Posted by: ms. spincycle | November 1, 2009

On Allegheny Avenue

AlleghenyandBroad

What I want you to know about Allegheny Avenue, what I want to tell you, are not its mere externals–for example, that it runs parallel to and above Lehigh Avenue the breadth of the City of Philadelphia, both streets perpendicular to Broad Street. Although this is true. Also true is that Allegheny originates at Ridge, on that corner, the sleeping sentinel in the form of an unkempt shaggy graveyard, then spans across sections of abandoned warehouses and row homes, discount shopping centers, intersects Broad, ducks under the railway, offers its address to the Spanish-speaking pediatric and mental health centers, Welfare, WIC, bars with strings of lights and salsa music playing on heatbeat summer sidewalks, and by the time Allegheny reaches Kensington, the Avenue under the shadow of the EL, she ‘is’ the Badlands, home, for instance, a  tiny park  at the public library nicknamed, “needle park” — not knitting, of course, but hypodermic. Latino, African American and White cultures and races are the majority of whom you see along the Avenue. But again, this is not what I want to tell you.

Getting to know Allegheny Ave has been like getting to know anyone – taking place over time. Encounter by encounter, through changes in weather and season, by what is observed, smelled, heard — and recounted by others — you form opinions, you estimate stature, you are touched, you are repelled. Not all of what you hear is true, not all of what you see is representative, and nothing is conclusive.  But you may learn something, and if so, you are changed. In an alchemical way, a shift happens. And therein is relationship. This is what I want to try and tell you.
 
 I have been driving the length of Allegheny for months, two or three times a week. I go to Kensington Ave. to see the DeLay family, for my work. Two parents, four children, all in the ‘system’ since forever, taken from addicted mothers, moved from one foster home to another, time spent in juvenile detention, time spent in jail, signed up for welfare as teens with children. For me, the Delays and Allegheny are inseparable — East Allegheny Avenue is their town. The schools, doctors, dentist, all social services, are necessarily within walking distance. This is their world.

 
 

I will tell you more. Stay tuned,
 
 

Ms. Spin-down-the-Avenue

 

 

 

Posted by: ms. spincycle | May 25, 2009

Thinking of Leslie

 
 from a Paris adventure
 what the gargoyles (and we) saw from Notre Dame’s tower 
 
Today is Theodore Roethke’s birthday, and Memorial day.
And 3 weeks since she left us.
He said, “Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It’s what everything else isn’t.”
 
He wrote and I share with you, while thinking of Leslie, not in haste — in the name of Art, of Love, of the courage to stay with what really matters, present with that intensity of grief and of joy: 

 

  I Knew a Woman
 
 
  I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
…                   
 

She was lovely, yet she was tough. She had a way with all animals, she loved and taught me to appreciate the smallest of creatures – especially birds. She had a way of accepting everyone and everything, yet questioning, as well, in a strikingly dispassionate way — playing devil’s advocate, wanting the truth. 

She communed with growing things. I remember talking to her once by phone, me in MA, she in CA – she was telling me about how her garden held here where she lived — the avocado trees growing in her yard – her voice full of joy, amazement at what was growing right there, where she was.

No one can tell me that anything is ‘just random’, including the people that come into my life. She appeared, from Australia no less, in the Boston Ashram at a time when I had put in many years doing my spiritual practices, yet feeling a waning of  joy and inspiration — what I felt should be growing. She was refreshing. We talked, we communed, even traveled to Paris more than once. I realized from our exchanges that it was time for me to leave that community, to become more ‘me’. I think I may still have been there without her friendship, love, conversation. I would not be where I am today without her.

I think of how my relationships have often, if not always, helped me make huge transitions from one plane of life to the next. As if we show up to help each other — and I think we do, having done it over and over again, lifetime after lifetime. She was startling to me, calm, sweet, funny. She has a tremendous heart, that sweetness that only an old soul knows — that calm wisdom with a steely strength wrought in white hot blast furnace heat, pressure, cooling — the phoenix heart that rises over and over again. The broken heart that opens more with each breaking…
 
I try to imagine where she’s been & where she’s going. Her leaving has already taught me about losing those we love. I miss her so much, then feel that she’s moved on to other work — as if she’s here but not here — only in the next room. Harder to miss her when she’s still here ;^).
 
