Category Archives: Untold Tales

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 580 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 10 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Drummer in the Band (I)

(C) Text and Images 2015 by Metta Anderson All Rights Reserved

The following six poems and five photos form a small book that I put together recently. It’s an experiment for me because I’ve only thought about doing this but was afraid to try.

The book itself is handmade–accordian pleat spine holding the front and back covers (Fabriano 600 gr). The poems inside are typed on cream-colored Kimberly because computers require the installation of a very expensive program (Adobe’s “In Design” or similar) before allowing poets to create a layout that fits the work. The photos are digitally printed from my negatives only because I do not have money to buy the chemicals to make my own prints. I hope to remedy this in the future.

Because of economic limitations, I’m publishing the book in sections–two poems and a photo today; more next week. I’m following the book’s layout so, by the time it’s complete, it will be in reverse order. Sorry about that. But feel free to re-arrange the order when everything’s published.

 

UNTITLED

hóla
percussive prince

I see you
hear you
feel you
again

All those bongos
and congas
and animal hide tambores
talking at once
talking
to me
about you

You
talking to
me
again

And me
seeing
you
again
in black and white
in Juan Valdez
some night
drinking tinto
¿espresso?
smoking
watching

And me
watching you
through a viewfinder
like before

And you
know it
play to it
love it

While the camera
and I
love you back
in black and white
forever.

(C) 17 september 2013

osc008(C) 1993 by Metta Anderson

 

COCAINE Z

Ludwigs and Marlboros
and I'm gone.
Druggies and junkies
know grass and coke and horse
and the pleasures derived
thereof.

With me
it's you
and the unknown pleasures
thereof.

One whiff
one snort
one look
at your hands
     on the drums
or
wrapped
     on the sticks
and I'm gone

And I'm so supercharged
     high
I'm not here
     anymore
And I don't want to be
     either.

I'm lost in you
     Cocaine Z
And I want to stay
     that way.

24 September 1994

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The Geneva Conversation

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

Quick Notes:   The Geneva store is now located on the second floor of the Centro Comercial Atlantis, in Bogotá–L-209-2A.  Jorge Rodríguez, the young man with whom I spoke, is now teaching in one of the District’s schools.

The following is about an experience I had in a store in the Atlantis Mall, here in Bogotá, in April 2015.

Went crazy for a while in a new store at Atlantis. Not horribly. Just tossed aside everything that bothersO/angers me and wrapped myself in music. . .

I was on my way to Samsung to pick up my phone ($15,000 pesos to tell me the display doesn’t work (I knew that) and $65,000 pesos to replace it; I said no to both; phone worked anyway). I got off TransMilenio at Héroes and walked to Atlantis specifically to use their ladies’ room. But saw Geneva Lab’s windows (went in Atlantis’s “back doors”) and four large framed photos of “rock legends” (Lennon, Janis Joplin, Hendrix and F. Mercury). All bad digital copies, I discovered. Up close, Freddie’s arm was a weird brocade pattern. Need I say more? (Yeah–someone really does not understand how to do a good scan and print of an ISO 400 b&w negative!!!)

I digress.

So anyway–

Ostensibly, I went in to the store to look at the prints more closely.

Spiritually, I needed the music and my OSC book and stuff like that. Heavy-duty symphonic.

I was clear that I could not buy anything, but the sound system looked interesting (very 50s, but not exactly retro). There was no one coming, it was noonish and lunch crowds moved blindly past the red-painted showroom. (Cadmium red with black floor, white ceiling and white couch.)

The salesman, Jorge Rodríguez, was a really nice and helpful young man. Offered to demonstrate the large white slab (on metal legs) in a corner, glistening like new plastic. (In fact, the finish is actually 8 coats of natural lacquer, polished between each application; also comes in black.) This thing is connected to an iMac desk computer (21″ monitor) in a nearby corner. I said great, and requested Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2.”

