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Campus Safety and Security is available 24 hours a day to ensure a safe and secure environment for all City College students, staff members, and visitors.

—Truman College, Chicago

Truman_College_Building

Truman College is a Chicago community college a few blocks from St Francis House of Hospitality where I periodically stay in the Uptown neighborhood on the North Side. Since the early 1990s Truman College has been an oasis for me. I’ve attended workshops and talks there, perused the walls for information about community events, eaten in the cafeteria, and read quietly and peacefully. Truman College hosted an exhibition of my photographs about Native Americans. A few days ago, I’d hoped to visit Truman for many of the same reasons, especially to learn about community events.

St Francis House-Jimmy

The late house resident, Jimmy, on the porch of St Francis House of Hospitality

A big change: security. Private uniformed security officials sat at a desk immediately inside the main entrance, a twisted form of “Welcome Desk.” Electronic turnstiles admitted only those with sufficient credentials. I asked, may I come in? Why? To check bulletin boards for local events and grab a cup of coffee. No. Sorry.

Truman College, a public institution, is now gated. As is much of our nation.

IMG_5244

Train platform, Wilson Station

Perhaps an incident occurred at the college that precipitated this security. A robbery or violent assault. Such incidents are often used to justify increased security. The “Shoe Bomber,” carrying an explosive of some sort, apparently attempting to blow up a plane, led to x-raying removed shoes at airports. Are such incidents, often leading to irreversible policy changes, sufficient reason to dramatically increase security?

Or the neighborhood which draws unhoused or homeless people. Are they a threat? They could be offered a safe place out of the maddening crowd, warm, a place to rest, use the toilet, perhaps sold a moderately priced cup of coffee. Similar to the neighborhood McDonald’s which seems, by comparison, inordinately hospitable.

As of this writing, of the 77 Chicago community areas, Uptown ranked between 39th (violent crime) and 61st (property crime), hardly a high crime area.

IMG_5199

Wilson Station being renovated

I recall airports with minimal security. No need to remove shoes, laptops, jackets, etc, to be scanned. I recall universities with open libraries for browsing (for decades I visited the architecture library at MIT to explore photography books, a major form of my photographic education.) I recall state and federal office buildings without security. I recall neighborhoods, including the South Side of Chicago where I grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, where we kids played freely late into summer evenings. And I recall a time, an era, that was happily relatively open,relatively welcoming, relatively fearless.

The police fear Black people; thus we experience a wave of police murdering African-Americans, usually Black Males, often females as well, not as well-known. On my first evening in Chicago I attended a police accountability meeting in Uptown, one in a series to increase civilian supervision of police activity.

This nation, the most powerful in history, with a military costing more than the militaries of the next 8 nations combined, has become a people suffocated in fear. The president calls for a 10%, $54 billion increase in the military budget, while slashing money for housing, medical care, education, the environment. The military now demands more than $600 billion annually, enough to build thousands more schools, tens of thousands more homes, develop hundreds of miles of regional public transportation, and easily pay for an exterior paint job for St Francis House.

Fear rules the soul but wisdom can overcome fear. Wisdom, courage, bravery, and insight can open the doors of community resources. Truman College can once again be a refuge, a center of community activity, a beacon of what is best in the American people—welcoming, trusting, loving.

Since 1976, Truman College has been a vibrant and vital part of Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, delivering high-quality, innovative, affordable and accessible educational opportunities and services.

—Truman College

LINKS

Is Uptown Safe?

Crime in Uptown

Uptown

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We can do it, you know. We can get there. We can have it all. The Third Millennium AD can be the green millennium, the time in which we learn to live as responsible human beings at last. There is no law, natural or divine, which demands that the world we live in become poorer, harsher, and more dangerous. If it continues to become that way, it is only because we do it ourselves.

—Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl

PHOTOS

I’ve long wished to join the series of actions at the West Roxbury lateral pipeline in Boston, which often includes civil disobedience. The actions attempt to stop a pipeline being laid thru land taken by eminent domain. The 5-mile pipeline is part of a 1,100-mile pipeline being built by Spectra Energy of Houston, Texas, and its subsidiary, Algonquin Gas Transmission in Waltham, Massachusetts, to carry natural gas from Pennsylvania. Some claim it will transport gas extracted by hydraulic fracking further south in the States for sale in Canada. This presents a multiple whammy.

  • The process of fracking pollutes water and releases methane, making it allegedly more destructive to the earth than coal.
  • While much of the pipe is under roads, causing little inconvenience except during construction, some pipe I suspect is under useful land snatched by the law, such as home and school lands.
  • The gas in this high pressure line could explode and destroy buildings and lives along the route. In addition, as a final seal of potential doom, one stretch is next to a quarry where explosives are used to mine the rock.
  • It increases the potential for gas leaks, already a major problem not only in Boston but widespread in the nation.
  • It encourages more use of fossil fuel rather than emphasizing renewable energy.

