Graffiti Park

I met other members of the Art Hikes Meetup at the HOPE (Helping Out People Everywhere) Outdoor Gallery AKA Graffiti Park.  I’d seen pictures of this park and even footage of it in a participatory work at the Austin Short Film Festival a few years ago, but I had no idea it was merely a block west of S. Lamar, near Whole Earth Provisions. The place oozed a youthful, creative vibe with a range of spray can talent.  If there was anything one considered a masterpiece, the best course of action would have been to take a picture. Definitely a strong lesson in nothing lasts forever. Enjoy the moment while you have it. Despite being outside, a hazy spray can paint fog enveloped the park. I kept walking through the fog to find fleeting pockets of fresh air.Even knowing the resilience of plants, I still felt bad for the grafittied plant, which needed an unpainted surface to photosynthesize.
Among the littered ground, I found a tiny gold ring. We all assumed it must have belonged to a little girl since it barely fit on my pinkie on my non dominant hand. I told the other Meetup members in jest that this was the way to be married–not live with one’s spouse! As it turned out, after several hand washings, the golden paint wore off the metal after two weeks. Pretty symbolic of most of my romantic relationships with the exception that the ring lasted longer.
The park was launched in 2011 with the intention of being a temporary installation where artists of all stripes could express themselves.My group speculated about the concrete structures that served as the canvas. To me, it looked like a construction site ran out of money. What I’ve since read online is that it was the remaining foundation of an old building that HOPE, a group dedicated to bringing attention to the turmoil in the Sudan, repurposed. As much as I enjoyed the views, I was amazed at how many parents allowed their small kids to wander around without holding their hands. The teacher in me became especially nervous when one teenaged girl stood on the ledge while her friend posed like she was pushing her over the edge.  The view from the park revealed the city of Austin as I knew it. Even the view above the park seemed surreal as if the foundations of a castle lay in the graffitied creative energy of the people.And no visit to the park would be complete without a classic shot of Castlehill, which serves as everyone’s reference point of how to find the urban stylish park.

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2017 Austin People’s Gallery Reception

Being a part of the 2017 Austin People’s Gallery became real to me when I drove up to city hall and saw the line out of the building. I arrived 30 minutes late, or “on time,” according to some cultures, but I found two yoga friends already in line. The security check had created the line. A guard came out, passing plastic bowls, so guys could empty their pockets. He informed us women we could keep our jewelry on. One of my friends confessed to having a pocket knife. When the guard asked how big it was, she whipped it out to show him and he told her it was OK.  I just laughed and asked the people behind us, who’d witnessed the exchange, if they felt safe. 
As befitting “The Live Music Capital of the World,” a musician performed near the entrance. Two large screens flanked either side of the “stage area.” Once my picture flashed, I realized I’d worn the exact outfit as in my picture, making it appear that I only had one nice dress for an evening. I received my name tag, which included the number of my painting and the booklet that included a layout of all the artwork along with an artist index.  The mayor told us a funny story about the architect who’d designed city hall and had liked the stone walls so much, he didn’t want anything to hang on them. So much for that! We slowly ascended to the second floor, appreciating all the other work along the way  while heading to my painting.  The design of the office space isolated my painting away from the other work. The people who placed my painting there did me a solid. So much good work was displayed that my painting could have easily looked shabby adjacent to a real painter’s work.  One of my friends teased me about having the title of my book in the painting’s title, but the real question is, why would I waste such an opportunity by not advertising my book? As a matter of fact, I think I could have been clearer that this painting illustrated a book. Probably better not to have gone overboard with the self-promotion. I hope Mayor Pro-Tem Tovo gets lots of visitors to her office. After the reception, I called my father, an avid lottery player, to give him a pick-3 and a pick-4: 089 and 2121.  As soon as I saw Redd Foxx, I started singing the “Sanford and Son” theme song. The blurb stated this was how he’d look when he finally joined Elizabeth.This mosaic exuded richness and complexity in its design, but such simplicity in the suggestion of her face.
I didn’t bother to read the artist’s blurb for this work. I just figured these politicians should be paddled for the transgressions  shown below their image.
Since my long-term 2017 project is repurposing a dictionary for one of my nephews, I loved how this book had been incorporated into this contraption.Among my friends and I, most of us saw the big picture of the guy, whereas one friend had zoomed into the tiny toys that created this mosaic. The 3-D pieces added more shadow and depth than my camera phone captured.