The whole demo turned into a class on classical music, taught by me, in Spanish. (I can hear friends laughing about this. Don’t blame them.)

But first–the first playback system was Youtube, which very clearly can not handle the sound requirements of a full symphony orchestra. Within a few bars, I said no, this is too compressed.

The young man instantly switched to iTunes and I was surprised at the difference. iTunes could reproduce all the sound and distribute it as it was recorded (and engineered), so we continued with that.

Jorge could not find the concerto, but did lock onto the waltz from Act II of Swan Lake and turned up the volume. Much much better.

We did more Tchaikovsky and then I requested Wagner. I wanted the overture to the Ring Cycle, but Jorge couldn’t find it in “Essential Wagner.” (The Ring Cycle is not essential but Meisterssingers is!?)

But since I have the OSC playing Meisterssingers on tape (okay, bootleg edition; mine), I just shut up and listened. And suddenly, I was conducting it, with small movements of my left hand.

Completely surprised myself.

From there to a long discourse on Elvis, the Supremes, Barry Gordy, Jerry Lee Lewis, changes in US society as reflected in pop music and so on. This also included what  I listened to growing up–Bach at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church played on the immense pipe organ; the technical changes in sound reproduction (the Geneva system reverts BACK to old stereo–1 tweeter, 1 woofer in 1 cabinet); my father playing piano in the Music Room at 720* and realizing hehad grown up playing in a room designed especially for the pipe organ built into the western wall of his grandparents’ house; the piano and evening recitals also held there, given by professors from Michigan State’s College of Music; the acoustics of the junior high school; being in choirs; and having an aunt with pitch perfect hearing who played the organ as well.

And again, suddenly, I was breathless.

I grew up with music. It talks to me, feeds me, keeps me alive. The OSC book encompasses me, as a part of who I am and how I am formed and live and react.

But in the meantime–

The salesman at Geneva suggested I write a blog essay about changes in sound systems, the evolution of record players and recordings–from monophonic to mini-components and home theater and now, back to the original stereo with the Geneva system. I should do it as I have experienced them and how they reflected their social periods (socio-historical periods). Good idea. See Part II.

But other parts of the conversation at Geneva remain with me. For example–

Hitler liked Wagner because both were anti-Semitic, because Wagner’s storylines were nationalistic and because the music was and is uplifting.

But Hitler would never have seen or understood the social commentary latent in those same storylines, especially in the Ring Cycle (e.g., Siegried and Götterdämmerung). It’s pretty clear that Wagner wanted to keep women under fairly strict control (Brunnhilde, Isolde), so the question is, What was it about women that frightened Wagner? Hm. . .m. . .?

I mentioned to Jorge that  King Ludwig II of Bavaria was a patron of Wagner’s, as well as a kind of “swan fan.” He had a passion for swans and was pretty much (pretty closely) certifiably crazy (but not dangerous).

Wagner, on the other hand, was an over-the-top composer recognized as a genius.

The question(s) become(s)–how much of Ludwig’s “way out there” ideas or theories or fantasies were incorporated into Wagner’s work (in music or plotlines)? How free-wheeling would have been these conversations as they walked around Ludwig’s private parklands? How and where did Wagner incorporate the ideas or how was he inspired by these conversations? And finally (old question)–what separates Wagner’s genius from Ludwig’s insanity? (Possible answer:  Wagner kept control of his mind (able to exercise mental and emotional discipline and channel his energies into his work), while Ludwig could not, for various reasons. Also, the king was more or less straitjacketed by formal rites and expectations, while Wagner was not.)

Meanwhile–FF–the social impact of Elvis and other early rockers, as well as their musical impact, seem to remain difficult to explain or incorporate. Although Scott Joplin was a serious composer whose main body of work is still seen as pop, he should be included because ragtime was an early crossover from black audiences to white. Later on, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, as examples, were men with clear talent but little education. They were indeed charismatic and inventive–whorehouse and honky-tonk music mixed with gospel and revival theatrics was presented to contemporary and educated white audiences, who were young and eager to have something different from their parents’ tastes. At the same time, church-going was still the norm, which meant exposure on a large scale to dead composers (Bach et al) and live “concerts” such as gospel choirs on Sundays.

