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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Channels of My Imagination

We watched television last night that made me wish for more.

I was asked to be a judge for Cinefestival this year. The task of a festival judge is to view and make critical decisions scoring projects by the strength of the story editing direction etc.

It is a most imperfect process but one that is necessary when you need to assign values. Filmmakers’ long months of complex work researching and building their productions are reduced to points, quantifying by necessity the creative work that, thrillingly and by definition, escapes number assignments.

We saw stories of homegrown music and art that grow like cactus around here, with only a little rain and total disregard from mainstream, commercial mass media.

What is missing in the current rain storms of media flowing to us from the Internet, satellites and cable that are currently replacing the managed mainstream offerings that television has had for 50 years is a curator. Without a curator, we are blind in a storm and thus we may find we are going in circles instead of forward. Luckily, last night we had a curator, who selected the submissions for us to judge, festival director, Manuel Solis. He is busy organizing the 40th edition of the indie festival at The Guadalupe Theater July 5-8 this summer.

Watching the lineup of documentaries last night reminded me how much I miss local creative documentary productions. I imagined how amazing it would be if we had a steady supply of locally-sourced productions:  Imagine a Narciso Martinez channel beside a Neil deGrasse Tyson channel. A Sandra Cisneros channel beside a Chris Rock standup comedy channel. A mad mix of mainstream and mini-stream.  In this way, the media we consume would be a well-proportioned plate of delicious fresh food, a balanced diet that helps us grow stronger in ideas, actions and identity, looking inward as well as outward. 

There needs to be an app for that.

I need an algorithm to find more works about our city and region.

But first, before that, I need an algorithm that supports local artist to create more videos about our city and region.

And before that, I need an algorithm that, more importantly, sparks in the minds of artists notions about local and regional topics to be explored creatively with outcomes or endings unknown: A journey taken for whatever insight and learning may be revealed in the process.

At the very start, I need an app for video documentaries that ask more questions than provide answers. Documentaries whose arc evolves in the process of interviews and the editing timeline as much is in the minds of the producers.

I need an algorithm that sorts the entertainment available in the lineup that comes in from the current curtain of rain. One that promotes local and regional productions and collects some for us to pick and view some nights on the couch, so we can learn more about this place we live in, drive across and spend our lives drawing our breath from.

I had a taste of that future last night.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Amá!! Amá!!


It is the week before our first performance and I am suddenly shy and have developed grave doubts about this play.

For the past six months, six of us have been mining our memories of our mothers. It’s been like examining old clothes out of a long-forgotten closet. Some of the clothes no longer fit, others were just a fad so you toss those aside and then there are the true finds, the ones you are tempted to wear again but when you try them on their seams disintegrate.

There have been tears. What to do about these fears that I’m breaking some pact I don’t remember making about ancient family secrets?

It has been so long since I’ve talked with her I nearly don’t recognize her voice. I don’t hear her like I might hear someone standing beside me; the listening is going on somewhere unmapped, between inside of me where memory resides and somewhere unknown.

Keep going!

Are you sure you wouldn’t mind? You sure it’s OK?

No le aflojes!
Don’t let go!

And that’s how I got my permission, no, my blessing from my
Amá more than 30 years after her death.

The weeks and months of writing and rehearsal were spent hacking at memories overgrown with weeds. I wasn’t alone finding my ankles caught in the thick grass between what was and what was remembered. At several points I tripped and felt stunned at the loss of balance and shock of being suddenly fallen.

What the hell am I doing standing in front of strangers in my metaphorical underwear?

For what purpose are these long forays into lives and lessons so long ago completed?

But are they over? Doesn’t my own life and that of all who knew and loved
Amá still carry within reverberations of her laughter, echoes of her words and the heat of still palpable loving embraces?

Oh my God! If she’s that much alive, then I’m sure in a heap of trouble because she is sure to be pissed as can be about me telling strangers about her and her life! Oh my God!

So I went from behind one skirt in my fear to behind another.

But I heard her clearly. She said:

Andale! No seas gallina!
Don’t be a chicken!  Get on with it.

I got out from behind the skirts of the ghosts of my own making and saw what my reasons had been from the start:

To tell my mother’s story; mine, not that of my siblings or anyone else’s; that’s for them to do not me.

To tell the geography of her life on the borderlands.

To tell about how her life was touched by three centuries.

To tell about her challenges after dad‘s death and the way she finally found her self again in the rubble of her life.

To tell the story of a woman who loved perfection, yet who fell short of it in many ways. 
Amá did meet her high standards, however, in the questions that counted, though some remain unanswered.

Did she do her very best?

Did she love with her whole heart ?

Where, after all these years, were the pliers, scissors and scotch tape whenever she barked at me to run and get them for her?
Amá before her death might’ve minded my metaphorical underwear demonstration, but not Amá 35 years later. She has grown along with the rest of us she assures me. And then, as quickly as she arrived, she fades into the shadows offstage after—could this be possible? A Carol Burnett tug of an earlobe—to wish me well, and to remind me as only a mother can, to tell her story and mine loud and proud.