Monday, November 28, 2016

Spanish Jazz Intro

Sunday in Old San Juan sounds like a title to a song about a woman alone, who on seeing a rainbow over the park where she’s heading knows it’s a signal for joy.

The comfort of together is lost to her; those she loved left this life to continue their sacred journey. Left alone to learn to honor her existence, she wanders steep walkways. What do I want to do? My knees hurt; how far do I want to walk? No pain, no gain, so she heads to the top of the hill where a Turkish restaurant serves quality food.

Doormen try to entice her into their restaurants.
“Genuine Puerto Rican food, you will love it,” he said with almost a leer on his face.
“Yo vivo aqui. I get that all the time. I’m looking for something different,” her eyebrows seemed to leap a couple of times before her mouth and eyes settled into a lascivious smile. She walked on aching knees; where the hell is that place?
Finally, the Turkish doorman leads her to a table for one in the corner. She gathers the spirits of her dearly departed. Isn’t this charming, she asks. She’s not alone when she invokes the spirits who love her. Imagining herself surrounded with love she looks across the room; there’s no man handsome or otherwise to smile at her, just a few young couples very much into themselves, but she sees the pity in young women’s eyes.
Pity, the place where she’s lived for three years, draws her into the dark energy. She feels diminished; lentil soup and yogurt revive her. She heads back to the Bahia Urbana for an evening of jazz, topped by Jorge Pardo from Spain.

A credible group of students opens; her head begins to bob with the beat. These kids are good musicians and a couple of the talented girl singers. She smiles at the stage, enjoying the display of promise.
The second group was individually wonderful musicians, but she didn’t connect with them when they played together. This for some reason made her sad. She thought about leaving, but she had never seen jazz musicians from Spain before.

If she didn’t know they were from Spain, would they stand out as different the local band? She thought about the roots of jazz in the states, while group number two rocked some fabulous individual riffs.  She happily remembered when Caribbean Jazz became part of her world.

Would Spanish Jazz imprint strongly or be a wisp? Her back ached, so before the last set, she stood to stretch. You know the look folks get when they’re trying to look, but don’t want to be seen looking? Some seemed friendly, some held pity, kind of an awe you’re alone face and some were simply; what the fuck level of surprise is she doing here, but she never felt malice.
The walk to sustenance led to back and knees screaming above the music, but she’d come too far to leave without being exposed to some Spaniards playing instruments.
Generally, flutes fail to hold her attention, so when the thin longhaired man began to play she was thinking that maybe this wasn’t going to be worth the wait. A couple hundred miles round trip drive, gas, tolls, and parking for just getting there meant she wanted the trip to be worth expenses. A little seasoning and you go all critical, she laughed. His playing seemed rather pleasant.
Jorge Pardo stood like a toreador waving his wand; that looks and sounds pretty good. With a quick right to left movement his flute left notes, she followed in admiration. “He’s so Spanish,” she chuckled, having seen a fair number of flute playing people over her lifetime.

The stage backlit by well designed, colorful commercials showcased the performers in silhouette. A second man, holding a guitar stepped into the light and both had the most amazingly erect posture. A Spanish guitar speaks about the culture, the vibrancy of the people; the young man playing fluently carried himself with the same manly elegance as Pardo, who next played sax.
The drummer who could play in anyone’s band supported and blended very well. A clever fellow with an enormous base pleased her when more of the same would have been too much.
Flamenco goes so well with jazz; sound, presentation excellent, so she wanted to dance, but nobody was dancing. She packed up and danced her way out of the park. Young women signaling her thumbs up gave her a helping hand down a slippery slope. They seemed happy to see her. She felt a lovely group synergy; the trek to the car didn’t seem quite so far.
Problems, self-pity she left at the door the night she learned about Spanish Jazz.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Changing Growing Grateful

Learning to live alone and be happy in your senior years can be a slog. So many things that seemed important no longer matter. My I give a shit about list is embarrassingly large. For someone, who always wanted to be liked and respected, it surprises me how indifferent I am to other’s opinions.
Opinions filtered through eyes that don’t see me, but similar folk who came before me. People all too often rank each other as better or worse. If you’re seen as better, there’s jealousy. If you’re seen as worse you don’t matter. I don’t wish to be seen as better; to be given a set of attributes that doesn’t fit chaffs. My self-respect, my ego won’t allow myself to be treated poorly as if I didn’t matter.  

