Friday, February 16, 2024

Jefferson City, Missouri: At Least I'm Not Camping

Although my apartment offers charm in views, design, and location, it is as breezy inside as a log cabin that has lost its chinking. 

For some reason, this state of affairs reminds me of the so-called bozi flower in Caucasus Georgia, aka prostitute flower. My apartment windows are as loose as a bozi's legs. 

And the walls are cold. Because there ain't no insulation in this 100-year old building. 

Sometimes I'll feel an actual push of cold air that flows by me, but when I get up to investigate where the hell it's coming from, it's untraceable. A frosty spirit? 

During a recent two-week arctic blast, when temperatures sank into the single digits, my first thought upon awakening each morning was: "At least I'm not camping."  

Cold comfort, as my living space was frigid.

I wore (and still wear) a hat to bed and for most of the day inside my place. I'm wearing it as I write this. During the day, I typically wear three layers of clothing.

Oh, sure, I could crank up the thermostat, but with the super-high ceilings, the billowy blasts of cold air coming through the windows and walls, with the registers affixed to the high ceilings, and electric heat pushed up such a long way through vents that are quite possibly lined with a thick layer of dust plaque - from a furnace of unknown age - which is way down in the basement of this old building, to which I have no access, thus I can't check the filter ("We change the filters twice a year!" say the property managers, as if that's a generous amenity) - and a bill that could easily hit $250 for just one month, I started out with a 65-degree thermostat setting before frugalizing even further by dropping it to 63 degrees.

Since the leaden cold has descended, I don't see my charming outside views because I've covered my windows with two cold-air barriers in addition to the blinds already installed: Plastic sheeting and fabric curtains, and for some windows, Reflectix, too. Against the walls below the windows, I've pushed bulwarks of boxes and pillows to block the cold air swooshing in through the frames.

My charmless winter decor to repel the cold invasion. February 2024. Credit: Mzuriana.
My charmless winter decor to repel the cold. February 2024. Credit: Mzuriana.


Other cold tales:

Rustavi [Caucasus Georgia]: Warmth Strategies

[Caucasus] Georgia: Cold

[Caucasus] Georgia: Warmth

Birmingham, Alabama: An Annoyance of Facts 

My winter in Birmingham was the very same that hit Houston so hard in 20/21. My winter in Birmingham is when I bought both an electric mattress pad and an electric throw to put on my bed.

The year I wintered in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2018, I said this: "No, no, no, no. I am finished with winters in cold lands." I made this proclamation after it snowed on Easter. In April

Yeah, and now look what I've gone and done again. 

At least I'm not camping.


Thursday, February 1, 2024

Word of the Year: Migration

The Long Walk, by C Ortiz. Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico
The Long Walk, by C Ortiz. Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico


So, yes, it came to me that I do have a word for this year: Migration. 

There is a massive human migration on our planet today. 

Millions of women, men, and children are leaving their homes, their families, their friends and neighbors, their rose gardens, their languages, their neighborhood sounds and smells, their food, their favorite shops, their local houses of worship - all that they know, moving toward a future they hope is worthy of this outrageous price they pay. Knowing, too, that the people at the endpoint of their journeys may greet them, not with welcoming arms, but stony resentment. 

Columbus - Puerto Palomas port of entry, New Mexico. April 2013. Credit: Mzuriana.
Columbus - Puerto Palomas port of entry, New Mexico. April 2013. Credit: Mzuriana.

Some migration is forced, in the sense that oppressors intentionally push people out, escorting them out, even, with arms or threat of arms. 

  • The Alhambra Decree of 1492, which expelled all Jews from Spain unless they denounced their faith, for example. 
  • The 18th century Acadian Expulsion in Canada, for example. 
  • The 19th century forced removal of American indigenous to reservations, for example. 
  • The Long Walk, for example. 
  • The 1940s concentration camps, mostly but not exclusively for Jewish people, in 15+ European countries, for example. 
  • The 1940s concentration camps ("relocation centers") in the United States for Japanese-Americans, for example. 
  • The "Negro Removal" in St. Louis in the 1950s (and since), for example. 
  • The Israeli threats to Gaza residents to abandon their homes or suffer the consequences for imminent Israeli military attacks, for example. 
  • Rwanda. Burundi. Bosnia. Brazil. Guatemala. The list seems endless. 

