Monday, June 25, 2012

Human faces

Saturday and Sunday go together.

Yesterday I tiled most of my parents' bathroom. The last day of laying tile will be tomorrow, because my dad has to rent a wet saw so I can cut the edge pieces. Then the grouting, then the sealing. Then, khalas...

While I was laying tile I heard this song playing on my mom's Pandora station...

I was obsessed with Bittersweet Symphony one weekend in seventh grade, when my drama club got to travel to Paris. I played it over and over and over on my Disc-man. The song gets good at 0:44.

And I'd heard it just the night before, when I came and watched Cruel Intentions with my dad. It used to be one of my favorite movies in middle school, maybe because my dad voiced his disapproval with me watching it. Last night he said he doesn't remember that....
When I was finished tiling I showered up because I was sweaty and and smeared with cement, then I got dressed and my friend Larry picked me up to take me to a presentation at St. Marks Cathedral. I'm if I decided to go to this presentation because of the Israel/Palestine-related meetings I attended the day before, or in spite of them. I was excited to be getting involved and meeting new people, but maybe I was over-doing it a little?

I was supposed to meet a friend at his place on Capital Hill and make dinner anyway, so I decided to squeeze this into my schedule.

The presentation took place at a beautiful house next to St. Mark's. Larry and I arrived and found Huda and Judith, whom I'd just met the day before, and about fifteen other people, loading up on potluck desserts and coffee. I hovered over the coffee machine and told my story to people coming in, including Amy, who's still in college but wants to volunteer in Palestine this fall. We all got seated in front of the projector screen.
The presenter was Heather Spears. I knew that she had done drawing in Gaza, because of the event description. Her name made me think she was close to my age. Spears. Must be young.

She wasn't. I think she was my grandparents' age. She spoke like an artist, and I could imagine her giving a presentation at my grandparents' art guild, like one of their visiting artists or my grandfather explaining his slides. She spoke slowly and clearly and explained every one of her pictures matter-of-factly, with the right amount of detachment to break your heart and keep you paying attention. Is this something I need to practice? Can I learn to talk about horrible things this way? After every poem and every picture I found myself taking deep breaths to un-tighten my chest. In one poem she named the village "Tayasir." Tayasir is next to Al Aqaba, but I didn't get to ask her what she found there. She went to a lot of villages and she told me she probably won't go back.
She drew pictures of children in Gaza hospitals, and got their siblings or parents to write in Arabic an explanation of what happened to them. We looked at the faces of the children while Heather translated the Arabic, and I had trouble. I recognized those eyebrows, that gaze. This should never happen to anyone. And I heard the voice in my head, "but we have to do this to protect the children of Israel from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and they use the children of Gaza as human shields."

And is it so easy as that?

Human Acts
Twelve men and boys
taken in a raid
driven to an olive grove away from the village
the orders were to break their arms and legs.
Soldiers who didn't want to do it
could go and sit in the jeep.
As for the last man,
They broke only his arms.
That was / so he could walk back
and tell what happened.

Was it nearly dawn when he got there?
These paths, the twisted road are known to him
like his own hands, like the faces of his children.
He cradles the split arm
with the one he can still move
high against his chest, it has become
outside himself, he could be carrying a lamb
or a child. He whispers.
There is enough light, anyway,
and over this ridge
the village in terrible silence.

This woman showed human faces, and I loved her for it.

When my friend picked me up for dinner, I mentioned the woman with the drawings from the first Palestinian uprising...then I tucked it away. The streets of Capital Hill were filled with costumed people celebrating Pride Weekend.

We made vegetable skewers and chicken and quinoa and salad, and ate on the roof, which has a stunning view of Seattle.
When we got back to the apartment my friend realized he'd locked his keys inside, so after knocking on neighbor's doors and calling all the building board members (it was 10pm) we finally got an answer from the lady in the apartment above and one over. From her balcony my friend climbed onto his. If you know me you understand why we get along.
I've already posted this song, but I'm posting it again. Maybe you've heard it before, now imagine making out to it.


Sometimes Pandora does a good job. Now imagine that the next thing that plays is a commercial for O'Reilly Auto Parts.

I walked from Capital Hill to downtown Seattle at 11.:30. I needed coffee but all I had were Tully's cards. No Starbucks, no fair-trade local organic coffeeshop, just Tully's. And I never found one. wa waaaa. That's how I felt.

Until I caught up with a group of people dressed to the nines in pink. They were part of the flock headed down to the pride parade, and I didn't feel quite as spirited in my black and teal get-up, but I was excited to see the parade!!!

Families marching
Little girl perched and waving a rainbow flag
Lots of churches

I didn't expect there to be so many families and kids there, and that was really cool to see. If I have kids I'll take them to pride parades.
I didn't take a picture of the PFLAG group, Parents and Family/Friends of Gays and Lesbians. One old man was holding up a sign that said, "We love our gay children." I teared up when I saw that. He was showing a human face, and I loved him for it.
It was a wonderful scene. I met up with my friend Rachel from high school, and we watched another hour of floats and crews. Churches, goths, Pacific Islanders, gardeners, leather companies, political campaigners, naked bikers, a trannie with an umbrella that said, "Ask a Trannie Anything!"

whoa, p.s., I met Maria Cantwell. She just went up to us and shook our hands. What's up, Senator! Jay Inslee didn't go up to us but I saw him...
I ended up walking from Seattle Center back up Capital Hill with my friend Ned, and we met up with his sister and her friends for drinks and a BLT.

My night ended at St. Marks, full-circle. My dad came and met me and we went into Sunday night compline. We used to go all the time, not so much anymore. We found an empty spot on the ground near the pulpit and laid down. People were crowding in quietly and taking up spots in pews and on benches and on the floor. The thirteen men started singing, and for the next half hour, I tried to drown out all the thoughts floating in my head and focus on the purity of that unison, or the richness of that harmony. Sometimes I stare at the ceiling, five stories up, and wonder if any of the lights could ever fall on you. This time I found it hard to stay awake, and I had to struggle to get up and stand for the Apostle's Creed. This week's anthem was short and sweet, and I was a little disappointed. I remember their "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" one Christmas. It was like buttah.
When the thirteen men filed out and the door clicked behind them, everyone rose and shuffled out of the cathedral. I picked up a brochure in the foyer that said Mideast Focus Group, and read about the activities they sponsor related to peace in the Holy Land. One of the resources on the back page was Electronic Intifada. Right on.
When my dad and I got home, I watched The Help with my cousin, who was in town for the night. When Medger Evers was shot, and Minny told Abileen, "They shot him, in front of his children.....we are in hell." I got choked up for the third time, and started to think about how my days were weaving together.
I really enjoyed reading the Help, mostly because I identified with Skeeter. She had to rat out her own culture in order to show real human faces, and I loved her for it. :)
It doesn't hurt that the antagonist is a despicable racist and it's fun to watch her get it.

When The Help was over I checked the channels and Avatar was on. Combating imperialism is such an easy sell, like combating racism is such an easy sell. How slowly is the occupation moving into those boxes....