I have this photo I took of her at the computer — a candid. Sitting on the office chair in her worn jeans, in pretzle pose, hair thick and wild, enraptured by what she was reading and thinking. I snapped it from the hallway. It’s a dark shot, almost just an outline. I put it in a frame in the kitchen and as I realized that she wasn’t really ‘gone’ — walking by it reminds me that she’s working ‘in the next realm’ , not so far away — as if loss is an illusion.
 
I remember much of our last visit, written elsewhere, written in stages, still being remembered. But what I want to remember here, of that visit — & maybe we both knew it was the last — is just feeling glad to be there, to see her, to laugh a bit despite what we knew might happen. It had been 9 years and there, seeing each other, in the moment, we felt it had been too long.
 
In 1998 we were ‘young’ — we grew together. What adventures we had! Paris x’s 3, fixing up Arthur’s house, innumerable trips to Home Depot, living in that room together with the pups, the Yahoo group drama, coffee and more coffee. Remember the snow plow bashing your Mom’s bushes at 3 am? Those beautiful winter fires, staying up all night watching the century change, stowing ‘supplies’ to survive Y2K ;^). “I am a Hindu.” The time the power went out and you all came to my studio for the night. Iggy. The corn snake. Hacking at roots in the backyard. Snow on the pines out every window – oh, then the pipes freezing. You had my back when it mattered. Thank you.
 
Later, you were there by phone every night of my last break up. Later, you did not want to trouble me with your feeling ill. You rooted for my schooling. Your admiration embarrassed me.
 
You help me realize how we, as souls, show up for each other, for significant challenges in life. We see each other through what we very well may not have been able to face alone, or even begin.
 
Now there is only all there ever needs to be – love.
Posted by: ms. spincycle | January 18, 2009

certain unalienable rights…

Stevie, Usher, & Shakira celebrate the beginning of a new era at the Lincoln Memorial on 1.18.2009.

Attention — all patriots…. As it was in 1774 when the first delegates were arriving on horseback to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, when self-rule was an as-radical-as-they-come idea (European countries and those of the Far East were ruled by a king, an emperor, a shogun). A Declaration was under construction, composed in three days by a reticent, shy, talented man with lofty ideals named Jefferson, who wrote alone in a single hotel room on Market Street.

Revolution was in the air then and the spirit of revolution seems to be making a return.

Gather round, all ye chicks, dudes, codgers, youngsters, crones, yuppies, gangstas;, homegrrrls, gen x-y-z’ers – hear ye, hear ye – patriotism is now cool, happening, epicentral.

Patriotism is making a come back.

Inauguration festivities have begun. The Obamas and Bidens took the train from Philly to D.C. and in the damn-serious cold of yesterday, but the crowds were huge and enthusiastic, with people lining the route, waving along the way.

This afternoon, the We Are One concert brought together, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, not only a crowd that filled the Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, but also a bevy of artists — Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Shakira (who gets my vote for best outfit ;^), Beyonce, U2, Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, John Cougar Mellencamp, and others — demonstrating, by the supporting return of so many artists, that art is so very, very political. From the crowds that gathered yesterday, this administration has begun, already, possibly the greatest healing experienced so far in this country, by and for the people. Just in time.

Truly, America continues to be the greatest experiment in Democracy in known history.  Pres.- elect Obama’s term for the healing part of his vision is, “American Renewal” & I’m feeling it, are you?

We are moving forward with our great American experiment, our Revolutionary roots.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

~ Our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.