What matters is a day spent embracing beauty, the salty air blowing off the ocean, the roar of the surf commingling with local music, or better yet, jazz.
As the star of our own personal production, we can choose to share the stage with others or grab the light and refuse to relinquish. Some feel they’re the most interesting in the room or simply hope to have something to contribute to the conversation; I confess upon occasion I’ve worn each.
Center stage is not something that came easily, as a child, being center stage was generally followed by a beating. Sitting on the sidelines, watching; that’s safest. But we’re all the star of our own life; sometimes you just have to deliver your lines. And when it works, it really feels good.
In a room full of people there’s always someone who’s jealous of the person taking center stage. That’s what this better or lesser comparison system creates; perhaps it comes from our eat or be eaten stage.

From the safety of my planet, I see the beauty and diversity of God’s creation. I surround myself with what reminds me who I am, a child of God. We all are, as the cells on my body are part of me. To wish the biggest asshole ill hurts me! My spirit, my soul doesn’t thrive when I get involved in jealousy or pride.
Healthy self-respect is the neighbor of arrogance, who always pisses people off. One’s confidence will be attacked by other’s insecurity, and sometimes you’re the asshole doing the undermining.
Focusing on me, at this stage in my life seems altogether appropriate, so like it or not, get on with it.
Tonight there will be jazz in the street; guess where I’ll be.
Enjoy your day.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

