Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When You're Strange

People from Austin often claim to be oddballs. "Keep Austin Weird" is practically the town motto. But a year in Colorado Springs has done nothing to quell my feeling that this is the strangest place that I have ever been. I tell people that this town of normal houses, a local symphony, churches and dive bars has everywhere else on the planet beat in terms of strangeness, but I have been hard pressed to explain how.
Then last week, I was talking to someone who had moved here from Berkeley. She too had thought that this is an odd community, and she too had had a hard time articulating why she found it so. After a few minutes chatting, we each realized that the thing that we miss most about our former homes is not the strangeness, but the feeling of being normal.
In Austin, everyone is normal, from Leslie the cross-dressing city council candidate to the commisioner of railroads. Walking out of the house dressed as yourself, you don't feel excessively judged, because no matter what you're wearing it's probably pretty conventional and maybe a little too dressed up. But here, I think, everyone who is not you is bizarre- the urge towards conformity in this town makes the smallest things look positively rebellious- say, voting Democrat, or riding a bike while not dressed in sporty spandex. It's all the normal that makes you feel strange. And the pressure of all of this normality makes the strange appear in some of the most unexpected places. For instance, did you know that this town has more tattoo artists per capita than anyplace else in the country? Something tells me that the Ted Haggard scandal of last year is just the tip of the iceberg.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Happy Birthday, Alex!

I can't believe that you are already eight years old. And I can't wait for you to come to see me again.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mistrial for the St. Paddy's Day Seven

You may remember our post about what in my opinion amounts to a minor police riot at the St. Patrick's Day Parade earlier this year. This past Thursday, the seven parade-goers who got roughed up for wearing peace T-shirts went on trial for obstruction of the parade. After two days of testimony, a jury of four women and two men failed to reach a verdict, and the judge declared a mistrial. We don't know yet whether the city will decide to prosecute again, but as the local entertainment paper said, one prosecution is enough of a black eye on Colorado Springs' reputation. The trial has caused a lot of tension on all sides, and I worry that those of us who stand for peace and justice have let it distract us rather than using it to make us stronger. For now, however, we can breathe a little easier and get back to work. For law geeks out there, the prosecution referred in its arguments to the 1995 Supreme Court case Hurley vs Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston (94-749), 515 U.S. 557. The free speech issue didn't end up being central to this case, but it's interesting to see that decision cropping up here. Perhaps more on this later.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Bolt from the Blue

Just like New Mexico, our part of Colorado gets monsoon rains in the afternoon during the month of August. Today, I was on campus when the regular storm came, and when I heard the first thunder, I left my office so I could make it home without getting dumped on. As I was walking to my bike, I heard a deafening explosion, followed by the sound of falling rock and a chorus of car alarms. Moving toward the college chapel, I saw a cloud of what looked like smoke or dust. As I rounded the side of the chapel, it became clear that lightning had struck the south tower. At left (a view facing southeast,) you can see a dislodged stone.

Here on the right is a second view, facing northwest from the other side of the chapel, showing the damage more clearly. The lightning hit the spire, knocking heavy stones from the top down. As they fell, they dislodged some of the roof tiles. Here is the rubble below. This is actually the second lightning strike on campus this week. The other building struck was a house that contains administrative offices. Somebody told me which one, but I can't remember the name.

Of course, this is no freak accident. As some of you may have heard, Shove Chapel is now the meeting place for the faction of the St. Stephen's Episcopal congregation that remains loyal to the Anglican Communion. Some members of the congregation voted to secede and join the breakaway faction that opposes the ordination of Gay and Lesbian bishops. This faction is led in Colorado Springs by St. Stephen's pastor Don Armstrong, who has been accused of financial misdeeds by the Diocese of Colorado. I think that this lightning strike is a clear sign of divine will. It's as clear as day. God hates f***. And he loves thieves. [/fred phelps].
Or maybe he was trying to say something about the wedding that was being rehearsed in the chapel...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Blessing for a fantastic Mural

Our readers in Central Texas whose heads are still above water should try to check out the blessing of of the new mural at the Center for Health Care Services near Guadalupe and Zarzamora in San Antonio next week. It's a Saturday, August 25th from 10am to 12pm, so you can make it a day trip and go have a puffy taco afterwords.

This is San Anto Cultural Arts' 34th mural, one of many lovely ones they have put on West Side Walls. Our friend Adriana Garcia is one of the painters, and when we were in Texas for Lola's graduation we were lucky enough to get a preview of the mural in a warehouse on South Flores (rather than painting it directly on the brick wall, they are painting panels that will be attached to the building). Adriana and her collaborators did considerable research on the neurobiology of mental illness and spoke extensively to mentally ill individuals who use the Center. The result is a vivid, dreamlike painting that combines an exploration of the emotional trials of madness and recovery with otherworldy images of neurons.

It is, in other words, a socially engaged work of art by grown children of the Chicano movement that eschews the masculinist triumpalism that you see in some of the 1970s murals and aspires to an emotional depth that was foreign to earlier muralists. We'll post pictures as they are available. Too bad Jennifer, who presented thoughtfully at this past year's AAA meetings about post-Chicano visual art in the Rio Grande Valley is all the way out in Califas. We won't be there for the blessing, but we can't thank Adriana and her parents Pancho and Evelyn enough for taking us to the mural in May. We've got images from the mural tour up on flickr, in case you missed them.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Guess What Day It Is!!!!

That's right. It's the 62nd anniversary of the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Which means it's also Lola's and my "paper anniversary." We debated about getting married on this day, which in the end was dictated by our choice of location. We finally decided that people should do hopeful, optimistic things on August 6th, like the Japanese survivors who released the birds you see in the picture. So just think--one year ago today most of the readers of this blog were in the lobby of the Albuquerque Museum watching me enter into a binding legal contract of bliss with the love of my life. So thank you, Lola, for saying "I do." Thanks to all of you for helping to make the wedding such a blast and for staying in touch after our big move. And thanks to those who couldn't make it but were with us in spirit.

I guess when you pick Hiroshima Day to get married, you open yourself up to lots of jarring juxtapositions of life and death. Unfortunately, that's exactly how this anniversary turned out. I'd like to say goodbye to my Aunt Helen, who died this past weekend in Wichita just about two months shy of her eighty-ninth birthday. A year ago today, she was too frail to travel to Albuquerque, but she shared our celebration in her own way. Many generations of schoolkids in Wichita will remember her as an enthusiastic and engaging children's librarian. I'll always remember breakfasts in the screened-in porch of the house on Oliver street that she and her husband Orvel, who preceded her in death many years ago, shared when I was a boy.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Still a visionary

The test says so!
Click to view my Personality Profile page
Isa has a link to this page of Keirsey Temperment sorter tests.
This test fills me with nostalgia, since it reminds me of the house where I lived the year after I graduated from college. Me and my housemates developed a fascination for the test, and so we sorted ourselves, the cat, all of the household furnishings (the tv was an extrovert, surprise) and eventually, natural processes (is photosynthesis an extrovert or an introvert?). We speculated about the personalities of people that we didn't like.
I liked being an INFP, and though I am now a little creeped out by the Jungianisms that premise this, I'm relieved that my results are consistent.
Finally, when I was living in Pennsylvania, I used to see this old Honda with a vanity license plate that said "INFP." I was scandalized, since sharing your test results is so not an INFP thing to do. Oh, wait.... whoops!