To be convincing in this article, I would need to research and corroborate all these claims. This would include reading counter claims about the economic benefits and safety of the project. Sufficient for now, I reference this article about the debate:

“Debate about the pipeline heats up” (September 2015)

The action itself on Saturday, June 25, 2016, billed as running from 10 to noon, lasted until about 3 pm. It consisted of a rally along the pipeline route, opposite the quarry and the compressor station also under construction; a march of about 1/2 mile to the pipe laying site, blocked by a police line; another march of about the same length to the other end of the police cordon with a short vigil along a main road, Washington Street; and then some unscripted but highly anticipated activity.

Compressor construction site

Metering and Regulating construction site

 

During all this, a smaller group of about 10 people who were prepared for arrest with their support people sniffed their way thru the warren of small country-like roads to the mid-point of the project. Searching for a way past the police who otherwise would block them, suddenly 3 men from this contingent who expected to be arrested, darted down the road past the police, onto the site, and soon were in the 10 ft deep ditch dug by a huge Caterpillar hydraulic mining shovel preparing to lay the pipe.

Police hurried into the ditch, extracted and arrested the three young men, handcuffed them, and brought them to a curb where they sat awaiting the police van to be delivered to the West Roxbury police station.

Arrest of Jay O'Hara and two others

Arrest of Shea Riester and two others

Where was I in all this, I the ever-seeing, or hoped to be the ever-seeing photographer, trying to be in all places at all times, hovering over the action, omniscient, omnipresent, a form of photographer god or angel, free to pass thru police lines with my magical fantastic credentials? I had been at the far end of the construction site, unable to see much about what happened at the site, casually photographing police juxtaposed with cranes and trucks behind them, when I noticed a flurry of activity. This included the only person with a large video camera and tripod. He must know something that I don’t; why else would he race away with all that heavy gear? I thought. So I followed, wondering whether I was about to photograph something important, or just go for a futile self-tour of West Roxbury.

West_Roxbury_Pipeline_IMG_4280

I call myself (usually not openly) an “opportunistic photographer,” that is, I often exploit opportunities presented to me rather than plan my work. Entering Gaza in 2003 for the first time is one example. I failed twice to gain entrance and then happened upon an international NGO thru a friend and slipped in with them. Or, also in Gaza, I was working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) when they told me they planned a trip to one of the most heavily destroyed parts of the Strip, called Zeitoun (the Arabic word for olive tree) to deliver donated winter clothing. I accompanied them and made nearly a day’s worth of photos. Waking up that morning I doubt I knew where I’d be later in the day. That is “opportunistic photography.” Or maybe a better word is “spontaneous,” guided by my muses which I pray to and thank every day.

So I found myself virtually the only photographer at the most appropriate location to show the three young men, later a fourth, questioned by the police, searched, and stuffed into the police van. All close up. I did however miss their drop in visit to the ditch, trying to block construction, and the police response. This for other photographers, other opportunistic or simply lucky human beings with cameras. I do not work alone.

The action continued. By the same backwoods route used by my predecessors who were arrested and their supporters,the group and I found a way to join others prepared for arrest. This included an older woman in a wheelchair, waiting for a long period under hot sun. Altho our numbers had shrunk, from about 90, we 30 or so constituted an ongoing vigil, observing the ditch making and pipe laying, pieces of an evolving national labyrinth which could contribute to disaster not only of this neighborhood but of the planet itself.

The long road around the two police barricades

The long road around the two police barricades

West_Roxbury_Pipeline_IMG_4343West_Roxbury_Pipeline_IMG_4341

As I write this, today (June 28, 2016) on Democracy Now a few minutes ago Amy Goodman broadcast a troubling report about extreme weather in the United States.

From Aravinda Ananda, arrested with her husband Joseph at the demonstration on June 28, 2016:

Joseph and I did our business owners’ action earlier in the morning. They arrested Joseph immediately after crossing the police tape. I sat by the trench for maybe 3 minutes before they had me cuffed and taken away. No construction stopped.

30-40 people had come from western MA to risk arrest, but the police liaison made a deal with the police – protestors would approach the police line and construction would stop for an hour or something and there would be no arrests. I think they only ended up stopping construction for 40 minutes, but there were no other arrests.

We were in custody from about 9:30 until perhaps 3:00. They brought us to precinct 5 and we were in a holding cell for about 4 hours while they booked us. Then they brought us to lockup/the courthouse, and two holding cells later we went before a judge who offered us the same deal all other pipeline protesters have been offered thus far: to convert the charges from criminal to civil ones so long as we are not arrested again in this same protest in the next 6 months. So our journey through the court system may or may not be over. 

