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Life is beautiful

Happiness…a purity of happiness that is so rare, I filled the train with it, and arriving in Norwalk it was far too big to fit on a bus so I walked the 2 miles home through the darkness singing aloud to ska-p on my headphones and feeling as though life…well. Life is truly beautiful.

Shall I share the secret? It is that I have changed the world. A tiny little piece of it to be sure, but in a way that may impact the lives of many others. It’s a bit similar to the high you get from a good action, like the day we used press and the city housing department and a critical mass of protesters to force the police to protect human rights rather than property rights and force the armed security guards of the Morrison hotel to let us in. Tenants cheered us as we roamed the corridors. That was a good day but today, today was even better. Today gave meaning to so many years of work and belief. Today represented the difference between tenants cheering organizers and organizers cheering tenants. It showed me how many years it can take for someone to step into their own and the immense beauty of such a thing in action. It validated the need for long term vision over short term gains, how right we were to always struggle against the demands of quick fixes, emergency responses and funder driven results. It is a deeply profound thing, a permanent victory not a momentary one, and one that builds speed as it goes, irreversible and always stronger. I believe that what will come from here will be truly extraordinary…bigger then I could ever imagine because it is not just me who is fighting, but us. This whole world is like Estero beach in Mexico–wealth, education, privilege, pristine English and usually a white skin on one side of the fence, and everyone else on the other. I am still on the right side of the fence, and together with the friends here with me I believe we shall tear it down…at least this small section of it. Prove that it can be done. Make a difference for our community and help it step into its own. It takes so long because the fence is hardwired inside most of us wherever we stand, the feeling that we are where we are supposed to be is so hard to overcome. Most people don’t even know it’s there, or how much they give way to a perception that whiter, higher class, more professional is better. It takes us working together to overcome it, and now I don’t just believe it is possible, I know it is. And this is the only thing that can move us to the conversation about what must happen to make real change, this is what it takes to move thousands to action, not hundreds. It is what the mass movements in latin america have proven…who will risk all for incremental change and a sensible plan of minor policy adjustments led by those who risk nothing? Professionals should put themselves in service of the vision of those who do risk all, and never seek to limit it believing that their position means they know best. For this to happen there is a desperate need for those who can stand up to privilege and direct it, who can articulate where the greatest need lies, articulate the vision not of what is possible but of what is necessary, who can grow into leadership and bring others with them. It takes rejecting once and for all the idea that poverty and marginalization makes people less than those economically above them and that solutions come from the top. It takes the poor stepping into responsibility, taking ownership of struggle, speaking their minds, educating themselves in what they don’t know, and holding themselves and others accountable to the greater vision. It is popular education and years of work and friendship. It is helping people discover within themselves their own capacity to do all of these things, and the courage they always had to risk standing up…standing up always bears a risk. And I watched them say they were taking it all on with a smile, and it was so beautiful I almost cried. Life is beautiful when it has this sort of meaning…and it is in risk that we find the meaning.

I rode the train home, saw the potential in everyone around me, and loved them all. Mi gente.

HUD Leaves the Business of Housing

Alphonso Jackson is leaving HUD, and he’s leaving under a cloud of criminal investigation for corruption in the handing out of federal contracts…but there are a lot of other reasons he should be leaving which sadly aren’t getting enough attention in the press. As a political appointee, and therefore an entirely political animal, you could argue that he is simply following the party line, following orders. I think we’ve all heard that before. Why wasn’t he fired in 2006 when he boasted in a public speech that he had revoked a contract with someone when they told him they did not like Bush? Or when he was accused in a lawsuit by a local Housing Authority of trying to force them to sell land to a developer he knew, and then gutting their budget when they refused? Now he’s the one resigning, I know it’s under pressure, but clearly he’s been allowed to save face.

Still, the deeper, much more important issue here is the reality of a federal government steadily dis-investing in housing in this country even as real wages are falling, rents are skyrocketing, the population of homeless folks is being swelled by women and children, and almost everyone but the very wealthy are only a paycheck or two away from eviction. A serious illness in the family or a lay-off and many of us would be in trouble. Given the sub-prime mortgage crisis, many thousands have already lost their homes. So lets take a look at those lucrative New Orleans contracts that are currently under investigation, what exactly was the federal government paying contractors to do in New Orleans? It certainly wasn’t to build housing for the thousands of refugees spread across the nation. New Orleans is actually a perfect case study showing how the federal government is slowly withdrawing from public housing and leaving hundreds of thousands of citizens vulnerable to the bubbles of the market. And no one will be bailing them out.

In 1996 there were 13,500 public housing units in New Orleans. 9 years later, just before Katrina, that number had already been reduced by almost half to 7,100 through programs like Hope VI; 2,000 of those units were vacant, scheduled to be demolished. 5,146 families lived in public housing before the hurricane. How many have been allowed to return? About 1,000 families. And HUD continues to put forward the plan to demolish another 5,000 units, of which they are proposing to replace around 20%. The federal government will have gone from providing 13,500 homes for needy families to a grand total of around 2,000 homes, all within the space of 12 years.

I heard a lot of speculation on the news about the mindset of those people who had refused to leave New Orleans. Leaving aside the fact that many poor people did not have the means to get out of town, I believe this definitely bears out their fear that once they left, they would not be allowed back. Poor people aren’t stupid, and balancing personal risk with keeping your home is a dilemma that many would find very hard.

The other way, less direct way that HUD is putting people onto the streets? When the Federal Housing Authority insures the mortgage of a low-income home-buyer, and that home-buyer defaults on their mortgage, then the FHA pays the mortgage off and turns the property over to HUD. Buildings between 1 and 4 units are eligible for FHA insurance, so HUD receives a number of buildings with between 1 and 4 families living in them as tenants. Their policy is to evict all of the tenants, which they can do even in rent-controlled areas, and then auction off the building. The much-publicized wave of foreclosures and the crash of the sub-prime market has undoubtedly had thousands of silent and unremarked victims. I worked with one such building several years ago where we were trying to arrange the sale of a foreclosed upon 4 unit building to a local non-profit affordable housing developer. Our goal was to keep the tenants in the building as all four families had lived there for over 10 years, and one of the tenants had lived there for over 20 years and was incredibly active in the work to improve the neighborhood. We managed it in spite of HUD, one of their employees actually told me over the phone that they were “not in the business of housing.” There are a multitude of witty answers possible to such a statement, but my jaw dropped and I could not think of a single one. Still, the woman was right, it certainly seems true that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is no longer in the business of housing.

Also published at http://www.allvoices.com/users/Andrea#tab=blogs&group=2,widget=blogs&page=2&filter=popular

last wednesday

Forcing myself to write for myself later on…last night I went to dinner with Maria and Araceli and Monic to la Guelaguetza…mmm, mole and nopales and quesadillas with huitlaco…huitzlaco…huitzlacochitl? Maybe? It’s some nahuatl word and I don’t think that’s right…It’s a mushroom that grows on corn and absolutely delicious, I’d never had it before…

And then this morning I went to see Agustina…she made me feel so much better about everything because here she is in her very own office, her business started with the money from the Morrison struggle

I had some clothes needing a bit of taking in, and Agustina always inspires me, she’s an amazing incredible woman, and it made me so happy to see her again, it’s been awhile…she has also learned to drive since I last saw her! And her business is now taking in a profit, if you need anything tailored let me know and I shall give you the address!

