Tuesday, July 31, 2007


"I have maintained open channels with my childhood. I think it may be that way with many artists. Sometimes in the night, when I am on the limit between sleeping and being awake, I can just go through a door into my childhood and everything is as it was - with lights, smells, sounds and people."

--Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)
I found this quote in a very interesting Ingmar Bergman obituary yesterday. In some of my most profound moments of late I have had a similar experience while putting Amado to bed. We both slip to the edge of consciousness---but aren't quite asleep---then a memory from my childhood surfaces and I just let it sit there in this place for a while. After a few seconds, it feels like it starts unfolding, with all the details---the colours and smells and tactile feelings---coming to life. I follow each of these senses like a path, deeper and deeper into the memory, which at that point becomes much more real than me lying on a bed with a baby in my arms. When I return, Amado is asleep and I feel like some sort of small healing has taken place inside of me.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

18 months!

A year and a half old and on the run! Yesterday Amado had his check up and a couple of mega-vaccinations. He knew what he was in for when we walked into the doctor's office, so he was especially wiggly. We all survived though. Here are the stats discovered by Dr. Lau:

Head: 51 cm.
Height: 84 cm.
Weight: 27.5 lbs.

He's in the 78 percentile for height and weight, which means he's bigger than 3/4 of the kids his age. And his head remains in the 98 percentile for kid's his age! Wow!

We're on the run today to Port Stanley for the 50th wedding anniversary of Wendy's Aunt Barb and Uncle Gene, so I'll update this post later.

Friday, July 27, 2007

East L.A., 1970

This picture from the Chicano Moratorium reminds me of the East L.A. of my childhood...in fact, it was taken right next to our friends Dylan and Jocelyn's house. Somehow, this grey colour is how I remember everything as well.

I found this in the amazing UCLA photo collection, Changing Times: Los Angeles in Photos, 1920-1990.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Keep Santa Cruz Weird

Sometimes I tire of people here in the East who make jokes about Californians being strange. Then my Mom goes and blogs about her neighbour's lawn being decorated with corndogs. What can I say?

I know some Canadians who have never even heard of a corndog. How are you going to explain this to them?

Happy Birthday Katie!

You're looking very serious in this picture from 1988 or 1989, but it's one of my favourites so I thought I would post it. No doubt you were pondering your past and considering your future. But, hey, lighten up! It's your birthday!

It's been wonderful reconnecting with you through your blog. I hope you have an amazing and terrific day!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Beauty be upon you!

Yesterday I read a story by Sister Jose Hobday, a Catholic Native American nun and spiritual teacher. She writes about the Papago tribe on the Arizona-Mexico border that is 95% Catholic. Because they live in an isolated region, they often can't find a priest to celebrate Mass with. When there isn't a priest around, Hobday writes, they have created their own version of the "passing the peace" ritual when worshippers offer greetings to each other during the Mass.

In most Catholic churches this ritual is done by shaking hands or perhaps hugging those near you in the pews. Instead, in the spring when the desert wild flowers are in bloom, the Papago gather flowers and bring them to church. When the time comes to pass the peace, they pelt each other with wild flowers and say, "Peace to you!", "Beauty be upon you!"

If one among them is especially needing affirmation that they are loved, the Papago gather all the flowers together in a basket and dump the whole thing right on that person's head.

"Beauty be upon you!" "Peace to you!"

Today, I send out a virtual version of this flower shower blessing to Rev. Shawn in Manitoba, who doesn't seem like he has been getting what he deserves lately.

"Peace to you, brother!" "Beauty be upon you!"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Old L.A.

The last time I lived in Los Angeles, City Hall was the tallest building in town. I could see it from my school. That was a long time ago (though, perhaps not as long ago as when this picture was taken!).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Happy 60th Birthday Carlos!

Thank you so much for raising our consciousness and bringing us healing through your soulful music.

Read more here...

Rock Climber

I'm afraid of heights, but that doesn't keep me from secretly wanting to be a rock climber.

Santa Cruz's Chris Sharma takes a spiritual approach to rock climbing and is a superstar of the sport. Check out a video of one of his crazy climbs here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

101 Simple Recipes in 10 Minutes or Less

The New York Times has an article that should be emailed to every home in North America, since most of us seem to have forgotten how to cook for ourselves. These are my kind of recipes, short and to the point!