…I offered some Work That Reconnects practices including “bowing to our adversaries” at a conference two weekends ago at Pendle Hill on “Powerful Faith-Based Organizing for Climate Justice.” I have been feeling that piece a lot recently. Before the action yesterday, I had to pass through the construction site twice in search of a bathroom. I made a point of saying good morning to all of the construction workers and police officers. On the way back from the bathroom the sidewalk was closed, but an officer escorted me through and we chatted about the rain – I told him how much I appreciated it for gardening. I said “wow, this is a big project” (about the construction). He said “yea, some protesters are not happy about it.” I didn’t tell him I was one of them… Maybe next time. 

…We were singing kirtan chants in the police transport vehicle, and when I was in the holding cell alone for four hours whenever I would get restless I would quietly chant. I ended up sending a lot of loving kindness to the police officers in the precinct. It was so helpful to have had these spiritual tools (bowing to the adversaries, chanting, etc.) to steady me through this. All in all, the police were really kind to me. The arresting officer asked me if I had any medical conditions or arthritis before cuffing me. Joseph didn’t get the same courtesy (knee on his back!) [He’d not cooperated during the arrest, going limp.]. The officers who booked me asked me three times if I needed to use the bathroom, which is good because there were no facilities in my first holding cell. They also brought me my jacket which they had previously taken from me saying they thought I might be cold. It wasn’t too difficult to send them loving kindness. I wonder if I could have done it so well if they had been violent to me as I know people caught up in that system often can be…
Peace,
Aravinda

LINKS:

Stop the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline

Resist the Pipeline

“Should Massachusetts Oppose Further Natural Gas Pipeline Construction In The State? Boston Globe South” by Scott Gustafson, organizer, Laborers International Union of North America (May 2016)

“Unitarian Universalists fight to stop Boston-area gas pipeline” by Elaine McArdle, March 14, 2016

Watch out for those Quakers! 20 arrested blocking construction of Boston #fracked gas pipeline #StopSpectra #350mass  (by Bill McKibbon, June 2016)

QuakersPipelineJune 23, 2016

From Friends Meeting at Cambridge, at a recent pipeline action

“Following on weeks of actions at the Spectra West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline construction site, a Quaker-led group placed themselves in the way of construction….” (May 2016)

“Vice President’s Daughter Karenna Gore Arrested in the Trenches of a Climate Protest” Democracy Now

“Tim DeChristopher Arrested Again in the “Age of Anticipatory Mass Graves” for Climate Victims” Democracy Now

2016-01-04-wrl_gasleaks-Image of gas leaks in West Roxbury- Gas Safety USA. Courtesy BU professor Nathan Phillips

Gas leaks in West Roxbury, April 2016, Gas Safety USA, courtesy of Boston University professor Nathan Phillips

 

 

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Can you suggest venues for my photographic presentations?

In this moment of escalating violence and burgeoning right wing Israeli politics, all my presentations address systemic injustice and some suggest strategies for transformation.

I have firm dates now for the California section of my West Coast tour, March 4 thru March 20 and for Alaska, March 22 thru April 5, 2016.

My most recent productions, all based on my three month spring 2015 trip, are:

Palestine_Israel-Nabi_Salih-Tamimi-Popular_Resistance-6495

Timeline Palestine & Israel, a narrated introduction to the history of the conflict, especially suited to audiences new to the issues

 

Palestine_Israel-Bil_in-Popular_Resistance-7071

The Freedom Bus Ride thru the West Bank, a cross section of oppression and resistance in key sites such as Tuwani, Bil’in, and Nabi Saleh, with special reference to the Freedom Ride in the USA

 

Nomika Zion, author of %22War Diary from Sderot,%22 written during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, the predecessor to the last war-1

Gaza’s Israel Neighbors: Other Voice, a movie in process about Jewish Israelis living within one mile of Gaza, heavily attacked, yet calling for negotiations rather than violence

 

Israeli military surveillance installationHoly Water: the Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea, demonstrating unequal water rights, a slideshow that combines the climate crisis, hydrology, and politics

 

Palestine_Israel-Jerusalem-7115

Palestinian Jerusalem, featuring the controversial March of Flags, this slide show-movie remaps Jerusalem to show the pervading inequalities in that historic city supposedly shared by Christians, Jews, and Muslims

 

So you can learn better what I offer, I’ve posted on YouTube a short (22 minute) video excerpting from my five most recent shows:

 

More photos, writings, and movies.

My full list of offerings for those who might not have seen it, indicating the newest works with an asterisk.

General Tour 2016 Announcement

I plan to put a calendar on line that will facilitate organizing. It will show open dates, and indicate where I expect to be in California at various times. This is in the works. At the moment all dates are open. I am particularly interested in visiting educational institutions, 6th grade and up.

I look forward to hearing from anyone with questions and invitations. Thanks to those considering hosting me and my art.

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Gaza, 2010

I have followed Skip’s activities through his email newsletter which has kept me up to date through the personal contacts he has made with peacemakers. From living [myself] in a situation of violence and change in South Africa I know how valuable it is to have the kind of support he is offering to peacemakers in Israel and Palestine—getting out the everyday stories of life, thought, and peace and justice making that don’t make the international headlines. It helps keep the people on the ground going.

