gymraes Gymraeg hefyd :) Nag ydw, dydw i ddim yn cwyno am y candi llygad arall oedd yn y fflic 'chwaith ;)

divendres, de gener 07, 2005

A Cup of Coffee, a Steak a Neb (English / Welsh / Cornish / Spanish)

Class went well today. The goner whom I had mentioned earlier is actually coming to class and doing his work; it appears as tho I were wrong. Strangely enough, some times it's edifying to be wrong. I really do want all my students to do well, at least as well as possible. This is not the American in which I was a child, and the rules of the game have changed. Each person is now a picaro cast out dirty and snot ridden like el Buscón into a grime and disease infested world. We are so much like Spain during the waning years of the Siglo de Oro, but since we hardly ever pay attention to what happens in present-day cultures, we are hardly likely to pay attention to the state of Spain more than 250 years ago. Soon, like Spain, I fear we will spiral into a long, slow decadencia, ending up something like a bloated Argentina: still wealthy, still sort of important, but nostalgic for better times. Each and every student in college must strive for their buen puerto. As the saying goes, the knives are out, and the path to a pleasant life in which simple Hedonistic pleasures are possible is becoming a harder row to hoe. It's hard to look at their faces and not want them to succeed. Oh sure, there are those exceptional few whom one would wish ill, but the majority, you want them to be something, to have connections, wonderful vacations, long lasting memories of rich experiences. The dismal truth is, no matter how much we wish, no matter how hard we try, that's not going to happen to most of them, but there's always that one or two who make it.

One of the noteworthy things we did today in the battle for awareness of one's place in the world was read and discuss Ursula LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" This class seems pretty sharp, and they got the message right away; it was interesting to observe the reactions of the Black students; interestingly they seemed more relaxed with the concept than did the White students, who, as usual, make up the vast majority of the class. Nearly all the Black students at the college, by the way, are from down state.

As an aside, before leaving the classroom today, I managed to find and view the four minute Simpon's message from Marge where Lisa speaks her four words of Cornish in support of Cornish Independence. It was a bit anti-climatic afetr all the fuss about it on Warlinnen, but it was still fun to watch. You can go to Simpsons Channel and see it you like. I also found this poem in Cornish by Mattew Clark (den yowynk poth yu ;) ) about the gowrdonn, the tsunami, which I found very interesting:

Bardhonek yn kov a dus a vyw warlergh an gowrdonn
Awos an hager-awel
Y fynnyn ni skapya pell
Dhe vro gans trethow owrek
Ha trevow yn-dann gell
Dhe dyller gans howl ha toemmder
Dhe dyller pur bell dhe-ves
Mes lemmyn an goel yw mernans
Awos kordonn ha dorgwrys

Le mayth esa tewes
Tornysi hys-ha-hysLe mayth esa ostel
Gans gwin yn lystri-gwrys
Lemmyn nyns eus travydh
Saw korfow yn tre dhiswrys
Yma ankow yn pub sorn
Awos kowrdonn ha dorgwrys.
-Matthew Clarke 1a mis Genver 2005

The other highlight of the day was dinner with Th. and M. at Union Hall in Johnstown. Union Hall is quite a nice place for a small town like Johnstown, and its owner/chef is a CIA graduate. We had a wonderful meal, and good conversation as usual. Of course, one thing about dining out in Johnstown, Gloversville or Amsterdam, is that Taiyebeh and Mo are local celebrities in that neck of the woods, so people had to keep coming over and saying hello. This is one of the reason I opted to live in Schenectady. Local celebrity aside, I like being able to live my life with a certain amount of anomymity. Even in this area, I run into my students all the time. Anytime I'm out in the Fulmont region, I see my students everywhere. For me, living like that would be too much.