After attending this reception, I truly wanted to start another painting although I didn’t have the schedule to take on any new projects.  Once the weather turns consistently warmer and the daylight lasts longer, I’ll have more incentive to put paint to canvas.

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Stonehenge II

A 2/3 replica of Stonehenge exists a mere two hours outside of Austin. Yet, the first structure to greet our adventurous Meetup group was a Moai.We’d all piled into the organizer’s Honda Fit and rode comfortably to the location. For a group of strangers, we gelled quite well politically, which was good because the car was packed and there wouldn’t have been anywhere to hide!
Hard to believe that the real Stonehenge is 1/3 bigger than this replica since, at least in my mind, they tower like mountains in all the pictures I’ve seen. I would’ve loved to have heard more about the speculated use of Stonehenge on a guided tour at this scaled down version.Our organizer, a Texas history buff, kept us well entertained on the drive there and back, but we all scattered to explore the destination grounds individually. Besides arithmetic, I love algebra and geometry.  The aesthetically and mathematically arranged stones, together with their shape,  made this such a peaceful place to visit. I imagined attending a spoken word/storytelling event in that beautiful space. Even the Moai inspired me to ponder dialogue I’d write for them. The outdoor theatre surprised me. I’d seen the indoor theatre on my way to the bathroom, but that outdoor one took advantage of the beautiful surroundings. As much as this creative compound offered, an art gallery and a facility for workshops and classes shared the space. Not only was the ladle tree shiny, but it moved in two directions, which looked fascinating when it got going. I didn’t see a description for this woman, but I felt she projected melancholy, given the lack of rain. Sight on seen, I liked the blue wine bottles since I’m a red-wine wino, myself! Then I read the description. I’d never heard of this Congolese tradition of trapping evil spirits near graveyards into bottles. 

I had actually expected to eat lunch before we’d visited the site; so I was too ready for this restaurant!  I should’ve heeded the banner advertising “Puffy Tacos.” I ordered the sampler plate, which included one mouth-watering puffy taco, but honestly, everything was delicious, including the margarita and lively conversation. Apparently, I’d obsessed about food and hunger too much to notice the model car collection at the register near the front door. We rode into the sunset, heading back to Austin. That day trip was just what the doctor ordered as far as mitigating my February blues.

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Pill Making

Once I finally tired of putting turmeric in every smoothie to help remedy joint inflammation, I ordered a 1000 empty gel capsules to fill with the spice. I’m not quite sure why this size was considered “0,” but I was happy they weren’t “horse pill” sized.  I’m not used to referring to nonelectrical devices as “machines,” yet I was ever so happy for this convenient contraption to make 50 pills at once. I had a few precious trial and error moments as I made my maiden batch of pills. Once I spread the turmeric and cleaned off the excess, I tamped the powder and spread more spice across the capsules. Then, I rotated the end pieces 90 degrees, pushed the top piece down to expose the filled capsules. I’d placed the tops into a measuring cup, so they wouldn’t roll away and I still lost one! Then I placed the completed pills into a plastic container, swallowing the pill that had the lost top, which I never found even after cleaning everything up.

As I broke down the box to recycle, I rediscovered the easy-to-follow instructions on the back of the box.  In my excitement, I’d forgotten all about them and had the front side of the box facing up, during the entire pill-making process. Total Teresa moment.

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Comes in Threes

Superstition dictates that bad things come in threes, but that count is just arbitrary–until living through three bad or at least very inconvenient things. My latest three: car accident, laptop incident and recent job performance.

So, the seemingly never-ending drama started one fine Saturday, nearly three weeks ago when some jackass rear ended me.  I’m absolutely amazed how many drivers watch traffic rather than the car in front of them. The ironic thing was, I was pulling out onto the service road when he hit me.

Apparently, I was too discombobulated from that fender bender because I didn’t take a picture of his license’s plate nor the car, but I took pictures of his insurance card, driver’s license and the damage to my car. To make matters worse, it was his girlfriend’s car, yet her name didn’t appear on the insurance card.