Since mass migration is, if one looks at history, inevitable, it would seem wise if nations through which the tides of humans passed: 

  • Recognized such movement as an inevitability - as inevitable as the seasons that come and go - and did not treat each migration as a crime to be quashed or a one-off disaster that ends in forgetfulness until the next one-off disaster that ends in forgetfulness until the next one-off disaster ... 
  • Built flexible systems that expand and contract as the forces ebb and flow, like the rise and fall and rise of seasonal floods, to work with the migration instead of constructing river channels that may control a stream in typical seasons, albeit with constant vigilance for cracks in the walls, but which will collapse like a child's little pile of stones when the inevitable 50-year or 100-year or 300-year flood comes. 
  • Accepted that the mighty weight of human desperation to rescue ourselves and our children from the drowning waters rushing behind us will break through walls of wire, steel, stone, concrete; of desert heat, and killing thirst.

There is migration within our country today, a domestic demographic rearrangement as the pandemic and lack of affordable housing and "trauma tax" pushes or pulls Americans away or toward new home bases. 

The pandemic and the resulting bloom of remote work has expanded the choices of where to live, possibly breathing fresh life into small cities and towns in areas that are/were moribund as a consequence of decades-long brain drain to larger urban areas.

There is migration occurring in my internal map, as well. Will I redefine rootlessness for myself? Or en-root myself again?

 This is the year of migration, both literal and figurative. Both macro and micro.

La Virgen of El Paso and Juarez, mural in Segundo Barrio. October 2016. Photo credit: Mzuriana.
La Virgen of El Paso and Juarez, mural in Segundo Barrio. October 2016. Photo credit: Mzuriana.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Rootless: On Living in Small Spaces


My apartment living room, bedroom, dining room, office in Mobile, Alabama. July 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
My apartment living room, bedroom, dining room, office in Mobile, Alabama. July 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.


When I met a long-ago, longtime love, back in my rooted life, he lived in a small space above a bicycle shop. His space seems larger when I visualize it now, but at the time, it was so petite in comparison to my house (a modest baby ranch). 

He had a tiny bedroom that pretty much just fit a double bed, a tiny bathroom off the bedroom, a tiny kitchen, a largish living area, and best of all, a kind of enclosed balcony that, back in olden times, might have been called a sleeping porch. Windows surrounded this bonus lounging space. 

A cozy space; intimate. 

I remember thinking all those years ago: I could live in a space like this. 

Later, I met Jessica Terrell, who introduced me to tiny houses. She aspired to live in a tiny house. 

On long, meditative drives on road trips, my mind often travels to my perfect house: A one-room space that has, along one wall, a:

  • Scandinavian-inspired, built-in "closet bed" (or "bed nook") with doors I can close during the day;
  • Toilet room; and a
  • Separate shower room.

Along a perpendicular wall are the sinks, refrigerator, and stove/oven. 

Universal design. Gosh, I love the premise, the promise, of universal design. It doesn't zero in on humans with disabilities. It includes everyone; it makes accessing the space easier for all. A description: 

The term universal design was coined by the architect Ronald Mace to describe the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life.

 I like its aim to be both aesthetic and usable. 

My El Paso kitchen. El Paso, Texas. September 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.
My El Paso kitchen. El Paso, Texas. September 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.

My El Paso bedroom, office, and so-called living room. El Paso, Texas. September 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.
My El Paso bedroom, office, and so-called living room. El Paso, Texas. September 2016. Credit: Mzuriana.

It has happened not-infrequently in my life that when I imagine something, it eventually comes to pass. Maybe my imaginary house will, too.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Missouri: The Seven Shades of Winter


Icy serviceberry, Jefferson City, Missouri. January 2007. Credit: Mzuriana.
                    Icy serviceberry, Jefferson City, Missouri. January 2007. Credit: Mzuriana.



So I'm back in the Land of Winter. 