 Participate! Washington hasn’t rocked like this since, well, 1999…

 

with love,
~ ms. spincycle

 

P.S. Oh, and if you didn’t yet get the Barak Obama Top 10 iPod list, here it is! :

Barack Obama’s iPod

  • 1. ‘Ready or Not’ Fugees
  • 2. ‘What’s Going On’ Marvin Gaye
  • 3. ‘I’m On Fire’ Bruce Springsteen
  • 4. ‘Gimme Shelter’ Rolling Stones
  • 5. ‘Sinnerman’ Nina Simone
  • 6. ‘Touch the Sky’ Kanye West
  • 7. ‘You’d Be So Easy to Love’ Frank Sinatra
  • 8. ‘Think’ Aretha Franklin
  • 9. ‘City of Blinding Lights’ U2
  • 10. ‘Yes We Can’ Will.i.am

 

 

Posted by: ms. spincycle | January 11, 2009

evening

streetlightcoal
a street light flickers at dusk…

” I do not agree that evening is the saddest time of day. To me, evenings are always beautiful and happy. Evening, like morning, is active, full of change and vitality. It is not a time of fading. Evening announces the arrival of the full array of night life, when nature is so active. Humans rest at night, but moon, stars, water, clouds, insects and grasses throb with life. “

- Thich Nhat Hanh, Fragrant Palm Leaves

Posted by: ms. spincycle | December 23, 2008

“christmas bazaar”

 

purplebizarre

 I was driving down Germantown Ave from the Acme Market  just after dark this evening, sailing through more green lights than usual and humming Mariah Carey’s version of All I Want for Christmas for close to the 183rd time this week. The red light I finally hit was at Upsal, right at the Second Baptist’s often-changed sign board.

 

I always look forward to seeing what they’ve posted, especially the sermon titles. Sometimes they’re thought-provoking, other times, they’re… funny. Today, the sign read, “Christmas Bazaar” which I assume, in retrospect, is announcing an event, since it has a date and time..

 

However, when I stopped at the light and looked at the sign, my first response was, “It really is, isn’t it?” Bizarre. Christmas. Yes.

 

This year, more than ever and for various reasons, while shopping and driving around town, I’ve felt like a visitor from another planet observing the strange customs of the natives: songs about sleigh bells playing at the hairdresser (when is the last time you rode in a sleigh?), random people wearing pointed red furry hats with pompoms, the frantic hunting for gifts fewer than ever can afford (overheard at T-rgat & said in an angry tone: “We still need to get something for both of your brothers and your mother.” Where’s the joy?).

 

Not that there’s anything wrong with gifts–it’s just the sheer massiveness of the shoppers’ descent on all stores the last few weekends before ‘the day’–I mean, maybe the population has reached such a voluminous sum total such that there should no longer be days, anymore, where everyone is expected to do the same thing at the same time, unless it’s to stay home. Or pick up litter…or walk.

 

I do love the garish lawn displays, though, the wilder the better! I know the electric use must be tremendous but  nonetheless, they’re amazing!!

 

There’s one house, just a half block down Germantown Ave from the church, that never disappoints. This year they have, in addition to lights lining the edges of their front porch and blanketing their front bushes, a group of four lit and inflated holiday characters: a snowman, an elf, a reindeer and a candycane, all huddled together ( they may be tied so no character escapes…). There was, however, no music this year…

 

Last year, the same house had an at-least-six-foot round inflated ‘snow environment’ in which lived three carolers who rotated as the ‘thing’ played christmas tunes and snow circulated in the sphere like a newly-shaken snowy paperweight. Then one day, still early in the season, this wonder world became just a sad deflated pile on the ground, possibly the victim of vandals–rarer than you’d think around here.

 

After a few days, the ‘thing’ reappeared, patched and re-inflated, up on their porch roof. However, that version, too, soon disappeared, replaced by nothing. Only the lights in their yard remained for the rest of the season. Every time I went by the house, the spot where the carolers had been in their snowy bubble, seemed more than empty.

 

So far this year, however, their current huddle remains lit and full-blown! And bizarre. In that Christmasy way.

