A Fiery Accident

It was a fiery accident, said the newspapers. The vehicle burst into flames after a Toyota pickup crossed the center line and smashed into the front of Beauchamp’s Ford Taurus. Tiffany was painfully knocked unconscious by the impact. Witnesses say that as the paramedics were pulling Abe’s body out of the burning car, he was trying to pull Tiffany out of the car. The seat belt had twisted and tangled itself around her petite body and would not let her go. It was too late. She could not be saved. She died, surrounded by red and orange and yellow flames. She did not see the red lights and blue lights flashing. She did not see the tears in her friends’ eyes. I hope that she saw the stars in the sky as she made her way to Heaven. They must have been twinkling extra bright just for her.

Afterwards, people whispered under their breath secrets about the Thomas family. People remembered the beating at the middle school. People remembered seeing her father drinking in bars. They remembered bruises and scars on the bodies of Tiffany’s younger brothers and sister. Rarely did anyone see Mrs. Thomas. People felt sorry for Tiffany. How can such a wonderful girl like her just die like that? She was overcoming her past and now she has died. It’s so unfair.

When I look back on what Tiffany told me and what rumors I had heard of her family, it makes me angry how someone could have had such a hard life like she had lived. I questioned the newspapers, Why do people abuse their own flesh and blood? Why must people make life for themselves and for those around them harder than it already is? Isn’t life something precious and God-given, a gift meant to be treasured?

Rosa Parks and Tajikistan

While I was in middle school, my cheese-colored bus would pass by their house on rosy mornings and sunny afternoons. My life was so full of happiness and joy that I never noticed the lives of people who were suffering in Tajikistan. That house began to become a reminder that there were people in the world that did not have lives like my own. I never knew what went on behind those cracked windows and weathered boards. It was just a poor-looking house. It had nothing to do with me. There was no reason why I should care or be interested in such a house. As I grew older, the house held a secret I would not know until I reached high school.

A memory that is not my own but of those who witnessed it is the day her father came to Rosa Scott Middle School. I heard this story several years later from the mouth of one of her friends from sixth grade. The class was held in a small room of a tan trailer next to the red bricked school. Four rickety wooden steps led up to the one door that opens into the small room. Four big windows with pale gray blinds peered out on either side of the trailer. The teacher had just stepped out the door to go to the main brick building to turn in some final grades in to the office. She was only going to be gone for a minute and would be back soon, so the students had to behave themselves.

They got to chattering and talking among themselves, when a tall man with a beer belly came barging in through the door. All the students became silent and looked at him with shocked eyes. He stood for a second, glaring at each young face, looking for one which was a member of his family. His stare fell upon his daughter’s face. She could hear his boot clad feet pound upon the floor as his chicken legs carried him to her desk. She looked up at him only to feel his grip on her shoulders, lifting her up from her seat and throwing her down hard against the wall behind her. Her face bowed, lips quivered, eyes watered, she did not see the faces of her friends shocked in disbelief of what was happening in their midst.

Liquid Nightfall

I’m sitting here thinking, “I wanna feel those little drops of liquid light fall on my head. I wanna to feel them pelt through my skin, through my skull, into my brain and wash away all of my evil thoughts. Cleanse me of all things not innocent.” I want to jump out into the slow drizzle of rain and lift my face towards the cloudy skies above me. Feel the pat of the drop on my cheek. Feel it roll down my face, my neck, only to disappear under the collar of my white T-shirt. Feel the drops fall on my up-turned face. I blink my eyes and feel the heavy moisture on my face and eyelashes. The drops fallen on the ground reflect every color of the rainbow. Shining iridescent blue, green, pink, yellow, and white, these drops look like some sort of candy. So I open my mouth to the deep gray skies above me to receive the full flood of rain-tears from the gods. The tears taste salty because the gods are crying. They are crying for me. They know I am dying. I know I am dying. I’m drowning in their tears and I can’t save myself…I don’t want to be saved at http://ianainslie.co.uk. Lying here on the ground, I can feel the grass brush against me in the flood of water. I’m being swept away from my spot under the gray skies and I find that I am left to rot near a clump of fresh and clean green bushes. The water has carried my soul away. It took all the evilness out of me and then I existed no more. I became as pure as the rain-tears of the gods. Dying was not all that hard to do, but I knew that I wanted to go. My body was found and here I am in my own little Heaven: under the gray skies as salty rain falls into my open mouth as I lay under the grass, feeling the damp grass roots tickle my entire body.

