Signs of Spring Global Warming

Yesterday, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, signaling that we will have an early spring this year. While winter isn’t supposed to be immediately over then, you wouldn’t have known it with the weather. It was a brilliantly bright day that arrived after so many cloudy ones. The mercury rose to 70 °F and I kept questioning my judgement, for not having put on shorts for the day.

We went to the gardens. The orchid show was on. Always, a mid-winter treat. Its fragrance made Anne’s nose tickle, but it was too nice a day, to tarry long inside. We walked the garden’s grounds. Almost all of the Christmas decorations have been put away and with the beds all turned for winter, there was little in the way of vegetative activity going on. Still, some of the shadows from the leafless trees were interesting and if you looked closely, one could find signs of spring. Witch Hazel blossoms are always an early indicator and seeing them was no surprise, but seeing them being pollinated by honeybees on Groundhog Day is a first. Later, in the Japanese Garden one of the turtles that live in that garden’s large pond, had pulled itself out of hibernation and was sunning itself on a rock. It was the only one we saw and was probably left wondering if it had shown up too early for the Super Bowl party.

After the garden, we headed over to South Grand. Looking for a late lunch, we ended up trying a new place, at least for us, Brazilia. They were serving a buffet, which we ended up partaking of. Our waiter came by, first with a big skewer of beef and then later with skewered pineapple. Each time he would hack the food off the skewer with a machete. We ate too much. Afterwards, we walked up and down the street, window shopping. There were many new shops to see and plenty more new restaurants yet to visit. The city’s investment in this ethnically diverse neighborhood looks to be paying big dividends.

Home again, we settled in for the night. There was no need for dinner or even Super Bowl snacks, after our large late lunch. Anne watched the Super Bowl, while I watched the Outlander series. I’m all caught up now, for this show’s new season debut, later this month. That’s the news, from Saint Louis, Illinois. 😉

Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles

International Festival Mexican Dancers

Mojada is the Spanish word for the derogatory term wetback. A word used in English to denigrate undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Before this connotation was coined, the word originally meant wetting or soaking. Medea is a Greek tragedy by Euripides. In his play, Medea, wife of Jason of the Argonauts fame, helps him steal the golden fleece, the pair then steal away. She is later betrayed by him, leading her to exact revenge.

Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles is a modern retelling of the Euripides play, set in the City of Angels. Medea is a shy seamstress and Jason is an enterprising go-getter. Jason embraces his new life in America, while Medea hates it, but cannot go home. Acán, their son, follows his father’s lead towards Americanization. Medea misses her home and cannot forget the traumas of their journey north.

Jason is seduced by his boss, Armida, an LA developer, who had not gotten the #MeToo message. She first steals Jason and then Acán. She then confronts Medea, and threatens her with eviction from her house. Pleading, Medea wins a one day reprieve. She uses that day to make Armida a dress that she had once requested. It is a magical dress. A dress once worn, transforms itself into a snake that kills Armida. Then still in a rage, Medea kills her only son with a machete.

This is a grisly end for Mojada, which is often comical and light, but that’s Greek tragedy for you. You get the same result as with a Shakespearian tragedy, but in fewer acts, where everybody dies in the fifth act. Greek tragedy is a source for several of playwright Luis Alfaro’s works. Alfaro has even reworked this play, when restaging it in other cities. At ninety minutes and one act, it is a short play. Some of the dialog was in Spanish, making some plot points difficult to understand, but also adding to the play’s authenticity.

It is in this concept of authenticity that Mojada seems to have differentiated itself from another popular telling of the modern Mexican immigrant story, as told in the novel American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. Much of the criticism of Cummins and her book originates with the fact that she is not Mexican. She is an Anglo. Charges of cultural appropriation have been leveled against her. This smacks of racism or maybe reverse racism, but it is also on a slippery slope. Where do you cross the line when telling someone else’s story? This question is especially pertinent when your retelling comes from a publishing pinnacle. There is very little room at the top. One person’s story can supplant another’s. 

Into the Wayback Machine

The Red, White and Blue – Bandaloop Trio Rapelling Down the Face of the Continental Building

This photo is from 2013. It was a pleasant September Saturday afternoon. Under a cloudless sky, Dancing in the Streets had occupied the Grand Center theater district for the weekend. Streets were blocked, stages erected and some sixty local groups danced in the streets and it was free to all. Anne and I had bicycled to the event. This festival marked the beginning of the fall theater season. In 2013, Dancing in the Streets was in its seventh and final year. The pictured troupe Bandaloop headlined that year, as it had headlined the festival’s first year.