Her insurance acknowledged that a claim was owed, but have dragged their feet about the estimate. In the meantime, I’ve already dropped off my car, picked up a rental and now playing the waiting game for everything to resolve itself.

I’m somewhat annoyed with the rental car situation. Since her insurance agency closed at 4:30 PM (Who does that? Only a business that doesn’t want to help!), I had to put down my credit card for $200 instead of $50.  I plan to get that $150 reimbursed. Then the rental car agent lead me to a bright, shiny red car, which used no keys but remote signals for everything–even to start the car if I wanted! I chose to hit the “start” button instead. The whole time he pointed out features, I just fussed, “Brode, I didn’t want all this fancy shit! I just wanted a basic, small rental car.”

He assured me that everything was going to be all right and that things change.  In that precise moment, I’d fully entered middle adulthood.  I’ve been saying for a few years that I was middle aged, but in that slick, shiny, curvaceous car, I truly felt ever bit of the middle aged woman I’d purported to be.

A few days after my accident, I had training for work.  Training always involved a 2-hour round trip commute to the office, which added to my 8-hour work shift. Thankfully, my car was operable, so I didn’t have to hassle with the car rental place and collision shop sooner.  As a matter of fact, the commute allowed me to hear a rattle that had not existed prior to the accident,  which prompted me to get it checked out despite the minimum visible damage.

Then, two days prior to dropping off my car to be repaired and rolling back with the high-tech rental, I accidentally splashed water onto my laptop when I knocked my glass off the end table. I’d been gambling with that dangerous habit for years.  I’d never heard a laptop sizzle before.  I pretty much did everything they tell you not to do: tried to shake the water out; turned it off and on; plugged it in. I instinctively knew not to put it in rice nor use a blow dryer, which were two other bad ideas that people try. I dropped off the laptop the day before I dropped off the car.

So, they retrieved the data off the hard drive, but a refurbish would cost $850! I bought a new laptop, using my tax refund. I’d had the lofty idea to use all of that refund for getting out of debt quicker, but I was getting behind in nearly every other endeavor without my almighty laptop.  Unfortunately, my work computer has limited capabilities or else, I’d not replace my personal one for months.

In the meantime, I’ve recently learned how to sell a new insurance product. It’s rather humbling to go from being a little badass with one insurance product and essentially starting from ground zero with a new one. Additionally, there are other aspects beyond my control, such as the dramatically lower call volume.

I got one of my wishes to have a tighter script, but it’s so much longer than the old one. Even when I get a call, the conversations take much longer. Seems as if the keys to selling this insurance are sticking to the script as much as possible while infusing my personality into it. Only today, I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. Just in time for them to raise our target from 2 sales to 3, despite the fact that half of us have been getting either 0 or 1 sale a day. In the spirit of staying on the right side of natural selection, I must step up my game and show improvement.

With the triumvirate of challenges, only the laptop situation has been remedied. I still have a couple of hours worth of work to do to organize things since, although my data was saved, all the folders were saved empt and their contents were saved in a huge file, labelled “All My Files.” Now, I just take a deep breath and sort that content into the appropriate file and remain grateful that all had not been lost.

(Oh, and I now keep my beverage on a saucer on the floor versus on the end table beside the couch!)

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Bang Maids


I’ve known since my early 20s that I didn’t want to have kids. Yet I wasn’t turned off by marriage. As a matter of fact, there’s a part of me who visualizes myself married—as long as I don’t have to live with my husband. When I told my married sister that last part, her response was, “What’s the point of getting married?”

Considering the fact that Christian marriage began as a way to guarantee a man that his children were his, I actually don’t see much need for it. I know there are men who also don’t want to father children, or at this point in life, don’t want to father any more children; so that’s really a nonissue for me.

My biggest stopper is I don’t want to be a bang maid. I don’t want to be that woman who fills a significant part of her time with the domestic duties of attending to a man every day, having very little time to read, do art or just otherwise relax after the work day.

At any given time, I’m working on at least two different writing projects, putting together at least one on-going creative project, and reading at least four different books in rotation. In the meantime, I work a full-time job and occasionally two different freelance jobs. And did I mention that I exercise every day?