Barry Gordy’s genius with Tamla/Motown was more than finding talented singers and songwriters. He took the singers to Detroit’s best stores for up-to-date clothing and hair styles. Diana Ross and the Supremes and I went to Saks Fifth Avenue and Jacobson’s of Michigan. Even my mother could tell you in which department of which store Miss Ross got the dress she wore on The Ed Sullivan Show or American Bandstand. I probably had one like it in my closet (different sizes, though). This dropped racial barriers faster than anything else, at least in the North. The southern states were still having problems, 100 years after the Civil War.

All this from about an hour and a half of conversation with a stranger concerning music, which is clearly more important to me than I had realized. Thank you for your time and interest, Jorge Rodríguez!

And also thank you to César, for the inspiration. Please feel free to tell me where I made mistakes in this piece, okay?

*”720″–My great-grandparents built a mansion in 1905 in Lansing, Michigan, whose address was 720 South Washington Avenue. Their daughter–my grandmother–inherited it in 1950, after their deaths. My brother, sisters, cousins and I grew up calling it simply “720” (seven-twenty). It was torn down in 1963 by the State of Michigan to make room for an expressway, even though land for the expressway was available one block to the south.

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson. All Rights Reserved.

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Anniversary

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

This is not how I wanted this quick post to look but the cursor gets stuck at the end of the label so I have to start here. The rose will end up at the bottom. Sorry!

The roses seemed appropiate. On 9 May 1953, my mother Elizabeth Faye Powers (Anderson, divorced from) married Allen E. Conrad in a beautiful Episcopal ceremony at the Chapel of the Incarnation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, on Ottawa Street, in Lansing, Michigan. The bride wore a ballerina length pink tulle and satin dress with a matching pillbox hat, pearls and gloves and shoes. The groom wore a dark suit. Their families were present and absolutely everyone smiled with love, happiness and best wishes.

My brother wore a dark suit with short pants (he was 6) and lucked out, along with future film director and producer John(ny) Hughes. (Yes, the same “Pretty in Pink” guy. No, the title does not refer to my mother that day.) It was sweltering, almost 90 degrees and, being Michigan, humid.

I had a pale blue organdy dress with white embroidery and a smocked bodice, custom made for me. I wore some artificial flowers in my hair, white anklet socks and white shoes. Guess what? I looked oh-so-adorable and felt oh-so-miserable! Organdy does not exactly breathe and someone forgot to line the dress, so the gathers inside scratched my all day long. In the pictures taken that day, I look like I want to burst into tears, and I probably did, but it was because of the heat, humidity and the dress. Otherwise, I was really happy because–FINALLY!!!–I would have what everyone else in my neighborhood had–a father! (My actual father, Mr. Anderson, was quite alive, and married by then to someone else.) Worse, we were living at the time in a really  nice (pretty, well-kept-up) CATHOLIC neighborhood. Everyone else had fathers. My brother and I did not, and in 1953, that just was not cool.

The wonderful reception afterward was at the Lansing Country Club and I won’t get into the details about it here. It was fun, though. My brother REO, me, Crickie (Christine) Hughes, her brother Johnny, their father (great guy!) and their mother (my mother’s matron of honor), plus many Anderson cousins (their parents were friends of my mother’s, regardless of the divorce) and meeting new Conrad cousins running loose in the well-manicured grounds of the club, plus food and I think we (as children) had ice cream. We had to have something–the heat was toasting us. Grown-ups had champagne. There was a buffet and then the wedding ccake was cut and served. There was dancing. Photos were taken.