On the Road in the Dominican Republic

Buen dia! Good day, it is!! After my adventure alone on a Caribbean Island, where a military man with a machine gun escorted me to the ladies room, it’s good to be home.
So seldom do things go as planned that I go with the flow, greeting it with a comfortable, and still a little wary familiarity.
Santiago de los Caballeros nestled in the mountains became the scene of driving lessons; the first being, don’t between dark and ten pm. The second is to always have a full tank of gas when desperately lost.
Travel allowed me to put beliefs into action, which gave depth to my soul. At the red lights, vendors swarm the cars, pushing their wares at the window. “Hey, American Lady,” many smile not trying to hide surprise of seeing me. “Mira, aqui!!” Suddenly the young men turn on the charm, going from big smile to equally grand pouty face when hearing my polite, “No, gracias.” Smiles and waves were exchanged.
My sincere gracias to all the wonderful people selling produce or adapters on the corner! With your help I found the autopista to head back to Santo Domingo.
A light rain in a strange city where crazy driving is a participant sport pushed me over the edge after an hour of being lost in rush hour. The window is down so I can peer around the five-way intersection. I look him in the eye to tell him, “No, gracias.” The short stature fellow with his directly close to the side of mine started telling me about his wife and child. I saw his eyes dart around the front seat and land on my belly pack for a second.
My stress level hit the roof and exploded into tears. In a wild combination of Spanish and English, I told how I’d been lost for an hour and a half and needed to get back to Santo Domingo.
I saw it in his eyes; I became a person. He sprang into action waving wildly, “Aqui, derecho.” He gestured forward, and then turned to face me, “Derecha, autopista!” “Derecha, derecha!”
He walked in front of three lanes of cars waiting for the red light, signaling them wait and me to come on; I followed in my little rental. We waved as the light changed and I was a little more confidently on the road again.
At the end of the long day on the road to Santo Domingo guess what; she who gets lost is at it again on the outskirts of town. I found my way to a marginal road heading toward a myriad of expressways, none of which came with a label. Tired with high stress feels cranky; do I scream or cry? Oh, hell, why not both?
Not the man described in  the story
Sitting in a long line gave me time to think out choices; oh, just show me a sign. Here comes a four foot something high guy missing a foot.  One crutch is held by the stump of his upper right arm.  The another crutch is held by a hand that holds a contribution cup. He ambulated towards me with hopeful eyes.  He broke my heart.  I reached into my belly pack as I asked the whereabouts of the John F. Kennedy expressway. He told me to turn left ahead with sagging hopes. Just then I popped what felt like a rather large coin into his cup. The light allowed me to get close, but not pass.
Do I turn left or a u-turn opting to try this major looking expressway? I decided on the obvious, took a deep breath, and looked in the side view mirror, where upon seeing the coin, and I don’t know how he did it, but he waved the crutch with his stump. I glanced at the light with the timer; it was going to be a while.
In the side view mirror, I saw this adorable little man ambulating with the skill of a primate and in a second he stood by the car, gesturing with the stump that secured a crutch he outlined the path I should take to be on the Kennedy. We made each other’s day; how priceless.
If thrown off the course I mapped out the night before, my plan b is to find wifi. In the poor areas forget it; if a place has wifi there’s a sign bragging about it. Driving down the shore I see a restaurant I ate at the last time in Santo Domingo, so I now know I’m near the Colonial Zone. Their food is excellent, oh, I hope they have WIFI.
No, I’m so tired and hungry; it’s four in the afternoon. I haven’t eaten since breakfast, and the hotel I’ve reserved has a fabulous gym.
Again I prayed for a sign; I looked up. It said Sheraton; I have always enjoyed staying at Sheratons. My troubles would soon be over; I just knew it.
Lickity split, I’m walking up to the Sheraton entrance, which is completely overpowered by a Casino Entrance. What the hell, maybe casino has a restaurant with WIFI.
The sharp dressed man at the door gives me a smug, I’ve seen it all grin, as I smile and say hello, how are you in Spanish. Also in Spanish, I ask if the restaurant has WIFI. He gives me a face that says, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about with hands to add emphasis. That seemed so odd after all the country boys I’ve been speaking with all week.
A casino next to a Sheraton is a Caribbean tourist capital is going to hire a front door man who is at least bilingual, but I don’t know this I’m just a woman.
“Habla Ingles?” I ask in a hopeful tone.  The pause that followed any drama queen would claim, and in a voice that spoke with difficulty finally squeaked out, “Yes, I speak English.”
“Does the restaurant have WIFI, the internet?” He pretended not to know. He was enjoying this way too much, so I walked out of the casino and into the Sheraton, where after cajoling the manager I was allowed to order a half hour before they opened for dinner.
With feeder streets on the way to roads to be traveled all listed my nearby destination hotel should be a snap to find, but no, I missed a sign someplace. I’m sitting at the light fuming when a tiny young woman carrying a doll-sized baby appeared at the window. Reflexively I shook my head. My mood foul I didn’t think. As she walked away, I called her back.
We are all the same thing, God’s creations. My soul could have been in that body; how could I send her away, when I had money in my bag. I handed her a coin; she bowed and left. I prayed for her to journey her hard road well.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Never Thought About It

My dad died of cancer at forty-two; I never thought I’d out live that. I never thought I’d be forced to retire at the high of a Great Recession. Kirt died over three years ago and I never thought about life without him.
Rain clouds are coming and I’m sitting here wondering what else I never thought about. Imagine what an awesome list that is. If I were still sane, I’d want to kick the bucket.
Thinking, planning, striving for goals challenged my life; some days were diamonds, some days were stone to quote a John Denver song. Bad days only required a plan and then good days come. Back then I tried to think everything through. I tired myself out with that shit.
Despite all the things I’ve thought about I’m living in a world I’ve never thought about or imagined.

Fuck it, I’m going to hear some fine jazz!