Today went to lunch with Linda but we were so busy talking I didn’t take pictures…and then to dinner with dona Irene y Pati, here’s my adopted mexican grandmother making gorditas

They were soooo good, and I can make them as well now…but I ate far too much, I shall be rolling onto my plane I think. I biked home, the skies have finally cleared and it was cold and lovely and a full moon. Beautiful. Nights like this I love L.A.

twenty f’ing four

I’m watching the season premiere of 24, though for how much longer I do not know…jack has emerged from 2 years of torture in a chinese prison with a nasty looking left hand, a splendid physique, a tan, and all of his teeth, if it weren’t for the artistic scars, long hair and beard you’d think he’d been at club med. The dialogue when he met his buddies for the first time after two years of torture in a chinese prison was priceless. He’s just escaped from the evil arab terrorists the us gov handed him over to, in the most gruesome fashion possible mind you, and has gone rogue again because no one will believe his information because they are all fucking idiots. We have the evil arab in our midst taking advantage of the nice trusting white family…that is infuriating, and the gov has just blown up a house in inglewood. Anyways, all politics aside (hard for me to do of course), this plot has holes in it a mile wide, perhaps they are really hoping that the split screen and clock counting down will be enough to distract the viewer. They really should pay me mad money to rewrite their scripts so an intelligent person can sit through them without feeling a bit insulted. I suppose I am still sitting here and watching it, however, so I’ll give them some credit, though the freezing temperature in my house is helping ensure i remain under covers with not much better to do than watch tv. And Assad is pretty hot.

Oh, now the plot rests on stress caused by a ticket taker on the metro…the la metro redline…we have no fucking ticket takers on the la metro…dear oh dear, and we end on a cliffhanger…two more hours on tomorrow. A four hour season premiere that “will change everything,” they claim. Turns out this is the minute by minute blog, keifer sutherland is getting interviewed on fox news next, can’t wait.

I’ve just had three of the most inspiring days of my life, people taking back their right to the city, the battle is on and it’s almost tragic I’m leaving the states…it’ll make the next three weeks inspired though, i’m all fired up again. Right, i just have to say the news is absolute crap, holes in the plot a mile wide much like 24. Are we at war? cause fox news does not seem to have realized it, the latest car chase got pretty emotional though, and i’m glad they reviewed what exactly the OJ simpson case was about and recapped his book. well, here we go, we’re going after osama again, he was the target the whole time after all, that’s a relief. And crack federal troops in ski masks and carrying automatic weapons are wandering around Tijuana looking for drug cartel members, fox has embedded some reporters, they got a good shot of a guy with scary looking tattoos, sadly nothing else to report yet, surprisingly people are running away from the men in ski masks and very large guns.

I’m for bed I think, inspiration and alcohol really have left me a bit sleepy…that and the stupid state of television. Kiefer said about five words if you’re interested…for some reason jack is a bit subdued after two years of torture. I can’t forgive them for making that small, I really can’t.

The Great Adventure at Theosophy Hall

There is a peculiar beautiful old building in the neighborhood of the office, the Hall of Theosophy, it is entirely unexpected where it is on Grand and Jefferson and surrounded by factories. I also read W.B. Yeats’ biography a while ago and some fragments of what theosophy was stuck with me…Madame Blavatsky and her familiars, bizarre is what I remember mostly, very bizarre.

So tonight, with the support of Jose J. Zamarripa and the knowledge that I will soon be leaving this place forever, we are going to investigate by attending the weekly wednesday introductory talk on Theosophy. All have warned us against it, all have declared us fools, none have dared to join us…we have left the address with five different friends, together with detailed instructions on how to extricate us if we do not return home within three days…

If all goes well, however, we will listen for a while, sneak out the back door early and without having given up our identities, and go to the few remaining bars downtown that we have not been too…since this list is different for both of us, it should be quite a few. So, to increase your anticipation for the exciting finale to this adventure I leave you with a short description of theosophy which sounds happily and utterly ridiculous…but first, my favourite part of their declaration…” The work it has on hand and the end it keeps in view are too absorbing and too lofty to leave it the time or inclination to take part in side issues.” I’m going to start using that myself…

from Blavatsky.net:

“Theosophy is a fragment of the ancient, once universal, wisdom teaching.