Eventually, the newlyweds disappeared into someplace inside the club (don’t ask me where) and changed clothes. Then the entire wedding party with reception piled into those lovely huge 1950s cars (mostly Oldsmobiles, as Lansing was the number one “factory outlet”) and went off to Lansing’s Capital City Airport. The newlyweds were going to San Francisco for their honeymoon, flying from Lansing to Chicago on Capitol Airlines (“the Blue Goose”) to catch the flight west. I do remember Mom wearing an orchid corsage on her suit’s jacket. We all threw rice at the couple (and anyone who happened to be in range) as they left the terminal and walked to the DC-3 about 20 feet from the terminal. They waved from the door and the wedding photographer got that shot, too. (It’s in the album.)

No, REO and I were not abandoned in our new house in East Lansing. Mom’s mother and sister were with us, although my aunt had to return to her job in Houston after a few days. Nana stayed until Mom and our new Dad got back from San Francisco, bringing some interesting souvenirs.

By the time of my 8th birthday, 5 June, we had settled into life at 621 Rosewood. It was summer and we were a family. That was very cool.

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson. All rights reserved.

 

Rose Tondo #1 ('97)

This rose tondo is the first of two, with the flowers in oil and the surround in acrylic.

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Letter to Ben

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

 

Acacia tree in the rain on the Eje Ambiental ('10)

Girl with umbrella walks in the rain along the Eje Ambiental (’10).

 

Hello! I’ve  been thinking over our recent Facebook exchange and I want to amend myself somewhat.

I have a Kodak Z981 digital camera which I bought because of its truly awesome lens–a Schneider Kreuznach Variogon with ED glass lens groups. I would LOVE to have a Schneider APO 50 mm enlarging lens (39 mm thread), currently priced at USD 880 at B&H, but. . .!

Then I discovered some pretty cool features on the Kodak (e.g., black and white @ ISO 64–to DIE FOR!!!) that no one else offers (or they do, but way beyond my price range).

I also own two Epson photo printers (both need fresh inks) and they give me excellent prints. I have Photoshop Elements 6 on the “vintage 2009” Dell laptop and had PE 9 on the  other Dell that I sold because I was broke. I had an Epson Photo scanner, too. Need to replace all this, but anyway, I do have experience with digital.

I learned over time that it takes as long to create an outstanding digital print as it does to create a darkroom version. The difference is mostly economic–chemicals and paper are cheaper (even when I import the paper from the US) than inks and the extremely LIMITED selection of digital paper available here.

And I have produced outstanding images in both media.

I enjoy looking at a well-crafted print.

What I see more and more, however, is technical virtuosity trying to hide an intellectual, philosophical and aesthetic DESERT. With American art, it boils down to conformity in a grisly way–Joe’s work looks like Mary’s work which looks like Steve’s which is a sorry imitation of Walker Evans, who is probably glad he doesn’t have to look at this crap (since he’s dead). For this reason alone, I’m tempted to suggest you take a sabbatical and spend a year in Japan (or wherever) developing your personal vision. For film–stop by B&H and pick up a few bricks (packs of 50 rolls) of film.

But now I’m really going to go out on a limb. What I want to say is based on personal experience, personal history and art history. I will probably sound like your crazy old aunt meddling in your life, but I’m offering this as just something to think about.

I think the photos show that the little boy with spectacular drawing skills is starting to emerge. Maybe instead of B&H Photo Video you need to play touchy-feely at the nearest art supply store. Is there a Utrecht or Pearl Paint in the Boston area? They have good selections of brands at reasonable prices.

Please don’t order this online. Every manufacturer has a formula for colors and consistencies. Europeans favor a slightly warmer palette while Americans lean toward a neutral-clean “purity” (e.g., Cadmium Red Medium is a strong pure RED producing a different purple when mixed with the American version of Ultramarine Blue). Roy Lichtenstein’s work best expresses what I mean.

Once you have some materials, lock yourself in a room with your favorite music. I’m serious about locking the door and turning off your phone. This is scary–you’re really alone with what’s going on in your head. It’s a very intimate dialogue.

