Friday, August 7, 2009

Dreams and Revelations

This is being written from Paso Robles- we're on vacation! And I passed the CSET. But onto the real story...

Dreams and nightmares- where do they come from? How do they form? I am sure that many psychologists, psychoanalysts and shamen have better knowledge and understanding of that than I. Some where, deep in our core being, our hidden selves, there are reasons for why specific images and stories manifest and repeat over and over again like so many bad television re-runs. Why certain things we see grip us- and why other things we see fall away- is a complete puzzle to me. I was recently listening to a podcast of This American Life. This particular show is titled, The Fear of Sleep. In each show there are chapters with a different stories and interviews. As you can guess, this show featured people who have had a fear of sleeping for one reason or another. One of the more sedate stories was told by a man who had a series of nightmares as a result of watching the movie The Shining as a child. I connected with this story because I too had an almost inexplicable series of nightmares that began around the time I was six years old, and lasted about fifteen years. This radio show brought it all back.

My nightmare usually started with me being in a forest. My family liked to take camping vacations, and I was in an outdoorsy, active, Brownie troop, so I was pretty comfortable with the idea of being in the outdoors, especially a forest. This part of the dream was not scary. Beautiful trees, clean, crisp smelling air... then came the realization that I didn't really know this forest; I didn't know where I was. This was when the dream begins to get scary. I was alone. It was day time, but dark in the forest. I was walking and walking. Nothing looked familiar. Until suddenly, I realized I was being followed. I picked up the pace; the forest got darker. My pursuer got closer. I could hear the cracking of twigs and branches... it was bearing down on me... I feel sweaty, shaky... Now I'm running, going faster and faster, until I turn my ankle and fall just as a giant, bloody, foaming white rabbit springs out of nowhere directly at me. This is when I wake up. I am drenched in sweat, sheets twisted. Sometimes in the dream the rabbit springs at my back and on these occasions I wake up- my back bent in a concave contortion- paralyzed. It takes a moment or two before the realization that it was just a dream hits and my body is able to relax out of its pose. This dream, or variations of it, always have a rabid, terrifying rabbit. And it haunted me. It was this reoccurring nightmare that caused me to dislike rabbits. To me they were never cute and cuddly. They were quiet, secretive creatures that sat and stared at you, chewing their cud (or whatever) during the day and tortured you by night. You can imagine that this ruined Watership Down for me, both the book and movie. Easter was okay, because it never involved real rabbits. As I grew up and got older it got less and less frequent. This fear became something of a joke to me, but a joke I never really shared with anyone. If one of my friends said, "Look at that cute rabbit!" I'd awww and agree. No one really knew this secret. Actually- that is another fear I have- discussing my fears. But that's another blog.

So as everyone, I got older. The dreams tapered off and became incredibly infrequent. I didn't often have to think of rabbits or hang out with them, so I guess the fear just slipped away. But one day in college I found the source of all these nightmares and psychic pain. I was studying with my then-boyfriend and for a study break he suggested we watch a movie. He wanted to watch something funny, lighthearted. He puts in the VHS of this movie some of you may be familiar with. It's called, Monty Python's Holy Grail. He knew I hadn't seen it because at that time I was not much a fan of Monty Python, except for The Flying Circus. But I saw no harm in being distracted a while from our exhaustive studying. So as we watched there came a scene where the nights in said story are walking through a forest. It is there that they are confronted with a rabbit- which they think at first to be just a furry, cute little creature- but no! This fuzzy white creature would lunge and behead any being that stood unsuspectingly before it. At that moment I gasped and stood up. The realization hit me- I had seen this movie before. Or at least this scene. I believe I was five or six years old. My family was at the drive-in. My brother and I were asleep in the back. I wake up, eyes blinking, and squint at the screen. Before me was the murderous rabbit scene. I surely could not make sense of such a scene as a child. I fell back asleep.

I am glad that moment happened; it was good to understand where the nightmares began. I don't have them any more, thankfully. Not really afraid of rabbits now. But I also don't have an affinity towards them. With my luck I'll have a child who loves rabbits someday. That would be okay too, I think. One thing though- you can bet I'll never let my child watch something that I can't explain to them. I have to wonder at parents sometimes, however. The other day my friend and I went to go see the latest Harry Potter movie. It was our bad luck to buy tickets for the 'Mommy and Me' showing. There must have been at least fifteen parents in there with their babies. I guess those parents are unwittingly setting up the next generation of witch-hunters. Or possibly just causing a really bad string of nightmares. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Back from CSET Land!

