The Boy said that was very bad of me to say that Tangobaby is dead and that I should apologize.
Apparently he was not the only one who thought my sensationalism was naughty. I'm sorry. I'm not dead. Even this blog isn't dead. I'm going to leave it here for posterity.
So, I will try this again:
Please visit my new site.
You can find new writing, new photos at
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
The Boy said that was very bad of me to say that Tangobaby is dead and that I should apologize.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Maybe I'm being a wee bit dramatic but I hope I did grab your attention. ;-)
It finally occurred to me that I needed a different place to put my stuff that's not CALIBER or i live here:SF or HAMO.
Three years ago, almost by accident, I started this blog. My goodness, what a lot has happened since then. At first I wrote about movies I'd seen and then a lot about dancing tango.
Blogger was very good to me, and being a Blog of Note in 2008 gave me a taste of what the wider world of blogging was all about. It inspired me to write more, share more and try to hone my skills with storytelling, idea generation and even be cognizant of good old-fashioned grammar.
I got a camera in 2008 and that exploded my world wide open again. Now I could provide my own images to accompany my own stories. The avenues for creativity seemed to grow exponentially.
And then the whole aspect of using the blog as an element of change and raising awareness happened in April of 2009. Learning very personal lessons about poverty, homelessness, friendship and hardship.
Along the way, I lost some friends. I think I made more than I lost. Some people wanted the old tangobaby back. I couldn't summon her. She bored me.
I have so many things to tell you. About the people I meet and the things I do and hopefully it's not the same ol' same ol' but stories and ideas you'll want more of. I just can't put them here anymore.
It's funny how much something like a blog template or platform can be a hindrance or boost to your mind's inner workings. I realize now that I've outgrown Blogger and so have moved on to this new Wordpress site.
It's funny, I had been so attached to my tangobaby name. I thought I wouldn't be able to be what you thought I was without that name. I agree, it's been fun. We've had a good run. I've gotten a lot of pleasure out of being tangobaby and there's a place in my heart where shiny stilletto heels and the mournful bandoneon music still lives.
But I can be so much more by just being Julie.
So, I hope you'll follow along. This tangobaby place has been good to me but I'm not taking it along.
See you soon.
Friday, January 29, 2010
The WDDC is an unusual place. It's a home, literally. Situated in a residential neighborhood, there's a kitchen with two volunteers cooking barbequed pork and yams, a living room with sofas and chairs and books, a dining area, and then several rooms devoted for client consultations and offices. The home is old, but still, it's a home. It feels comfortable and welcoming. Instantly upon my arrival, at least three people bid me hello and ask me if I need help. I can't tell if they're working there or the clientele.
I'm taken around and introduced to everyone. I tell them I'm there to collect stories, to listen, to take photos. I tell them I'm with Help A Mother Out, and that we help donate diapers here. Women who don't even have kids thank me for the diapers. Everyone realizes here that any assistance and outpouring of help benefits them all. Janika especially is so grateful for the diapers. She says," I haven't had to worry about diapers at all since the baby was born. Thank you!"
Some of the women are shy. They don't want to talk or have their photo taken. A couple others want me to teach them photography. We sit around the long tables while they eat their lunches and they talk about finishing school, finding new homes, getting jobs.
I will be back.
WDDC provides ongoing and intensive counseling, case management services, daily support groups, a comprehensive children's program, a variety of referral services, and a transitional housing program for for single-parent families.
Due to cutbacks, WDDC has had to lay off two key employees, one a counselor for the children.
You can read more about WDDC here and more about Help A Mother Out here.
You can donate diapers online to WDDC or other Bay Area nonprofits here.
You can read more about our diaper drive and awareness raising efforts here.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Just a quick hello because I'm headed down to LA to see my grandpa on what has to be the fastest planned trip I've taken yet. He turns 94 on Friday and this seems like it's a happy/sad visit, kind of a hello/happy birthday/goodbye visit. I'm going to try to focus on the happy part and not the sad part, if I can help it.
I didn't want to disappear without saying howdy, and also to let you know that I am typing this post on probably one of the most ancient laptops that still works. It's my dad's, and we actually have to preheat it, like a toaster oven, for about 10 minutes before we can use it. My mom says, "Sid, go preheat the computer so Julie can send an email to her friends!"
And like 10 minutes later, I can use this thing, which makes little windy whirring noises, has a plastic floppy sticking out of the drive (remember those gadgets?!) and has the screen propped up because the hinge is broken and the screen falls over if you don't hold it up with something heavy.
