Archive for adventure

My grandparents

Posted in family, history, life, life-n-death, marriage, true story, writing practice with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2009 by bosquechica

My grandfather had a thin mustache, my grandmother good legs. My grandparents spoke Spanish and English and a little Italian but the Italian was not sincere. My grandparents smoked and went to theatre and galleries and lived in Texas and Mexico and Colorado and New Mexico and Canada and California and then back to New Mexico where they lived for most of their elderly years. My grandparents were runaways and liars, and cheated on each other for as long as they were young and could get away with it. My grandparents were married for 70 years, but divorced for 10 of those. My grandparents had smooth beautiful voices and liked books, and vino tinto, and chile, and they used olive oil to keep their feet smooth and soft, and they drove very big cars and voted Republican in the 80s but were socialist in the 30s, and they planted corn in their backyard with the great grand children, and they walked in the Organ Mountains looking for a place to scatter their ashes, and that’s where they are now, in an arroyo in southern New Mexico, on their way down to the gulf of Mexico by way of flash floods and monsoons, however long that might take.

This was a 5-minute writing practice in group this Monday. Got some great photos, but not the ooomph to scan them right this second. I’ll add in a separate post.

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Five Years Ago, I . . .

Posted in personal history, travel, writing, writing practice with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2008 by bosquechica

(To keep things moving, I’m tossing this out there without the pictures from Africa and without the links that my good intentions wanted me to provide.) 

 

Lost my grand-dad. Bye old guy! Picture (c) visitusa.com

Scattered his ashes in the mountains outside of Las Cruces.

Finalized buying the old adobe house from my wife’s parents.

Worked mostly in Spanish that year.

Had tea in bed every morning, with the globe and an africaatlas propped up between us, learning the names of all the African nations and their capitals.

Grew tomatoes, grapes, pears, plums, onions, garlic, basil and apples. Daffodils, tulips, irises.

Wrote one piece of short fiction almost every week.

Went to Uganda for the international dance festival at the Ndere Centre in Entebbe, where I discovered exactly how white I am. I was one of six light-skinned people in a festival attended by over 6,000 Africans from various nations (three of them were Austrian). The festival took place about six weeks before we started bombing Iraq; I was angry, outraged, and pretty-well petrified to be travelling at that particular moment, with our government hijacked by criminals and my fellow-citizens apparently having lost their collective minds.

On the opening day, I sat roughly 10 feet away from Ugandan President Musevene while he made a very angry speech about the interference of American and European white people in African business, cultural and political affairs. My two friends and I had been seated more-or-less next to him, but were separated by a ring of armed guards. The festival was incredible, high stomping, enormous drums, colorful, with movement that blended some of the conventions of missionary teaching with older dance traditions that expressed sexuality, war, hunting, with the relatively recent influences of modern dance, mixed media performance and pop culture trends from African, European and American sources. For the traditional African dancers, it was the first time most of them had performed together on a single stage.

Attended the going away party of a retiring Anglican priest who was moving to Scotland after 45 years of teaching dance and self-sufficiency to young women in Kampala. Kampala is a hot crowded city, smoke rising in trash can fires all over the city, maribou storks hovering like crows in the mango trees. My friends were tense and angry and closeted and sarcastic. I smoked American cigarettes on the balcony and choked on the urban air. The storks were enormous, prehistoric, almost hip height to me.

After the festival, I flew alone (at last!) from Uganda to Naorobi to Amsterdam. I wandered the streets of Amsterdam late at night until I came to the Café Kale, where I ordered beer, soup and kale pesto with crusty bread.

Back at home, we were maced at a peace rally by mounted Albuquerque police. Hid in a sandwich shop with two dudes who kept saying “Whoa man, we should really shut down.”

Acquired two new cats, the blue-eyed husky and a pair of lovebirds.

Took sides when my friends in Uganda split up. I’m a big fool sometimes.

Saw the little nieces and nephews frequently. Their favorite games at the time were role playing, yoga, fencing and playing dragon in the yard, storytelling and making scrambled eggs.

Had a major flood (in an act of rural vandalism) that almost collapsed the house (it is made of mud). Moved from room to room for almost three months as we rebuilt, keeping the fridge in the front yard the entire time. Good look, that.

Learned to make pie crust.  

Next: Five years from now, I . . .

Parachute and safety net

Posted in family, life with tags , , , on December 28, 2007 by bosquechica

Paul on the beach with friends

Here’s my grand-dad, on the beach in Ecuador. Next to him are two seals, lolling in the warm sand. He was in Ecuador for an investment seminar, which he quickly determined to be a scam intended to lure gullible old people. He ditched the seminar and made the trip a vacation instead. When this picture was taken, Paul was 93 years old, and had taken hang-gliding lessons earlier the same day.

In the last several years of his life, he concentrated alternately on investments and adventures. Quito, Galapagos, Copenhagen, Athens. He liked to tell us that he hadn’t started saving for retirement until he was 80, and that may have even been true. What we know is that when my grandmother died, at 89, they’d been married for almost 70 years, and had been living a quiet, comfortable middle-class retirement. He was briefly immobilized — what to do now? Where to go? How to start over at 90?

This is the very brief story of the end of his life. He made a couple of plans: what to do in case of severe ill health and pending institutionalization (something involving car exhaust and the garage), what to do to keep himself busy and productive, what to do to protect himself from age-related poverty.  Fortunately, he gave the bulk of his energy to keeping himself busy and building a nice last minute nest egg.

He bought a shiny new computer, taught himself to use it, and got on-line. He started researching foreign investments, and places he’d always meant to visit. He took a look at on-line sex sites (beware of what you might find on your old grand-dad’s favorites!). He joined a spanish-language list-serve, brushed up on his Spanish, started dating a nice lady named Lu, and flirted on-line with a half-dozen others. He walked a mile every day, and had a vitamin regimen specially blended for him by a local health-food guy. He bought plane tickets and went places and did things.

He talked to people, a lot of people, and determined that there was more than one way to look at the world. He made up with me (you people) and conceded that my liberal outlook on life might not be utterly without merit. He argued and laughed and butted heads with my beautiful wife. His world expanded mightily in those last few years. As he started winding down, he made my brother co-owner (executor? co-investor? something like that) of his financial assets and kept on growing them. He gave directions to brother and me to look after my mom, who had financial struggles complicated by my dad’s long illness and bad financial judgment.

He was in Athens when the World Trade Center went down. He came home, sold his house, moved closer to my mom, and died shortly thereafter. His investments have sat quietly on the sidelines since then, where they are now ready to start another new adventure.

Now I am a big advocate of the social contract, and believe strongly that it is our responsibility as a culture to look after our more vulnerable citizens. My grand-dad was a Reagan republican (I forgive him, but not Reagan), who believed it was every man for himself. Up by your bootstraps. I got mine; you’re poor or sick or disabled, that’s your tough luck. This is a remarkably selfish economic perspective that is dismantling the middle class in the U.S. and is painful and frightening to many of us, as we watch our financial security disappearing in front of us, a receding mirage. We have no safety net in this country at this time, we who are not rich.

I find it interesting that his spirit of rugged financial independence did not extend to refusing any of the entitlements created for his generation in more compassionate times. He collected social security for 30 years, a pension from his 20 years at the U.S. post office for 55 years (yes, I said 55). 

By comparison, my mom’s financial security was wiped out by long years of caring for my dad, and now that she is sick, there’s nothing there for her, except to lose the little she has left and move into a shared room in a substandard nursing home without her dogs or her dignity.

In the absence of Paul’s last-minute investments, we would just be standing by watching it happen.  What started as a parachute that launched an old man out of his grief and back into the world, has become a safety net that will help us to catch her as she falls. I am grateful for it, but angry too, that without it she would have so few and such unkind options.

And on that cheerful note, I will say goodnight. This is an adventure too, of a sort.