—Jeremy Routledge, former director of the
Quaker Peace Center in Cape Town, South Africa

Dear friends:

In various ways, I’ve faithfully reported to many people about my work concerning Palestine/Israel. For the past nine years, not only while I was most recently in the region in 2010, but subsequently with my US-based work, I’ve tried to keep people informed and motivated thru my photos and stories.

Later this month I will begin my 7th journey of photographic discovery and exposure of conditions and struggles in Palestine/Israel. I hope you can join me, as a viewer and reader—and as a financial supporter.

Yaffa/Tel Aviv, Israel, 2010

Gaza, 2010

For this 10-week trip I plan to volunteer my photographic services again with the American Friends Service Committee in Gaza and the West Bank, Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, Al-Rowwad in a Bethlehem refugee camp, Friends of the Earth Middle East in both Israel and Palestine, and the Jenin Freedom Theater, as well as other organizations who request my services. Mainly I will photograph for them and also, when asked, teach photography to  high school and university age youth. The AFSC plans a traveling exhibit about the occupation; they’ve sought my photographic contributions. All this is at no or minimal charge to the organizations. Thus I need financial help.

Public opinion in the US is slowly becoming more responsive to Palestinian experiences, the numerous violations of human rights and international law, and the expanding non-violent resistance against the injustice perpetrated by the Israeli government (with corresponding violence and sometimes criminal actions by Palestinians). The United States and many European governments mutely accept most of the illegal and unjust Israeli policies. Slowly, incrementally, a mild trickle of awareness is percolating into what could become a torrent of support for Palestinian rights. On March 30 international organizers plan The Great March on Jerusalem into Israel across the borders of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. I plan to be there to photograph. I hope to be part of the larger movement for human rights and accountability to international law. With your help I can achieve this.


Gaza, 2010

Airfare is roughly $1300, accommodations, food and local transport will cost me approximately $1400, photo equipment and supplies another $500, and miscellaneous about $300 for a grand total of $3500. I’d deeply appreciate any sort of contribution, large or small, whether money, airline ticket benefits, equipment (photographic or computer) and prayers. I welcome your suggestions about making this journey. You could also help by organizing a showing of my up to date slide shows or photo exhibitions.

Checks can be made out to me, Skip Schiel, mailed to 9 Sacramento St, Cambridge MA, 02138 USA, or you can use PayPal on my website, teeksaphoto.org. I’m not able to offer you a tax deduction.

Thank you so much for your support.

—Skip

Dr. Mona Al Farra, Gaza, 2009

Kalandia Checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, Ramadan, blocked from attending Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, 2009

You might want to visit these internet sites to view and read what I’ve done over the past 9 years on this project.

teeksaphoto.org (photos)

skipschiel.wordpress.com (writing and photos, plus movies)

eyewitnessgaza.net (movie by Tom Jackson about my work)

www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2902195 (recently published book of my Gaza photos)

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Earthworks Urban Farm

Excerpts from my journal while in Detroit, moving backwards (not always), last to first.

About deindustrialization, depopulation, residential and commercial vacancy, corruption of capitalism—and the rise of urban gardens, local resistance and activist organizations—ending with news about the US Social Forum, Allied Media Conference, and the first public national gathering of anti-Zionist Jews in the United States.

In several parts, with photos and videos.

PHOTOS

There can be no beauty if it is paid for by human injustice, nor truth that passes over injustice in silence, nor moral virtue that condones it.

—Tadeusz Borowski

July 2, 2010, Friday, Detroit

Cool and mostly clear, wind abating.

Yesterday I visited with DD, my old chum from Friends General Conference gathering maybe 10-15 years ago. We found much in common, especially lauding art informed by a political perspective. She told me that before she retired she taught a course at Detroit Friends School called Art and Social Concerns, or the like, and that Kathe Kollwitz is one of her favorite artists. This in reference to the dialog GC and I are having about similar topics. She showed me an urban farm run by the Capuchins order of Christian brothers [Earthworks Urban Farm named No. 3 in U.S. by Natural Home magazine. Detroit is 1/3 vacant, either vacant lots or vacant buildings, and food scarce. It also has one of the largest quantities of urban gardens and farms of US cities.], a large expanse tended by the brothers and volunteers. Then a small farmers’ market they run. We met a young black woman intern who asked us to visit her 3 by 3 ft plot named Love lives here. A group of black adults, male and female, were harvesting blackberries to make jam. One man overheard me mention my garden and asked, do your greens survive the winter? He was very interested in preserving his plants and had heard this might be possible. I commented to DD, gardening touches the soul in most of us.