To manage this, I've got to break it into segments: 

  1. The time change that summons the darkness, oh, too early, and too cold.
  2. The winter solstice, the shortest day.
  3. January 1 - at least we're now in the calendar year when will come spring! 
  4. The entire month of February - the coldest and the bleakest and the longest month of winter, notwithstanding its actual number of days
  5. The time change, bringing incremental daylight minutes in the afternoon
  6. March 21: The first day of spring! 
  7. Yeah! And every day in March that is without snow or ice or arctic temperatures is a day stolen from that bitch winter. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

10 Years Ago: Grant, NM: A Revolution in the Middle of Nowhere

I have nothing to add to this story except to just step back and contemplate how much courage, perseverance, hardship, and risk it requires to effect meaningful change.

And to know - to know - that it's not just risk of what might happen to you, it's actual harm that rains down on you from those who wish to maintain the status quo. Physical, financial, educational, emotional, familial harm.

And to know that throughout the process of inviting, provoking, inciting change, there is no guarantee that your sacrifices and vulnerability will achieve the desired result. 

When I think in this moment of so many women, men, and children who seek to self-rescue themselves from untenable situations at home in Central and South America, who are daily dehumanized by the sere name of "migrant," I think of desperation - yet there is also hope, right? Because to leave the status quo for something else implies the hope that there is something better elsewhere. 

As had these revolutionaries in Grant County, New Mexico: We are men and women. We deserve better, and we claim what we deserve.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Grant County, New Mexico: A Revolution in the Middle of Nowhere


Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico


You're driving down a road. You pass through a small, rather despondent town by the name of Bayard. The only thing of interest that catches your eye is a mural on the side of a long, low building. You turn around, go back. Get out of the car, take the pics, get back in the car and zoom off. Nice artwork.

But when you get home and go through the pics, get ready to post them, you do a little due diligence on the ol' "Local 890" cited in the mural. Maybe there's a little blurb in a local paper about the mural, its artist, and a bit of history of a union group that used to be, and that probably is no more.

You google on "Hurley, NM" and "local 890." Nothing of interest comes up. So you broaden the search to "local 890" and "new mexico." (Update 11Feb2013: Note comment below from Anonymous. I had the town wrong, which explains why nothing much came up in my original search. Doh!

Goddamn. What a story!

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico

The primary story

Back in the early 1950s, a lot of folks in Grant County worked at the Empire Zinc Mine in Hanover, New Mexico. Americans of Mexican descent were paid less than other Americans working in the mine - there was a two-tiered wage structure to ensure that. Furthermore, regardless of ethnicity, the company didn't pay for the time getting down into or up out of the mine - the clock didn't start until the miners were in place. Mining families living in company housing suffered poor living conditions - no hot water, for example. The company was not responsive to the miners' complaints about any of these issues, and they and the miners reached an impasse.

The miners' union, the Local 890, decided to go on strike. They kept the mine closed for eight months, with neither side budging from their positions. Finally, the company obtained a court injunction forbidding the miners to strike.

In a creative twist, some of the wives of the miners, affiliated with the Ladies' Auxiliary 209, suggested that they form the picket lines instead of the miners. The miners agreed.

The women stood fast against arrests, threats, and intimidation by union scabs, local law, and community members. In one narrative:
"The women’s picket was carefully organized, militant, and successful. Not only did wives of Empire strikers, such as Henrietta Williams and Virginia Chac√≥n, walk the line; many women from other towns in Grant County also participated. When County Sheriff Leslie Goforth ordered 53 women arrested on June 16, another 300 women took their places!"

Furthermore, in response to intimidation:
"Not only did women push cars, drag men out of them, and maintain their lines; they also jumped on cars, threw rocks at strikebreakers, and deployed various “domestic” items as weapons: knitting needles, pins, (rotten) eggs and chili peppers."

So who was back home taking care of the kids and house? The jobless miners, who had eye-opening experiences at home.
"For the next seven months, the women held the line in the face of violence from strikebreakers, mass arrests by the sheriff, and opposition from many of their own husbands, who were suddenly faced with the responsibilities of caring for children, washing clothes, and doing the dishes. In January 1952, the strikers returned to work with a new contract. They had failed to win their major demands, but did obtain significant pay increases that, in effect, undermined the Mexican wage. Several weeks later, Empire Zinc installed hot water plumbing in Mexican American workers’ houses--a major issue pushed by the women of these households."