Then start drawing, add color, let the canvas or paper talk to you. Don’t stop til it tells you it’s time to stop (at least for the day).

Oh yeah–I forgot this part–

On your way home with art materials, stop and get sweets. Ever get stoned and have the munchies? It’s like that. Also good–pizza (extra cheese) or strong hot chocolate. (If there’s a Latin American neighborhood in Boston, find the tienda or supermercado used by Colombians. Ask for chocolate made by Nacional de Chocolate or Luker. Someone will explain how to prepare hot chocolate with milk using the pastilles. (Or I can, if you prefer.)

I’m digressing. Sorry.

I think you’re using photography as a substitute for drawing and painting. I understand that. It’s a quick fix. I had a student in a photo workshop who started pushing his b&w prints toward their limits and became frustrated when they did not (and could not) match what he saw in his mind. I suggested he take a drawing or painting class because photography has its limitations.

It turned out that he had been drawing and designing and makin jewelry but wasn’t sure if that would lead him where he wanted to go. He applied to Javeriana University’s art school and–out of 83 applicants–he was one of the three new students admitted. I’m still pleased that he got into that program.

But this is why I re-thought my comments about your photography. I know that you know how to draw a full and detailed picture. Photographically you are showing the next step–abstraction. You are reducing something–your idea–to its elements, and this is based on what you did years ago.

Personally, I could do this in my mind but never did it on canvas or paper til I went back to college. That stems from the psychological beating I took from my parents when I started to draw when I was 12 or so. In college I not only had to catch up but backtract in my memories. Very time-consuming.

At the same time I overheard (okay, eavesdropped) on a casual conversation between my painting prof, Jim Adley (who is English) and a student who asked if the prof had always painted, always been an artist. “Oh no, no,” came the candid reply. “My mother held onto my drawings from school and thought perhaps it might be nice if I were to become an artist. And I did attend art school and I painted, but then. . .” He paused, thinking. “Well, there was the War, you know. . . Um-m-m-m. . . But then I became an accountant, if you can imagine that. . .” he chuckled. “For, um-m-m. . .let’s see, ten?. . . Twelve?. . . Yes, about twelve years. I didn’t paint at all. Nothing. And then one day, I found a drawing my mother had kept. . . I couldn’t BELIEVE she still had it. . .” His voice trailed off.

“So I stopped the accounting and applied to an MFA program here in America, in Philadelphia, as they hadn’t anything like it in England at the time, and my wife and I came over for that. Then I started teaching and, you know, that was that.”

So, Ben, if you haven’t seriously drawn in a while on a conscious level, your subconscious and the “art part” of your brain has been developing anyway. You’re in your 40’s–just about the time Gauguin gave up banking. (Please read a solid biography of his life. It was much more complex than my summation.) Therefore, I am only suggesting that you first let the gifted child emerge–the abstract photos on Facebook are the manifestation of a developed eye expressing itself with the medium at hand. After you and the child get re-acquainted, you will figure out what’s your next step.

I can not apologize for the psychoanalytical approach I take on this or any other subject. Thanks to Mommie and Daddy Dearests, I’ve had six psychiatrists and a clinical psychologist. I analyze so much and so often it actually gets in the way when I want to write or paint or sometimes even take pictures.

But this is also why my critique of your photos sounded so cold. I look first at the work, which is good, but I need to give it context. Overkill? Maybe. But I also believe in a criticism that allows for growth and is constructive–this is where you are now. Where do you want to go?

However, I stand by my comments about the too-perfect exquisiteness of digital images. Eventually I’ll write more about that.

Just not now.

I need some hot chocolate.

Best regards and a belated Happy Easter to Ayako, Ethan and Colin. Take care!

Your aunt,

Metta

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

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Another Saturday

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved 

It’s cold, overcast and starting to drizzle. I’m listening to the Beatles and singing along with most of the lyrics. It’s Saturday afternoon in Bogotá.