I’m laying here thinking, “I wanna feel the worms crawl through my skin, eating my organs, destroying all that is left of me.” I want to feel the ground below me shift with the tremble of the earthquake. I can not feel the moist touch of soil beneath me. I am now numb. Slowly, over the years, I begin to become one with the soil. I begin to become dust. I am fertilizer. Worms burrow through the soil, into my skin, into my heart. I am dead. But I am not dead. I’m still alive! I’m a part of the soil, a part of the worms, a part of the earth.

I’m growing here thinking, “I wanna feel the sunshine shine upon my petals. I wanna feel the rain pat against my leaves.” I am a part of the earth and I am a part of the land. Rooted into the ground, feeding upon what I used to be, a dead soul. I am alive, feeding upon myself. I have busted out of the earth, to see the sun’s rays of love. The great green body of mine reaches towards the sky and my green limb-like leaves branch out to feel the pit-pat of the rain falling from the gray skies. My veins take in the flow of sunshine and rainwater. The land is feeding me and I feed upon myself. My head appears, bright, big, and yellow, resembling the great sun in the sky. Big yellow petals flowing in all directions, lighting all things otherwise invisible. My petals are large oblong drops of golden sunshine, resting mid-way from the skies and the earth. I’m here waving in the cool breeze, tilting this way and that way. Then, I must have caught this young girl’s eye, because all of a sudden I was plucked from my feeding ground, my birthplace. She carried me in her small hands, her face beaming a bright innocence that I could not deny. She brought me home, and everyone was smiling and handling me, feeling my petals, my leaves. They were giving me warmth, something to keep after being plucked away from my dead soul. Then my limbs were torn away. Leaf after leaf was ripped from my body until all that was left of me was my golden head and my long green stick of a body. Water was flowing into a vase and I was dropped into the depths of this clear liquid, absorbing water and losing control. Over the days I slowly drowned in the water and my big golden head of sunshine began to fall towards the earth. Big hands picked up the vase of now dirty water with my limp weak body, and tossed me and the water outside onto the ground. I lay here in the hot sun, turning brown and weak. The rain falls, the wind blows, the sun shines, and soon I am a part of the earth once more. I am dust again. I am one with the earth. I am alive.

Today’s Random Posting on Tajikistan

Communication was another problem. Although the American postal service can be quick and efficient, the postal service in third world countries like Tajikistan can take up to two or three months in delivering a letter. Yet, a lot of the time, letters are lost in the mail or opened and scavenged for money and other valuable treasures. Phones were difficult too. If the operator in Tajikistan heard one word in English, she would hang up. We would immediately have to hand the phone to Rano so that she could speak to the operator in her native tongue, Tajik. There was much frustration for all of us.

Yet, the experience was great for Rano. Many students travel each year to study in American high schools and colleges. ASPECT was designed to create a better understanding between the young people that would one day become leaders of the NIS, Newly Independent States. The program provides health insurance and a monthly allowance of a hundred dollars for personal expenses. The exchange students are expected to participate in school life and in community service projects. Rano joined the Interact Club at the high school, which was a community-minded organization that supported projects like Toys for Tots and Community Stewpot. She also helped at the Madison Center for Art. Meetings are held for all the exchange students of a specific region to meet and socialize. She and I made many friends all over the world because of these meetings. Near the end of the program, all 1200 students go to Washington, D.C., for a conference. This is when they present their projects of what they have done for the year. This project must include photos and details, but most importantly, community service and volunteer work.