So while I am able, here writing on this preheated computer, I wanted to tell you that the interview I'm posting tomorrow on CALIBER is really cool and you should check it out. I have some "preheated" posts scheduled there so at least there will be something pretty to look at.
Okay, catch you later, peeps. See you when I get back from LaLa Land.
Posted by tangobaby at 7:34 PM
Monday, January 11, 2010
I happened to be on Cannery Row this weekend for a few minutes. Immortalized by John Steinbeck and now completely gutted of all history and sense of time and place, the conglomeration of "art galleries" (the Thomas Kinkade National Archives, and no, I am NOT making this up, is just a few blocks away), t-shirt boutiques and ice cream vendors are all that stand for what once was.
I had to laugh, sadly. The Thomas Kinkade National Archives made me chortle with incredulity while simultaneously making my stomach turn. (It is a hope of mine that The Painter of Light will disappear into history with the passing of our generation. At least Disney tried to infuse his view of what our saccharine world should be with a bit of humor, and I can't even imagine Uncle Walt establishing his own National Archive in his own lifetime...but I digress.)
But what a very strange, feeble attempt to educate the t-shirt and seashell-buying tourist trade: the prevalence of banners on every lightpost up and down the street, rainbow colored banners sporting folksy caricatures of Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck, the reverse sides of the flags bearing quotes about Doc and Cannery Row.
I don't know about you, but as much as I have loved reading Steinbeck, I hadn't even heard of Ed Ricketts and The Log from the Sea of Cortez until about six years ago, when The Boy took me on a trip. We parked by the ocean and we sat in his vintage Jeep; he read long passages of this book to me while we watched the gulls dip into the waves and kept on the lookout for otters. Since that time, The Log from the Sea of Cortez has become one of my most favorite books. Not because it was read to me aloud, with much love and sense of sharing, but because it's a wonderful book about friends. And science. And the love of learning.
People lurching full-bellied from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (to think that the legacy of Hollywood pablum Forrest Gump is a seafood restaurant) to the Thomas Kinkaide National Archives will never know what those flags fluttering above their heads stand for.
Traveling to and from the Monterey Peninsula this weekend, through what I call Steinbeck Country: Salinas, Watsonville, Castroville—reminded me of the reality of what he experienced. What he wrote about. His travels, the poverty, and the love he encountered along the way. I've posted some images on flickr, with the corresponding quotes below. I have to imagine that these quotes, this sort of brilliance will survive all Thomas Kinkades and t-shirt vendors, even if the places he wrote about will never be again.
“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
“Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”
“This I believe: That the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.”
“We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say -- and to feel -- ''Yes, that's the way it is, or at least that's the way I feel it. You're not as alone as you thought.”
“A dying people tolerates the present, rejects the future, and finds its satisfactions in past greatness and half remembered glory.”
Saturday, January 9, 2010
I'm packing up my stuff and heading out of town this weekend, doing some wedding photography in Carmel.
It sounds so very wrong to say "I'm going to shoot a wedding party this weekend" or "It was so fun shooting all of those little kids, they were adorable", etc. etc.
We have to come up with a better turn of phrase, us photographer types.
Anyway, I hope you're having fun doing whatever you're doing. I'm actually packing more lenses than shoes. Boy, have times changed.
This photo will be posted in all its gigantic cuteness tomorrow on CALIBER.
Monday, January 4, 2010
When I was in the third grade, I had a green, short thermos. Wide-mouthed and plastic in that 70s avocado green that was so en vogue. The thermos was just large enough to accommodate one of the small cans of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, and for some reason, I was very aware that this thermos was lined with glass. I remember carrying it gingerly and worrying about it often. That I would drop the thermos and the glass would break. I remember that being a big concern of mine, although I was glad to have the soup for lunch. One day, at lunch on the blacktop, a boy grabbed my thermos. To my amazement, he threw it as far as he could across the playground. I remember being frozen, stunned. Shocked. It seemed that he had thrown that thermos incredibly far, and then he ran away. When I retrieved my short, wide-mouthed avocado green thermos from across the playground, it was leaking soup from its threaded matching cap and when I picked it up, I could sense the broken glass moving around inside the liquid. In my little 8-year old mind, it felt like a huge violation and a random, unexplicable act that frightened me.
Last year, reluctantly, I signed up for Facebook. To this day, I'm still not quite sure why I did. My sister, almost five years younger than me and more of a socially inclined person, encouraged me by saying things like, "You'll have so much fun finding your old school friends."
Which always made me laugh because we both knew darned well that I barely remembered anyone from any year of school, K through 12. And probably college, for that matter. With whom and why would I reconnect? Even my mom would ask me periodically, after some mother of a former classmate said, "Tell Julie so-and-so said hello!" and I would draw a total blank. My mom would say, "Do you remember going to school at all?" And we would laugh but it was pretty strange. I can remember my teachers, what we learned, what the classrooms looked like, but I'm hard-pressed to remember any given child besides their name. What I also discovered was how much I didn't remember about myself, which was a little more disconcerting.
A few weeks ago, I looked at the people on Facebook who were in my high school. There were a couple of girlfriends there, girls I remember hanging out with after school, getting pizza and sodas with. They're married, they have kids now. They politely said hello when I sent messages to them. I complimented them on their families.
There was the usual assortment of pretty girls I never spoke to, cheerleaders that annoyed me, and the boys especially that made me draw my accustomed mental blank slate. A few of the dorky ones seemed vaguely familiar.
And then I saw that boy. The Thermos Boy. I sent him a funny note, something like:
Hey, you probably don't remember me but in third grade, you broke my soup thermos and I thought I should let you know. Happy Holidays!
I didn't expect a reply. I guess I didn't expect him to remember me. Expecting that most people wouldn't remember me just like I didn't really remember them. I was just happy to have something to recall. I don't know what I would have written to anyone else (Hey, we went to school together but I don't remember shit about you isn't worth writing.)
But I was wrong. This person did remember me, with much kindness. In fact, he remembered me quite well and throughout our most of our school years. He recounted teachers and kids that were lingering in the back of my mind, dusted off and dimly seen again for the first time in years. It was charming, a sweet novelty. He also apologized about the Thermos.
It was so intriguing seeing myself through someone else's eyes, someone who I barely knew but who seemed to know the-me-that-was quite well.
He lives in another state now, has a little boy himself. He mentioned that he would be visiting the Bay Area for Christmas, and I suggested that they come up for a visit, and I would take their photos together as a present. I was curious to see what we would talk about. I wanted more of my memories.
We had a lovely visit. His son is a warmly engaging and friendly boy, who walks up to everyone he sees and says Hi! and grabs your index finger in a tiny handshake. The child also walks around saying Hey, you! Look at this! and points to all kinds of things he finds of interest.
And all through that, like dictation, came little snippets of my life, not from me, but from this man who was somehow still a boy, too. We walked around the Conservatory of Flowers, a fin-de-siecle confection of a building, humid like the tropics and full of mist and broad green leaves. In this greenhouse, the pale winter light was colored as it passed through the old stained glass, shining brightly blues, reds, greens, violets on us as we looked at the fecundity of the jungle.
I felt like I had been given a gift. The gift of myself as a girl remembered, green and vibrant like a little precious terrarium and I could peer inside of it, and see the tiny girl's world that lived inside. The green, new and tender world of life before sex: before the body is changed, broken, before the heart has expectations too big to realize, before the mind grows up and thinks it knows everything.
And no more of the memory of the broken thermos, with those sharp shards floating inside.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Where I like to think a lot of my perspective comes from...
I've posted Pale Blue Dot before, and it's an essay that is worth reading often. I think when the words are juxtaposed with such beautiful visuals, it's incredibly powerful.
"Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives...."
"...To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."
Happy first day. Happy fresh perspective.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
You can see the big image here.
I don't do New Year's resolutions. I might have in the past, in fact, I'm sure I did at some point in life. Somewhere along the way, I dropped that tradition. Probably wasn't making much headway in whatever I had resolved to do.
And I don't make those lists of things I did in the past, either. I can hardly remember what I did last week, let alone try to scratch out what I was doing a year ago, or heaven help me, a decade ago (this being a more pivotal, albeit still arbitrary date, people really seem to be taking this whole decade thing to heart).
I just figure if I'm going to do something, for good or bad, I'll just do it when I decide to do it. That keeps it pretty simple for me.
That being said, I wanted to give a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who responded via email or on the blog about helping HAMO and the Diapers for Everyone 2010 Diaper Drive. I have to say I'm a little behind in getting back to you all who volunteered to donate or help in some way, but know your offers are duly noted... and you'll be contacted soon.
I guess I do have a sort of resolution process. It's called Looking Forward to Good Things. Some of those things, like the Diaper Drive and working with HAMO, I know about. The rest: I'll just have to wait to be surprised!
Wishing you the best kind of New Year's Eve in whatever manner you choose to celebrate it. And mostly, a year full of Looking Forward to Good (Surprise) Things.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Can't start the new year fresh without a new project, right?
Some (many?) of you might be familiar with the young homeless family that I was helping last year. I'm assuming that most of you know part or all of the story but if not, the link is here. Blogging about K's story is how I came in contact with a lot of you in the first place. ;-)
Meeting K (the homeless mother and domestic abuse survivor) and her young children (ages 9, 7 and three months) was a life-changing, eye-opening happy/sad experience. I learned first-hand about the dangers, fears and daily life of a family living on the edge of society in my beloved adopted hometown: San Francisco.
Right after I met K, a young mother named Lisa wrote to me and asked how she could help. She met me at a run-down hotel in the Tenderloin, 2 kids in tow (ages 3 and 1), and brought diapers, bags of clothes and toiletries and nursing supplies for this family. I can't tell you enough how happy and needed these donated supplies were to K. Especially the diapers.
I came to know Lisa and also to help her when I could with her budding effort called Help a Mother Out (HAMO) which she had just started with a friend. Through constant effort, Lisa and HAMO have collected over 130,000 diapers for shelters, crisis nurseries in the SF Bay Area. The Bay Area does not have a diaper bank and there is no other organized way of helping needy families get diapers for their babies.
Why all the explanation?
When I was working with K and the kids over the course of several months, I learned a lot. Let me give you an example.
When I first met K, as a homeless mother, she was not on any sort of assistance at all. She fled an abusive, dangerous husband with all the cash she could gather and found a cheap hotel in the Tenderloin. That hotel was $60 a night. The day I met her was her last day in the hotel unless she could come up with more money (which many of you were kind enough to help with). The following month after I met her, she started to receive welfare. These are real numbers below. I became very familiar with them over the course of months last year.
- $583 a month for a family of four for housing (that means finding housing for $145 a week in SF. Try to imagine what kind of housing that will get you.)
- $380 a month in food stamps for a family of four ($95 a week/$23.75 per person, per week. That doesn't go far, trust me.)
- The part that gets left out... diapers. If you're on food stamps, it doesn't provide for diapers, just food. So if you're already struggling, you don't have any extra money for diapers.
- Also, diapers are expensive, especially in San Francisco where you don't have access to Target, Costco and big box stores or online. Small corner groceries, especially in the Tenderloin, means more expensive diapers than moms can purchase in other neighborhoods.
It doesn't take a lot of imagination to realize that a baby in dirty diapers gets sick more. Goes to the emergency room more. Means more stress and hardship for a child and a mother living under already incredibly stressful circumstances. Many parents can't afford diapers and food, so they get food. They try to wash out disposable diapers and reuse them. (BTW, laundromats have various rules about washing cloth diapers, and many do not allow it, in case you were wondering. And having enough cloth diapers on hand is obviously another expense most families can't afford either.) So if you're low income or homeless, odds are you don't have a washer and dryer for cloth diapers.
These kids get sick and that affects all of us. (I know in K's instance, she must have taken the baby to the emergency room at least six times.)
So now to the project at hand. What I'm working on with Lisa:
- HAMO’s Mother's Day Playdate will be held in the Bay Area (most likely SF).
- The goals of the event are:
- to physically collect diapers and
- to raise awareness of the need for diapers, why families may not have access to them, and the health and social repercussions of going without diapers, and
- HAMO online gives people easy ways to help. (HAMO also has diaper drive kits that can be utilized in any city where someone wants to create their own event.)
- The event will be a 2-3 hour playdate at a location TBD.
- We hope to have a major sponsor to underwrite the cost of the facility rental (unless we can get a place to donate a few hours for the cause). We're working on it. But more than one sponsor is definitely encouraged and welcome.
- Guests are asked to bring a pack of diapers in lieu of the normal per child admission price.
- Attendance goal of 100 families.
- Invitation list will include bloggers, entertainment professionals, and social media and tech-savvy locals as well as local mom and dad influencers.
- A place to hold the event (SF would be ideal but we're open).
- Catering or help with getting food and beverages
- Donated shwag for gift bags
- Media coverage – local print, web, radio, television
- Other nice to haves:
- Door prizes
- Live entertainment – musician preferred.
- Funds or talent donations to cover additional entertainment (ie: crafts, body glimmer art, balloon animals)
If you can and want to help in some way, you can do one or a few of these things.
- You can go online and purchase a pack of diapers on Amazon through HAMO's donation link that will be sent directly to one of the shelters or nurseries in the Bay Area. Now, or now and again in May.
- You can come to the event in May and bring your kid (if you have one), a package of diapers and meet us.
- If you have kids and know other parents that can help, please pass this on to them. Schools, nurseries, day care, churches, synagogues, other organizations... all around us are people who can help if they knew about it.