In. . . hm…m… m… 1967? Maybe.

Actually?

Actually, 7 March 2015. Yes, I can remember the lyrics because I bought the records and played them endlessly–as did the rest of my generation–and learned the lyrics because they were included somewhere on the album. Sometimes on the back of the album, but more often on the inside sleeve holding the record. In the case of Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club,”  it came out in July 1967. I was in the US because my brother REO was getting married that month and I was going to be a bridesmaid. I bought the LP at the Disc Shop, next to Kewpie’s on Grand River Ave., in East Lansing, and across the street from the MSU campus. Took the record home to my parents’ house and played it, as much as possible. In this case, a lot, really a lot, because my mother and stepfather liked the Beatles, too. My stepfather, in fact, had studied clarinet and was in his high school’s marching band. My mother had studied violin. (And I studied piano and sang in choirs.) REO liked the Beatles, later more drawn to the Rolling Stones and these days, streams The Grateful Dead on his Jeep’s sound system. Whatever blows your hair back, as one of my art teachers used to say.

What fascinated me today, listening to the Beatles on headphones connected to my celular, was how exceptional was their playing. It sounds relatively simple, considering how it was recorded in the Sixties, but  up close, with digital reproduction. . . WOW! Damn good pickin’ there, George! (For those who aren’t familiar with basic rock set-ups in the Sixties, and the Beatles–John was lead guitar, Paul was bass, George was melody guitar and Ringo was drums. Classically stated–John was first violin, George was second; Paul was either viola or cello (depending on the composition) and Ringo was percussion. Some things do not change.) I know I’ve  listened to the Beatles and other British groups from the period hundreds of times in a lot of  moods and using a lot of different equipment. With the Beatles–bought the LP in the US, played it on a German-made stereo in my apartment in Bogotá; said stereo was purchased at Sears (the store) in 1966, and was state-of-the-art at the time. I’d sit on the floor and sing along. The music was on when friends dropped by (kept the volume down, of course). It was on when I wasn’t home in order to keep my dog Mariposa company. (The radio, not the stereo.) These days, I tend to listen to classical music and opera, but the music is on just the same. But the question becomes–why do we keep listening to this? Why does it still sound so G-O-O-D!?!?!?

Personally, I think it’s because, until very recently, musicians and other artists really cared about their craft. No offense, but what is Beyoncé’s craft, exactly–shakin’ her booty in front of a bunch of drunk horny guys? Lying to younger women that her bump-and-grind is a liberation for women? (Really? Is that why Salomé danced?) Craft is caring about what you do and  how you do it. It’s why people outside the arts consider all artists (regardless of medium) whiny prima donnas. The Beatles cared a great deal about what they did and then had the truly great good fortune to work with a man whose musical experience included producing classical music albums, especially Baroque. His name was George Martin. Other  rockers from the Sixties (Zeppelin comes to mind, and then Queen in the late Seventies) cared just as much and–like the Beatles–it still shows. I’ve seen the Beatles and Queen live in concert and their perfectionism carries over onto the stage. The tickets were worth the price. And you know what? Their lyrics were good–not offensive nor insulting nor threatening. These days, groups like these find themselves categorized as “Christian” or are considered so bland they don’t even get contracts or air time. The American group Iron Butterfly would still be playing in dives and bars today, their classic 17-minute piece Inna-gadda-da-vida virtually unknown. (Look it up on Google! The composer was the son of an organist at a Lutheran church in the Midwest. You can hear Bach in it.)

So there we were on the Eje Ambiental this afternoon, Friday and Fabiana and me, in the light drizzle forming little rings on the surface of the Río San Francisco,  TransMilenio buses rumbling by, and I was singing along to the Beatles. I know I wasn’t singing very loudly because no one paid attention to us (fortunately; my voice isn’t all that good any more). But that music sounded as good this afternoon as it did in  the Sixties when I first heard it and first bought the LPs. Javeriana Stereo is right on this point–this music has become classic, not  because of its age, but because of the craft behind it. It’s worth listening to, over and over and over again.

