Archive | April, 2009

El Barrio de Manuel Cota

22 Apr

Manny Cota is a student at Tucson’s Pima Community College. He found his way into my Writing class a few semesters ago and ended up telling me great stories about his history as a native and life-long Tucsonan*.

Here are some of Manny’s early memories of life in his barrio, pulled from some of his writing from my class.

My earliest memories of the barrio are of when I was four to six years old. I remember my Nana Julia, my mother’s mom, in the kitchen always cooking something, and I remember especially how good her food tasted. Me and my siblings’ favorite—there were eight of us all together—was her arroz con leche y pasas.

I remember that, in the evenings, the barrio was like one big family. People usually got together in front of my nana’s house, or someone else’s house, everyone hanging out, talking. Sometimes a game of dump, a card game, or dominoes would take place between the older men and women. The kids usually watched and rooted for our people to win the pennies. They were not high rollers by any means. People began going home about 10:00 pm.

Another thing that stands out in my memory is how peaceful and respectful everyone was. I don’t remember anyone ever fighting or even arguing loudly. My friend, those were the days in the barrio. I recall some men drinking alcohol, playing a guitar and singing. They were really under control. It was so violence-free. I loved it.

In 1969, Nana Julia passed away. I was 6 years old. At this time, my mother and all eight of us lived at Nana Julia’s house on Meyer Street in Barrio Viejo. Talk about hot. The summers were scorchers, and we had no AC or swamp cooler—not that we were too poor to buy fans. This is how people lived in the barrio. In the daytime we went swimming at Carrillo School where the local pool was at, so we cooled off that way or else we just took to the water hose and got soaked until we were told, “That’s enough water wasted already.” Of course we obeyed, already soaked. The next day would pretty much be the same.

The evenings were cool once the sun had set behind A Mountain. The older people didn’t seem to be bothered by the heat. We kids set up makeshift beds outside at night to avoid roasting inside. My mother joined us on occasion, but not always. Other neighbors slept outdoors as well. We had fun at night. We had dirt bomb and water balloon fights with neighbors a few houses away. I remember this game we played called Green Light. One person from each yard battled, trying to identify where the other was and hit him or her with a water balloon. The game continued until someone got hit and shouted, “Green light!” No one ever bothered us, even at night. It was peaceful.

Life in my barrio was so sweet. What I wouldn’t give for just a few minutes, or one full day at least, of that life in mi barrio.

*Manny’s grandfather built the adobe house that his family lived in until the relatively recent changes–Tucson Convention Center, wealthy folks buying adobes for a lot of money.


Tucson Grid Project 2.0: Interview with John Weatherford

21 Apr

Tucson Grid Project 2.0 is this Friday night. We caught up with John Weatherford, the mind where TGP originated, to find out what we can expect to see on the walls at 7:00 pm at 785 S. Columbus.n63901456405_7347

Dove&Snake: I know the basic idea for the TGP came from the Portland Grid Project. Where did the idea for adding in the emotions come from?

John Weatherford: Well basically, I just didn’t want the concept to get stale. In addition, I was trying to find a way for people to connect with the city more than just take a journalistic look at it. It is one thing for someone to wander the city in search of something that catches their eye and to take an “artistic” photo. It takes photography to an entirely different plane when you ask someone to look around them, to look for sorrow, and then be bold enough to photograph it. Couple that with the fact that there are almost no people participating that consider themselves photographers or artists, and we are really asking people to take a substantial risk.

D&S: Did you always plan to continue the project year to year? Did you always plan to evolve it?

JW: I guess I always assumed that it would catch on and that we would continue it. Then, after last year’s photographs and the bigger than expected turn out, it seemed like we had no choice but to keep it going. I think this is something that will be around for quite a while. We are already talking about next year and possible themes for following years. One thing we would like to see is more community involvement. I don’t want this to be a Second Mile thing. I want to see us own the event but I want to see the whole of Tucson walking the streets with cameras. I have already talked to a few parents about getting their children involved next year. I feel like there are a bunch of perspectives that are not yet being seen.

D&S: How are you planning to set up this year’s show?

JW: It will look very similar to last year. This year, however, instead of the photos being hung based on content of the actual image (i.e. graffiti, signs, traffic, landmarks) each emotion will occupy its own area of the room. So depending on the artist you may have 3 or 4 pictures that seem to be related or they may at first glance have nothing in common. This is why many people have included summaries of their photos. I am looking forward to seeing what the contributors thought of when they heard anguish or joy or passion.

D&S: Can you give us a sense of the photographers who are taking part in the show? Who are they?

