Yesterday, we made a day trip to Estepona, about 90 miles down the coast west from Nerja, which is where our Spanish grandparents were from. Between the traffic and the problem finding parking, it took us about two hours to get to the Oficina de Turismo, where we thought we could perhaps access digital records to find information, particularly about our grandfather, whose life in Spain is largely unknown to us. A woman there directed us to El Archivo Municipal de Estepona, where a man named Alfredo Galán could help us.

It was a hot walk at the wrong time of the day, so we stopped halfway there for some food and beverages. Eventually we arrived at the archive, where Sr. Galán was well known ... I barely got through my explanation for why we were there when the woman at the front desk said we needed to talk to him. He came out and led us back to his office.

We sat down at his desk, and I said my grandparents were from Estepona. Before I could continue, he interjected, "Hawaii". Apparently all those stories about  the migration of the Andalusians to Hawaii are true! Yes, I said, the first place they went from Spain was Hawaii, to live and work.

I told him my grandfather's name was Miguel Rubio y Peña. He said both names, Rubio and Peña, are very common in the area, so finding Grandpa's parents might not be easy. The bigger problem is that they have good archives from the middle of the 19th century (can't remember the exact years), but there is a big chunk of time between then and early 20th century where there is nothing. He kept bringing up the Civil War, but I don't know that there is a connection between the war and the missing archives. His English was close to non-existent, and he thought highly enough of my Spanish that he happily jabbered on, assuming I knew what he was saying. I did ok, but I wouldn't trust me on the Civil War stuff.

Ultimately, we learned very little, but at least now we know who The Man is for Estepona archives. He was extremely nice, and as helpful as possible under the circumstances. He gave us his work email and phone number, saying if we ever dug up more info, to let him know, because it would all add to the possibility of tracking down our family.

I've posted these before. Here is the front and back of the ticket for the ship that took my grandparents from Hawaii to San Francisco in 1917.



throwback thursday: once more with feeling

Ten years tonight, we went to a public showing of Once More, With Feeling. In the spirit of "I'm in Spain, right now", I'll post some excerpts from what I wrote at the time.

We went in a bit before midnight, got some popcorn, and were given our “goodie bag” (Sara, I got an extra for you!). In the bag was: a kazoo (I forget what it was for), bubbles (for Dawn’s ballet), vampire teeth (no reason, they just thought we should have some), a finger puppet (so we could hold it in the air and move it across the sky, while singing the “Grrrr Arrgh” part), and one of those poppers that shoot streamers and make the air smell like cap pistols have gone off (reason to be explain in a bit). Robin actually got half-a-dozen of the poppers, for no reason we could figure outside of luck. ...

The crowd had a great time, although audience participation wasn't as goofy as I'd expected. I think this might have been because there was a group acting out the scenes on stage in front of the screen, Rocky Horror-style, which was entertaining but may have encouraged us to watch more than act out ourselves. The highlight of this came in the notorious "Under Your Spell," the video to which I linked yesterday. This is the song Tara sings about her love for Willow, which concludes with Willow off-screen, apparently performing some juicy acts between Tara's legs. The actresses playing the two onstage had quite a lot of fun showing us what didn't make it to the screen, as "Willow" pulled one piece of undergarment after another from "Tara" to wild screams of delight from the crowd. At the precise moment (can't say "climax," that's kinda the point) when the screen cut away from Tara, as instructed, we all shot off our poppers. Streamers filled the air as we celebrated Tara's sweet release.

The rest of the episode was more of the same, people acting out the parts on stage, us in the audience singing along. Whenever Dawn said anything, we all yelled out "SHUT UP, DAWN!" The highlights from the onstage actors were what you'd expect, the hottest numbers from the "real" version: Anya's heavy-metal "Bunnies" interlude and her dance with Xander in the middle of "I'll Never Tell," Buffy trying to dance herself to self-immolation in "Something to Sing About."

The latter song was in some ways the most interesting of the night. Despite the aggressively campy nature of the sing-a-long, when "Something to Sing About" arrived, I was sucked in as I always am. Sarah Michelle Gellar isn't a singer, not the way Anthony Head is, or Amber Benson or James Marsters or the surprising Emma Caulfield. She can carry a tune, but her flat voice lacks projection, which makes Buffy more hesitant-sounding in this episode than is usual. But for this big number, Gellar uses that flatness to great effect, forcing us to listen carefully to her big revelation, that her friends had pulled her out of heaven when they brought her back to life. I'm just a sucker for that moment, or rather, moments: the way she talk-sings "I think I was in heaven," the looks on the faces of the Scoobies as they realize the import of what she has just stated, the death-wish dance that follows, Spike the vampire stopping her to sing "Life’s not a song, life isn’t bliss, life is just this, it’s living.... You have to go on living, so one of us is living." I always get choked up, which isn't quite the point at 2 in the morning at a goofy sing-a-long.

Here's a picture of us in line before the show:

Once more with feeling

the eclipse and me

In the days before radio, baseball fans could keep up with the action for big events such as the World Series, in real time, by attending places that used giant scoreboards to update every play. You can read about these here: "Photography of Playography".