DD brought me to the Detroit Institute of Art, the DIA, a huge complex that features a mural by Diego Rivera, commissioned by Edsel Ford in 1933 to depict the Ford Motor Company River Rouge plant. It is organized by the diurnal work cycle, enter and leave the plant, while another narrative runs above the main one, this about uses of the vehicles including warplanes dropping mustard gas. Authorities are all pictured with scowls on their faces. Very impressive, I photographed extensively. We were surprised to learn the DIA was showing a special collection of Robert Frank photos (born in 1924 he is now 86 years old) concentrating on Detroit. The city was one of his first stops with his Guggenheim grant in 1955-56, and the Ford company permitted him to photograph a plant, the 1st such photographer to do so. Many of the photos were blurry and dark, not even well composed, surely not among his best, but some were standouts. Only a few made it into The Americans, his seminal book published in 1959.

Later we met Karen—who, when she 1st heard our plan to visit gardens, asked to come along, and then realized this would not be appropriate. She asked me to take notes about locations—at a recently opened Paris crepe for lunch. DD told us that her husband G has been transferred to a new congregation north of Detroit, partially because he’s run into some trouble with his current congregants over his willingness to discuss such loaded topics as abortion. Some feel this is not discussable because it is clearly wrong.

Using the entrance tags DD’s membership had bought us, Karen and I reentered the DIA for more viewing until closing time. I concentrated on Native American art, then Egyptian, and finally, at her urging—we were in phone contact—contemporary. She’d discovered a video installation by William Kentridge, the extraordinary South African artist I’d met at an opening in 1999.

After meeting with the highly charged Tova P to give her a Gaza print for her organization’s auction benefit we then dined, 1st trying Tova’s suggestion of the bistro—too expensive, could tell by the double white table cloths and fancy table ware, starting at about $16, then the union grill, more in line with our budget and tastes. Talking with Tova as she selected a print—ultimately the one of the adorable Yousef peering playfully at me over his glasses—I listened to her think out loud: Given the context, which would be best? What will someone buy? And what will not upset donors because of the embedded politics? What will suggest peace advocate? She looked up Yousef on the internet, found his blog, current writing from Norway, and asked me to write him inquiring whether he’d submit a short statement about himself that might go with the photo.

What else from that day? Lots of photos. Lots of interaction. Lots of friendship. Some news: Carol’s mother committed suicide at age 69, in the house, with a gun shot to the heart, after suffering depression and some health loss, including her eyesight. She said she did not want to become an old woman. Father was devastated, lived into his 80s. I briefly outlined my story about Pearl, my mother, noticing how empathetic Carol is, what a good listener she is. And told her so.

At the Detroit Institute of Arts

Last night’s dream no. 1: with a young daughter, Katy (a recurring theme), on a trip, me the sole parent, buying her something, at the library.

No. 2: at a parade or march, watching children wheel in fancy patterns, lots of noise and excitement, someone snipe shooting at the crowd, shooting randomly without much effect, no panic. I noticed a listing of the participants included the “Oswego’s,” not a term I knew. I asked someone looking like Polly A what this meant. The generic term for American Indians. News to me. I thought also about the word Webelos, another arcane word, this one from my experience in Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts. [I learn later that Webelos is an acronym meaning “We’ll Be Loyal Scouts.”]

LINKS:

Capunchins Urban Farm

Growing green in Detroit, A Rust Belt city discovers the benefits of urban gardening

Detroit Institute of Art

Diego Rivera mural at the Detroit Institute of Art

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Excerpts from my journal while in Detroit, moving backwards (not always), last to first.

About deindustrialization, depopulation, residential and commercial vacancy, corruption of capitalism—and the rise of urban gardens, local resistance and activist organizations—ending with news about the US Social Forum, Allied Media Conference, and the first public national gathering of anti-Zionist Jews in the United States.

In several parts, with photos and videos.

PHOTOS

The mindful apply themselves; they don’t amuse themselves in any abode. Like swans flying from a lake, they abandon home after home.

—The Dhammapada, verse 91

July 3, 2010, Saturday, Detroit

Another day of much bike riding. This time thru the Arab Dearborn community, making a video as I scouted the store fronts from the Al Ameer restaurant (Al Ameer means prince in Arabic) to the truly wondrous New Yasmeen bakery. There also I videoed, thinking someone might stop me as I scanned the backs of customers waiting patiently for their turn at the deli bar, the bar itself in the background with its display of food. No one did. Even tho I tried this 3 times, thinking 4 times might test my luck. I asked, any magluba?, the delicious Palestinian upside down casserole. No, sorry. But one of the best chicken shuwarmas I’ve had, on a par with those in Ramallah, but smaller, and for $3.19. I ate it later, along with a fruit filled confection, sitting in the shade of a small tree near an abandoned industrial complex on Greenfield Ave.