Friday, November 4, 2016

On the First Morning

This morning I woke up thinking myself one of the coolest old ladies on the planet! Hah!! That’s never happened before.
The Dominican Jazz Fest is next week. I leave in four days, so raise the roof; Caribbean jazz here I come, and in the VIP seats no less.
The coastline road from the airport to Santo Domingo whispers wanton words seducing travelers to stop, have a drink or a meal on the shore. So far in my world travels, this is one of my favorite drives from an airport. It relaxes me and I only come from the next island.
Learning to see what my husband saw in me for forty-five years is finally wiping out the way my parents saw me, which was as a kid needing to be beat at least three times a week.
My memories with my husband are largely us going and doing. He loved my adventurous spirit; his soul soared with me. My soul still soars with enjoyment of enthralling music.
Time to pack the suitcase; what shall I wear? Tee shirts, the proof of previous fests and hence coolness must be washed.

And then, I must go to the gym so my back and knees don’t stiffen or refuse to budge. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Hang Up

A friend you call in the middle of the afternoon just to shoot the breeze  between chores, that’s a bud missed. I miss the friend with fine comedic timing who still laughed at my one liner’s. We laughed until tears leaked. All that shot in the ass.
Just joking, trying to be funny; don’t be so serious. Can’t you take a joke? None of these lines will placate, ameliorate, or otherwise improve my attitude regarding words thrown at me with precision.
Nothing guaranteed, nothing taken for granted. Mourn to move on, so forgiving possible. I’ve learned to love and to let go. Always hurts, some times more.
One of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten, a lady named Teddy told me, “To have a friend you must be a friend. You know how to have a friend.”
I pray for grace to be a friend, who forgives at least to the extent of not hurting in revenge.
To let go is one of my life lessons. I hang on for dear life. J

Carry on Jazz

If you can’t be decent to me, you can’t be near me. I hold my comrades to that minimum level of behavior. Beyond that I’ve been entertained by an array of craziness; sometimes not so entertained.
When someone, who knows your weaknesses, strikes in that tender zone, they intend to hurt, which in my book makes it malicious. I could tell how it made me feel, be clear about the pain caused, question why you wanted to hurt me, but maliciously causing pain isn’t an oops; it’s a scary character flaw which  repeats the behavior loop.
Being separated from the person you spend the most time with and have a ton of fun is not an easy thing to do; a surgical approach avoids an ample amount of drama. I hate how loud people get, myself included.
We haven’t spoken since the incident. The only contact, a text:
Are you mad at me?
Reply: Yes.
It seems this is the type of drama where in each side plays out a list of grievances or worse yet, say things in a competition to hurt the most. Oh, goodie, I think I’ll pass. Perhaps we’ve simply had enough of each other. Goodbye. 
We spent a considerable amount of time together each week, so the first felt like withdrawal. Wednesdays were fun; that’s pretty much why I didn’t understand her behavior on Thursday, but anyway the test of my readiness to be alone comes next week, big time.
I may be crazy; this may be too much for a senior lady alone, but the music calls. The Dominican Jazz Fest begins in the capital city, Santo Domingo; my hotel is a ten minute walk to the venue. What’s the best way to return to the hotel at the end of the evening?
Alone, I’ll miss the “what shall we do” discussion, but this is a bucket list trip. It’s on!
After a night of jazz in the Colonial Zone on the south coast, I’ll drive across the island ending up in Cabarete. Each night a different view, I thought it a ballsy trip for two senior ladies. I didn’t plan to do this trip alone; that’s a real adventure. Yikes!!
Let’s be real; I’m a fat old lady, alone. Of course, I’m scared. Many times I felt afraid when I first came to Puerto Rico. The fear I owned; across this island people have been kind, so when I went to the Dominican Republic, I felt comfortable, and a large contingency of police to protect the tourists made me feel safe.

Alone, this trip is scary for me, but listening to good music takes me to a happy place. I’m going. Please, pray for me.