The masters of Theosophy, located in Tibet and around the world, preserve and extend this ancient wisdom. Periodically they send forth one of their own – or a messenger – to help spread this teaching to all of humanity.

hpbyoungIn the 1800’s they had been searching for a century for the next messenger and finally settled upon Helena Blavatsky, born to a noble Russian family. She saw the master who would be her teacher in her dreams as a child. She met him in Hyde Park in London when she was 20. She managed to enter Tibet and was trained by those masters in Tibet from 1868 to 1870. From 1875 through her death in 1891 she spread that message around the world.

Theosophy is the name Blavatsky gave to that portion of knowledge that she brought from the masters to the world. It comes from the term “Theosophia” used by the Neoplatonists to mean literally “knowledge of the divine”.”

kosher yemeni food

It’s so yum! I delight in food, the love is heart felt and deep rooted though it does not include the shishi or the overpriced. The Magic Carpet (close your eyes girl, look inside girl, let the sun take you away…I’ve been singing that all damn afternoon) on Pico and La Cienaga – highly recommended, had our staff party there this afternoon…I mean, look at this spread:

Even Amaya liked it though you can’t really tell

She’s finally getting to the interesting age where she can actually talk, I must confess I don’t quite know what to do with children before they hit that milestone…and the worst is that every day is a new day with babies, they’re your best friend and then tomorrow comes and they don’t have any clue who you are and you have to start all over again, fickle little buggers I must say. But I like them once you can talk and play more than peek-a-boo, me and Amaya have nice long conversations now where we both get to make up all of the words. Anyways, food is delicious, for the vegetarians the eggplant moussaka is the best I’ve had ever, eggplant seems to be one of the few things I just can’t seem to cook. The bread is of the best as well.

This is my plate, showing two of my greatest weaknesses – my dislike of cooked carrots and my unfortunate tendency to amass cutlery. It does feel good to get this off my chest…

The ambience is unbeaten as well, here’s an action shot of the indomitable Beverly, lately my practical partner in crime

And a mannekin…a first for me as far as restaurant decoration goes. This gentleman was a first as well

I don’t know what he’s selling but I bought some…

ahhhhhhh sunday

I love sundays, long and mellow and full of rest. Those are the good ones, and by that standard I have had a superlative one, highly unexciting however, this is a good blog to read right before bed. I woke up late, got up, had a cup of coffee and some homemade biscotti, opened up the times crossword (it didn’t go well at all sadly), fell back asleep on the couch, woke up, had some more coffee, got some quality email done, took a shower about 3…that was a bit of an awakening, turns out my feet were frozen almost solid and it took a few painful minutes as they wakened back into life, can’t believe LA is this fucking cold. Wandered down to the drugstore and bought some wine and some packing tape…i was going to make mulled wine, I’m feeling rather medieval today and it felt like just the thing for a little holiday pick-me-up, sadly, I did not realize orange juice was necessary and am not fancying another little walk to the drugstore. I might go pull some kumquats off of my tree, but they are very small and did I say I was feeling lazy? I am, very. Even so, I am going to clean the kitchen in a moment and cook to the cheerful tunes of chichi peralta, more dancing than cooking actually…once i finish off my tea.

Had to work yesterday, thanks all of you that came! Luckily we know a bit about making work fun, here’s our little holiday event, Son del centro and eastside cafe and friends to make the day go faster…

It rained yesterday which means we didn’t get much turn out which was sad, it is highly amusing how LA shuts down and retreats into itself in the face of some showers! Still, the music was great, and folks missed seeing someone play the jawbone of a very large cow! That alone was worth a trip in the rain I think, and my photographs were another, I actually decided to sell some which was nerve wracking because what if no one liked them? Luckily people did and I sold almost enough to pay for the new printer I bought to print them out on…made almost seventy dollars in fact in spite of low turnout, how exciting is that? Only one woman sniffed and told me I should have made them bigger and wandered away without buying one…I was able to laugh that comment off with Davin’s help, though I’m a bit sensitive about my photos and my writing I must admit. I’m working on thick skin but it hasn’t quite grown in yet!

Anyways, tea almost done…second band dhum machale and they were great though not quite my taste, a bit too R&B really, but perhaps it’s just that as they were setting up I was convinced they would be playing some nice cuban son…I mean check out the guitar players outfit! I also loved the guy on the keyboards…

The best part was that they had one groupie…one middle aged white lady complete in belly dancing costume AND belly dancing moves, where do these people come from?? She was awesome, and convinced they will be the next big thing and we’ll all be talking about the day we saw them playing at SAJE…well, I charitably hope she is right of course. I still wish some really good indie or punk bands were knocking down our door to play in our space, but such is life.

Right, finished my tea, I wonder what I shall cook? Think I’m going to go pick some kumquats after all before it gets dark.

confundida, sola, y media triste

Quiero cantar, bailar, llorar, escribir, contar chistes riendo y correr muy lejos todo a la vez…y besar a alguien, pero quien? Estoy desolada que no tengo nadie ni nada menos mi propio deseo. Quisiera ser una estrella tan alta, tan fria que este fuego no me pudiera consumir dejando en mi estomago cenizas y nada mas. No me gustan su sabor. Si me voy quisiera irme ya sin mirar atras, y sin tener que preocuparme de toda la mierda que requiere mi salida. Quiero abrazar a la vida, vivir y amar con alegria roja y caliente, y sueno con escocia, dejando la carcel de este tristeza y amor perdido y soledad forzada y dano que yo he causado atras.

a quick break and correction to last blog

Between work on the house and work for work, such a busy bee…I’m exhausted though, about ready to say fuck it sell the house as it is! I like painting and fixing things, but only for myself not for other people, I’ve discovered I’m a bit selfish that way. The house is a tip too…only the hall got primed and some holes in the wall patched after taking the shelves I built down…Lots of holes, one or two of them were in fact oops holes that did not end up supporting shelves of any kind, here they are with their proud creator…

Wasn’t keen on getting my photo taken cause I was already feeling a bit in need of a shower, still, got my painting paints on, though I’d memorialize them since they’re not crossing the big ocean with me and will probably end up in a landfill in China. Everything I’ve painted for the past five years is represented on these pants! But the photo…all that’s missing is my tool belt and the bom chicawomwom music…oh, and a push up bra perhaps.

So last night went out to see Rafa play, haven’t seen him for ages before this weekend, met him through Manny and was a bit afraid we wouldn’t be friends anymore, but all is well…and I discovered that not all music cures all ills…Rafa’s band, well one of them, is Puttanesca ( http://www.myspace.com/puttanescatheband – check out shiny red box, it’s my fav of the one they’ve posted) and they of course were brilliant. Incredible musicians all of them and seeing them live is a pleasure like few others – weba singing, and she’s mesmerizing. “I’m looking for someone to blow the world up for” is one line I’ve remembered, wouldn’t mind one of those. She put on 3 Penny Opera by Brecht a couple of years ago in the Museum of Modern Art and that was one of the best evenings I’ve had, politics and multimedia and Rafa was playing then too, and the audience had to pick up their chairs and move with the play. Anyways, there was this guy there, kinda cute and good eye contact, though of course I’ve sworn off men entirely until February 7th when my foot touches the plane, but possibility noted…and then he got up on stage with his guitar and some blond lady and her synthesizer and momentarily I regretted my resolution until the blighter got this soulful look on his face and started to croon in harmony to a song that reminded me of peanuts…he almost redeemed himself when he put down his guitar and picked up a trumpet but the song was still slick and sappy, I think I might have heard it playing last time I went shopping for shoes…and so I downed my beer and fled the scene, the only thing to do…imagine dating someone who played music like that? Would be an ill in itself…

secret of life .2

Music is the curer of all evils, saw the best damn jazz band I’ve seen in years at Taix tonight, after some amazing Indian food and a rest stop at Rafa’s to hear some of his new songs and they were incredible…his place smelled a bit but what real musician’s doesn’t? Music carries all the pain and joy in the world, what is beautiful and what is horrible…and transcends it.