Heading south, I found myself once again in the refinery district, this time knowing the scene better, videoing along the marathon expansion to process heavy or dirty tar sands oil. Thinking again that someone might interfere, I kept a 3rd eye out for security. Pausing in front of the main entrance, noticing security I think noticing me, I thought, this might be it. They’ll approach, ask, what are you doing? And I’ll say, either what I am doing, that is, fascinated by the industrial landscape, an independent photographer, here’s my card, or I’ll suggest an exchange, you explain to me why you’re asking and what the operation is, and I’ll explain why I’m photographing. However, I never had the opportunity—no one stopped me.

This has been a consistent experience in Detroit: no interruption of my photography.

From the industrial district along Jefferson to as near the Detroit River as I could. Finding a fishing area, meeting Jarvis who’s fished this region for 30 years, finding the fish disappearing, maybe the pollution, maybe the entrance of other species because of the opening of the st Lawrence seaway. And met a white fisher who asked me to ask the drilling crew what they were drilling for. They said, hiding something I’m sure, drilling on contract for a commercial firm, testing the soil and the water table. The fisher felt confident the commercial firm was the one searching for a suitable site for a new bridge.

I’d been curious about what prevents people from boating or swimming across the relatively narrow strait to reach the US or Canada. He said, it is heavily patrolled at night, and during the day someone would be noticed. I remain curious about this question.

Finally a stop in Cobo Conference Center for a much-needed 2nd crap of the day and a nap, this time interrupted by an obese young black man on security. The hall was filled with black women, some wearing wildly flamboyant hats. Excuse me sir, are you part of the conference? No? then you’ll have to leave. We can’t have people sleeping on the floor. One week earlier during the US Social Forum I’d have been allowed to sleep: a different clientele, a different milieu, a different attitude.

The group was Link, a black organization coordinating volunteer work.

Dropping off my bike where I rented it, Wheel House Detroit, I met Karen in front of the Renaissance Center, took in the exhibits at the relatively new Museum of Contemporary Art in the cultural district, dined at Cass Café, sharing our favorite salmon BLT (along with a garlic curry soup and sautéed spinach), and the movie.

Big night of dreaming: X had returned from India and offered to teach kids Indian crafts. Either she invited others and me or I knew about it. As I was about to join the group, seeing her for the first time in a long time, another young man entered as well. I was jealous of him, sensed he was her lover. Now, whether to join the group or not, watch her from a distance or up close?

Related to the movie Karen and I watched last evening, Ajami, in a second dream I was with a group of men shooting at other men in a graveyard. We all took cover behind concrete gravestones, shot at each other. I recall vividly firing at 2 men opposing me who each hid behind stones, they fired at me. I was worried, not panicked by this fighting, and had no idea, nor cared, what we were contesting.

And in a third dream I was with a group of mixed skin color and gender people honoring Howard Zinn. Someone narrating his life mentioned how linked he was with black people. As he or she spoke these words I looked at 2 black women friends, pointing to them or tapped them on the shoulder as if to say, he’s talking about you. One was particularly beautiful and I believe we kissed.

Karen hated Ajami, found it demeaning toward Arabs, even tho a joint production between an Israeli and a Palestinian. I partially shared her opinion but did not find the film troubling—on those grounds. Set in Jaffa, showing a form of gangsterism among the Palestinian population, revenge killing, drug dealing, families acting tribally, Karen thought this was the entirety of Arab experience depicted. The Israelis by contrast were also lethal but with some justification. One man killed an Arab thinking the Arab had murdered his brother.

Despite my reservations I felt the movie was very well acted and photographed, the story line was somewhat convoluted, using flashback to portray different versions of an incident, and the film was clearly bloody without redemption. My gripe would be more this: all suffering, no hope. I took the film more as an indictment against the general or overall Arab Jewish Israeli culture than targeting Arabs.

LINKS:

Arab Detroit

Arab American News

Photo Story: The Arab Community in Detroit

New Yasmeen Bakery

Ajami

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Excerpts from my journal while in Detroit, moving backwards (not always), last to first.

About deindustrialization, depopulation, residential and commercial vacancy, corruption of capitalism—and the rise of urban gardens, local resistance and activist organizations—ending with news about the US Social Forum, Allied Media Conference, and the first public national gathering of anti-Zionist Jews in the United States.

In several parts, with photos and videos.

PHOTOS

VIDEO: Detroit’s Renaissance Center, World Headquarters of General Motors

Old age cannot be cured. An epoch or a civilization cannot be prevented from breathing its last. A natural process that happens to all flesh and all human manifestations cannot be arrested. You can only wring your hands and utter a beautiful swan song.

—Renee Winegarten

June 30, 2010, Wednesday

Supreme joy, eclipsing even that of the unlikely declaration of love from X: retrieving my computer. Happened like this. In Traverse City [where I’d given a slide show] I’d plugged in my computer to charge so I could use it on the bus, left the computer “where I’d see it,” on the kitchen floor not far from the exit door. Later, at the bus’s first rest stop, a McDonald’s, I thought I’d see if wireless internet existed, noticed how light my pack containing the computer had become, opened the pack, found no computer. 1st thought, breathlessly experienced, someone on the bus stole it. But how? The pack’s been with me constantly. Oh, ah, shit, I left it in Traverse City. Now what?