I’m not as selfish as I come across. I really do care about people, but from a distance, where it easily fits into my already busy schedule. For example, for the past seven years, I’ve made Christmas cards–very stylishly decorated, complete with a unique message, written in longhand. This takes me a lot of time to do. One might walk away with the impression that I’m some warm individual who always does such thoughtful things. Yes and no. As long as warm and fuzzy fits neatly into the master schedule, I’ll do it. Besides, since I’m not on social media, again another thing that would drain my creative schedule, my Christmas cards are a way to give a yearly update to out-of-town friends.

Now, some people think, if I just had a man, I could quit working and have all that extra time to pursue my creative projects. Yet I’m not going to base my financial stability on whether or not some man still loves me. Let’s face it: I have a strong personality, which sometimes gets on my own nerves. I can imagine how it affects other people.

However, I need my financial obligations to be met every day, not just those sunny times when I’m loved by someone else. Plus, being an adult means attending to one’s own financial responsibilities. Am I to believe that some man for whom I perform domestic duties and sex should meet my financial responsibilities? I know—you gotta give some to get some, but it just seems less complicated and time-consuming to separate money from romance.

I have a sinking suspicion that some men mistake cooking and cleaning with love since their mothers did that for them, without realizing she only did those things because he was a child. No one in the world loves you like your mama. No one. You can be loved by others, but you’ll only have one mama.

When the romantic curtain is pulled back, a woman being financially dependent on a man puts her in a precarious position. Women, who have their own, independent source of money, tend to have more control of their own life. Moreover, women have far more to contribute to society than a myriad of menial tasks.

I like setting that tone from the very beginning. When I go out on a date, I genuinely don’t expect a guy to pay. I know that all money comes with strings attached—apron strings and G-strings. Not to say that I don’t don those strings occasionally, but they’re not tied to a man’s money, but rather my own necessity.

The first Black actress to win an Oscar was Hattie McDaniel for her role as the maid, “Mammy,” in Gone with the Wind in 1940. Throughout her acting career, McDaniel played a maid in 74 movies. She once said, “I’d rather play a maid than to be one!”

Amen, Big Mama Hattie!

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Three-Pouched Tote Bag

It was that time of the year to make my youngest niece’s birthday gift.  Since she’s into fashion, I hand sewed her a three-pouch tote bag. I made a trip to a craft store to get three different, complementary, cotton fabrics. Most importantly, I wanted them cut to the proper sizes.

I used the cream-colored fabric to make the handles. The trickiest part was sewing everything inside out with the handles tucked inside. I left an unsewn part at the bottom so I could reach in, grab the handle and turn the material right-side out. All worked like a charm except I’d sewn the handles to the fabric with the seam facing the wrong way.
Since I wanted the decorative flowers on the outside and the subtle pink fabric on the inside, I had to take an extra step and cover the seams with the same pink material as the lining.  In the end, the tote bag just had some extra flair, which looked intentional. Once I folded and stacked the two halves, I sewed them together and created a tote bag with three compartments. As much stuff as my little niece has, I’m sure she’ll find plenty of things to put in it.

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Moving Forward

What a weird time of my life, not just because of the recent presidential elections, but almost in spite of it. I’m working for long stretches of time, speed reading in between calls with prospective clients, exercising every day and in the “free” snatches of time, creating art. Always in motion, even when I’m sleeping.

Yet, I question if this is truly what I want out of life. Certainly, I’m living a financially sustainable life for the first time in a couple of years. And I love that I continue to hone my new-found skill of sales, especially from home. But…

Where’s that other part of my life where I work on writing projects every day? I miss that daily routine, which apparently served more than a mere routine. It was the daily expression of tapping into that level of creative thinking that is missing in my life.

Some people need their morning coffee and others need a daily vitamin. Apparently, I need a daily dose of writing. This new work schedule has displaced my writing and yet, I feel myself propelled forward, almost leaving writing behind.

I cannot be into my own head to write in between calls like I can when reading. I value getting a full night’s sleep; so waking up earlier to write doesn’t seem quite right. At the end of the day, crafting where I must sew, cut out things or glue them fit the bill perfectly at that time of day. Which only leaves the long stretches of time on the weekends as the “perfect” times to write. Even that time gets chopped into pieces with other things that need to be done, especially socializing.

