Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Family's Bloody Irish Hand.

First Grade on Saint Patricks Day. All the kids were drawing pictures of shamrocks, pots of gold, and leprechauns--everyone except me.

We all got to present our drawings in front of class. I stood up to show my work of art. It was a Crayola masterpiece. There was a landscape of green Irish hills, a pristine beach, and a bloody severed hand lying in the sand. There were two cartoon clouds. One said "We made it!". The other said, "Go Ireland!!!". That was one of the proudest moments of my childhood. Now hold on. Hear me out. I wasn't sick and twisted. I was just sharing my family's history.

I stood up and told my classmates the story of my ancestor O'Neil, one of the first kings of Ireland. O'Neil had to compete in a boat race to win the kingship. The deal was that whoever touched the shore first would be crowned king. The boats were so neck and neck that he wasn't sure if he would make it. I guess O'Neil was creative, determined and partially bat shit crazy so he reached for his sword, cut off his hand and threw it to the shore. He was probably called stubby for quite some time, but guess what?!? He touched the shore first and became king! Who's gonna mess with him or argue with that? Jeesh. And with my own crazy determination, it's no wonder I'm related to this guy.

The kids in my first grade class all thought that was an awesome story. Lots of ooo's and ahhh's came from my very attentive 6 year-old audience, but my teacher was not impressed at all.

Later that day my mom got a phone call from her. She called her in to "talk" about my picture. My mother went in and my teacher said, "Your daughter drew this in class today," with a disturbed tone and a frown. My mother looked at it and said, "Oh! I'm so proud!!!". We were probably looked at like we were the Adams Family, but my mother had every right to be proud. Mom told me the story of O'Neil many times. She was never sure how much I absorbed it, but that picture proved that I embraced our family story with every cell, even though I was only six years old. I think it's still one of her proudest moments as a mother. :-)

Here's the family crest with the bloody red hand. Happy Saint Patricks Day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

DC Stories-The Journey Continues.

I don't have much to say right now, so I'm digging in my archives. I had to repost this one. An oldie, but goodie from 2007:

My kiss from Michael Franti at the Iraq Veterans Against the War benefit at Bus Boys & Poets in Washington 

Ok-another update from one very beaten up and worn down activist. Let me tell you about my journey to a peace march in DC, and you'll understand the exhaustion.

Several weeks ago I went to Washington D.C. I didn't know that I had to go until 2 days before my flight. A major peace march was scheduled for the 4th year of the war and I wanted to document it with my trusty camera (see slide show here). Also, the CODEPINK peace activists were at it again in the streets and halls of Congress, having challenges matching their bold protest actions with their internet-media skills. I was called in at the last minute to go there and train them on internet outreach basics: dealing with digital photos and film, spreading press releases in the right places on the net etc.

During my flight there, I connected in Pittsburgh but lost my flight to DC because of a violent snow storm. The peace march was the next day so I decided to hitchhike; whether it's rain, snow, sleet or hail, not much will stop me from arriving on time to my destination.

I immediately hitched a ride with a man who I deemed ok. He asked me what I do and I said, with a slight intuition that he was a Republican, "I'm a peace activist". He said with a smirk, "Well doesn't that make us the odd couple!" I asked him what he did and it turned out that he was a gun shop owner and sells military supplies to the government. You're all cringing right now. I know, but it was actually a great ride.

a pic I took during the peace march. notice how the sign in the background looks kind of like a natural thought bubble--as if Cheyney is trying to tell Bush what's going on.

We talked about our own beliefs and I pointed out that, even though he is a Republican and I am not, what he wants isn't different from what I want: a warm place to sleep, food, and some good lovin'. He also said that he wants more localized government and this, in his mind, was a Republican belief. I bursted his bubble gently, letting him know that I too, among many people, dream of a localized government that comes from the grassroots or tribal nature and that I think community action is where it's at and where I've seen the most social progress made.

He was only supposed to drive me to Harrisburg, but I guess our conversation left a warm and fuzzy impression on him because he drove me two extra hours to Baltimore so I could catch a direct train to DC. As I left him for the Baltimore-DC train, I passed a bunch of soldiers on the sidewalk, all coming back from the Middle East. This journey to the peace march couldn't have been more dream-like and symbolic. At this point, I felt like I was the star of my own movie (hmmm...)because it was so surreal.

I warily fell to my seat on the train and a very zen-like California surfer elder sat next to me. His name was Jeff (and no, his last name was not Lebowski). He offered me a macaroon and we began to talk. We exchanged little tidbits of info and realized that we were very connected; he was friends with the co-founders of CODEPINK, the peace organization where I currently work.

Midge Potts, CODEPINK activist in front of Congress during my trip. photo provided by yours truely

Jeff was trying to get to LA that night so he could go on a surfing holiday, but the east coast snow stopped him on his sunshine daydream journey and sent him back to his home in cold and snowy DC. We were both redirected by weather that day, and had the fate of sharing the rocking ride of the train together.

