At home in Cambridge Massachusetts I am now recounting my trip to southeast USA with my photographic presentations about Palestine & Israel, in 15 parts, one for each day.
Photos in this entry from Al-Kamandjati Music Center, Ramallah, Occupied Territories of Palestine
Established in 2002 by Ramzi Abu Radwan, the Center trains young music students from refugee camps in various parts of Palestine (special thanks to Margaret Hawthorn for leading me here)
The boy, Ramzi Abu Radwan, at age 8, throwing a stone at Israeli soldiers during an invasion of his refugee camp in Ramallah, Amari, in the late 1980s—Ramzi later founded the Music Center
I’m in the home of K and Skip—yes, another Skip (given his name when deep sea fishing as a 4 year old, “The Little Skipper”)—near the main campus, downtown, an older section of the city, in a huge house of at least 10 rooms, housing just the two, plus their cat. They’ve recently remodeled, the kitchen is extravagant yet has little work space. The house sits on a ridge, overlooking another part of the city, not far from railroad tracks. So periodically I hear the captivating sound of a train whistle, reminding me, in 10 days or so I will be gliding home from Jacksonville on the train.
They have very fine art on their walls, and now, thanks to their taste and largesse, 2 of my 11 by 14 photos from Israel-Palestine will join that art. I offered to donate one but they insisted on purchasing them—another $40 into the kitty.
Teacher Margaret Hawthorne with her student
The show itself was to be part of a panel discussion organized by the heavily bearded Arnold K, arch activist locally. The other portion of the panel never showed up, a man long ago living in Gaza. The audience consisted mostly of students, some 30 of them, with a sprinkling of older folks. The show itself did not seem to radiate the energy it had the evening before in Charlotte. Always a mystery—how the same presentation can look so different each time. No spirited introduction last night, as from Said the evening before. No presence of Gazans or Palestinians, one loquacious woman from Syria. A young Jewish man who was very well spoken during the discussion but later in private conversation conveyed a strong whiff of hopelessness, despair and confusion.
A very lovely young woman asked 2 pivotal questions: why so much concentration of violence and extremism in Gaza, and the other I’ve forgotten, equally thoughtful and difficult to answer. For the first I laid out the history of the Strip, probably at too great a length, to show that at least it has had an aspect of isolation and neglect for a very long period. But this is a question I’d like to devote more attention to.
Other questions were about Hamas, the media, rockets, etc, very few if any about my personal involvement or about photography. I opened with a query: Why be concerned about Gaza, Israel-Palestine, and the Middle East? (Answers: It’s one focal point of problems, its relationship to Abrahamic traditions, presence of luminaries, so many in such a small region, and the light)
M wrote a relatively long letter, partly about attending Bread and Puppet Theater with Mark and his family, including his wife who’d won tickets, loving the show, feeling she’s finally understood Bread and Puppet’s Cheap Art, and about her nephew who turns out to be an extraordinarily talented actor. With mention of another debilitating bout of deep insomnia and a wish to continue our friendship, a promise to occasionally check in.
A very curious absence of questions about my life on the road. As if it doesn’t occur to her to ask me how the shows are going, the south, people I meet, local politics, etc. This is a major discovery of my days with M—that apparent killing absence of empathy with me. (Which is not to claim she is without empathy. Only with me.)
I am so relieved to have detached. Now I am in equilibrium, balanced, sane, past the stage of terrorizing love, that love bug that itches incessantly, never satisfactorily scratched. Now I scratch once and the itch is gone.
A brief walk around the neighborhood yesterday as the sun set, noticing the light on the trees and buildings. A photo or two.
David M showed up for the presentation last night, 1/2 hour late which is his pattern, a one-hour drive to his home in Aiken, and dropped me at the home of his friend, Christine, after the show. He lingered awhile for a chat and to nibble some of the Arabic sweets Mohamed had given me the evening before. The tour is mostly in place, he’s agreed to cancel the Birmingham gig, and now implores me to help find housing for my one night without, in Greenville, just prior to Atlanta. I’m to call Bert this morning and ask if he can pick me up at the train station on Sunday morning early.
This morning I have a few open hours before Dick M retrieves me for a ride to my next venue, Greenville. I’m afraid I have only a rough idea of the geography here, and really run blind. I should learn the map much better, come to visualize it without aids.
Poster of Edward Said
Yesterday a long chat on the drive to my next venue with Frances H, maybe in her 50s, short, blond, clear spoken, sharp witted, divorced, with a few adult kids. She works with homeless folks, and does installation art. Our nearly 3-hour conversation ranged from family, art, politics, love, and the region, to hope and sorrow. In Columbia we met the tall slender white bearded Dick M who I know from the last trip, residing with him and his wife Jane, and so connections formed 2 months ago continue.
Dick treated me to lunch at Shoney’s, a second visit to this emporium of gluttony, and then a rest at his house and some email. Like last time, he is trying to reawaken his fiction writing talent.
—February 5, 2009, Thursday, Columbia, SC