Hi everyone! So my blog has been quiet lately, my apologies. I've been focusing my efforts on studying for the CSET. I took the test this past Saturday, which consists of everything under the 12th Grade curriculum sun. I basically spent the weeks since Seattle on re-learning all the stuff I was trying to avoid learning in High School. Hopefully I've passed because I spent quite a lot of time studying. We shall see. My goal is to get a teaching credential starting this fall.

So Seattle was lovely, had a great visit with friends Christina, Ted & Mary. I managed to take in a craft fair downtown called I [Heart] Rummage. It was cool. Handmade stuff was everywhere and I bought a pair of earrings and a simple necklace. Seattle is lovely and quite green as compared to our arid climate. Although it was raining here while I was in sunny (as it happened) Seattle.

So I've managed to find a couple other projects for myself. The big project is making my own spring roller window shades. I'm currently trying to figure out how to manufacture the spring loaded roller myself, because I hate the plastic kits out there. Might have to go on FreeCycle to see if anyone is tossing some old ones out so I can pull one apart and start from scratch. The sewing and fusing the shade is the easy part for me, it's the mechanics of the roller that I'm having trouble figuring out. Suggestions are appreciated. Once I figure it all out, I'll post a tutorial and pictures on how I made my pull shades.

And in case you don't know about FreeCycle- it is a series of Yahoo Groups by city where people post items they want to get rid of, but don't want to bother with selling. I saw an offer for a Whirley-Pop popcorn popper that interested me. I emailed the owner, she put it in a bag on her porch and I picked it up.

It is a great way to get items you may need, or a part for something. This is a great resource for all crafters and especially for teachers. I cleaned up my Whirley-Pop and use it often. So I'll post a 'wanted' ad on Pasadena's FreeCycle and see what happens.

Since I love all things homemade, I want to share this link on homemade flea repellent, from CRAFT. Enjoy and I hope you are staying cool!

PS: Don't forget all the FREE music happening around town. Vroman's, Zona Rosa, Levitt Pavilion... See you there!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Art is everywhere this weekend- & in all forms!

The weekend has so many fascinating art events happening, I wanted to share them with you. If you have nothing planned, and like the price of free or very cheap, I'd suggest checking any one of these out. As for me, well, I'm going to Seattle to visit a friends and their new baby. Hopefully, I'll hear reports on what I missed!  Enjoy!

Gallery at the End of the World Art Bender Weekend
2475 N Lake Avenue, Altadena 91001
(626) 794-8779
June 4, 5, 6, & 7 daily from Noon-6PM as well as
Thursday June 4th 6-9PM, Artist Reception and Preview and Live Music
Friday June 5th Opening Reception 7PM-1AM ($5 cover) with Live Music
Saturday June 6th Potluck BBQ
Sunday June 7th Brunch

NewTown Presents
On The Trail Of: A Half Mile of Al Fresco Installations, Sculptures and Performances
By various artists in the Hahamonga Watershed Park (near JPL)
(626) 398-9278
Saturday June 6th 11AM-7PM
Sunday June 7th 10AM-7PM

Legg Lake Sound Circle
Sunday June 7th (every 1st Sunday of the month) 12-3PM
Bring an instrument!
60 Fwy, exit Rosemead Blvd. 

Altadena Junction Presents
While No One Was Looking: Photographs by a Writer- exhibition extended!
Friday June 5th 7-10PM
Saturday June 6th until 4-9PM

The Outpost for Contemporary Art Presents
X, Y, Z and u Exhibit
Curated by the League of Imaginary Scientists
Thursday June 4th 6-8PM, Opening Reception
See website for many other events this week and through the month of June
6375 N. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles 90042
(323) 982-9461

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A House's History in Plaster

Plaster is a nasty business. Have you ever tried mixing it? The chemical composition is one such that if you get the powder-water ratio incorrect, even just a little off, it is unusable. And if you don't use it quickly once you mix it, it dries up and you'll have a concrete-like mess in your bucket. So my advice? Find someone who knows how to do it. And well. We're presently re-plastering indoor walls in our circa 113 year old house.

We're actually trying to restore and repair our walls, rather than replace. However, in some areas that was not possible. There were walls that were held together by five layers of paint and wallpaper. When they came down, so did most of the wall. In those cases we took down the lathe (the wooden slats which original plaster adheres to) as well as the plaster. We lined the walls with a 'moisture seal'- a plastic sheeting called Tyvek. Those flexible white Fed-Ex envelopes are made of this recyclable material. I've also seen some designers use it as a lampshade material. Once the Tyvek is in place, we insulated. Then we put up a special type of dry wall which is used with plaster. Once the seams are sealed, with wire mesh in our case, then the plaster comes on. It is amazing to watch a plasterer at work. They are constantly working the material, moving it through their fingers and onto the trowel, getting the correct consistency with the correct moisture content. The results are amazing. I'll post pictures when it's all finished.