We arrived at Union Station in DC and Jeff stayed with me so I didn't have to wait for my ride by myself. He asked me to tell him stories of my travels, so I told him tales of Asia, shamans, and my Indiana Jones-like adventures. He told me about his travels through the Middle East, his recent journey to Kumba Mela (a gathering of thousands of saddhus)and how he was looking to start a media organization for Iranian youth.

My colleague finally arrived to see me and my new zen'd out surfer elder friend at the station, and suggested that we go to see an amazing spoken word/hip hop/funk musician named Michael Franti. My 24 hours of travel and lack of sleep was not enough to stop me from seeing one of my favorite performers in this world so I decided to go along.

CODEPINK ladies singing peace in the streets

On my way there, I told everyone in the car that I was going to kiss Michael Franti. No one believed me, which is understandable because it's easy for people to forget how much I turn my daydreams into reality.

We got to the club just as an auction for the Iraq Veterans Against the War started. Signed CD's and t-shirts by Michael was all there was to buy, but I had an idea...
I approached the auctioneer and asked him if he would auction off a kiss from Michael. He asked and Michael agreed. I then entered the auction and won the highest bid at 130 dollars. The money went directly to the Iraq Veterans organization and Micheal Franti's lips went straight to mine as I stood on the stage of the club with the crowd loudly cheering. I could almost call it prostitution, but it was for a good cause and, even though it was just a kiss, it was tax-deductible (I can't wait to report this one to the IRS next year). This made my 24 hours of air travel, hitchhiking, and train riding all worth it. Yes, this all happened in one day, on my way to a peace march, starting with snow and ending with a kiss.

You can check out more of my pictures here-
Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir Exorcise the War Demons Of Congress-Slide Show

Reverend Billy, activist/evangelist, exorcises the war demons out of Nancy Pelosi's Office.

You can also check some of my pics atMarch 17th, 4 Years of War-Slide Show Some of these photos will go into a Harvard Press publication about women's activism around the world. First book publisher for me!!!

This is a clip from when we raided the Congressional cafeteria and sang the Dont Buy Bush's War Gospel as it is. Peace-a-lujah!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Bye Bye Burka

I'm loving life. It's been some time since I've lived in the chaos of Asia, and the longer I'm in the states, the more I appreciate what I have here. Let's talk about fashion.

I LOVE dressing up. I love fashionable short skirts, cute jeans, high heels, you name it. I even wear makeup. I know. Those who have known me for a while are laughing right now. Yes, I've finally girl'd out. I get to be pretty and I even wear sparkles.

You might not think that it's a big deal. Lots of western women girl out all the time, but it's a big deal to me.

During my 20s, I had to dress to hide. In Nepal, I lived with village tribes. The villagers were very welcoming, but they still treated me like a zoo animal. I got stared down all the time, and it became exhausting. How many white 21 year olds live alone in a Nepalese village while speaking fluent Nepali? I can understand their confusion, but I used fashion to minimize the constant rubber necking and googly eyes from onlookers. Pretty much, I got a tan, acted like a villager (which wasn't hard because it was a very organic and primal environment) and wore village clothing. See example below:

Yours truly, in a Himalayan mountain hamlet.

My efforts to be a chameleon paid off though. One time, in the village, a group of Israeli tourists looked straight at me. One of them said, "Does anyone speak English here?!?! They're all locals!!! We won't find what we need." I didn't say a word and they looked right past me. Never approached me. I would have spoken to them in English, but they were loud and rude, so I just watched and laughed inside. They thought I was a local!!! HAHAHA!

Then there was Afghanistan...

I had to dress like a local as much as possible, because I didn't want to get kidnapped while walking the city streets. I wasn't perfect at looking like an Afghan woman, but I will proudly say that an Afghan soldier once asked me if I was from Pakistan. Again, I think it was because of my tan, my energy, and my somewhat regional clothing.

Humor made the culture diving easier. My friend Jeremy and I used to make jokes about the fashion all the time when we were in Kabul. He would say, "I just saw your wrists. Put those things away, you whore!" It was hilarious for us.

On the streets of Kabul. Nothing sexier than trying to dress like a sack of potatoes. Hot.

Can you imagine? Dressing to hide for so many years? What a weird concept. It didn't really phase me. It was just a small price to pay to explore a wondrous world, full of miracles and craziness. I have no regrets, but now! Let me tell you, I've broken out of my burka mentality to rock fitted dresses and hot fashion whenever possible. Oh the things one can appreciate. I'm sure the women who came before me in my own country understand what I'm talking about. Remember women, we had a fashion revolution here not too long ago.

Ah, that's better. I could have been stoned to death for this in Kabul. 

And this fashion statement would have been a straight up death wish. This was in LA, not Kabul :-)