Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hewo Leslie!

The Truth
Remember in November or December 2004 at First Chinese BBQ when you said, "Sure, you and David going to Southeast Asia (for 2 months) sounds great. Why don't you call Jeff and see if he wants to go, too." When you said that it was like all debts past, present and future were cancelled. It wasn't even so much the content as the way you said it - free and easy, no baggage, no qualifiers, just, as I said completely free and easy. And there was that time, I think it was after the insane rush to the bus from Bago to Moulmein when the bus kind of appeared out of nowhere: "Quickly, you must go quickly!" the guesthouse guy was saying and somewhere between Bago and Moulmein you said (putting the mal de ojo right on me), "You owe me for this." And all I or any other sane person could say was, "You're right."

The point of all this is to say, if you start to feel worse or if you don't feel better or if you just take a notion at any point, I'll not dash, leap, race, shoot, zoom, jump, fire, zip, boogie, hotfoot, hurdle, hop, shake it, sprint, rush, fly, whoosh, whiz, rocket, bound OR any other such thing; no, I'll turn around, set the cruise control and head home in a heartbeat - I'll head home with a glad (but worried) heart. There will be NO disappointment.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Leslie’s birthday

In a dream ...
Today (3/14) was quite a day. It started more or less typically – coffee in bed together. I gave Leslie the first rose bouquet of the year. Later I walked up to Whole Foods to try their breakfast – okay, not great. Then we went shopping and we are … Walmart Shoppers … and then to BistroB.

The first thing was that Phuong gave Leslie a CD titled Phuong & Van Happy Wedding. As that was happening I looked over and we were sitting next to Yorn and his wife Ny (from those desperate days on Sycamore) and so were embracing and talking and I looked over and there were some boxes on the table and at some point still talking to Yorn realized what the boxes were. Michael, the man who manages the restaurant had given Leslie a prayer wheel that turns by heat of the candle beneath it. We had looked for one of these in Asia, and though we found one in Hong Kong, it seemed too expensive. They look Tibetan, though they are from the Tzu Chi Movement in Taiwan. And the same for the coil incense burners Michael gave to Leslie. Nobody knew it was her BD. On the way home we finally found a bird bath we like to replace the one shattered when a linb fell on it. Yes, Happy Birthday Leslie!
Here is the plan for the Grand Canyon:
Fri: Drive I-20 past Abilene, Big Sprang, Odessa - probably sleep around Pecos in rest area in my Camry Camper - which even has curtains now.
Sat: Highway 10 toward Tucson. Camp in New Mexico around Gila Natl Forest (cut off on 180 toward Silver City).
Sun: I-10 past Tucson to Phoenix via I-10/I-17. Pick David up 4pm in Phoenix and drive to GC. Camp or hotel. In the morning …
Mon: Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Campground
Tue: From BA Camp, Clear Creek Trail to Clear Creek area
Wed: Day hike Clear Creek area – probably downstream through a gorge to the Colorado River.
Thu: CC to BA Camp
Fri: From camp out via Bright Angel Trail
Sat: Hotel in Phoenix - shower
Sun: DK depart 0820 to Cali & CK to Big Bend.
Mon: Big Bend - start Boulder Meadows
Door-lying, teetering, friendly, earish, innocent, perfesser, helicoptering, sensitive nose Buddy, awww, just plain sensitive, donutting, truck-stopping, cute, annoying, always violent, sincere, tufted, awkward-lying, hopeful, appealing, publicity pooping, handsome, noble (as in this photo) Buddy!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


In my time
The first time I saw someone truly cursed was in one of the interview rooms at the Parkland (Dallas County Hospital) Psychiatric ER. I was talking with a woman who had brought her daughter and granddaughter in and their story was that the grandmother’s husband (daughter’s father and granddaughter’s grandfather) had started abusing (sexually, of course) the granddaughter and the grandmother was telling my student and me that her husband had abused her too and then her daughter and indicating the child, she said, “He’s not going top get this one” – "God-damn him!” And it felt really still and ancient and maybe a little scary in that sterile room with its government surplus chairs and desk. I knew he’d been cursed.

The next time was when I was sitting on a stoop on Annex Street where so many of the Cambodians lived. The same building where Pheap T died and that other woman who bled to death and where Esmeralda died of smoke inhalation – and I just realized that it was in the same apartment where Esmeralda died where I was sitting one day with Peng N, her son and my student, Olivia G and at one point Olivia turned to me and said in a very calm voice, conversationally, “Mr. Kemp, there’s a fire in the closet" and I turned around and sure enough, the flames were about 2-3 feet high and so we all ran to the fire and started throwing burning/smoldering clothes out the door and I remember I got hold of a tennis shoe and some melting rubber stuck to my fingers. I’ve always loved how Olivia said that. Anyway, I was sitting on the stoop of this building and a woman ran out holding a plate with both hands high over her head and ripped out an angry string of ritual-sounding words and shattered the plate on the ground.