A crowd gathered in the street, in front of the quirky Continental Life Building. Writer, actor and former WashU student Harold Ramis is said to have modeled Dana’s apartment building in the movie Ghostbusters, after the Continental. Another photographer advised me to stand near the building, for more dramatic shots. Ropes unfurled from the top. With heads craned backwards, we waited in anticipation for the show to begin. To musical accompaniment, while facing forward, performers spider-walked down the face of the building. After having descended a third of the way, each group began their dance. With strong dancer’s legs, players would launch themselves off of the face of the building, each one suspended by their single cord. It was a death defying performance. Swinging wide, they flew out into space, sometimes pirouetting, sometimes clasping each other, before swinging back to land again on the side of the building. Wearing tap shoes, they would also dance across the uneven white façade, without ever breaking any of the windows. That would have been bad.

By the time that each group of Bandaloopers had finished their dance, they had also descended another third of the building’s height. They would then quickly rappel down to the ground, to the welcoming applause of the throng. Once one group of dancers was back on earth, another group would begin again from the top. The groups of dancers performed as couples, trios and for the finale, as a quintet. Of course, there were no encores and the show was over way too soon, but it was glorious while it lasted.

Trench Warfare

Trench Warfare

Think mud, everywhere and cold, bone-chilling cold permeating all. Hear the roar of hulking siege engines. Smell their belching exhaust, as they crawl closer and closer each day. The sapper’s trench once excavated is turned into a tunnel, covered with steel plates. Fortunately, so far, there have been no casualties.

The water company’s water main replacement project has progressed faster than expected. They began work at the start of this month, down at the bottom of the block and have progressed far enough that while their trench has not quite yet reached our house, the project’s ancillary vehicles certainly have. No parking is permitted on the opposite side of the street, during work days. This has the effect of crowding our side of the street with everyone’s parked cars. 

They are replacing the ancient cast iron main with PVC. This iron pipe was old already, before we even bought our house and the thirty-plus intervening years of home ownership haven’t helped much. Over the years, numerous and regular incidents have followed the same playbook. A water spring appears in the middle of the street. It is sometimes a trickle, others times a torrent. In the former case, this can go on for days. In the later, action is swiftly brought.

A memorable occurrence of the later happened one night. A neighbor up the street had a fire. His son and a friend had been smoking in their garage and it caught fire. It must have been a slow night for firemen, because not only did our municipality’s fire engine appear, but also three others from neighboring towns, including a big hook-and-ladder that could hardly navigate our narrow street.

The firemen connected all four engines in sequence, but even with and probably because of all of this firefighting power, the garage could not be saved. When the firemen shutoff the water, the momentum caused by four pumpers working in unison caused a surge in back pressure that ruptured the main. A torrent of water immediately erupted from the asphalt. It was such a flood that a sinkhole appeared, which swallowed the front half of a neighbor’s car. What a disaster!

Either way, the appearance of an orange flag announces imminent action, causing me to fill cooking pots with water, in preparation for the inevitable water shutoff. A work crew labors through the night. So that by dawn, water service is restored again, at least until next time. This water main replacement project should bring a welcome end to any future inconveniences occurring.

Once the new plastic water main is laid and connected to the rest of the water system, the lateral pipes need to be connected to it. This will cause one last water service interruption, but I am already prepared for it. In preparation for this task, the water company surveyed everyone’s laterals. I was surprised to learn that our lateral is made with copper. I had expected galvanized iron pipe, because that was what was inside the house when we bought it. Our lateral being copper implies that at sometime after the house was built and before we bought it, our lateral was replaced. These lateral replacements are also a regular occurrence in our neighborhood. Replacing the lateral is not cheap and with now having copper pipe, I can hope that we will be able to avoid this in the future.

Two years ago, we went through a similar process, when the sewer main was replaced. Previously, we had replaced most, but not all, of our lateral sewer line. That is what is pictured above, with the little plaster army men. Why not all it? Well, it’s complicated. Anyway, by March, when the water company’s work has ended, we should have new plumbing coming in and going out and hopefully, finally an end to all of our plumbing woes.