Think a moment. Use FedEx, which would mean either they deliver when I’m not home in Detroit, risking theft, or I await the computer, next day or day after. Phone Ann R, where I’d left it, confirm it is there and she would be willing to mail it to me. Yes, it is there, yes, she is willing. Despite the inconvenience to her, which I regret deeply.

Think another moment. How about Greyhound package express? Is this possible? Talk to the driver. It is. Phone Ann. You willing to do this? Yes. Good, then we have a plan.

Now for the computer to arrive safely in my eagerly awaiting hands, and to function properly, 2 conditions must be met: all personnel must be honest and efficient, and neither the bus nor the humans must overly jar the device.

On the day of expected arrival, one day after I’d left it, I arrived at the Detroit terminal 45 minutes before bus arrival time, wandered the Corktown neighborhood, the oldest Detroit neighborhood, sat to read. Bus arrived, I waited along with the passengers as the worker ejected luggage. Where’s the box, the big box Ann said would contain my computer, my beloved, sorely missed, desperately missed (I’d had to revert to long hand notes for my journal and a self pleasuring without the aids my computer contains), intimate adjunct to my life? My dear companion.

Ah, in the last bin under the bus, a box, the box, the computer. Claiming it (and anyone in the universe could have done the same—no identity check) I unpacked it outside the station and confirmed: my computer is back in my hands, glory be!

Now I can write, now I can download my photos and work on them if I have time. Now I can email and read, if I have a connection (which I don’t at my Detroit home, my computer the only one of the 3 or 4 which doesn’t connect, while others do.)

I had consoled myself for possible loss by thinking, it’s an old computer, needs replacement, I’ve backed up everything, I will find substitutes for my computer work, such as the long hand journaling, plenty of paper reading material for the train, etc.

And now, for now, I don’t have to work thru plan B’s, I’m back with my old friend, the Macbook of 2006.

That aside (“that said,” as one currently fashionable locution puts it), I move on to report my inner most life of the past 24 plus hours. I rented a bike, $60 for 4 days, and cruised joyfully most of yesterday exploring the riverfront, downtown, and the long ride back along Grand River Boulevard, very long, very tiring, not very hot, thank god. The weather has chilled, I used 2 blankets last night, this morning I wear Karen’s pj’s. (She’s in Ann Arbor for a concert at a Buddhist center.)

While snacking at a riverside café yesterday, a black woman approached me and asked, and how do you propose to undo racism? This question wasn’t out of the blue—I was wearing my People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond black t-shirt, words on the back, “Undo Racism.” Well, I said, stunned, while retracing the journey of slavery, the Middle Passage pilgrimage, the People’s Institute gave us a workshop in New Orleans. They told black people they didn’t have to be constantly angry, and white people they didn’t have to feel guilty. They taught us about the system of slavery and its legacy in racism, its history, how it evolved. And now I work with black people, live with black people in Detroit, and do what I can to continue undoing racism.

Turned out she, Beverley, was from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, left me some literature with titles like how can you draw close to god, would you like to know the truth, and how can I find happiness in life? If one of the questions had been how can you encourage young women to love you, or what you can do to foster intimacy with your X I might have been more attentive, may even have attended a meeting.

Wearing that shirt as long as I have, in as many settings as I have, I don’t recall anyone asking me that simple question, how do you propose to undo racism?

River side of the Detroit Renaissance Center, home of General Motors

The river walk is well-done, not quite finished, drawing hundreds, mostly black. To reach it I went thru the Renaissance Center. A Hollywood-type film was in process. Earlier as I’d walked from the central city bus station to the river I’d encountered another crew, a photo crew, shooting a Ford commercial. They’d rigged up a boom to a Ford car or small truck, attached a big camera to one end, and were preparing to make a series of photos showing the truck-car against different backgrounds. Very clever. And expensive. And useless, in my view. I have no idea what the movie shooting in the Renaissance Center is about or who the star is. He or she will eventually walk thru the Center. Most areas have been cleared, lights set up, hundreds of people in the crew. To what end?

There in the Center I humbly made my own film-or video. Cars, many, a parade of cars, are the stars in my movie, on display, as I walk among them and then out the door to the river. Another shot of the exterior and I’m finished. Me the only crew, a hand-held, very small camera, and I made a movie.

I cruised the RiverWalk on my new bike with joy in my heart, supreme joy, matching my feeling when I recovered my beloved computer, my buddy in life, loyal, attentive, responsive. Returning, I left the walk and found the industrial zone which was all that remains of what the river front might have earlier been. Surprisingly, no photos from this jaunt, yet.