After dinner I returned home along Route 5. From Amsterdam to the lock at Patersonville, there was scarcely another car to be seen. As I rode along, I got all musing, and a bit bemused at life. I didn't want the road to end; it was quite pleasant to drive along the wide ribbon of asphalt almost alone, the road clear and dry even after the day of snow and ice we had had. It did come to an end however, and after Patersonville, I was able to turn my thoughts away from tristwch dirgel ddyn fy nghalon, dirgel ddyn sydd yn digalonni. Ambell waith, rwyf eisiau'n wir lladd y rhan fach ohonof sydd yn credu yn serch hyd yn oed rwan, ar ôl yr holl flynyddoedd o fod yn unig. Y gwir yw clir, nid oes neb yn y byd hwn imi. Rwyf yn gwybod; mae llawer o bobl yn meddwl hynny, ac yn ei ddweud, ond dwi'n ei wybod yn nirgel ddyn fy nghalon. Dwi ddim yn siarad am ryw, mae gen i gyfeillion dros dro fel Tri ar Hugain am hynny. Ond hyd yn oed fi, dwi eisiau teimlo breichiau cryf o fy nghwmpas ambell waith, i wybod bod rhywun yn meddwl mod i'n arbennig, a'i wybod, dim jyst ei gredu, ei heisiau. Ond mae dydd i mi allu credu ym mhethau fel hyn wedi machlud. Petasai fo ddod, fyddwn i ddim yn ei credu, dyna beth sy'n drist, a dyna pam dwi'n digalonnu. Efallai, un o'r dyddiau hyn, bydd y teimlad gwag hwn yn marw'n llwyr, a byddaf mewn hedd o ryw fath. Mae'n hen bryd imi atal credu mewn ffantasi, mewn ffug, mewn breuddwyd twp sydd wedi cael ei fwydo gan straeon, ffilmiau, profiadau pobl eraill. Beth sydd yn wir imi yw byd arall, ffordd arall, ffordd lle mae cariad yn aros yn ffug, chwedl wedi ei chreu i blant, fel Siôn Corn, rhywbeth hyfryd sy ddim yn bod.

dijous, de gener 06, 2005

When you have the crud, the whole world has the crud with you... (English)

Or so it seems. Just about everyone I know has either had this wretched bug, or someone of their close friends or family have. That's why we always called in the creeping crud in my valley; it had this way, whatever form it takes of moving from person to person, creeping along in a most unrefined way, and springing on people when they think they're safe. My own bout with the beast is drawing to a close, but I will still be hoarse for days, and this I do not like. I hate not being to belt out just exactly what's on my mind. One of life's dismal iniquities, being felled by a microbial entity with a rabbit-like procreative drive. Oh well, I have no profound thoughts to share tonight. Tomorrow is another day :)

dimecres, de gener 05, 2005

Der Schnee kommt (German / Pennsylvania German)

Der Schnee kommt heute Abend, oder am Mitnacht, und daß ist etwas daß habe ich nicht gern. Ich kann mit dem kalte Wetter leben, und glücklich genug sein, aber wann kommt der Schnee, dann muß ich so schwer arbeiten, und ich kann nervös werden auch. I habe kein Angst, daß ist nicht der Problem, sondern muß man so viel pauken später wenn die Universität zugemacht ist wenn zu viel Schnee gibt es. Oh well, wie sagt man in Pennsylvanee, hier ist "en alt Gedicht" von John Bermelin daß habe ich auf Hiwwe-wie-Driwwe gefunden; der spricht über Winter:

Der Winder

'S iss ewwe widder Winder!
Un niemand weess es g'schwinder
Ass wie die alde Leit;
Ya, drauss iss alles eisich,
Der Wind iss kalt un beissich,
Gewiss en beesi Zeit.

Im Kalte rum schpaziere,
Die Gnoche ganz verfriere?
Do schnaddere ehm die Zeeh.
Im Schnee do rum zu schlappe
Un noch uff's Eis zu dappe?
Verbrecht am End en Bee.

Der Offe uffzuhitze
Un datt dehinner sitze,
Sell kann gemietlich sei!
Der Wind iss drauss am Heile,
Der maag sich yuscht verweile,
Er yohlt un kann net rei.

'S iss alles schtill im Heisel,
Es gnaewwert kaum en Meisel,
Die Bussi hockt un schpinnt.
Un drauss iss Schneegekissel,
Am Fenschter heert mer's bissel,
So leicht gebletscht vum Wind.

Die Mammi iss am Schtricke,
Verleicht am Gleeder flicke,
Die Finger sinn 're schteif.
Der Daadi iss am Lese,
Er waermt vergniecht die Heese
Un schmokt sei aldi Peif.
-John Bermelin (1873-1950)

Oh ja, und ich bin noch krank, so daß hilft nicht. Dann, jetzt zum Bett, für morgen muß ich eine Krieg mit dem Schnee haben.

dimarts, de gener 04, 2005

Yoga (aka Namaste), The Trouble with Albanians (from Albany, NY), and a Preamble of Several Other Inane Bits (English / Welsh)

Af i gwrdd â'r gelyn...

A line from a Welsh hymn the name of which currently escapes me, but it translates as, "I go to engage the enemy." During an Ysgol Gân in London, Ontario a few years back, a Welsh teacher of mine, Gareth Jones from Pwllheli in the Llyn, once told us the story of a fellow teacher whom he knew in the region who would site this line to his wife after he finished his morning paned (cup of tea), just as he went off to prepare for his day with his students.