Today Tajikistan seems to be on the beginning of a roller-coaster ride, much like the one the United States experienced when it was first becoming a new country. Qouted from “The Bishkek Memorandum” on the internet, the President of the Republic of Tajikistan (RT) Imomaly Rakhmonov and leader of the United Tajik Oppposition (UTO) Abdulla Nuri are willing to “turn the politcal situation in the RT to peaceful creative development.” With the “adoption of the act on reciprocal forgiveness and amnesty law,” maybe Rano will live in a more stable country. On May 18, 1997, “the President of RT and the leader of the UTO have reached an agreement to resolve in the course of further talks in Teheeran and Moscow, the problem of the exchange of POWs and prisoners in all its aspects and to work out the corresponding mechanism.” I feel that this third-world country in which my distant sister Rano lives is becomeing and beautiful and peaceful country.

The year flew by almost too quickly for Rano and me. We became close over the year, and we decided that we were true sisters, even though we lived across the world. The last letter my family received from her was almost a year ago. She told us that she was at the University of Khujand and was making excellent grades. She even felt positive that she would be able to come to the U.S. again in a few years. Yet, home life was not as great. Her parents divorced and are now living in separate flats. Rano now lives with her older sister of 23 years and her younger brother of 9 years. I will always admire Rano for her determination, because she was a Muslim from a third-world country traveling helfway across the world. I couldn’t even imagine doing that all by myself at fifteen years old. Rano knew her dreams, and she was going to achieve each and every single one fo those dreams.

Crouton Crazy

First I am going to steal someone else’s old story and then tell it poorly.

In high school, my boyfriend and another friend worked at a fast food restaurant. One of their coworkers was a bit of a space case, but I don’t remember exactly why. (Maybe because I’m also a space cadet? …Oh.)

One day one of my friends had some reason to tell this guy, “Dude, you’re toast.” As in: you’re gone, out of it, fried, etc.

In all seriousness, he protested, “I’m not toast. I’m a….crouton.” Which cracked them up.

Hours later, he came back and clarified to one of them, “Not just one crouton. A whole bag of croutons.” Like he’d been pondering the matter over the frozen meat patties for the last couple of hours until he came up with this satisfactory analogy. They used that line many times after, which is why I remember this.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am a whole bag of croutons. I may be a whole case of croutons. My brain has shut down. The paper has been put on vacation hold, the windows are shuttered, and the heat is turned way, way down.

A couple of weeks ago, all I wanted to do was to go to New York, where I could walk everywhere (and where there are tons of places to walk to) and attend every single performance of Alvin Ailey since their NY season is going on until the end of the year.

I didn’t go, and instead I went on a short road trip to Texas. We got back from that late Monday night, and this weekend I’m going out of town again, to another place where I’ll spend too damn much time in a car. Although I’m going to visit my mother and am looking forward to seeing her, I know this trip is not going to remedy this inner fatigue.

That fatigue hit me in a wall tonight when I put the photos from the Texas trip into a lackluster Flickr set. Through the whole trip, I was seeing tons of photographs I wanted to take, but there usually wasn’t any time to stop to do so, and they weren’t ones I could take from a car continually going 40-70 mph. Early on, I had to just let go, knowing that it wasn’t going to be the kind of trip that would lend itself to stopping for photographs. But that’s all I kept thinking about doing.

Well, that and taking a monster genuine road trip, which I’ve never really done. I want to go back to Texas and just roam, stopping every two miles to take photographs, if that’s what I feel like doing. I don’t want to have to be anywhere specific at any given time. I don’t even want to go to this or that cool city to see all the specific things and places I’d usually want to see. I want to go somewhere different and warm to just read and write and lounge and photograph and gaze at the water (so there has to be water) and wander.