While awaiting my bus, my computer, I explored the nearby neighborhood, Cork Town. Once inhabited by Irish immigrants, only one row house remains, and it is being excavated and restored. Many of the homes in Cork Town are small and elegant, unlike any Detroit architecture I’ve yet seen: compact, neat, and lived in—from my small sampling—by whites. It is an inner city oasis.

Other observations about the city: traffic is generally not a problem. At most hours, but especially after 5 pm when streets are shockingly empty. Ideal for bike riding.  Streets are also wide. Businesses close down by 6 pm, I was lucky to find an open Subway sandwich shop, its delicious 5-foot long sandwich for $5. Needing a toilet I entered Cobo Conference Center, now nearly empty except for a few security people. Such a dramatic contrast with the site last week thronged by folks of the US Social Forum, some 17,000 of us. The river is wide and swift flowing, with little traffic on it. An occasional barge, occasional speedboat, no sailing craft, one or two tour boats. Black men hang out along the river, perhaps some of them sleep there. Children play in the water fountains in front of the Renaissance Center. Near Hart Plaza I fond a statue to the underground railroad. Reminding me that this was once a major disembarking point for Canada. I discovered a direct bus from Wyoming St and Grand River all the way to downtown. $1.50 and one hour, jammed bus around noon. Not such a bad deal. As usual I am finding my way around a new region, just in time to leave.

Underground Railroad commemoration, pointing to Canada across the river

These are the most delightful and restful of days—no agenda other than explore and learn, make photos and videos, meet people, ask questions, be surprised.

In the backdrop of my Detroit experience lurks Sue Moon’s excellent book, this is getting old, Zen Thoughts on Aging with Humor and Dignity. She writes about having no partner, being lonely, about her ill-health, her Buddhist practice, her mother and father, all germane to me. As I wander the streets in my solo practice I share many of her experiences. And perhaps our writing is generated, at least in part, by our loneliness—and our wish to share our experiences. Thus I write, thus I photograph.

Phoning DD last night (who once admitted to having a crush on me when we met for the 1st time at Friends General Conference gathering maybe 12 years ago) we arranged to meet tomorrow for some shared exploration. She asked me whether I was attending FGC gathering this year (she’s attending, I last saw her at FGC gathering in 2008) and I suggested we defer that conversation for later. She is a dear and sweet person. Too bad the crush was not mutual—and that she was married.

While I was in the bike shop, Wheelhouse Detroit, along the river, my phone rang, Y calling. At 1st I thought it was in response to my email of that morning, wishing her well in her last week in my home and on the East Coast, but no, she had an urgent message. She received a call from Elan, the credit card company, that they’d detected possibly fraudulent use of my card and had blocked my account. Thanking her, I called the company and confirmed the most recent 3 transactions which for some reason keyed the blockage. Very odd, but I guess helpful to protect me. But what if Y had not been at my home to receive and relay that call? If I were in Israel-Palestine and my house were empty. Stuck.

Later this morning I should catch up with yesterday’s notes, written in cryptic form in my notebook.

Yesterday morning, computer free, I walked for the 1st time, in the morning, in my neighborhood. Photographed an empty lot turned into a go-cart racetrack and across the street an outdoor movie theater. And a sign on a post announcing a reward to “Who killed me?” A young beautiful black woman shot in the head while driving on an expressway. Death that close. And later along a busy street, while photographing an empty building once a furniture store, a woman, the only other person I saw walking (at 6 am), 1st asked me why and what I was photographing, and then explained that a corpse had lain 3 weeks in this building before being discovered. This is a dangerous neighborhood, be careful, someone might attack because you’re white, she declared to me. I told her I lived nearby, probably shocking her. She also claimed Detroit is the worst it’s ever been.

Karen has been graciously allowing me to use her computer for internet so I am sketchily in touch with the outer world. Currently I’m trying to finish my New England Yearly Meeting sessions’ registration. She and I are very domestic together, humming along without intimate contact. As I mentioned, because of the chilly morning air, I’m wearing her pj’s, or those of her man friend, M. They fit me.

From yesterday’s hand written notes, as is: Detroit bus station, man selling US flags, limps, tall, with kids—white man offers me food, cigarette, also limps, looks destitute—someone else tries to sell me something—clean station, spacious, orderly, central location, near MGM Grand Casino which looks closed—Karen can’t find me to pick me up, wait 30 minutes, interstates truncate prior road patterns, add complexity—Karen buys me McD’s coffee, her own frozen yogurt survival dish, thaws lasagna, eat together, very domestic—I tell her of AR’s and my unusual intimacy, safe because she is older (11 years) and happily married and the geographic distance—our bus (Indian trails) goes thru small towns, stops at gas stations and honks, countryside with more farms, later a greyhound—my forgetfulness about computer vs. Rick’s forgetfulness about sweater, phones, and something else.

TO BE CONTINUED

Links:

Corktown

RiverWalk

Renaissance Center

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