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico

The secondary story

Three filmmakers who were members of the Communist Party made a movie about the miners' strike. They were Herbert Biberman (director), Michael Wilson (screenwriter), and Paul Jarrico (producer).

Mr. Wilson wrote or collaborated on screenplays for, among others: Lawrence of Arabia, Planet of the Apes, Bridge Over the River Kwai, It's A Wonderful Life, A Place in the Sun, and Border Patrol. In some, such as Lawrence of Arabia, he was uncredited because he had been blacklisted during (and after) the McCarthy Era.

The movie was Salt of the Earth, and it included experienced actors and individuals who actually participated in the strike. Filmed on site, the movie production was beset with harassing actions by politicos fraught with commie fever.
"On February 24, 1953, as filming proceeded in Grant County, U.S. Representative Donald L. Jackson (Rep-Calif.), a member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), delivered a speech on the floor of Congress that portrayed Salt as a dire threat to the nation. 'This picture,' Jackson charged, 'is deliberately designed to inflame racial hatreds and to depict the United States of America as the enemy of all colored peoples.' 'If this picture is shown in Latin America, Asia, and India,' he warned, 'it will do incalculable harm not only to the United States but to the cause of free people everywhere.' 'In effect,' he concluded, 'this picture is a new weapon for Russia.'”

To harass the making of the movie,

"The Grant County American Legion post distributed printed copies of Jackson’s speech to local residents. Anti-Mine-Mill residents formed a vigilante committee that carried out physical attacks on the film crew and cast. And the day after Jackson’s speech, Rosaura Revueltas [one of the professional actresses] was arrested on immigration charges, based on the technicality that she had failed to get her passport stamped when entering the U.S., and was deported before filming ended. (The last shots of her in the film were done in Mexico and the film had to be smuggled back into the U.S.). Finally, due to collaboration between Jackson, studio executives such as Howard Hughes, the American Legion, as well as the conservative Hollywood technicians’ union--the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)--few Americans saw Salt of the Earth in the year of its release. In 1954, there were 13,000 movie theaters in the U.S. Only thirteen of them showed the film."
In addition, shots were fired nearby and planes buzzed the production in order to interrupt film making.

"Grandpa Walton," Will Geer, played the town sheriff in the movie. Mr. Geer was also on the blacklist for his alleged un-American activities.

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico

The tertiary stories

Women's rights. Carl R. Weinberg, a historian and the author of this article, which as served as my main resource on the Local 890 strike, proposes that the women's role in this strike was one of a series of events that informed the modern-day women's movement.

Communism as scapegoat. The socio-political environment in which the strike and movie occurred used communism as a handy shield to maintain the status quo for the mining company and its employees.

Mural about the Mine-Mill Strike by the Local 890 and the 209. Bayard, New Mexico. 

So here's to the mural artist(s) in little Bayard, New Mexico, whose work compelled me to pause for a moment on my way home from Silver City. And to the people of the Local 890 and the 209, whose story is still so moving, more than 50 years later. 


Monday, January 1, 2024

2024: Word of the Year?


Captive words in Armenia. March 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.

Captive words in Armenia. March 2012. Credit: Mzuriana.



Some years back, I instituted a Word of the Year thing. 

Not sure I will continue. 

Maybe I'm just over it. Maybe it feels is too contrived. Maybe it was just a way to add content in a lazy-ass way, albeit with sincerity.

While I think about whether to continue the pattern, below are past words of the year: 

2018: Courage

2019: Action

 2020: Build

  1. Build 1: After the Floods
  2. Build 2: Fronterista
  3. Build 3: "House"
  4. Build 4: Chosens
  5. Build 5: It Takes a Village
  6. Build 6: Elevation
  7. Build 7: Trail Building
  8. Build 8: Money
  9. Build 9: Health 
  10. Build 10: Service and Activism
  11. Build 11: Relationships
  12. Build 12: Creative Life
  13. Lagniappe 13: My Rootless Goals

2021: Joy


2022: Disciplines

 2023: Fear