Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for February, 2014

The Shining Fire Hydrant

Insight-Out: Leaving Prison Before You Get Out
From Hard-Knock Wisdom, Winter, 2014
Stories From Prison

fire_hydrant_brass077bddMy night was like any other night. It was 8PM, time for “close custody count”(All prisons have ‘institutional counts’ wherein they count each prisoner’s body to ensure no one is missing or has escaped. Not being there for count is considered a serious violation). The officer came to our cell and called my bunkie’s name after which he gave him the last two digits of his CDCR number. The same went for me. Half an hour passed and a neighbor comes to my cell and said they were paging me downstairs. I had not heard them calling for me. I went down to the podium and the cops said to me: “Why were you not in your cell for count!?” and I told them: “I was in my cell for count – as I have been every day and night for 12 years, and I have numerous neighbors that can verify that.”

It did not matter what I said. The cops told me to not do it again, and I am like, “Whatever.” Two days go by and I find out that the sergeant gave me a write up (a violation). I’m thinking, “Okay, I truly am not guilty of this and I have many witnesses who will say the same.” However, at the hearing the cop that counted said he looked in the cell two times and I was not there. It did not matter what I said or how many people I had who would say the same because I was found guilty and given forty hours of extra duty. I said to myself, “Screw this. I am not going to do the work. This is so unfair! I did nothing wrong and these guys are wrong about this.” I watched that count-cop count me and he did not look up from his count board once. His eyes never left that board. I filed a complaint against the officer. That is the last thing I wanted to do, but I was not wrong about this, they were!

I felt bitter about being ordered to do those forty hours of extra duty. In a phone call, I spoke to my mother about it and she wondered if I could perhaps just take it and, regardless of the circumstance and the injustice of it, see if I could do what would ultimately be best for me. She said she would accept what I would decide, but if I could, to act respectfully.

I reckoned if I refused to do the work, even though it came about unjustly, I would be guilty in their eyes. I chose to do the work anyway. I have always prided myself with doing exceptional work and I was desperately looking to find my pride in this situation, somewhere, no matter what. So, not only did I do the work, I did the best possible job I could do.

I was asked to shine up this brass fire hydrant. Though I still felt resentful about those forty hours of extra duty, I set off to shine up this hydrant and I really got into the job. As a result, this hydrant started shining very brightly. As the sun caught it, I could see my face in it and I noticed I was smiling from ear to ear. I began to laugh out loud for no reason other than enjoying that moment and seeing the result of my work. By putting all my conscious effort into shining up that fire hydrant, I had become bigger than the unfairness that led me to my assignment. I do not know how long I was at it but when I was done that hydrant it looked like the prettiest thing in the whole prison. Kinda like a small lighthouse standing proudly in an ocean of concrete, calling out on how to steer, on how to move through this place.

I realized I was shining too and it hasn’t left me. Many people commented on that hydrant all week; wondering how come that thing gives off so much light all of a sudden. I just smiled.

~ Birdman

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The Cowabunga

The Cowabunga
by Gabriel Constans

This is totally the surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders all time fave to lay it down smooth.

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Yield: 5 cups

1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
3 tablespoons frozen orange juice
2 large ripe bananas
1 1/2 teaspoons peanut butter
1/2 cup filtered water
1 cup strawberry-lemonade juice*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup firm tofu.

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and mix on high speed for 30 seconds.

Pour into mugs or glasses and drink up dude and dudettes.

*Available commercially at natural food stores and some supermarket chains.

Don’t Look the Other Way

Stop for a moment and answer this question: What can you buy for $2.50? These days, not much. A bottle of water. A candy bar, perhaps. Maybe a bag of chips.

Now think about this: Right now, half of the world’s population—more than three billion people–is living on $2.50 a day or less. With no money left over to dig their way out of poverty.

You can look away as they struggle – or you can take action.

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A small loan can be all an enterprising individual needs to begin down the path to success. Just $25 can provide a microentrepreneur with goods to sell at the local market. $50 or $100 can allow an individual to buy a sewing machine, or a refrigerator to keep food for resale from spoiling overnight. They’ll be the ones doing all of the hard work – all they need is a little help from you to get them started.

We reach more than one million clients in 22 countries – most of them women. Women in particular are using their businesses to provide for their families and to earn independence within their communities. While some 13 million worldwide have already benefited from microcredit, the need is still estimated to be 200 million people.

Around the world, our clients – and potential clients – are ready to work hard to get ahead. All they need is for you not to look the other way. You may take action and make a donation today.

Sincerely,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President
FINCA

Mrs. Madrigal Is Back

9780062196248‘The Days of Anna Madrigal’ by Armistead Maupin
Reviewed by Ken Harvey for Lambda Literary
27 January 2014

Reading The Days of Anna Madrigal (HarperCollins), the ninth novel in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, is a little like attending the reunion of one’s family–the logical rather than biological one, as Mrs. Madrigal might say. Characters some of us have known since the late 1970s are now in their sixties. Mrs. Madrigal’s former tenant, the now sixty-seven year old Brian Hawkins, is newly married to the big-hearted Wren, with whom he lives in a Winnebago. Brian’s former wife, Mary Ann Singleton, who returned to San Francisco in Maupin’s 2010 novel, Mary Ann in Autumn, is back (although briefly), as is Michael Tolliver, also known as “Mouse,” now married to the much younger Ben. And of course there’s Anna Madrigal, bestower of wisdom, still vibrant if not frail at 92, her life’s work now dedicated to “leaving like a lady.”