I pick and choose events where I can either hang out with other creative people for inspiration or get together with the few friends I manage to have, given the fact that I’m still allergic to most forms of social media.

At this point, I know I need to return to the basics: writing in the morning. My only expectation will be to do how many minutes the morning routine allows me to do. Just like the good ol’ days when I was writing my first novel and I’d hurriedly add, edit or delete something within a minute. From there, my impossible schedule adjusted.

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When Racism Becomes Unsustainable

Last Saturday, a good friend, another cerebral Black woman, and I saw “Hidden Figures.” Among the many things that uplifting film depicted, it showed how the separation of Blacks and Whites continued until it died in a final gasp of breath.

The segregation of libraries sections, water fountains, bathrooms, and even coffee pots reinforced second-class citizenship, which some people, both Black and White, internalized as proof positive of the inferiority of Blacks, rather than as an oppressive regime under which a group of intelligent people had to endure.

Yet, when the most capable mathematician at NASA had inconvenienced her White boss during her mile-long roundtrip to the colored bathroom, her situation motivated him to immediately integrate the bathrooms. Very practical. Once that parallel practice disappeared, more parallel systems vanished, but not without a trace and, of course, not without a fight.

We may take sharing public facilities for granted today, but for some Whites who lived through that transitionary time, they experienced a loss of status. They perceived a cheapening of their quality of life, for their separate services reaffirmed their social superiority. But not their intellectual superiority. At least not to strong Black people.

There’s the valuable difference. The difference that Black parents, my parents’ generation and older, knew and had inspired their number one advice to their children: you have to be twice as good as Whites to get half as much. Strong Black parents never internalized the social superiority of Whites as the true value of their position. They envisioned achieving the American dream, where being twice as good as Whites would create undeniable evidence of worth.

The bathrooms at NASA were integrated because the parallel system could no longer be sustained.  Socially constructed separation deteriorated because a black female mathematician, who, by any standards, was a genius. Having ready access to her math skills outgrew the importance of prohibiting her access to the closest bathroom.

Those bathroom scenes made me reflect upon the success of the bus boycotts and sit-ins. At the end of the day, the White owners of those businesses were losing money every day protests and boycotts took place rather than transactions. Every business plan must include making money. When racist practices disrupt cash flow, money wins in the end.

Granted, some use money to maintain their separation, but for those who cannot literally afford it, they must live an integrated life. If such people could see the bigger picture, they’d realize that they have more in common with someone of their own socioeconomic status than someone of their same socially constructed “race.”

Nonetheless, as we enter the next exciting chapter of our great American social experiment, I wonder which other divisive practices will go extinct.


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Dreaming of My Wedding

This past Monday, one of my friends texted me about her dream where she had attended my wedding.  I texted her back, “Good thing I’m not superstitious. My grandmother used think a wedding dream meant a funeral.”

Once I had a moment to look it up, I “discovered” that a single woman dreaming of another woman getting married meant that the dreamer will find true love. Well, good for her! In the meantime, I think my theme for 2017 continues to be “Three Black Men.”

Walking in the parking garage with a coworker and my plus one, en route to the venue where my office holiday party was being held, three fine black men crossed our path. They weren’t with the company, but at least pointed us in the correct direction to where the party was.

Thanks to New Year’s Eve, where I danced with three different black men, I’m going to remark every time I interact with a trio of black men. I’ve not noticed before that they come in three’s here in Austin. What has been noted is the disappearing black population within this growing city. I may be onto something.

Decades ago, all the rage was about black men becoming an endangered species. I believed that was a bunch of hype then, but I know they are scarcer in this town. I’ve only half noticed since, when it comes to dating, I appreciate a wide variety of handsome, but even more so, I enjoy intellectual stimulation, which can be found among all races.

The fun part is that I can continue playing I-Spy for a trio of black men. Of course, the rule will be I will have to talk, or otherwise engage, with them in order for it to “count.” One thing I don’t think will happen is finding my future husband. I’m not against marriage. I just don’t want to live with a husband.


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