Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘present’

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

Museums Connecting Us All

Dear Gabriel,

Museums aren’t just rainy day activities. They shed light on accomplishments and cultures. They give us all a chance to encounter “celebrity” items while giving them contextual significance. In many cases, museums are the best available tools to truly connect the past to our present.

One exciting new museum will give us a chance to learn about American narratives too often shunted aside. Learn more about how you can help make African American history come alive for our country and for future generations.

Unfortunately, museums like this one are few and far between in America, despite the diverse available content. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all the more reason for us to show how much we celebrate treasures that illustrate African American history and culture!

As Americans, we all share the responsibility of preserving African American history and culture as best we can. Show your support for the celebration and preservation of African American history and culture today.

Thanks for taking action,

Claire K.
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

A Gradual Awakening

Excerpt from A Gradual Awakening by Stephen Levine. Over the last 3 decades, I have returned to this book many times for insight, reminders and support.

Awareness

Meditation is awareness. The motivation for meditating is often quite different for each person. Many people come to meditation because of their love for the qualities of some teacher or their desire to know God. Others because of a desire to understand mind. Some begin not even knowing what meditation is, but with a great longing to be free from some sadness, some pain, some incompleteness in their lives.

Here is offered a simple Buddhist mindfulness practice to come to wholeness, to our natural completeness. The basis of the practice is to directly participate in each moment as it occurs with as much awareness and understanding as possible.

We’ve all developed some degree of concentration and awareness. Just to be able to rad a book, to live our complicated lives, takes awareness and concentration. They’re qualities of mind present in everyone.

Meditation intensifies those qualities through systematic, gentle, persevering techniques. To develop concentration, we choose a single object of awareness, the primary object, that the attention is “re-minded” to return to and encouraged to stay with. We choose a primary object and work with it; whether it is something we generate in the conceptual realm, like a verbal repetition or the idea of loving-kindness, or something that is always present, like the sensations in the body.

Mindfulness of breathing is a powerful means of developing concentration. The breath is a superb object because it’s constantly a part of our experience. Also, because our breathing changes, the awareness must become very subtle to accommodate itself to it. Awareness watches the sensations that occur with the natural coming and going of the breath. Awareness penetrates the subtle sensations that accompany each breath. When we bring attention to the level of sensation, we are not so entangled in the verbal level where all the voices of thought hold sway, usually lost in the “internal dialogue.”

The internal dialogue is always commenting and judging and planning. It contains a lot of thoughts of self, a lot of self-consciousness. It blocks the light of our natural wisdom; it limits our seeing who we are; it makes a lot of noise and attracts our attention to a fraction of the reality in which we exist. But when the awareness is one-pointedly focused on the coming and going of the breath, all the other aspects of the mind/body process come automatically, clearly into focus as they arise. Meditation puts us into direct contact – which means direct experience – with more of who we are.

For instance, if we watch the mind as though it were a film project on a screen, as concentration deepens, it may go into a kind of slow motion and allow us to see more of what is happening. This then deepens our awareness and further allows us to observe the film almost frame by frame, to discover how one thought leads imperceptibly to the next. We see how thoughts we took to be “me” or “mine” are just an ongoing process. This perspective helps break our deep identification with the seeming solid reality of the movie of the mind. As we become less engrossed in the melodrama, we see it’s just flow, and can watch it all as it passes. We are not even drawn into the action by the passing of a judgmental comment or an agitated moment of impatience.

When we simply see – moment to moment – what’s occurring, observing without judgment or preference, we don’t get lost thinking, “I prefer this moment to that moment, I prefer this pleasant thought to that pain in my knee.” As we begin developing this choiceless awareness, what starts coming within the field of awareness is quite remarkable: we start seeing the root from which thought arises. We see intention, out of which action comes. We observe the natural process of mind and discover how much of what we so treasured to be ourselves is essentially impersonal phenomena passing by.

We discover we don’t really need to ask anyone any questions, we needn’t look outside ourselves for the answer. As we penetrate the flow, the flow is the answer. The asking of the question is itself the answer. When we ask, “Who am I?” who we are is the processes asking the question.

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