I have a friend who was only 7 when Sargent Pepper came out. He became a musician. I have to wonder what would have happened if he’d been able to listen to this music before he started classes (at age 8) at the Conservatorio del Tolima. That’s just a thought. . .

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

 

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This is not happening. Yes, it is.

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson. All Rights Reserved

On Becoming a Bum

I sat on the nice couch yesterday in a nice apartment in Chapinero, and burst into tears. I felt deeply embarrassed, humiliated and shrinking into nothingness. Across from me sat Martha, a friend since 1968, and we were discussing my options for survival, which are almost nil.

Martha’s summation of events leading to my current situation was concise and balanced. No Social Security, no welfare, no job, no husband, no children. Living in a hostal at USD 15/night, little food, my dogs cared for by others, my personal property (including clothes) locked up by someone who simply got mad at me.

Once upon a time, I lived in nice apartments in Chapinero, a now-classic residential-but-going-too-commercial neighborhood in Bogota. I had nice clothes. I had plans and hopes for the future. I had friends. I wrote my mother twice a month, my father once a month, and they wrote back. This was years before direct long distance dialing although we kept writing regardless of phone service. I was writing and in the Seventies began to start painting and take my photography more seriously. I was beginning to become an artist.

In the US, my brother and sisters went to college, got married, had children, etc. I went to REO’s first wedding because his fiancee asked me to be a bridesmaid. That was in 1967, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Lansing, Michigan, on a warm July evening.

Last family wedding I ever attended. I was invited to Debbie’s wedding, received an announcement about Katrina’s, and was openly excluded from my niece Heather’s hippie-dippie-in-a-field wedding in the 1980s. My mother had a fit about that, but by then, exclusion from family events had become standard practice. I was out of sight, therefore out of mind. Only letters from Mom or Dad let me know about family events.

Flash forward – 2003.  My father died around noon on Friday, 21 February 2003. My brother REO lived about 80 miles away. He was notified with a message left on his answering machine at 6 p.m. on Saturday, 22 Feb., which he heard at 11 p.m. that night. According to his second wife, he went so ballistic that he was still incoherent on Sunday morning when she called me in Houston, Texas. I was there to help my mother whose sister had died two weeks earlier.

The memorial service for Dad was scheduled for the following Tuesday morning. I was there, with REO and his family, to everyone’s obvious surprise. He and I, as Episcopalians and as Olds Anderson’s oldest children, made sure we were first in line to take communion at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, where Dad had sung in the choir. (His widow and their daughters were/are Christian Scientists.) The British minister emphasized how well-liked and respected Mr. Anderson was at the church.

Later we learned Dad had almost cut us out of his Will, in favor of his widow and their daughters. The provisions, according to his lawyer (so embarrassed he could barely look me in the eye), were very specific. 1. Mr. Anderson left a small fixed amount to each child. 2.The bulk of his estate went to his wife and their daughters. 3. Any claim against the estate protesting this distribution would automatically exclude the protester from future distribution of said estate.

May 2006 — REO calls to say, “Just thought you should know Mom died yesterday and I had her cremated. She didn’t leave any written instructions about her things so–” he snickered “I can do what I want.” And he did.

Flash Forward and Backward — When Doris Berkey Davis became Mrs. R E Olds Anderson, she acquired me and REO as stepchildren, like it or not. We had been born during his marriage to Elizabeth Faye Powers between 1943 and 1948. None of the parties involved may have liked the situation, but being a “step-something” is a legality. No big deal.

Doris had a daughter, Diane, by her first marriage, who was legally adopted by the new husband. Then they had two more daughters.

November 2012 — Doris B. Anderson dies of natural causes (age 92).