I want, I want, I want–this is the kind of time when I start breaking down and fantasize about unplugging everything in my current life to run off to work in a call center in an Indian city or do a year in London studying something completely fun (yet likely somewhat impractical) like “Photography and Urban Cultures” or “Culture, Globalisation and the City.”

But instead of upending my life, I might just need to go to San Diego for a long weekend. I might just need a vacation.

Not just a case of croutons….I am a whole truckload of croutons in a semi barreling down I-35. I am that many croutons and bacon cooked so long it crumbles to ash and the charred remains of the giant Swedish straw goat.

What I Would Do Saturday (If I Could)

I’ll be out of town this weekend, or otherwise I would go to this on Saturday.

The Black United Front will hold a justice rally and show a highly publicized documentary that chronicles the murder of Emmett Till and the 1955 trial for his death.
The event starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Gem Theater, 1601 E. 18th St., Kansas City. Donations of $10 or more will be collected.

Both Alvin Sykes, president of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, and filmmaker Keith Beauchamp will answer questions after the screening. Both are credited with forcing Till’s case into the national spotlight again and reopening the death investigation.

Till’s mother forced the country to look at the decomposed body of her son – a teenage boy who many believe was tortured and mutilated for whistling at a white woman in a small Mississippi town.

An all-white jury acquitted two men accused of murdering Till. To this day, no one has been convicted in the case. The FBI re-opened its investigation this year.

In November, the FBI completed that investigation and is now working on the report.
I saw Beauchamp’s film last fall when he came to my university, and I wrote about his visit. (Bugmenot might still work for that link if you need a password.) After the film was shown on campus, Beauchamp spoke on a panel with Alvin Sykes, local activist and president of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, and David Achtenberg, associate professor in the School of Law. They all spoke of the need to continue working for change beyond just this case.

[Achtenberg] explained, “We might get a little closer to justice in this case, and a little bit closer is sometimes the best you can get. But don’t stop with a little bit of justice for people who are dead. The most important thing is to get a lot of justice now for people who are alive. Make sure that it doesn’t take the killing of a young man, that with every little injustice, something’s done about it.”
Emmett Till’s mother wanted her son’s case used as a tool for change. Beauchamp reminded Tuesday’s audience that students were a big part of the civil rights movement.

“I hope that seeing this film will inspire them to pick up that torch.” Almost fifty years after Emmett Till’s murder, the filmmaker said, “The struggle continues. The civil rights movement never ended.”

Packing Print

I have to leave for the airport in an hour. Yes, that would be at 4:30 a.m. I don’t remember why I booked this flight that leaves before 6 a.m., but there it is. So I am just staying up all night, which isn’t too hard as of right now since I am usually up until at least 2 anyway. I usually can’t sleep on planes, but maybe I will zonk enough to take any nerves off flying on a little cigar tube again.
The hardest part about packing is deciding which books to take to read. But three magazines are definitely coming with me:

I love love love spacing: understanding Toronto’s urban landscape, and it’s only up to brand-new issue no. 5. Doing an urban magazine like this would be one of my dream jobs. (Anyone know any angels who would fund one for Kansas City?) The magazine grew out of the Toronto Public Space Committee.

fishwrap is a “publication exploring small towns and smalltown life in fact and fiction, poetry and prose, photography and sketches, history, sociology, economics, politics, architecture…” from the Institute for Small Town Studies. Particularly appropriate for where I’m going.

And the new issue of The Next American City focuses on segregation & integration.

Okay, now I really have to pack. Oh, one more thing…since I’m going to the land of dial-up internet access, would someone please snag some screen shots of the Swedish straw goat if it burns in the next few days? I know, this is gonna get me teased forever now by both Randall and Geet since they’re already ribbing me about posting a zillion words about the thing. Watching the goat has gotten quite boring lately, but I’m still holding out some faint hope that it will be torched to usher in the new year.