So some of our house is actually insulated now. It got so much quieter in the hallway after the plaster was back up. And I notice it stays cooler there too. Having an old house is fun 50% of the time, and frustrating the other 50% of the time. Construction is not always fun, but parts of the process can be. It was neat to find pieces of house history in the attic, and walls. A Sunday school teacher must have lived there at one time, we have empty Sunday school report cards from the turn of the last century, among other religious papers. We also have a pile of medical bills. Someone was receiving electroshock therapy, as part of treatment for some sort of mental illness. These papers are circa the 1980's, as I recall. We've also found bits of chandelier, bottles, plates, glass of all sorts while planting in the garden. The most interesting thing we discovered was buried in the garden- a rusted-through 22 caliber revolver. No joke! I thought it was a child's toy- it is so small- but no, several friends confirmed that it was an antique weapon. I guess that explains the bullet hole on the front porch... actually Jim tells me that was from a party on the day of the LA Riots. This is confirmed by our neighbor, who lived around the corner even then. So what does a person do with all that history found in their house or yard? We give it to our neighbor for use in her backyard mosaic, of course! Not the bits paper, but anything ceramic or glass, goes to my friend Pepi. Here is a picture of her mosaic in progress:

Pepi is meticulous about keeping records of who donated what to her mosaic- she gets a number of people who make donations. So our house will be on the list of donors. While Pepi has finished one phase of her mosaic, she has much more cinder block wall to cover. Can't wait to see the next phase. Looks like there is a peek at what she is planning in the picture.

So if you followed this rambling blog, and you are interested in restoration, or mosaics, you might like a book I just finished reading called 'Broken for You' by Stephanie Kallos.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Do it, bike it yourself.

Bicycling Magazine is not usually my kinda zine, but Jim receives it. The latest issue has an article which I just had to share. It is about a bike lane (on Los Angeles' Franklin Street) created by guerilla cyclists. Unfortunately there is no link to the article on the web, so I can't share it here. The article is called The DIY Bike Lane by Dan Koeppel and is published in July '09's issue of Bicycling. Here is a sample of what a DIY bike lane looks like.

I did some further web snooping and found that this was not the first guerrilla bike lane. Nor will it be the last, especially in Los Angeles. Did you know there is a Bike Master Plan that has approved all kinds of lanes and street updates for cycling? Yes, indeedy, there is. Lots of improvements are approved, but few actually are seen through. This article in particular highlights the fact that of the twelve bridges which connect commuters to LA's downtown area, none have bike lanes. As a once Pasadena-Los Angeles bike commuter, I know this all too well. May I just say, it is scary to ride across them. I believe most have side walks. And as a cyclist, I am against riding on sidewalks because my bike at full speed scares pedestrians, rightfully so. Any wrong move and one of us could end up either in traffic or in the LA "River"- which (at the moment) Angelenos know to be six inches of water with two feet of concrete underneath, in most places. Concrete is not easy to pick out of your teeth. Or skull.  

This is why bike lanes are so important. Organizations like CICLE and LA Bike Coalition are always fighting for cyclists' rights. Somebody's got to do it. The guerrilla lanes don't last long, according to the article it was there for 100 hours before being removed by LA Public Works. 

It goes without saying that this is totally illegal... and yet I love it. Sometimes you just have to push the envelope, no? 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Season of the New

Hmmmm... been a while since I posted. But it is a new and beautiful day. New Year. New vision... this day marks the turning of a new leaf. For me, maybe. But for our world?

Like on election day in November '08, I am here, torn again. Then it was the Election of Obama that excited me, and the passage of Proposition 8 in California that devastated me. That cool day in November, there were many people at my house- of all ages and races- celebrating the election events, and in turn crying at the history being made before them, especially during President-Elect Obama's speech. As I looked across the room at the glorious tapestry of people who graced my living room, outwardly I smiled. But inwardly, I was devastated. I couldn't help and think of all my LGBTI friends and how they were feeling at that moment. What did that day mean to them?

Again- all over again- the nomination of Sotomayor is so exciting (I am Boricua by birth) and yet in California, we have upheld this 'separate but equal' status of our LGBTI brothers and sisters. I don't know what else to say. 

So for today's post, I'll share with you a poem I wrote. Here's hoping that tomorrow will be a new and better day- for everyone.

Season of the New

afternoon light that gives a golden glow

warmth and promises of beauty there grow


the shock of new green and auras all around

song of which bird? And Seedlings on the ground


Pretty little blossoms, lining up for bees

Waiting for a pollen kiss to bring them to their knees

The wonders of this strange light

Winding serpentine

keeps rhythm with nature’s cyclic rhyme

So rolls out the springtime,

and it’s creation-