Mid-year 2014 — Metta Jane Anderson, out of curiosity, stumbles across the tidbit that the woman who had been such a part of her life since 1946, had died on November 25, 2012. In an obituary in The Lansing State Journal, Metta Jane is listed as a surviving stepdaughter (and REO as a surviving stepson).

I sent a short and nasty note to REO–“I guess you were so overcome with grief over Doris’s death that you forgot to tell me.”

His reply–“Diane said she was going to tell you.”

Yeah? Since when are these two such close and trusting friends?

Meanwhile, and since 2012, I have been having serious financial trouble. I have asked for help from “the family.” There are four of them. One of me. I suggested that any economic aid be divided among the four, e.g., USD 250.00 per person per month.

Nothin’ doin’.

Instead of help, I get a sadistic and very unrealistic version of “tough love.”  In synthesis– Proposition Number 1. I get rid of everything–dogs, books, bed (an inherited antique), photo equipment, art materials, etc. I will be given a one-way economy class ticket to wherever I want to live IN THE US. REO and Diane will support me while I get a job paying roughly USD 3000 to USD 5000/month or til I qualify for welfare. (The figures for my support come from the US Consulate in Bogota. They feel the wiser plan would be to leave me here and pay my rent. Total Cost per month–USD 1500 to USD 2500/month. This is rent, utilities and some food. The rest would come from teaching and selling my art.)

Proposition Number 2.  Now in effect. No one sends me anything. So far, REO has had no problems with that. Diane relented somewhat–she sent money to cover the replacements for my visa and my Colombian ID (called a cedula), but not the passport. The US Consulate informed her that the passport is required for the other documents. She refused to change her mind so I had to find someone else to pay for it (USD 135.00).  And since I’m living in a hostal, I used the rest to keep a roof over my head.

Diane also sent some money at Christmas. It went to the hostal as well.

So I have come down to this–I am a beggar. I used to have clean clothes, decent food, live in a decent apartment with my dogs.  Now, USD 15/night separates me from sleeping in the street and not smelling. USD 20 (that’s five dollars for food per day) feeds me.

I do not qualify for Social Security, but that’s another story for another day.

I do not qualify for welfare either in Colombia or in the US. They use identical qualifying systems. I have a college degree, I do not have any handicaps and I do not have minor children. I am not a caretaker (caregiver?) for handicapped children or adults.

My family’s supposed “tough love” approach puts my entire life in serious jeopardy and is also illegal in the US as well as in Colombia. It’s called “abandonment of a senior citizen” (rough translation).

What my family is doing is to reject the educated adult artist and writer I am while attempting to exercise a control that has never been in their power before. That this causes me enormous emotional and physical pain as well as psychological damage does not interest them in the slightest. It also leaves them blind to other consequences–e.g., if they refuse to help me where I am now, how can I trust them to help me in the US?

Second, I speak “legalese” in two languages. How quickly do you think I’d get a lawyer in Michigan or any other part of the US and sue them for damages (pain and suffering caused by their negligence)?

Third, I am a very good writer. How would they feel about a tell-all novel making them look worse than they are?

So there I sat, crying on Martha’s shoulder, seriously talking about suicide as my only alternative. I’ve lived in Bogota for 48 years (49 in March). This is home. Even a first year psychiatric student could tell  you how damaging it would be to uproot me and force me into an environment so different from the one I’ve witnessed change from backward to futuristic in barely a generation.

I cried too because the woman sitting across from Martha is not the confident, nicely-dressed and relaxed woman she met years ago. That woman has become a bum, deprived of a decent place to live and work, deprived of decent food, deprived of her clothes and her dogs, deprived of her art materials (and therefore deprived of her ability to earn a living, which is a felony crime in Colombia), and deprived of tomorrow.

All this because a very well-educated and well-to-do family still lives in 1960 in East Lansing, Michigan, and insists that I do the same.

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson. All Rights Reserved.

 

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