Saturday, August 4, 2012

Who we are: from tamales and pastelitos to wine and cheese

Teddy and son
Jamie drops by so that we can review where we are with developing a longer term contract with Martin and Noche Flamenca. I introduce her to Teddy’s son, Ted III, who’s in for the weekend to visit his dad  and joining him  and my son Dan in the work crew working with Martin to make the session room a studio. His temporary floor has ripped so a new solution has to be found. 
We all feel amazed when we watch Soledad Barrio, Martin’s wife dance, testing the floor (( . Amazed to have in our house a woman who thre New York Times has called one of today’s great dancers of any genre. She finds the ruined beauty of the session room perfect for flamenco, just as it is. 
There’s the young cast of  a play in rehearsal having lunch on the steps. Dan wants to know why they’re there. Just need a break I say, need to come outside. I think its OK, them being there, he says . It’s  OK. 
I’m glad Dan is around to be part of this.
workers share their stories
Today is one of those days that makes West-Park what it is. There’s a breakfast in McApin Hall. Tracy and the Sweatshop Free Upper Westside Campaign has invited kitchen workers from the neighborhood to gather and share their stories with one anther.  One of the workers has brought fresh made tamales for breakfast. The chili added to the masa wrapped in corn leaves is a good for a wake up. Someone else has brought pastelitos. I think back to my days with the farm workers in Oklahoma, their breakfasts of menudo, tripe stew. The t-shirts that said, menudo: el desayuno de los campeones, ie, menudo: the breakfast of champions. 

I sit and listen  as the workers tell their stories. (The meeting is all in Spanish.) Sixty to eighty hour work weeks. No overtime. Less than five dollars an hour. The Sweatshop Free folks have   not jumped into the minimum wage struggle yet. Raise the minimum wage? How about we start by paying the minimum wage...No breaks, not even for bathrooms.  No pooling or keeping tips.  Threats and anti-gay slurs used as insults. As the stories are told, heads nod. All too familiar. And it becomes very clear that they need to stand together, to be unidos, to not allow themselves to be separated from one another.  

We talk about the city wide Dominos boycott.  While I’m tweeting what I’m hearing ( @rlbrashear, #ssfuws), the West Side Rag tweets in that they’d like to know more about the  Dominos boycott. Hopefully we can get that word out.  And how Pastor Heidi and I have been threatened for our support. 
I bring Martin and Dan upstairs. Martin so that he understands where he’s moving int better, Dan so he sees the whole picture. When the meeting is over, Martin introduces himself to Tracy. Recalls interaction and relationships with people, from the UFW movement.   And he always dreams of teaching children flamenco, as part of their culture. That’s the synergy I want to have happen. 
Edward is back on the steps. This leads to a long conversation. A very long conversation. I’ve been a bit rough on him and need to be gentler. Dan watches Wants to know how I know him. His story. You ask, I say. They don’t always tell you at first, but sooner or later, if you keep trying....Gregory, the Sentinel, is silently observing all this. 
Teddy moves back and forth between Martin and RL who’s got his own work crew of David and Clifford working with him. Dan jumps in there a little, too.  When work is over, Teddy takes me across the street to the B to review the events of the day. I stay until its time for Berik’s opening.
Berik and his New York Realism friends have a new show. There are new paintings on the wall, artists and wine and cheese.  An Israeli artist has done a fantasy reflection on 86th Street with the church in the  center. 
Berik's new show opens
I look at Mc Alpin. Reflect on how this morning it was filled with Mexican kitchen workers and tamales and pastelitos and this afternoon it’s artists and wine and cheese. That’s what this place is. That’s who we are.  

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