 

Earlier in the Acme, before I saw the sign, I did look at their Christmas decorations section, all now on sale. I thought about getting a small this or that to hang or light or drape over something. But nothing caught my eye. I already have some glittering stars I like so much, from the Dollar Store (which I just discovered is gone) down the street, that I keep them up year-round. I like the white lights that are already up, even though I have some colored ones. 

 

Last night, with a crowd of Solstice celebrants, we cheered and shouted as a flaming wheel was rolled around the local UU Society’s parking lot, celebrating mid-winter’s deepest turning point, the seasonal nexus whereafter light begins to return.

 

I think I’m already feeling festive! Maybe that’s why things look more bizarre than ever. Why people seem to be doing a rote list of things, more than what they really want to do. Why people seem to have been hijacked by Christmas.

 

“I don’t want alot for Christmas. There is just one thing I need. I don’t care about the presents, underneath the Christmas tree…” humming for the 184th time, carrying the groceries in & lighting a candle on my altar.

 

A toast ~

 

To everything bizarre, wonderful, Christmasy, Solsticy.

Everything that leads to peace, to love, to understanding,

To changing the way we live until there is no more suffering than what is necessary for each of our souls to reach its highest expression.

 

Merry of merries to you,

 

Ms. SpinC

Posted by: ms. spincycle | December 20, 2008

to get your Solstice groove ‘well’ on…

blessings du saison,

Ms. SpinC

Posted by: ms. spincycle | December 7, 2008

fine

snowtrash
snow on Saturday night

As dusk rose last evening, the finest snow began to fall.

Only felt, landing frozen on forehead and cheeks, while walking down the sidewalk between car and front door.

Looking out from inside, almost dark, seeing snow-covered roofs and windows of parking lot cars, still invisible falling.

Then, opening my window to feel them again, looking straight down.

There! silent powder drifted down, revealed by floodlight.

Leaning over my low table, putting palms on window sill, face chilling out the open window — a generous heat rising from the radiator, warming up arms, to shoulders, to chin, to face — watching snow thicken, suddenly dense under every street light, white-blanketing road, parking lot, tree branches, grass.

I remembered, then, calling you earlier, saying, “I am perfectly fine. How strange, exhilarating even.” 

This moment was like that, like every perfect moment ever spent gazing out on snow falling, in every city and town I have ever called home.

~ ms. spincycle

 

 

.

 

snowclivedenside

snow in the Cliveden's flood light

 

on Cliveden looking east

on Cliveden looking east

Posted by: ms. spincycle | November 16, 2008

white lies?

processionii1

Today, I spoke with a woman of African-American culture who has been earning her undergrad degree as an older, ‘non-traditional’ student at a college with a prestigious reputation.

“How has this been for you?” I had to ask.

 

She replied by telling me about the two classes she had taken that had older Graduate students as members.

 

“But what about the others?” I asked again. She smiled.

 

“Oh, they’re interesting. The younger students see things very differently.”

 

I raised an eyebrow, imagining her younger generation fellow students speaking in some kind of verbal text-messaging code that she then had to translate.

 

“They take a lot of freedoms for granted,” she explained. “The women, the race issues. No one told them what the struggle was like.”

 

One thought led to another, and she continued, “This one student, a male (White guy) from some place in the Midwest, said that for the first time he was realizing that some people never have a chance at a decent life. He said that his parents told him that poor people didn’t have anything because they were lazy.”

 

I nodded, thinking, then saying, “I got that message too. It’s shocking, isn’t it?”

 

“Well, I just can’t believe that people would lie to their kids about something like that.” She was frustrated, shaking her head.

 

Now it was my turn to be shocked. “They’re not lying.” I said.

 

“What?” she looked puzzled.

 

“Well, I don’t think they know one thing and are telling their kids another. That would be lying. They really believe that — what they’re saying.” I remembered being in that world and had some heavy feelings being its messenger. From her perspective of finally finding a ‘way out’, she could hardly comprehend the oblivion in operation of those blocking the way.

