Social Currency

She listened carefully, watching his face, watching his lips. When he finished speaking, her eyes looked up and to the left, thinking. Remembering. Nodding.

Her eyes, then, returned to her 61 year old son. “So your patient wants you to travel with him to Houston,” she paraphrased. “That’s wonderful! He must respect you and trust you… and have a lot of money!”

“Mamá, he wants someone to accompany him and yes, he trusts me. I worked with him and his wife when she was sick. But we can’t do the type of surgery that he needs.”

“I see.” She paused again.

“Impressive.” She nodded again.

“How much will you charge?” she asked, looking him right in the eyes.

“Oh mother!   I don’t know. I have never been asked to do something like this before.” He took a sip of coffee.

The answer didn’t matter and she knew he wouldn’t say… but maybe he would. No harm in asking.

The conversation went silent for a bit. Then she turned to me and said, “And you just returned from that overseas training your company sent you to. How did that go? They must think the world of you, sending you off to a training in another country! They wouldn’t send just anyone, now then, would they?” She looked up again, not waiting for an answer.

Then I understood. I could see it in her eyes. This conversation was not about accomplishment or money, per se; this was about social currency. Later in the evening she would go on her evening constitutional to the casino. Some people find community at church or with their neighbors. Some go to a bar where everybody knows your name. She goes to the casino, every night if someone will take her; she can no longer go out alone with that bum leg of hers

Yes, I understood: When she gets to the casino she will slowly find her favorite machine, talking to friends and relatives amid the rings, dings and bings of the one-armed bandits (that mostly worked with the press of a finger). With her cane and her attendant she will stop and talk to everyone she knows, perhaps someone new. What will she say? Not much has happened since yesterday evening. She spent the day with meals, the newspaper and Netflix so what will she add to the conversation?

“How are you tonight?” Someone will ask as she walks the aisles looking for her machine.

Putting her hand on the other’s arm she will take out some of that social currency and say, “I am good. You’ll never guess where my son is going to go…”

By the end of the evening she will have talked to many who passed by to share their stories. She will listen carefully while watching their faces and lips. She will ask questions, thinking, remembering and nodding as they speak. Tomorrow, we will be brought up to date on the members of that community. We will ask questions that she will be sure to get the answers to as the carousel takes another spin.

Happening in Peru: Flooding

Off the coast of Peru and Ecuador the ocean has warmed 5º C or more.  This warming is known as the Costal El Niño and it is wreaking havoc on the land and people of those countries.

This article from Reuters explains and shows what is happening.  Be sure to scroll down.  Here are some more images of the flooding.

Today is the 4th day of no classes for students in Lima, as directed by the Ministry of Education.  Because of the flooding, travel has been difficult if not impossible in some areas and most everyone has been affected by water shortages. The excess water, filled with dirt and debris, has overwhelmed the water treatment plants, shutting them down and cutting the water supply.  Schools cannot operate if there is not a steady supply of water.

At home our basement cistern ran dry but the water tanks on the roof still held water; we did not run out completely.  Three buildings down, where my mother-in-law lives, they were without water for about 12 hours.  This is to say that we have been extremely lucky!  A few hours with no water is nothing when compared to the destruction in other areas.

There are many organizations that are gathering items and money, the Red Cross being one of them.  Please help the international effort if you can.

Which Side?

Beside the freeway bus stop
the boys play soccer
with a piece of trash
(today it’s a tossed-aside
one liter water bottle).

The bigger one kicks off his
shoes, towards his mother
who is selling fruit to the commuters,
because the sneakers’ sole
became unattached
to the hole-y canvas upper
making it hard to beat his brother
at trash soccer.

“Put on your shoes,” sighs mom
as she takes a few cents for a
watermelon slice, all the time knowing
he won’t.

The commuters,
with purses, backpacks and briefcases
(and slices of fruit),
climb the stairs of the pedestrian bridge
that spans the freeway.

Which side will they come down on?

Let’s Write

A bit of motivation for the NaNoWriMo writers (sung to the tune of Rawhide)

Writing, writing, writing,
With the page I’m fighting
Keep them pencils writing
Let’s Write!

Through problems and solutions
Ironic resolutions
Pen to page all through the night

The dialogue they’re talkin’
From scene to scene they’re walkin’
Revising will help me get it right.

Think it up, write it down
write it down, think it up
think it up write it down
Let’s Write!

Read it out, editin’
Editin’, read it out
Read it out, editin’
Let’s Write

Julio Papá

Arguing with the television,
turning it down, loudly,
eating fresh rosquitas and offering them
to everyone.

Wanting to share in the wine
But too methodical to do so.
Keeping life’s rhythms and rhymes.

Patterns that matched his shirt.

Setting his watch by casino,
Punching the clock at the café as if going to work,
Paying without comment.

Community wherever he was.

Welcoming you, as you are,
Who you are,
Supporting your dreams,
Take a nap if you want to, fix the world if you want to…
But how about a sandwich at 8:40,
And could the doctor’s appointment be after breakfast and before the café?

Missing
You
Deeply

Heading Towards…

A writer who wrote had a dream:
Tell stories to feel, think and scream.
“I’ll motivate reading,
Young minds I’ll be feeding,
With wonders that aren’t what they seem.”

I have known “writers” who don’t write and folks who say they are not writers but who, in fact, write.  Me?  I like to tell stories about kids who are similar to my students, typically 4th through 8th graders with dreams and worries, hopes and inhibitions.  Soon I will join the legion of writers who take up an MFA program in writing.  It is a low residency program at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota that focuses on writing for children- it is a perfect fit for me… and they accepted me.

In order to complete the program I will travel twice a year to Minnesota from my home in Lima to learn, write, reflect and revise.  My previous studies in the last 20 years have been to find or keep work.  I have enjoyed earning each of my teaching licenses and the learning that came with them.  This one, though, is for me and my students… and I am really looking forward to it.

If you know of any sources to assist with funding please send them my way.

In the meantime it is almost November and that means NaNoWriMo.  But who needs an excuse to write?

Weaving Our World

Africa brought my friend Abdisalam
Pangjua my pal is from Asia
Buddy was born on the East Side, Saint Paul
A quilt, a symphonic fantasia!

Frank is Lakota, a generous man
Angel an awesome amigo
Ela my doctor of Irish descent
Aunt Shirley? She comes from Otsego

The Nations United is more than New York
We world-weave through actions and talking
Together we journey, we wonder, we hope
The road that we make is by walking

*******************************************
This was my non-winning poetry submission for Impressions.   The end result of Impressions would have more people reading poetry and viewing art on busses and at bus stops in the Twin Cities (Minnesota).  Using easy to read, rhyming poetry I wanted to emphasize the global nature of St. Paul  while alluding to Spanish poet Machado in that we create the world with who we are and what we do.

I look forward to reading all of the poems!