Many of the characters in The Days of Anna Madrigal may be from the past, but they fully inhabit a contemporary world. Maupin’s Tales of the City novels are nothing if not a reflection of the times in which they were written, and Anna Madrigal is no exception. Years from now, one can imagine a glossary at the end of these books to clarify what will become obscure references and dated language. Who will remember the Chick-fil-A boycott in fifty years? And what about expressions like “amazeballs,” “throw shade,” and “chillax”? Yet while Maupin has always had his finger on the pulse of contemporary language, he is also capable of elegantly written sentences that are so unobtrusive that their wistfulness and melancholy can almost go unnoticed. Of Mrs. Madrigal and her tenant and caretaker Jake he writes, “One afternoon last winter, after the first cold snap, he came home from the gym to find her asleep in her chair, the remains of an amethyst candle dripping off the end of the table like a Dali clock.” Of course it’s not just melancholy that Maupin weaves throughout the book. Also on display is Maupin’s trademark humor that emerges from the characters and situations: there are no clunky punch lines in this prose. Maupin’s wit is part of the novel’s fabric.

The Days of Anna Madrigal begins in present day San Francisco, but two road trips bring us to Anna’s hometown of Winnemucca and to Burning Man, the temporary city erected and destroyed in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert each year. Lasting only one week, the festival is among other things, an oasis of radical self-expression and self-reliance. Trips of a different sort are the flashbacks to Anna’s younger years, before she left Winnemucca at age sixteen. And so in addition to the former denizens of 28 Barbary Lane, we meet new people, too: the son of Anna’s childhood friend, revelers at Burning Man, and a different version of someone we’ve known for years, as we see Anna (nee Andy) in her pre-transition youth.

Quentin Crisp once referred to Maupin as “the man who invented San Francisco,” and it’s easy to see why. The city came so alive for its many readers that the books lured more than a few transplants to the Bay Area. If there’s an autumnal quality to The Days of Anna Madrigal, it’s not just its meditations on old age and dying (which, by the way, never weight the story down); it’s also because when Maupin sets his characters out on their road trips, we say goodbye to San Francisco, too. Maupin has announced that Anna Madrigal will be the last novel in the series, so it’s fitting that once we leave the city for Nevada, we don’t return.

Read entire review and much more at LAMBDA LITERARY

Mindfulness IS the News

Mindfulness IS the News
from Wild Divine Newsletter
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Last week, with the Time magazine cover featuring the trend of mindfulness in US culture and the world, you can see that indeed a sea-change has occurred. With mindfulness being addressed at the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland we can see from this article that there are several approaches to the subject, its importance, and a diversity of support within the world business community and elsewhere.

In Barrington, RI meet Police Chief John M. LaCross who has been leading an 11-minute meditation utilizing deep breathing and visualization to comfort grieving families who have lost loved ones. He is also a Reiki master, and has put his focus on using mindfulness as part of police work to help individuals and communities. “It’s about compassion, respect for others, treating people with dignity,…..It’s a very difficult job being in public safety. You have to be strong in times of crisis. You can’t show emotion,” he said. “We’re all human, we just wear different clothes to work.”

And, on another side of the law, read here about law Professor Charles Halpern at the University of California, Berkley, where he teaches a popular course called “Effective and Sustainable Law Practice: The Meditative Perspective.” He also offers retreats for legal professionals of all sorts to enhance listening skills, focus attention and help legal professionals make more empathic to others they interact with.

The CuGurt

imagesThe CuGurt
by Gabriel Constans

Cucumbers are rich in magnesium, iron, and potassium, and are believed to assist the function of the liver and kidneys. The CuGurt is an excellent lunch or evening meal.

Yield: 4 cups

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup plain yogurt (soy, dairy, coconut or almond)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons miso
2 mint leaves, finely chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried mint
1 cup filtered ice water
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and mix on medium speed for 1 minute.

Pour into tall glasses and chill out.

Better Than Commerical Banks

Better Than Commercial Banks

We have always been proud of our FINCA (Foundation for International Community Assistance) clients and the success they achieve. After all, they have an astounding on-time loan repayment rate of over 98 percent – as good or better than many commercial banks expect.

But today, we’re writing to you with a very special message: Our client success is now the best we’ve ever seen!

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When our over one million micro-entrepreneurs get the hand up they need, we never cease to be amazed at how far they go – entrepreneurs like Victoria Banda of Zambia. A 36-year-old woman who never finished primary school, she is now the main income earner for herself, her parents, and her two sisters. Starting with a loan of just $20, she now operates her own store and helps her younger sister through college.

That’s a lot to accomplish for someone who started with just $20!

We’re blown away by FINCA clients like Victoria – and hers is just one of many incredible success stories. They do the hard work to get ahead, but that first step towards success would never have been possible without people like you. When you provide an entrepreneur with a microloan, you are the turning point on their path to independence and opportunity.

Thank you for your generosity.

Sincerely,

Soledad Gompf
Vice President
FINCA

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