 

“Well, they are just avoiding knowing.” She made a last ditch effort to assign some conscious effort to ‘White guy’s’ parents.

 

I shrugged, “Maybe, but I really don’t think they’re losing any sleep over this issue.” I said. I was realizing that the educational point for those who are oppressed is the air tight nature, the solid rationale of White oblivion — witness the talking points of the recent Republican National Convention — ‘everyone who works hard can attain the American Dream’ — what some of us are calling the American Fantasy…’as if’ the playing field is flat.

 

She was just shaking her head now. “Ten minutes in a Welfare office would do these local high school students a world of good.”

 

Wow.

 

When, as a young prince, the Buddha sneaked out of his father’s palace and saw for the first time poverty, suffering, and death — his heart broke, broke open — and he left home to seek, understand why, and find the spiritual principles which would continue to help humans raise our consciousness for, now, 2500 years.

 

Perhaps Wefare office field trips for well-off teens from the toney Mainline Philadelphia suburbs would create a new wave of post-modern open-hearted seekers, bent on helping society reach a benevolent potential beyond present imagination!

 

I imagined such a field trip during my high school years in the White professional class suburbs. Still a radical notion. I remember my liberal social studies teacher slipping into our curriculum readings on the history of the Italian Mafia and personal accounts of life behind bars. Maybe as a result, I feel a very strong affinity for helping incarcerated people.

 

However I am not envisioning my class ‘field tripping’ to the local jail. Our parents instructed us, “Lock your door.” when we drove through the poorer sections of town.

 

Back to the present, I wondered at this instant of mutual learning.

 

Multiply it by millions

.

People do stay in their comfort zones — Blue states, Red states, groups of similar race and culture, moose hunters, religions, sexual preferences, genders, age groups, liberals, conservatives, sports fans, arugula consumers, professions of all kinds.

 

“We need to start talking.” Really.

 

We should all ‘get out more’, and I don’t mean to clubs and restaurants.

 

Do you know what I mean?

Posted by: ms. spincycle | October 24, 2008

I.M.possible

9:25:12 PM): after I talked to you I caught the late train
9:25:18 PM): then went to the acme
9:25:30 PM): got stuff but the lines were long b/c the self checkout was closed
9:25:35 PM): so I left my stuff - lettuce, yogurts, in with the fridged packages of fresh raspberries
9:25:42 PM): got in my car and screamed, yeah well…
9:25:58 PM): cried on way home. determined.
9:26:07 PM): but I dunno…then I stopped

– here you said, “oh fuck” — don’t you love a good non-therapeutic response?!

9:26:19 PM): I felt more like standing up to the challenge
9:26:22 PM): you know like…
9:26:30 PM): when the wind blows really hard
9:26:34 PM): and you don’t run for shelter
9:26:45 PM): you lean into it instead and let it energize you?
9:26:53 PM): that’s what it felt like
9:27:08 PM): have you ever watched crows in a storm?
9:27:23 PM): they are crazy in love with an impossible wind, watch them
9:27:26 PM): they’re amazing
9:27:34 PM): if it’s wild, they’re out in it. they’re drawn to it.
9:27:41 PM): swooping, diving
9:27:51 PM): playing in chaos
 

 

Posted by: ms. spincycle | October 5, 2008

gas pump blue(s)

 Battle of Germantown – Revolutionary War re-enactment Oct. 4th, 2009

Yesterday, morning I witnessed a fabulous yet — when you think about it, strange — re-enactment of our country’s early battle for freedom. It set me to wondering, anew, why we think taking the life of another is ever justified.

Just one macabre true story of this battle — without knowing which side suffered these casualties, not that it matters — one cannon ball fired towards the opposition went through the neck of the horse a General was riding, came out the other side, taking off the General’s leg, then removed the head of a nearby soldier.