Here's a sample:

45 Sauté shredded zucchini in olive oil, adding garlic and chopped herbs. Serve over pasta.

46 Broil a few slices prosciutto until crisp; crumble and toss with parsley, Parmesan, olive oil and pasta.

47 Not exactly banh mi, but... Make sandwiches on crisp bread with liverwurst, ham, sliced half-sours, shredded carrots, cilantro sprigs and Vietnamese chili-garlic paste.

48 Not takeout: Stir-fry onions with cut-up broccoli. Add cubed tofu, chicken or shrimp, or sliced beef or pork, along with a tablespoon each minced garlic and ginger. When almost done, add half cup of water, two tablespoons soy sauce and plenty of black pepper. Heat through and serve over fresh Chinese noodles.

49 Sprinkle sole fillets with chopped parsley, garlic, salt and pepper; roll up, dip in flour, then beaten egg, then bread crumbs; cook in hot olive oil about three minutes a side. Serve with lemon wedges.

50 The Waldorf: Toast a handful of walnuts in a skillet. Chop an apple or pear; toss with greens, walnuts and a dressing made with olive oil, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard and shallot. Top, if you like, with crumbled goat or blue cheese.

51 Put a stick of butter and a handful of pine nuts in a skillet. Cook over medium heat until both are brown. Toss with cooked pasta, grated Parmesan and black pepper.


Self Portrait


Congratulations to our friend Jeff Shriver and Gabriela Narvaez who were married in Nicaragua on May 5! Thanks to modern technology we just found out about this surprising turn of events now, so we won't delay in sending Jeff and Gabriela our best wishes. We're really happy for you!

Umm, dude, are those actual real fireworks in the background???

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


And speaking of Sojourners....

There are few places that I would call sacred. The library at Sojourners former office is one of them.

As Sojourners gossip columnist Julie Polter writes about the room, it was "the site of staff lunches, tense meetings, intern farewell skits, wedding receptions, worship services, and, of course, ping-pong tournaments." I would add to that list the amazing gatherings with youth-at-risk that I was part of in the mid-1990s with D.C. Barrios Unidos.

Sojourners has moved up the road, but apparently the space is still being used for spiritual purposes. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in D.C. from his ashram in Bangalore, India, for a U.S. tour, gathered his followers (including Bill Clinton, according to the article) in the former Sojourners library for a session of deep breathing and meditation.

I don't think anybody at Sojourners could have imagined the library hosting an Indian guru, though the room has had some really amazing people in it over the years. Still, as the former embassy of Nicaragua during the Somoza era (that's the rumour anyway), the space probably still has a few ghosts that need to be cleared out.

Breathing always helps.

Turning a Robber onto Wine

Ryan Rodrick Beiler of Sojourners had a great blog post on God's Politics the other day...I've got a baby on my lap, so instead of trying to paraphrase the article I'll just reprint the whole thing. Thanks Ryan.

Turning a Robber onto Wine
This story in today's Washington Post made my day. As a pacifist Mennonite, I can't count the number of times someone has posed "The Question": If someone had a gun to your loved one's head, and you could use lethal violence to save them, what would you do? This scenario that unfolded in a D.C. backyard doesn't fit that exact hypothetical scene in every detail, but it does help point out the absurdity of it—what are the chances that reacting violently in such a situation is guaranteed to save your loved one and only hurt or kill the "bad guy"?

At the very least, true stories like this one remind us that violence is never our only option: A grand feast of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp was winding down, and a group of friends as sitting on the back patio of a Capitol Hill home, sipping red wine. Suddenly, a hooded man slid in through an open gate and put the barrel of a handgun to the head of a 14-year-old guest.

"Give me your money, or I'll start shooting," he demanded, according to D.C. police and witness accounts.

The five other guests, including the girls' parents, froze—and then one spoke.

"We were just finishing dinner," Cristina "Cha Cha" Rowan, 43, blurted out. "Why don't you have a glass of wine with us?"

The intruder took a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry and said, "Damn, that's good wine."

The girl's father, Michael Rabdau, 51, who described the harrowing evening in an interview, told the intruder, described as being in his 20s, to take the whole glass. Rowan offered him the bottle. The would-be robber, his hood now down, took another sip and had a bite of Camembert cheese that was on the table.

Then he tucked the gun into the pocket of his nylon sweatpants. ...

"I'm sorry," he told the group. "Can I get a hug?"

Of course, this story (and please, read the whole thing) is ripe with indirect biblical allusions—though the article makes no mention of any spiritual or philosophical motivations for anyone's actions. And of course, there's every possibility that in spite of a nonviolent response, it or similar situations might not have ended as happily—but Jesus never promised as much when he taught us to love our enemies and bless them. In fact, he promised the opposite. Still, it's beautiful when turning the other cheek, giving your shirt, and going the extra mile have the intended effect: confronting our enemies with our humanity—and their own.

Though theological arguments aside, I suppose another moral of the story could be, quite simply: In case of armed robbers, always have a bottle of good wine handy.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the web editor for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Axolotl

The Argentinian writer Julio Cortazar has a haunting short story about a writer who becomes possessed by an axolotl, which is an unmaturing larvae species of salamander from the ancient lakes beneath Mexico City.

The writer discovers the axolotls at the Paris aquarium and returns day after day to stare at them, utterly transfixed by the otherworldly creatures. In their faces he sees that they are suffering, imprisoned in a slug-like body and a glass underwater tomb.

Over time, the writer realizes that he is an axolotl himself and is on the inside of the glass tank, looking out at himself as a human looking in. The axolotl is terrified that he is a sentient being trapped in an axolotl's body. The terror of the axolotl consumes the writer and becomes the only thing he can think about. The axolotl hopes the writer will one day write a story to let the world know about his pain.

And, apparently, that is what happened.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Wanted: Tropical Leaf Counter

In 1989, I spent a couple of months in Bali counting the leaves on mango trees.

I was reminded of this yesterday when visiting prospective daycare providers for Amado. One of the women we visited had a incense-scented house filled with devotional images of Sai Baba.

My boss in the Balinese leaf counting project (it was more than that, but don't distract me), who was a worm farmer from Santa Cruz, gave us little paper packets of funeral pyre ashes from Varanasi that were blessed by Sai Baba. On an auspicious night, we opened them up and tossed them into the rice paddies around Ubud. The ashes sparkled in the moonlight.

And no, I don't remember how many leaves are on a typical Balinese mango tree, but it was in the thousands.

Being a leaf counter was hot, dusty, and sometimes I ran into huge spiders hiding under the leaves. But I persisted, compelled by my desire for the authentic dish of nasi champur that marked the end of each day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Claude Owens

Each year around this time I am reminded of Claude Owens who died in a motorcycle wreck at the top of Sheep Creek Road in Phelan on the day of the All Star Game in 1984. I shouldn't say died---rather, he was killed by a drunk driver. It was a tragic loss the left me stunned for years.

Claude was the big brother of Calvin, one of my best friends growing up in Phelan. He was about four or five years older than us and we really looked up to him. He was big, tough, and intimidating (to me at least), but we also had a lot of fun with hunting, swimming in the aqueduct, wrestling, shooting, and doing all that desert stuff.

Claude was always involved in things that seemed mysterious to me.

He lived in Hawaii with his mom for a long time doing who knows what.

He ran with a biker gang in the desert for a while and got in a big shoot out at the abandoned house down the road from us.

He rolled a water truck at a mine in Boron, or Trona, or some god-forsaken place like that.

He drove a nail right through his hand with a nail gun.

He showed up unexpectedly and saved us the night we saw a ghost at the Snowbird.

I drove Ron, Claude and Calvin's dad, to Claude's funeral. It was at Memorial Lawns or Forest Hills or one of those huge industrial graveyards outside of LA. The funeral was a strange mix of desert folk, stiff in their fancy clothes, and Claude's relatives from Tonga sitting under the trees on woven mats (Claude and Calvin are half Tongan).

Driving home, I tried to avoid the turn where Claude was killed when we arrived in Phelan, but it's almost impossible to do since there is only one road into town. Plus, I was following Calvin and didn't want him to think we veered off the side of the road or something.

As we got to the top of Sheep Creek where Claude died, everyone in the car got silent and I snuck a sideways glance at Ron with me in the front seat. Ron was a pretty tough guy too, but as we rounded the corner where he lost his eldest son, I saw one big tear slowly rolling down his cheek.

To me, it was the biggest tear in the world.

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami has been one of my favourite writers for a couple of years now. His books are incredibly surrealistic and wrestle with the quest of each of us to find that part of our souls which we have lost. They're almost shamanistic tales, really. I'm just finishing Kafka on the Shore now.

Murakami has written a short essay in the New York Times about how jazz played a role in helping him find his writing voice. It's pretty cool...

When I turned 29, all of a sudden out of nowhere I got this feeling that I wanted to write a novel — that I could do it. I couldn’t write anything that measured up to Dostoyevsky or Balzac, of course, but I told myself it didn’t matter. I didn’t have to become a literary giant. Still, I had no idea how to go about writing a novel or what to write about. I had absolutely no experience, after all, and no ready-made style at my disposal. I didn’t know anyone who could teach me how to do it, or even friends I could talk with about literature. My only thought at that point was how wonderful it would be if I could write like playing an instrument.

I had practiced the piano as a kid, and I could read enough music to pick out a simple melody, but I didn’t have the kind of technique it takes to become a professional musician. Inside my head, though, I did often feel as though something like my own music was swirling around in a rich, strong surge. I wondered if it might be possible for me to transfer that music into writing. That was how my style got started.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Union Now?

Tomorrow my office, the General Council Office of The United Church of Canada, will vote whether or not to join the CUPE union....and I have no idea how I will vote.

In theory, I'm pro-union. Autoworkers, teachers, city workers like Wendy should all be part of a union. But I'm often conflicted about whether or not it's the right choice for a church. Even a national church office.

Your advice would be appreciated.

Perhaps a Scottish Rite?

Mmmm, Haggis

My theory is that all of Scottish cuisine is based on a dare.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Boy & His New Ball

He's awake from his nap and he instantly gravitates to the new ball I got him this morning during our 6:45 a.m. grocery store run. It's like magic. And we need some magic these days.

Alma, yo quiero mas blog posts, ahora!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

July 4th

Today may be July 4th, but it's not the 4th of July. At least not where I live.

Ida Floss

Ida Floss is one of my favourite found art sculptures of the many created by my Mom and Irene. Ida's a little wooden at times, and her curls are totally unmanagable, but she's still almost part of the family. Find out more about her at my Mom's blog, llpof.

Here's the link: http://cjgallegos-llpof.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Go Scooter, Go!

From Chris Matthew's Hardblogger:

“The irony in this case is that the president said he would 'deal with anyone who leaked,' and now his way of dealing with Scooter Libby is to pardon him.”

“For him to say that the penalty is 'excessive' may well be true, but it was the same crime that President Bill Clinton was impeached for by a Republican House of Representatives and in which 50 U.S. senators, Republicans, voted to remove him from office. So Republicans as a party thought perjury and obstruction of justice were sufficient to remove a twice-elected president from office. And now the president is saying that 30 months in prison is an excessive penalty for the same exact crime. It’s inconsistent.”

Photo art from http://www.unconfirmedsources.com/

Monday, July 02, 2007

Canada Day

..well, almost. This picture was taken the day before Canada Day at Pam (Wendy's sister) and Harris' pool. We gathered to celebrate Caleb's 11th birthday (above with cousin Amado on his first swim) and Anne's 20th birthday (Anne is Caleb's cousin and Amado's full-time babysitter!). Everyone thinks Amado and Caleb look a lot alike.

Amado loved the water. He would glady walk right into the deep end if let him! Also, that's my arm above. Nice arm, no?

18 Sevens!

I was doing "research" for a blog entry all about my experience of the Summer of Love (yes, I did attend, with my Granma), and I wound up on this weird slide show that shows people from 1967 then and now. It's interesting, but I call it weird because there are some strange choices included in the show, like Muhammad Ali and Bobby Seale, both people I don't really associate with the Summer of Love.

Anyway, I got seriously sidetracked when I read the text for the Mamas and Papas slide. Did you know that the group was stuck in the Virgin Islands before they made it big and Michelle Phillips (above) rolled 18 sevens in row while playing dice to win them "more than enough" money for the group to make it home and launch their careers?

18 sevens in a row!?!?! I read it a couple of days ago and I can't stop thinking about it. Is this even possible? What are the odds? Maybe she did some kind of "favour" for the house and they gave her loaded die? I just can't believe it.

Anyway, enjoy the slide show!