JW: In a short description they are just normal people. Some are photographers, some are artists, some are mothers. We have students, teachers, bus drivers. People in their teens, twenties, thirties all the way through their sixties. We have representatives of downtown, campus, Vail, Marana, Oro Valley. It is a cross section of Tucson. We have some gaps but I feel very good about the diversity that is represented in the photographers. There are a few I haven’t even met yet. Part of the artistic ethos of Second Mile is a belief that we are all creative because we were created by the most creative being ever, and since we are created in His image we bear some of that creativity. I think you will see what I mean at the show.

D&S: You’ve been selecting photos for the show for the past week or so. What are your initial impressions of what we’ll see?

JW: I think from a quick glance the critic would say that this year’s pictures are “less artistic” than last year’s. I was careful to say critic because this experience is not about criticism–it isn’t even about art. It is about being in your city and loving your city. The thing I am loving about this year’s photos is the fact that they are incredibly well thought out, and they tell a story. What are we as a community if we cannot tell the story of our city? Last year the pictures were great, some were even incredible. This year, however, the participants were asked to do more than frame a beautiful or unique image of their surroundings. They were asked to process an emotion and convey it though a lens. That is not an easy thing to do. That being said, from what I have seen so far no one will be disappointed. There is an obvious intentionality to the photographs I have seen so far. The photographers took the emotions they were given and interpreted that through the city they live in. I would rather look at that than really well composed photographs of graffiti any day.

Experience Tucson: Adventures in the Old Pueblo

20 Apr

Caleb Jackson and Susie Bishara put together the hand-held, ride-along Experience Tucson footage from Sabino Canyon, El Guero Canelo, SunTran, and more.

1. There is something simple and beautiful about watching children splashing in water.

2. Watch for the guy mugging for the camera on the bus. I wonder if this made his day.

3. Monkey bars!

4. The last :10 is unexpected and wonderful.

Experience Tucson: Amanda Davis Sees It All Come Together

17 Apr

More Experience Tucson responses. Today is Amanda Davis-centric. We have Andy Coley’s interview with Ms. Davis, as well as her written words on how the weekend’s messages and activities built on each other in her head.

Going into Experience Tucson, I think a lot of the participants weren’t really sure what to expect. It was the first time the event had taken place and the first time any of us had been a part of something like this, and the first run-through of anything often has bugs to be worked out.

Taking it on faith, we went, we conquered (or served, in this case), and we Experienced. The retreat (I don’t really know what else to call it) went smoothly and we had a great time at the different activities. However, as pleasant as it was for the schedule to flow so well, and for us not to have to face any significant problems during the weekend, what struck me was how well the things I heard and learned, whether through specific teaching times or random conversations, fed into and built on each other to make the whole Experience meaningful.

Chad laid the foundation on Friday night. He presented us with some of the historical background of Tucson and general information about the city and then discussed how we could have a vision for and a major impact on it. With this in mind, we drove across town early the next morning to meet up with and spend most of the day with refugee kids, interacting with part of the large refugee population in Tucson that many of us had heard of through Second Mile but not actually encountered.

For the majority of our time with them we weren’t sure what the plan was—when we were picking up the kids, how we were to engage them, where we were stopping for lunch, what kind of organization there would be for transporting everyone, or when we were heading back. This forced us to depend on those in charge for direction and be open to what they told us because they had significantly more information and thus a larger picture and better plans than us. They knew what was supposed to happen and what the day would look like, and we were along for the ride. Our trust in them proved well-placed and the excursion succeeded.

It was an exciting time for us to both give of ourselves and receive from others, and I think it was rewarding for all of those affected. Those rewards have the capacity to pay dividends as we employ our new knowledge and continue to grow as individuals, as a college group, and as a church. Hopefully, we can actively engage and Experience Tucson regularly as a result of these few days, becoming more useful instruments as God continues his construction in the hearts of those around us.

After returning the kids to their respective homes and having dinner as a group, we heard from Angel. She talked about flexibility and being open to changes in our plans when God has something else in mind, which seemed very fitting considering the events in which we had all just taken part. We spent that whole day operating based on faith and trust that someone else knew better than us. It was an illustration of what Angel was saying, of what our lives might look like at some point in the future, and with such a fresh image to refer to, the message really made sense and took a better hold.

Also, seeing a different side of our city by personally encountering a foreign culture helped open our eyes and hearts to what else we might discover during the rest of the retreat, helping drive home Chad’s point from the previous night. Thus, both of the messages that we had heard so far had been emphasized and reaffirmed by the activity of the day; a few floors had been added to the construction God was working on in my heart.