Speaking of destructive trajectories… I’m just wondering if we really want to keep doing things like this instead of talking…

Then, in the afternoon I attended the Inaugaration of Bryn Mawr’s new President, after which I pulled into my usual gas station in that ‘down right’ wealthy part of Main Line Philly, to avoid running any closer to empty, which I do all too often lately. The prices there, surprisingly, are reasonable (well!).

The guy on the other side of the pump, maybe my age and wearing an expensive sportshirt, was filling up his silver, recent model BMW — obviously garaged and possibly a convertible. 

As I keyed in my card code and pushed the 87 octane gas lever, I was feeling inspired and glad that I had decided to attend the ceremony at Bryn Mawr. There is so much progress to make in society for and by women in the world and I was feeling, more than ever, that I can make a contribution to this work.

My thoughts continued along this line, when my neighbor came out from behind the pump and said, having notice my bumper sticker, “So now that Hillary’s out of the running, who are you for?”

At that moment, pumping gas took an interesting turn…

I looked over at him, smiling nodding and saying all at once; “Obama, definitely.” He seemed to silently agree with my response so I countered; “And you?”

His mere seconds of hesitation caused me to wonder If I had actually encountered one of those ‘undecided’ members of our voting population — they mystify me. Then he answered, “I think I’m actually going to go with Obama too. I have been voting Republican but I can’t do that this time.”

Wow, I thought, I am so glad that I’ve been ‘studying’ Republican views and values, trying to get out of my own and my circle’s sensibilities and see how other political persuasions see the world. And now I was about to learn some more.

As if to further explain his defection, he added, “McCain just isn’t good for foreign relations. I think if there’s someone likeable in office, it’ll really throw off the terrorists, you know? I mean, they just won’t know what to do with someone like Obama. With McCain ready to go in great guns, he’s easy to fight against but I think Obama will get along with the world leaders. They’ll like him and we need that. Then the terrorists will be, like…” and he threw up his hands at that point and shrugged and smiled.

I liked his reasoning. I mean, any reason a Republican can find to vote Democratic — what’s not to like?! This guy is afraid of annihilation — certainly as fine a reason as any to defect.

Then he moved on to money, “But the economy is going to take a long time to fix, and it doesn’t matter who is in office, because bankers are bankers.” he added. “So it really is about foreign relations, the election.”

At this point, I could only look at him. Staring, actually. I think I just stared at him, holding my gas pump nozzle.

Bankers are bankers? No, I thought, not only do I not think this is true, I think Democrats don’t think this way either, but apparently, Republicans do? At least this Republican (defector) does. Banking has no — ethic?, no morality?, no preferences? Oh, this most certainly is not true for me.

The entire ‘sustainabililty’ movement is based on investing with values in mind. Green investing, socially responsible businesses — all make choices to put their money where it does the most good. Without such motivations, what is left? The stock market is a reflection of human fears and confidences, it has no life of its own. Yes, money is only money. Its potential lies fully in the hands of managers and investors.

A Democratic government will surely influence investing and spending differently than the Republican have obviously done in the past 8 years of cutting needed programs and deregulating the biggest monopolies. I managed to blurt out something like that to him. Actually I think all that came out was; “…social programs!”, and he shivered a bit at that. “I just hope they don’t spend too much.” was his response — possibly THE key concern of well-off Republicans, it seems. Taxes, spending. Despite the Bush regime’s record, despite the Clinton prosperity years…

Just then, a friend of my new gas pump acquaintence pulled up at the next pump and they began to chat. I finished my purchase and caught his eye one last time as I got back into my car.

We exchanged a warm farewell and, “Good luck.” I felt his good wishes. I hoped that he had friends who listened to his reasoning.

In the current world of imperfect choices, there is still the option to make a courageous choice, take a risk, as this well-off Main Liner will, I hope, do.

And I pray to the goddess, lineage of masters, the trees, rocks and ocean waves — and the sun, that we get that chance to make a new start on November 4th. There is no hyperbole in saying that our future depends on this.

Get out and VOTE!

with courage & love,

ms. spincycle

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