A lot of other stuff happened in that building – 1519. Jose’s family lived there (a book right there), the two Vietnamese sisters and the daughter with MR and lots of seizures, the woman whose younger son killed the older son when they lived at San Jacinto and Peak, the man with AIDS – found by my students on outreach & the only person I’ve known in the US who had big weeping buboes, the woman with TB (well, several people there had TB, but I remember her the best because of her really sweet daughter, Patty). There were gangsters there, several of them serious criminals. One of the cops shook me down pretty good upstairs. That’s where B lived, a kid with Down’s, and his sister, who I loved and now I realize I was the best friend she ever had and may ever have. The last time I saw B, he was 20 or 22 and he was at some apartments on Bryan and someone had given him some speed and he was motoring around like people do, so that was a downer.

I read an obituary the other day and it was less in some respects and more in other respects than what I would want, so for that reason and because it’s not easy writing an obituary when you’re grieving. This way I'll take some time, get in what needs to be in. I’m starting mine now.

Monday, March 9, 2009

People I was with in that week

Divine Moments of Truth
For some reason I started thinking about people I’ve spent time with in the past ~week (other than Leslie & David):
  • Ron C – retired police officer, believes (literally) in truth, justice and the American way. You always know he'll always do the right thing. Good in every sort of fight in case that ever came up.
  • Mary H – NP who started at Agape as a student and is now my close colleague.
  • Nora A – the Agape lead promotora, a challenging life, strength like it’s just impossible to believe her strength, good Mom, merciful (full of mercy).
  • - Dan F – my church school teacher, a great man, an avatar, a living mudra of what he teaches: mercy. Photo is of Dan
  • - Dung (pronounce yoong) L – oh my goodness, Leslie and I had lunch with Dung and her husband today. I met her more than 15 years ago when she was about 12 years old, new to America, and even then, surrounded by strong and determined girls (she was one of Shirley's scouts), she stood out for her determination. Photo below is of Dung and me in front of Pho Bang
  • Jihad – why me, Lord, why am I interacting with people with names like Jihad? Refugee agency caseworker, seems like an okay guy.
  • Jay G – my neighbor, retired, lives to ride and rides to live.
  • Woman whose daughter and S-I-L burned to death, along with her husband (both are in 60s), taking care of 4 grandchildren.
  • Man with a sexually transmitted infection who, when I asked him about unprotected sex, said, “All the time.”
  • Htoo S – part of the very painful exodus of Burmese, Karen – beautiful, beyond her dreams.
  • Mary Kathleen – my niece, we haven’t talked for what? 5 years? It was really nice talking with her.
  • Brother John – enchiladas at El Taquito, where veteranos and poleece mix with the neighbors and friends.
  • Aaron M – former student, farmer, uni faculty, believes in the mission.
  • Joe C – former student – solid in the clinic and he also believes in the mission and is willing to work for it.
  • David S – the man who works on our house, supremely nice person.
  • Jackie M – one of our PNPs, another very nice person and very good to be around.
  • Pat B – our regular PNP – I didn’t actually see her, but she’s a big part of our life at the clinic and so, here’s to you Pat, good and faithful servant that you are.
  • Jim C – this guy will burst into song at any time, so be ready. Another living symbol of the message of Matthew 25:40. One of the things he regularly does (unrelated to his spontaneous singing) is go to nursing homes to visit people and to sing and play guitar for the people there. He's a good singer, too.
  • Mike H – on the front lines of holding back financial disaster. Solid.
  • Chuck H – living on the edge longer than just the past few months when the cancer came back.
  • Lance and Dylan – father and son, Lance a companion on the streets, “Mr. Jones and me stumbling through the barrio.”
There were more, some outstanding people, some less so, people that I love, people that I don't, but these are the people of that week. What is "the mission?" The practice of mercy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring garden

The gnomes have learned a new way to say hello!
Out front, the rosemary has been blooming for at least 2 months. Old Blush (China rose, 1789) was the first rose to bloom, followed by Katy Road Pink, Archduke Charles, and Maggie – though none are in full bloom yet. Tulips started blooming a few days ago and the delphiniums (old-fashion kind) will start blooming in a few days. Oxalis is blooming. Both mints are very strong, the oregano is doing well, and other bulbs and perennials are growing well. So are the weeds. The arbor over the front walk collapsed while we were out of town in December and it’s kind of propped up now as I gather energy to build the muy fabulosa new arbor of cedar, with a few inset apsaras from Cambodia. I anticipate using just a few screws.

In back, none of the roses are blooming, but the herbs look great: sage, oregano, marjoram, burnet, chervil, and the lemon grass is poking its first tender green leaves out of the brown clumps and there are clumps of garlic 1’-2’ tall in the garden and the yard. The onions are doing well, but I let the crawling creatures and drought get to some of the lettuce and chard. My buddy Aaron is bringing me some kind of heirloom tomatoes next week.

Since we've been home from Asia, we've had the backyard shed rebuilt and painted and the cottage out back (KabaƱastan) cleaned and painted.

The clinic rocks on. In the first week of March 2008 we saw 50 patients, 5 of them new. In the first week of March 2009 we saw 98 patients, 32 of them new. Welcome to the recession - lots of tense, depressed people out there. Whew, I kind of committed to myself that I wouldn't write about current, political, related events in this journal. But it sure feels like a hard rain's gonna fall.