This was as good as it got, other than attending a game in person, until the advent of radio. The first major-league baseball game on the radio was in 1921, and radio reigned supreme for four decades, give or take. Radio was eventually supplanted by television, although the two co-exist to this day. (Those giant scoreboards have a modern-day approximation in the various apps that update games on the web and mobile devices using animation and vast statistical resources.)

Many of the earliest radio broadcasts were narrated by announcers who were not actually at the game. The announcer would read the game events as they came to him via telegraph and relate them to the listeners as if he was at the ballpark. These recreations were aided by sound effects, while the announcer would fill the time between pitches pretty much the same way they do today. Future president Ronald Reagan performed recreations in the 1930s.

Televised baseball, in its infancy, was a simple affair, with a limited number of cameras and no instant replay. This has evolved to what we get today, which features multiple viewings of each play, shots of kids in the crowd eating popcorn, and the like.

Growing up in the 60s, I had the chance to watch the American space program from the country's first man in space, Alan Shepard, to Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon. I can remember many times the networks would show animated simulations of what was happening in space, beyond the camera's eye.

Meanwhile, the astronauts themselves worked on countless simulated flights before the real thing took place. In The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe gets inside John Glenn's head as Glenn looked at the Earth from space.

He knew what it was going to look like in any case. He had seen it all in photographs taken from the satellites. It had all been flashed on the screens for him. Even the view had been simulated. Yes ... that's the way they said it would look ... Awe seemed to be demanded, but how could he express awe honestly? He had lived it all before the event. How could he explain that to anybody?

It was as if the simulation was real, and real was a poor substitute.

I slept through most of today's eclipse. My son took a couple of pictures, where if I looked close enough, I could see ... well, I'm not sure what I saw. It was very overcast in our neck of the woods. Fog rules over eclipses when you live a couple of miles from the coast. Our daughter's family drove up to Oregon, and I imagine her two sons will remember the trip.

Of course, it was practically impossible to avoid animated simulations of what the eclipse would be like, in the days before the event. My guess is that I'll remember this eclipse ... it's just that I'll remember those simulations. Or maybe I'll check out the instant replays on YouTube.

throwback thursday, sense8

I didn’t expect this post. I didn’t expect that Sense8 would already belong in the “Throwback” category.

The first time I wrote about Sense8, I connected it to the feeling I got experiencing Pink in concert performing “What’s Up?” I quoted from an earlier post about Pink:

No matter how corny the song, or Pink's delivery of the same, it's quite a moment when all those youngsters throw the peace sign in the air and sing "hey hey hey hey, what's going on?" In fact, it's this element of pop community that I like best about Pink concerts ... So now Pink sings that song as if she's known it all her life, and based on the voices in the Fillmore who sang every word, her audience has known it all their lives as well, and it's a great pop moment that reflects the optimism of the young just as other Pink songs reflect their sadness. The song indeed no longer belongs to Linda Perry, it belongs to Pink and the fans who know and sing all the words.

After Season Two, I connected my attachment to Sense8 to my connection to the world:

When I see the characters in Sense8 merging, I experience the most beautiful community of them all, one that results from the blending of the eight into one. It is as if my long-ago dreams are manifested on my television screen.

When I wrote those words about Pink, I was reeling from the news that Sleater-Kinney was going on “indefinite hiatus”. As the years approached a decade, “indefinite” seemed like a tease.

But then Sleater-Kinney came back.

Not everything comes back:

After 23 episodes, 16 cities and 13 countries, the story of the Sense8 cluster is coming to an end ... It is everything we and the fans dreamed it would be: bold, emotional, stunning, kick ass, and outright unforgettable. Never has there been a more truly global show with an equally diverse and international cast and crew, which is only mirrored by the connected community of deeply passionate fans all around the world.

And so, one more time:

it was 24 years ago today

We were going through some old stuff ... I was posting pictures of our wedding on Facebook ... and Robin came across a sealed envelope for her with a handwritten date: May 26, 2013. Her name is in my handwriting, the date is in her handwriting, so I’m thinking we read this, sealed it, and forgot about it. Until today.

She opened it and found two pages of single-spaced writing from yours truly. Some excerpts:

[I] remember that when we were in high school, and sometimes even when we were first married, and I’d be fucking up like usual and you wouldn’t be able to get me to understand, and so you’d sit at home while I was gone and write me these letters that would tell what you’d been thinking about and you would always tell me that you loved me the most.

And since I don’t know what else to do, I’m writing you a letter now, like you used to write to me, and when I’m done maybe you’ll know that I love you the most!

I think when I was miserable all the time I probably told you more about what I was thinking than I do now, because in those days I would get where I couldn’t take it anymore and I’d freak out and we’d have a long talk and I’d confess stuff. Since I don’t freak out as much as I used to, I don’t confess as often. Somehow it ends up that the more normal I get the less I tell you, or something like that....

[I]t’s hard for me to decide if you think the first 20 years of our marriage have been the best, because I’m not quite certain what you have wanted from those years. That’s not quite it; what you want seems so low-key that I keep thinking you want something more and it’s my fault that I don’t know what it is.

I haven’t the foggiest idea what I want. I’m sure I’ll come up with something by the end of this paragraph, and I’ll mean it when I say it, but I’m not much for long-range planning. I just let stuff happen for the most part. For all my navel-gazing I sure don’t spend much time thinking about anything real, do I? But if I am honest, I can at least say that I couldn’t imagine the last 20 years without you, anymore than I can imagine the next 20 without you. I don’t know what love is, but when you can’t even imagine life without a certain someone special, it must be something like love, don’t you suppose? ...

[H]ere I am, writing and writing, and who would have thought it, but as I near 40, we have basically established that I am a dork with few skills and useless talents ... but I know how to write. And so this letter is kinda like if I was a carpenter and I built you a bathtub. (Who builds bathtubs, anyway?) ...

And I couldn’t have gotten to the place I am now, without you. I’m sorry this is turning out to be more about me than about us, but I guess that’s how is always turns out when I’m doing the talking, and I can’t help but look back on our 20 years of marriage and think how lucky I am to have you, and how little my life would have meant without you. Everyone else I know, no matter what else they do, when they go home, they don’t get to go home to you. I do. That’s why I’d rather be me than them, why I’d rather be me than anyone ... because I get to be with you....

Maybe you could stick this letter in your purse or something, and put a date on the outside that reads “May 26 2013” and then when that date comes we can open it up and read it again and laugh about how silly we were way back in 1993. I know it seems silly to think about us in 1973. We didn’t know shit, but we turned out pretty good, don’t you think?


sense8 season two

In the early years of our marriage, I had the idea that we should buy a large table for the kitchen, so we could invite groups of our friends for dinner parties. We’d get six or eight folks, eat, and have great and friendly conversation. It was a vision of community that may have grown from the utopian dreams of hippiedom I had as a teenager.

The reality was, and is, that I’m riddled with anxiety and paranoia, such that I rarely even have six or eight people who I’d invite into my home. I know many more people than that, fine people, but my hermit-like existence no longer has room for those idealistic visions.

There was one time in my life when I participated in a communal enterprise. I took part in a journal called Bad Subjects, “Political Education for Everyday Life”. I wrote my first piece for them in 1992, and soon after joined the production team, on which I worked until approximately 2001. In that year, I wrote “Feel Like Going Home: Notes on Self-Marginalization”. Although it’s 16 years old, some of it still resonates for me.

Eight years haven't done as much for me as I'd hoped. Bad Subjects was kind enough to take me in. There was room then, and in fact there has always been room, in Bad Subjects for marginal folks. All we had to do was commit to the attempt, and we were accepted into the community. The beautiful utopian vision of Bad Community has made a difference in the lives of all who have participated in it, myself included. But I've been fooling others and myself; I've been posing, I haven't been a true believer. I thought it would happen, but so far I've fallen short. At times, I've misrepresented myself, but for the most part, I think it has been clear where I come from. The anti-utopian in a group of utopians, the non-believer in the midst of faith, the loner in the middle of the community. It's a sign of the magnificence of the Bad Community that there has always been a place for miscreants like me, and always will be. But Lord, I feel like going home.

I’m reminded of this because of a recent series of posts on Facebook, which began with a fellow Bad Subject from Australia saying that her memory of those times was jogged when she saw Ana Marie Cox on TV. (Cox had spent a year with Bad Subjects in the mid-90s.) While the journal had its start in Berkeley, once it went online its community became international, and an email list lasted for some time that featured lively debate amongst like-minded folks. Our Australian friend got the attention of others, and a new Facebook group was quickly formed so we could talk amongst ourselves once more. It is good to see that old communal spirit rise again.

But, I still feel like going home. As Pee-wee says,

Which leads me to Sense8. It’s hard to explain the series. Heck, I’ve just spent several paragraphs talking about everything except Sense8, and when I wrote about Season One, I spent the first half talking about Pink and Linda Perry, as if I can only come close to the show’s essence if I work in the shadows. In Sense8, eight people from across the globe share a connection that is odd enough to place the series in the sci-fi genre. They are “sensates”, linked to the others in their cluster emotionally and mentally. One way the connection works, that goes unexplained, is that they seem to be able to be there for each other in a physical sense. So if one sensate is about to be overpowered by a few bad guys, the sensate that knows martial arts will take over and kick some ass, without ever actually leaving her jail cell.

In a recent review of Season Two, Tim Goodman wrote, “For Netflix's ambitious drama Sense8, the path to entry – and the ability to truly appreciate what comes after – is deceptively simple. You have to give in to it. You have to go with it. ... Sense8 is probably better described as a series you experience more than understand”. It shares some of this with the recent Legion, another show where the pleasures did not come from “figuring it out” but by letting it wash over you.

What entrances me about Sense8 grows out of that unexplained connection among the cluster. I spent my earlier years wishing for community. I spent some time later dipping my toes in the river of community, but not making it to the other side. And now, I’m old and a hermit.

But when I see the characters in Sense8 merging, I experience the most beautiful community of them all, one that results from the blending of the eight into one. It is as if my long-ago dreams are manifested on my television screen.

And they do the impossible, taking the cliché song choice and making it new again: