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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I got in trouble.

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:

Hi guys! I have a new site. Come on over and see me there because I won't be over here anymore.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tangobaby is dead.

Long live julie lives here.


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


Janika and Gabrielle (9 months)


The two of them arrive around 1pm, just as lunch is being served. Proud mommy Janika tells everyone, she's got a tooth! Her first tooth!

Women of all ages, colors, sizes crowd around mother and child. The baby, in her light purple sweatsuit, is definitely a rock star. She loves the faces surrounding her, the attention, the laughter and arms reaching out to touch her.

I'm at WDDC, otherwise known as the Women's Daytime Drop-in Center, in North Berkeley. The WDDC is a non-profit program that empowers women and children to move from the streets to a home. Not all of the women here are mothers. Some are single, older women: some homeless, some getting aid for housing. All are here for lunch and companionship.

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

I didn't do it.

A few of you have been kind enough to tell me about this danged pop-up window that, well, pops up, when you come to my blog. (It happens to me too. Just click cancel and it will go away. I know, it's super annoying.)

Of course, I assumed that I f'ed something up, but come to find out that it's a bug with Twitter and I actually I had nothing to do with it. See, here it is.


However, I do have to tell some of you guys that have the embedded comments on your blogs... I can't leave comments for you. I still think it's a bug that Blogger hasn't figured out yet. What it means is that if you don't link your name to your email address or have another clear way on how to send you a message, then I might not be the only person who's trying to be in touch with you and can't.

Just mentioning it, especially to those of you who might wonder why you don't get comments or emails back sometimes...


I'm hard at work on stuff for our diaper drive and planning some photo shoots for i live here:SF. We have a new group photo up on CALIBER now... take a peek!  You can see my haircut.


Monday, January 18, 2010

More Happy.

It's still raining but I have more Happy for you.

Before the tickle.

I love her.

(My sister made her. Good work there.)

It's rainy and grim looking outside but this little face has made the sun shine already today.

You can see another image here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

On the Occasion of His 94th Birthday...

Grandpa on his birthday, with his girlies.


"Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family."  ~Anthony Brandt


Today was one of those days that I wished I had a laptop, or even a scrap of paper, for a brain dump. All those hours in the car, coming back from LA, coming back from family, from the birthday and I had so many thoughts and ideas crawling around in my head and now they've disappeared like ghosts.

With my luck, they'll wake me at 3am and then I'll try to catch them, like fireflies.

We had a lovely time. Grandpa was happy. I think we tuckered him out but in a good way that I know he won't mind.

The girlies are beautiful and must be renamed as Little Curly Girl's hair is straighter now. Princess Chubness is getting long and lean and is not really so chubby anymore. She's walking and growing little teeth and is sporting about ten thousand long eyelashes.

It's raining and I'm home.

I'm going to lie in bed and listen to it rain. Nighty nite.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writing this post is not as easy as you might think.

Hi all,

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.


Monday, January 11, 2010

In Steinbeck Country.

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

Party On.

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.

See ya!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Memories of Greener Days

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

Starting Fresh

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.