- If you have access to catering or food to provide...
- If you know people in the media or can help us network and get more exposure...twitter, facebook, blogs.
- If you would like to be involved in planning the event, let me know! We would like to have a host committee because Lisa and I can't do this all by ourselves.
The Big Picture.
The Big Picture is that this event will kick off a month of awareness and diaper donations online through HAMO. Lisa has picked May since it's the month of Mother's Day. I have signed up to help her make this event as successful as I can. I'll be working on other projects with Lisa, mostly photographic, that will illustrate what we're doing, but this event is the most important part of the puzzle right now as far as the future direction of HAMO is concerned.
I am open to any sort of suggestion, advice, connections and help. Please contact me about any questions you might have, too (tangobaby2 AT gmail.com). Whatever it is you can do, and for some, a donation isn't in the cards (I can totally understand). But even passing this post along to others you know creates the snowball I'm looking for. I've experienced the snowball effect before and because of that, I know it can happen again.
I'm not a mother. I've never had kids. But even I know how a little something like a clean diaper can make a child's life better.
I look forward to hearing from you!
ps.: Facts to keep in mind:
- In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are over 60,000 children under the age of five who are living under the poverty level.
- The cost of a healthy change of diapers for one child is about $100 a month.
- Food stamps and WIC program do not cover the cost of diapers
- In low-income and homeless families, babies often spend the entire day or longer in a single diaper. Inadequate diaper changing leads to numerous health risks and problems.
Charming naked vintage baby photo found on this blog.
Monday, December 28, 2009
The Boy recently found out what a "push present" is. (To be fair, I only found out what a Push Present was not so long ago, too. If you don't have kids, and don't plan to, there's just a whole entire vocabulary that you'll never acquire.)
He asked me if I had ever heard of the concept, wide eyed. To which I replied that I thought perhaps the concept of the Push Present is something akin to a Hallmark Holiday, wherein deBeers and Harry Winston, plotting in an evil jewelry cabal, cooked up a diabolical scheme to create another reason for an unsuspecting populace to buy fine diamonds.
I'm not sure when the Push Present hit the mainstream consciousness and I'll never be familiar enough with the demographic of new parents to know if this is the totally middle-class/ upper-class American phenomena that it seems to be at the outset. Did this particular gift find its start on the pages of People magazine? Anyway, I'm guessing that in the olden days (i.e., when you and I were born) that the Push Present was basically... the kid. Now it's the kid AND something encrusted with diamonds, which for an earlier generation of moms who never got a Push Present must be a little bummed to say the least, there must be some sort of retroactive compensation, to be fair?).
I'm not one for owning fancy jewelry, or even real jewelry. (Which is a good thing as I live with a guy who doesn't believe in buying it either.) I have a box full of costume jewelry and I'm BIG on rhinestones. First of all, rhinestones can be just as sparkly and exciting (and due to their being cheap bits of glass, you can have lots of them), and secondly, if a rhinestone falls out of a ring or an earring, you won't throw up thinking about how much that just cost you. I don't want the pressure.
However it did get me thinking about us non-child producing females. The Boy asked me what kind of present we should get. I don't know about the rest of you, but I decided that I should get a Tolerance Tribute (it's all about alliteration to make a catchy and lasting impact on the mind). For putting up with daily shenanigans more akin to living with someone who's part Spanky from the Little Rascals, part Harpo (as in the Marx Brothers) and the rest Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. In short, trouble.
The Boy can be a full-time job, too. I just didn't give birth him.
Yesterday we went to the "Cartier in America" exhibit at the Legion of Honor. It's one of those things that you go to, thinking This will be cool. I'm glad I have a membership so I don't have to pay and stand in line and end up leaving saying, Yeah, I totally need a tiara. Even if in your wildest imagination you had never considered a tiara, when you leave this exhibit, you will feel like owning one now is pretty much a necessity. And, that it should be a real tiara, with real Cartier-style diamonds in it. Granted, you might not have anything to wear with the tiara, but that's not the point.
On a less shallow note, the exhibit is pretty gorgeous and extraordinary. While your eyes are dazzled and you take in all of the exquisite detail and workmanship of these artisans of a bygone era (yes, because the newer Cartier pieces can't hold a candle to the Belle Époque stuff), you also can't help imagining the subtle pressure and competition amongst the elite who commissioned, bought and wore these items. Who will have the bigger tiara, the heavier brooch, the more elaborate cigarette case? It didn't mention on the descriptions which of these jewels might have been Push Presents, but you can use your imagination there too.