I go to engage the enemy, is the enemy the students or their ignorance? An age-old question...

My own line to my secretaries is, "I'm off to battle ignorance!" with the same sentiment in mind. As an aside, one of my other lines, to Darcelle in particular, at the end of the day is, "That's it, I'm blowing this popsicle-stand," to which she replied one day, "Ok, where do I tell'em to line up?" But I digress...

Back to ignorance, I have 15 students in my EN103, that is English Comp, 14 look at least salvageable, one I give to the end of the week. Social Darwinism? A lack of compassion? Or, do I refuse to enable, rather do I choose to empower through adversity and forced acceptance of responsibility? God, lest he be, shall be the ultimate judge, but I figure that bozo is a goner. Oh well, hopefully he will prove me wrong. And believe you me, one out of 15 is very good; generally I have more like 14 out of 15 in that kind of class, oy vey!

Of course "he", but I will give my diatribe on the sorry shape of men and the male student another day....

So, then it was off to acupuncture. I love alternative medicine, I love acupuncture. I have been "clean" now for almost three years, except for one little stint of antibiotics and exactly one 800mg Ibuprofen I took when my wisdom teeth were removed, I have not taken on allopathic medication. My motto has become, "If God didn't make it, don't take it!" Some day I will probably have no choice but to begin taking various sorts of allopathic medications just to survive, but I will keep sweating and jiggling, and adding new things to my routine like Yoga as long as needs be to stave that day off as long as possible.

When I was coming back from my Dark Night of the Soul three summers ago, I arranged a triple threat power morning that began at 5AM. I would do around 40 minutes of kundalini yogic meditation followed by 20 minutes of Qi-Gong, then an hour of aerobic exercise every other day; on the odd days I would do 30 minutes aerobic and 30 minutes of strength training; this I would do six days a week. On the sixth day I would still do the yogic meditation, and would sometimes also complement it with an hour and a half of yoga. Add to this my trips to the acupuncturist, chiropractor and the message therapist; lavishing all this attention of myself I couldn't help but get better, stronger, healthier. I was able to carry on this way for nine months, when a schedule change at School forced me into the office every morning by 8 o'clock. I still exercise at least three hours a week adding biking this summer which was fantastic, but I have sadly fallen too far away from meditation. Time to go back, and Yoga class is one step in the right direction.

Carolyn suggested the class, and even bought me some fancy yoga gear in aid of it for Christmas. We both signed up for the course which was to be held on Wolf Road, kind of like a middle-class version of Rodeo Drive (oxymoron, I know, my life is a martyr to them). Tonight was the first class, and I was quite relieved to see that I could do all but two of the positions correctly. This class is Kripalu Yoga, so a bit different from the Kundalini I have done before, but the moves were not so dissimilar. I have to confess to having very little knowledge of the history and background of the different schools of Yoga, something else to add to the list, ay yay yay! In any case, it was very enjoyable. The only bad thing about going to things is Albany is Albanians, to paraphrase a sort of bon vivant lady about town from Cohoes. The other members of the class were very Albanian, all very self important people with things to do, and stress in their lives, so this is why they took yoga. So typically, few even bothered to say hello or good-bye, but several did manage to mutually complain about their families and their responsibilities. The only other man in the room was a Rufus Wainwright wanna-be with an "I'm too sexy for this place, especially since almost everyone else is a middle-aged house marm-type or a fat guy" attitude.

The trouble with Albanians... They think Albany, as provincial as it is, is the center of the known world (Upstate New York, for many of them), the Constantinople of its day; it is after all the Capital! My God! Don't get me wrong, I really do like the Capital District, and on some days I would even say I love it, but I live in a somewhat more real place than Albany itself. Schenectady and Troy, like Watervliet and Cohoes, have maintained a realness about them, a gritty edge. On the same token, passing by strangers here in the street, we most always make eye contact with them, greet each other, occasionally swap town gossip about local worthies, or unworthies as the case may be.

Albanians on the other hand seem to like to give the impression they have somewhere to be, to see someone about something, far too busy to give the time of day, or a damn. There's a coldness to many of them, a brashness that when exposed to the light of day, does not reveal, as it does in Schenectadians or Trojans, a genuine blue-collar let's have a beer and some pasta (or golemki depending on the neighborhood), rather a carpet-baggerish stand-offishness that reeks of self-agrandisement based largely on whiffle, it's fake and quite empty. Many people who have relocated to Albany really indulge in this social jockeying, and will often, as the ersatz Rufus at yoga-class, act as though they are so much better than everyone else around them. Yet, these same people, behind closed doors, or in online chatrooms, will express their exasperation at the Albanian attitude.

