Monday, August 24, 2009

Not that Kind of a Show

This past Thursday was my first rehersal with the Rockin' Solidarity Labor Chorus led by Pat Wynne at City College. The group is mostly comprised of Bay Area activist adults, many of whom have sung with the Chorus for over a decade. Everyone was quite friendly and eager to lend a hand - an ear? - to the few newcomers. After a several warm up exercises (ex: "me me me me me me me me MEEEEE!"), we jumped into the songbook. The Chorus is presently preparing for a Labor Day Weekend performance of Pete Seeger music. We sang "If I Had a Hammer" by Segeer and Lee Hayes, later sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary. We sang "Round and Round Hitler's Grave" by Lampell, Seeger, and Guthrie and "66 Highway Blues" also by Seeger and Guthrie.

Pat Wynne introduced two new songs to the protest music canon: "Blue Cross" sung to the tune of "Blue Skies" by Frank Jacobs ; and "Single Payer" sung to the tune of "Solidarity Forever" by Arnie Passman. I am truly a talentless singer (you won't hear me sing a note higher than "Gold Dust Woman" at karaoke) but I experience such deep feelings of joy and pride from singing this beautiful, SECULAR, political music! An undeniable connection to the history of struggle exudes from the booming voices of the choristers. San Francisco has officially made me soft.

I'll be out of town for the Labor Day show but I believe there is something scheduled for October 6th in Berkeley (of course!).

St. Helena, CA: !Ruby Does Napa!

We stopped at the William Harrison Winery in St. Helena on our way our of town after Barnburner. The vintner gave us a thorough tour (though light on the pours!) of the family run, small batch facility. THE VINE WAS RIPE FOR A VIDEO! (You may or may not notice that the iMovie techniques on this here blog are improving with each release. Errrrr....)

Note: No tour would be complete without an inquiry into the on site working conditions. The vintner gave a kind but oblique response. He was not interested in getting into the sisepuede-ismos of the industry.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Napa, CA: Barnburner 2009

This past weekend Ben, Pete, Lula, and took a ride up to Napa for fellow alumnus Bronson Johnson's annual BARNBURNER party at his cabin beneath the redwoods. The weekend had sort of a high brow/low brow 1920s theme with women in flapperqesue dresses and men in hobo suits. I brought a headpiece but was feeling too bashful/itchy/cold/lazy to sport the fringe dress - CAN YOU BELIEVE I WAS THE LEAST COSTUMED OF THE LOT?! It was a strange sensation to be the plain clothes cop among a crowd of accoutred ladies and gents. It was also relaxing.

We arrived and set up camp amid the brambles then joined the group of 30 or 40 partygoers for dinner outside of the cabin. Upon nightfall Devine's Jug Band took stage for some Americana tunes (see vid below). A cabaret troupe performed some numbers. The hostesses served whoopie pies (I later caught Lula face deep in the leftovers atop the dining room table!). We started seeing stars and got that's-my-hat-funky around the bonfire. We also spent some quality time in the Sponge Bob bouncy castle that was not at all out of place in such a scenic location (see vid below).

The next day the lot of us brunched at Alexis Baking Company (delicious!) in downtown Napa.

tents in the brambles

homemade whoopie pies

cabaret act; best hobo

7duncan; bonfire

that's my hat; bouncy castle

Here is a youtube vid of the bouncy castle (FAIL):

And some sweet tunes from Devine's (Meredith!!! DROOL!):

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cuba Va! Part 4

Here is one more quick vid from our event with Pastors for Peace with the families of the Cuban Five political prisoners at the famous Anti-Imperialist Plaza in front of the now ticker-less U.S. Interests Section (I hope the CIA got some nice glamour shots of us from their tinted windows!) ---> AND OF COURSE ANTONIA IS YACKING IN THE BACKGROUND!

Cuba Va! Part 3

One more!

Here is a video from one of the nights at Havana's carnaval when Althea, Betty, and I went to visit our old friend. We walked from Jesus' house down to the water then up around the streets to the yard at Hotel Nacional (just for the views! not to be confused with the bourgeois patrons!). There was a flash rainstorm moments after I shot the last clip. Mayhem ensued so quickly that both Althea and I thought there had been an outbreak of gunshots. Later on a friend of a friend drove us back to Caimito in his mercado negro side hustle government vehicle. We were stopped by controls on the highway - causing a momentary freakout for all involved - but we made it back to camp safely with ease.

Cuba Va! Part 2

Belgh, I do not like video "editing"!

Tonight I scrapped together a few more videos from the brigade. It is super boring and tedious and making my computer explode. The Universe WANTED me to accidentally delete all of that long gone footage!

The first video is a montage of different clips from various moments in Havana. Note the Plaza de la Revolución, el Capitolio, swimmers along el Malecon, scenes from the Verdado neighborhood, and art by the Muraleando community group.

The second video is from one of our work sites. Most days we were working in organopónicos (very inspiring system and history more thoroughly explained by Wikipedia!) but on this day in Caimito we were cleaning guayaba and papaya trees.

More to come!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cuba Va! Part 1

HELLO! On Monday 142 Brigadistas passed through U.S. Customs into Buffalo without a skirmish (an agent opened my luggage but probably quit searching on account of its stench!). The Associated Press covered the civil disobedience and 200+ publications picked up the story. Some press here, here, here, and here. I am proud to be part of the oldest anti-imperialist, Cuban solidarity organization that, along with Pastors for Peace, is credited by the U.S Government for creating an "enforcement and public relations dilemma." regarding its ban on travel to Cuba. Plus, nothing is more satisfying then sending a big FUCK YOU to Washington by politely declining to answer the questions of a federal agent.

In brief, the 40th Contingent of the Venceremos Brigade was historical. In our two weeks we transversed much of the country's geography ---> see maps above. We worked in the fields and celebrated the 26 de Julio (Raul gave us a shout during his big speech from Holguín!). Old friends reunited and new friendships formed. I am finding it hard to encapsulate such an experience into a blog post (not unlike last year). I often think of something poetic and meaningful to say and then it dissolves. In an effort to better illustrate my experience I skipped the photos and switched to video. Regrettably, I accidentally deleted all of the footage from our first week in the Eastern Provinces, including the most memorable exchange between the Brigade and a quinceñera court in Bayamo and the would be footage of the would be boyfriends Antonia and I met at the beloved mejunje in Santa Clara. Worse, I also deleted the best video ever of Jesus' new apartment in Cayo Hueso, Habana. I'm still bummed about that one and I don't want to talk about it (!). I'll post the vids as I get to them. First experiments with iMovie: