Sunday, January 30, 2011

At the Crown Bay Marina, people with different eastern European accents speaking in English to each other, two young men without shirts walking past, speaking of “the time we were in Mexico,” the boats in the slips bobbing in the wake of ferries to Water Island and the chop raised by the wind. Gertrude Stein wrote of Oakland, “There is no there there.” Which made perfect sense to me in Oakland, I hate to confess. There must be some there, somewhere. Here, there is only there—somewhere else. Here is a tableau, a few salient details that make up a reason to move on, a reason to return. All is in readiness.
The university library is renovating, removing from their collection titles like the Tzotzil Dictionary, Raising Beef Cattle, and Sheet-Metal Pattern Drafting and Shop Problems, Revised, with its architectural font and unusual shape. I find Migrants, Sharecroppers, Mountaineers and El Reino de Este Mundo, Alejo Carpentier’s 1967 poetic retelling of the story of the Haitian Revolution. (“What is the story of the Americas if not a chronicle of the magical real?” he asks, in the Prólogo.)
We recently got a post office box here in St. Thomas. I went to the Emancipation Gardens Station downtown, in which I found murals from the early forties depicting St. Thomas as it was then—or, as the artist imagined—the green hills uncluttered by cement houses, and, atop the curve of pale sand that the cruise ship docks replaced, a pyramid of cannon balls and a cannon, aimed, perhaps incidentally, at a Cunard Line steamer in the distance. It is beautiful. There were no post office boxes available there, and the clerk informed me that I would have to establish residency (at least six months) in order to get one. She was wrong, but thoroughly convincing; I had already noticed that this was a rarefied place, not for those who simply wander in off the street, entranced by the image of Emancipation Gardens. When I finally succeeded in getting an address—in the Crown Bay Marina, site of transience—Tallulah and I boarded the Safari and headed straight downtown again to the local library to claim borrowing privileges. In the children’s section I found more discarded books with titles like Careers in a Supermarket, Careers in a Restaurant and Careers in Construction, published in the mid-seventies, which hadn’t been checked out in years. The schools in Careers in Education look just like the schools I attended back in Portland, Oregon. I surreptitiously stuffed them into my bag, though the librarian had said we were “entitled to at least two.” I treasure their sans serif font and deadpan illustrations. We read them to Tallulah, adding plenty of subtext.
 "Interior Designer"

Wednesday at Smith Bay

Thanks for introducing us to the homeschool playgroup, Susan!

Friday, January 21, 2011

This post is a sort of tribute to my dad, who just left after a week and a half visit, which was also an immersion course in our particular lifestyle. He is a world traveler from a young age, supremely adaptable, and one of Tallulah's best friends. We call him Frizz. 

I'm writing this in the UVI library while Tallulah puts stickers in my hair, which, by the way, I can't recall washing, and that explains why there are no pictures of me in this series. I have other things in my hair, souvenirs of places I've been over the past couple of weeks. I can't remember how to spell, either, a terrible thing that has not happened since I got performance anxiety during a spelling competition finals in 6th grade and the word was "subtle." I've just given her my purse to play with, so I expect a child decorated with lip and eyeliner shortly. Not that I use those things myself, I just carry them around for some reason. 

After he arrived we went on a grocery mission. Our first stop, The Priority Shop, ostensibly owned by a Dominican who flies down to bring up produce in his private plane, contained nothing more than moldy taro and an incomprehensible cashier. We decided it was a front for other imports.
Foraging for fruit in the University test gardens. Crops to look forward to: passionfruit and zapotes.
Rowing to shore. Sometimes a barracuda follows along.
Local pomegranates are powder pink.
Eating fried turnovers (pate) on the beach.
Barbeque for three generations of left-handed sailors. A good marinade for pork ribs, by Adam: fermented sugar, molasses, mustard, and vinegar.
I found a big stalk of sugarcane on the street in downtown Charlotte Amalie.
Local men in suits smile indulgently at three tourists sucking on cane on the front steps of their office.
Diabetes be damned!
At the Bordeaux Agricultural Fair, drums and vegan soup.
Playing dress-up.
Tallulah comments, "This curry is like inflated balloons chasing each other around the bowl!"
Waiting for the safari bus.
Saying goodbye.

Friday, January 7, 2011

View from bathroom window, Brewer's Bay

I've been taking occasional photos from bathroom windows since visiting France in the late eighties or early nineties (who knows anymore?), appreciating their uniquely serene aspect.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Parenting with both parents around much of the time is harder than you’d think. I would say it’s harder than I thought it would be, but what did I know, in those blissfully ignorant days before I had a child? Lots of theory was flying around back then. Some of it has been borne out in a way that makes me feel disturbingly self-satisfied. For example, I could never have done this thing surrounded by the exigencies of US culture. The objects, the expectations, the advice. Being in a foreign country where I could barely speak the language and had little idea of what was next, not having a car, not having the view remain consistent have, in fact, suited me. And I was committed to the idea that Adam and I would be in it together—he would be on site, an equal, a colleague. Which meant in practice that neither of us would have a job for awhile. And we worked it out, with help from our incredibly supportive families. The funny thing is, though, in some ways it’s actually much easier when it’s just me. (Or him.) Tallulah and I get in sync, we cooperate. With Adam and I present together, it’s essential that we be in utter harmony. Tallulah sees and seizes upon the most minor fissures in our relationship, in our mundane interactions, things we might be barely aware of, or believe that we’d successfully suppressed. She plays one off the other in a benign or malignant fashion, defending or, lately, peacekeeping, acting out, performing. Those average moments, teasing or cloaking some real grievance in joking terms—all duly noted. And they become the stuff of shame. And reason for punishment. Adam and I live now in such a way that we need to trust the other with our lives. This is the literal truth. But how insidious those small persistent failures become—the deep currents of the psyche, formed by my own parents/early experiences, now played again. It’s this complex, stratified space that I notice myself navigating—again, this is literal—on a daily basis when we’re both together. There’s no other room, no room to go to and shut the door. The space is fluid—I really have no need of metaphors—and the scudding clouds of the others’ moods are close enough to feel the vapor. By now we’ve gotten nearly as good at this as acrobats, but not yet perfect, and perfection is, in fact, required of us.