Working Together

"We shape our self
to fit this world

and by the world
are shaped again..."

Excerpt from "Working Together" © David Whyte
in The House of Belonging

Many Rivers Press

Sunday, December 30, 2007

North by Southwest

I returned recently from a holiday down in the southwest... Phoenix, AZ actually. I haven't been there for 6 years and many of my clan have dispersed to other parts of the world but it was interesting finding myself down there after being so far removed from those heated years (13 in number - and perhaps 4 years longer than I should have, in hindsight). Like most trips into the past there are a few memory warps to stumble through and ghosts to confront but there were new things too. Things that bounce off of the experiences I've had in living in the north, since I left down there.

Because I abuse my niece by using her as a human shield in all of my attempts at socializing as I am a dedicated introvert, she fulfilled her family obligation for this year by dragging me along to a holiday party she was invited to. I'd forgotten how wonderfully slipshod happenings in downtown Phoenix are. They remind me of some kind of glittery and yet suspicious and hastily adorned things - like carnival rides or revival meetings. You intend to look away and decide if it's dumb or not but you CAN'T! Anyway it is all okay because somehow the paradox cancels itself out and one ends up with the ultimate desert experience - a mirage made real by whatever means are available - let the sun burn off the ragged vestiges of the beast while we sleep it off tomorrow....

This particular party took place in a standard Phoenix bungalow - two bedrooms; no dining. Maybe 900 sq feet....and, typically for this kind of event, it hosted approximately 250 people. If you couldn't stand the crushing holiday merriment within, a chiminea (basically a bloated pipe that bellows smoke and makes warm around it's belly) boasted away outside. There were only 20 people or so gathered there because it was a unbearable 45 degrees outside....only the heartiest, drunkest or nicotine-starved Phoenicians braved the freezing temperatures. Those of you who have made the scene in Phoenix, know of what I speak.

But I digress...what I intended to write about was what I realized when I was socializing in Phoenix: I realized that by far the most interesting thing that I do anymore is what I do virtually - mostly with Whole Wheat Radio (and anyone who is hanging around there a lot this year would be able to tell you, there hasn't been much action from ME this year!) So I am about as interesting as a damp shoebox except that I made it sound like I'm more active at WWR than I actually have been. Perhaps it is fair to say you are active when you spend time thinking about a thing if a thing is "virtual". Maybe that counts, but I doubt it. (No. I think not when there is so much work that needs to be done on the site all the time...) The truth is I can't hold my own at even a minor metropolitan social event without stretching the truth a little, obviously. So I lied and told people, "Oh, yeah I'm all over Whole Wheat Radio!", while my conscience was out snacking on Hors d'Ĺ“uvres in the kitchen.

Consequently I chatted WWR with a friendly fellow partier named Richard Lerman. Richard, besides being a professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Performance at ASU West, is an audio artist. He and his talented wife, Mona Higuchi , who is an installation artist happened to have stumbled upon a trip on the Internet that took them to the Alaskan Aleutian Islands (to escape the summer heat). One thing led to another after they had discovered a historical event that occurred there. This historical event inspired them to actually seek out funding and create an installation at the Burton Barr Public Library to share what they had learned about in researching the Funter Bay Internment Camp. Relocation: Alaska 1924-1945

In further talking to Richard, he remarked that he was very interested in telling his students about WWR because they seem to need inspiring examples of what can be done in the field of communication. In a later missive he reported to me that happened upon listening in to Whole Wheat Radio when a Dave Van Ronk tune was playing and he was surprised. Surly he couldn't have been more surprised than I be down in Phoenix Arizona on Winter Solstice and find myself talking about Alaska.

When I was in Phoenix in 2001, Alaska had never even crossed my mind except in conjunction with a possible faint recollection of reading White Fang once. What a difference a few years can make. I suppose it is not healthy to "look back" I've always admired people who would forgo it, frankly. I, on the other hand would suffer whiplash if I could not step out of time and explore the 360 degree scope of my experiences across my life. The truth is I move too slow to never look back. This trip to the southwest had a way of filling things in and connecting them up. I feel more centered with what I gleaned from the longest night this winter.

There was much more that happened down yonder, but it will have to wait for another day BECAUSE I want to dedicate this post to my dear and beloved niece, the celebrated and notorious Leslie Barton, queen of the downtown Phoenix scene. Thanks, honey bunny, for putting me up and putting up with me....what a relief that I'm not drunk enough today to tell everyone how I changed your diapers when you were a baby....



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