On Sunday, we attended a bilingual church service in the morning—observing more of the diversity of Tucson—and Second Mile in the evening. Chad discussed investing in people and in relationships, which fit really well into one of the purposes of Experience Tucson. We were spending several days in a row with the same small group of people, so it presented a great opportunity to get to know the others around us, if we made the effort. We also had the privilege of staying with wonderful host families and experiencing the hospitality of small groups, all comprised of people we wouldn’t likely have interacted with otherwise. The sermon served as a reminder that spending time developing these relationships, both during and after the few days dedicated to this retreat, was important and helped encourage us to not allow the potential in these interactions to go to waste and the relationships themselves to fade away after the Experience ended.

The next morning’s prayer walking was the most impactful part of the Experience for me. After an explanation of prayer walking, we split up into groups of three and rode the bus to different parts of Tucson. My group went downtown. I had never ridden the bus in Tucson or been to that part of the city before, nor had I tried prayer walking prior to that time, so everything about the morning was new to me.

My group walked and prayed as we felt led for a while, but we were having some trouble with knowing exactly what we were supposed to be doing and with distractions from our busy surroundings. After a while, we decided to try just conversing, sharing previous experiences with God, times when we had seen Him working and moving.

Through this simple experience, God showed me so much. Being downtown let me see an entirely different side of Tucson, another aspect of what Chad had been relating to us on Friday. Not feeling like we knew exactly what we were doing forced us to be flexible like Angel had talked about, which was especially hard for me in that situation because I am often a rule-follower; I feel like I should follow directions explicitly, and the fact that we weren’t frustrated me a bit.

I had to make myself relax and be open to what God was doing in the other people in my group and also to what He was doing in me. Just spending time in deep discussion and sharing experiences was a great way for us to invest in each other and get to know each other better, like Chad had discussed on Sunday, and hearing the others’ stories really affected me and convicted me in some areas of my life and faith to which I might not otherwise have been open or receptive.

Besides driving the other points home, our prayer walking time helped me see how we can learn from each other, not only from direct, planned-out talks from pastors, but through our normal interactions with people, from the lessons they’ve learned and the wisdom they’ve gained on the paths where God has led them.

While this did not signal the end of the construction project for the trip, the largest part of the building had been completed. After prayer walking, we still got to serve at New Beginnings, hear great talks from Jonathan and Julie, and appreciate more time in community with each other, all of which continued to enlighten and instruct us and finish out God’s work in us for the time we were together.

Experience Tucson proved a great opportunity to get involved, go beyond the places we frequent in our daily activities, and branch out to see what more there is to this city we inhabit—our city. I’m very grateful that I got to be a part of it and greatly appreciate all those who were involved and contributed.

Dove&Snake Video: Check2Check Art Opening

9 Apr

What was that? You didn’t get to go to Keegan Rider’s Check2Check Art Opening? Why, yes, we can help you out. We went. Yes, Dove&Snake went. We even made a video. Yes, John DeSoto–the John DeSoto, uh huh–put together a video of the art show. Here it is.

Brad Butler Does Not Want to Be a Sucker, But a Tootsie Pop Would Be Nice Right About Now

1 Apr

Here’s Brad Butler’s “Nobody Wants to Be a Sucker” playlist, with videos and Brad’s explanations of suckers and suckerhood. Turn it up and try real hard not to be a sucker.

1. Flavor of the Week – American Hi-Fi: A song about how the girls that chase the “bad boy” image are just a temporary trophy and/or conquest.

2. Don’t Trust that Girl – Ace Troubleshooter: A song about when a guy is totally in love with a girl who doesn’t share the same feelings and the pain that comes with that situation.

3. The Best Deceptions – Dashboard Confessional: A song about being deceived by the one you love.

4. So Cold I Could See My Breath – Emery: A song about giving into lust and the aftereffects of it in a relationship.

5. There’s A War Going On For Your Mind – Flobots: No one wants to fall for the propaganda that we face on a daily basis. Do you recognize it or fall victim to it?

6. Redefine – Incubus: Don’t let society play you for a sucker and tell you what to do! Be yourself and be creative!

Album Version:

Bonus Acoustic Version:

7. Your Knife, My Back – Kids in the Way: Finally learning your lesson and choosing not to go back and be with those “toxic” friendship relationships that we all have had at some point in our life. We can either choose to move forward with change or continue to be hurt by the same friends for the same old reasons.

8. Lost Myself In Search Of You – Matt Nathanson: The story of one person being in a committed relationship while the other person is not so much into the whole just dating one person idea.

9. Little Devil – Mindy Smith: The constant struggle of giving in to temptation, feeling guilty about it, and then repeating the process.

10. Pythons Awake! – Pompeii: Just because something is a fad doesn’t make it the right thing to do! Don’t jump on the bandwagon just because everyone else is doing it!

11. Boys Lie – Signal the Escape: When do you stop trusting those people that always lie to you? How much and how many times will you let them hurt you? Plus, “big kids lie!”