Hence, the trouble with Albanians.

Namaste :)

dilluns, de gener 03, 2005

Recovery (English)

I hate being sick. I don't think there's anyone who likes being ill, but I just wanted to be on record as saying how much I personally dislike. I woke yesterday to two forms of expectoring I do not like, and spent essentially all the rest of my time not in the bathroom, in my bed being taunted by bizarre dreams, not nightmares, just weird-ass dreams. I cannot for the life of me figure what got a hold on me, but luckily today it has mostly left me.

Next, to add insult to injury, someone, who shall remain nameless, called me this afternoon to confirm dinner plans for later this week (the attentive reader will be able to piece this minute puzzle together with relative ease as the week draws to a close...). Upon hearingmy scratchy voice, the individual in questions observed that I was not in a very good mood. Hmph, how many people do any of us know get into a good mood when they've been running at both ends and shifting in and out of various deliria. Oy vey. Oh well!

Tomorrow is the first of a nine day barrage of English Composition. I just read online that I have fifteen willing and brave souls. My goodness, even more than the last time! We'll see how many of them are still scribbling in nine days. Likewise, we'll see if I am, since my stomach whatcha-majiggit is turning into a sinusy whats-it. Ah life, when it rains it poors...

dissabte, de gener 01, 2005

Blwyddyn Newydd, croeso cynnes i 2005 (English / Welsh)

It's here, a new year! Actually I really don't get all to exctied about new years. For me, they're just a chance to change the calendar and have some champagne. For me, it's any excuse for a party. The weekend has been quite profitable in the French sense of the word, in that it has been entertaining, debaucherous and midly lecherous, which, in my humble opinion, is just the way any good holiday weekened should be.

Tom arrived here on Thursday afternoon, ac wedyn ar noswaith Iau, mi ges hwyl da efo Tri ar Hugain, felly roedd ar ei werth yn wir. Mae mwy i'w ddweud yno, ond dwi ddim eisiau rhoi gormod o famylion, hyd yn y Gymraeg. Mae'n ddigon i ddweud y ces i hwyl mawr, ond roedd yn rhaid imi adael Tom ar ei ben ei hun am awr a thipyn

Friday Tom and I went to Th. and M.'s house to pick up some cookies for our little shindig later that night. Going to Taiyebeh's however always involves stopping for an hour for coffee and light refreshments, and so it was, and so we did. It was nice to have a chance to visit with them both and talk for a while, and enjoy some very nice coffee.

Next on the list came Tom's least favorite activities, shopping, more's the pity for him that we had to go to three stores to get it all done. First was Walmart (perish the thought, hehe), then Englebardt's for booze, and finally Price Chopper to get the stuff I couldn't get at Walmart. Normally I wouldn't even go to Walmart for any party or entertaining food, but I needed to buy more champagne flutes, and Walmart was a willful and convenient place en route from Amsterdam where Taiyebeh and Mo live back to Schenectady. Likewise, it was then convenient to proceed to Englebardt's for the hooch. The rest of the afternoon was spent in repose and preparation for the party.

It was a small affair, smaller because there were three cancellations, leaving just five of us to consume far too much food; supper today will be leftover from last night. It seems, tho, that many are being felled with colds of sundry sorts. Th. and M. had related to us that their daughter Mona was ill, and friends of theirs whom they had seen the night before were also suffering. Jon, who was to come with his wife Kim, called Friday morning to report that he too was stricken and would be convalescing, and poor Anna was felled on Thursday afternoon with terrible pain in lower left abdomen. She went to the emergency room only to be sent home with the unwelcome news that she probably has a kidney stone! These dismal iniquties left us with Tom, Carolyn, Holly, Bill and myself.

And so, we were five, and five we were with tons of sweet and sour meatballs, cocktail weenies, a giant sandwich ring, three kinds of cheese, pâté, a veggie tray, sweet gherkins, grapes, chips, dips, rivers of wine and booze, cookies, coffee and highly flammable trifle.

The food was tasty, the drink was lovely, the company was pleasant. At midnight we had champagne and went out on the front porch and woke the dead in Vale Cemetery tooting, rattling and hooting.

Thanks to the vast amount of protein I consumed, my body was able to proces the equally vast amount of alcohol, and today I awoke with no ill effects. Nonetheless, this will be a day of quiet repose, reflection and leftovers. Holly and Carolyn will return this evening and I will force feed them meatballs and trifle.