We Need A Train

Back in working Sidekick territory sitting in the Milwaukee airport–who
needs to pay 10 bucks for airport wifi?! I missed my connecting flight
home tonight by just a couple of minutes since my first flight was late.
Hoped that the flight attendants who also missed the flight would get it
turned around and come back to the gate since it had just pushed off
from the gate, but no. So instead of 7:35, I’m
leaving–hopefully–around 10:25 to get in a little before midnight.
Better than those trying to get back to Omaha, who won’t get in now
until after 1 am. Or those stuck in scary mines.

It is cool having a used bookstore in the Milwaukee airport…definitely
more fun than the standard flight fare. Like I need any more books; I’m
already hauling six with me (left with five, didn’t read any of those,
of course).

I was apparently distracted enough by watching Anderson Cooper on CNN at
the gate that I FORGOT I had a DVD with me. I could have watched all of
The Bicycle Thief during this delay. Oh well.

More randomness for me to remember…the weird bowling urge evaporated
just as quickly that night. Saw my aunt and uncle and some deer, went to
lunch with another aunt and cousin, read a book I didn’t bring (more on
that later), and generally was mellow. No water (other than snow), but
it was good. It’s always a little sad to leave my mom standing at the
airport window watching my plane take off.

Can’t remember the rest. Maybe travel is slicing my IQ. I’ll stop rambling.

What I Forgot…

I thought I had successfully conquered my fear of the cigar tube airplane (a.k.a. Raytheon Beech 1900D, for anyone to whom that means anything) in time for my return flight home tonight. The drive to the airport was misty, and visibility on the road declined the whole way, so I was still a little nervous. And I am not ever really nervous about flying.

Before we were ready to take off, the co-pilot (there are no flight attendants on these 19-seaters) walked to the rear half of the plane and asked people behind us for a volunteer to move to the front of the plane. Two women diddled around, saying they wanted to sit together, bickering about who should move. I wanted to turn around and shout, “There’s only one seat on either side of the plane! So you don’t have to sit right next to a stranger! And it’s only a 50-minute flight, for cryin out loud! Move the fuck up to the front of the plane RIGHT NOW so we don’t all die in this crap weather!!” I was a little freaked out that they had to redistribute weight on the plane before we could fly. Then one of the women moved, we took off, and all went well. (Except for the being late part.)

But the request conjured up other ominous images in my head. When they bank to land in turbulence, would they have to ask us all to lean over in that direction to help tilt the plane?

Looking Forward To…

Among other things:

– Watching the video of Jem Cohen’s Lost Book Found that’s waiting for me at the school library:

Lost Book Found melds documentary and narrative into a complex meditation on city life. The piece revolves around a mysterious notebook filled with obsessive listings of places, objects, and incidents. These listings serve as the key to a hidden city: a city of unconsidered geographies and layered artifactsthe relics of low-level capitalism and the debris of countless forgotten narratives.

– Getting the catalogue for the Odd Lots exhibit in the mail next week (with We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs and Doormen) since I wasn’t able to get to New York to see the show.

In the early 1970s, Matta-Clark discovered that the City of New York periodically auctioned off gutterspaceunusably small slivers of land sliced from the city grid through anomalies in surveying, zoning, and public-works expansion. He purchased fifteen of these lots, fourteen in Queens and one in Staten Island. Over the next years, he collected the maps, deeds, and other bureaucratic documentation attached to the slivers; photographed, spoke, and wrote about them; and considered using them as sites for his unique brand of anarchitectural intervention into urban space. Matta-Clark died in 1978 at the age of 35 without realizing his plans for Fake Estates, and ownership of the properties reverted to the city. The archival material that he had assembled went into storage and was not rediscovered until the early 1990s, when it was assembled into exhibitable collages.

– Watching the film Café Lumière, which is out now on DVD.

– Catching up on all the posts I want to do but haven’t had time or brain cells for.

– The mystery of what answers (or questions?) these next few months will bring…

– Finding where the hell I put my iPod shuffle before I went on vacation last week.