What Women Weave womens' sexuality and spirituality

October 23, 2015

Medical Blog # 2 “I’ll Leave a Note”

Filed under: Christine Wisdom — Christine @ 3:43 pm

Posted by MakeMyHealth on in EHRs

By Christine Maynard, Patient Advocate 

When my mother was in her 80’s, my sister and I decided it was time to have a discussion with her concerning the whereabouts of her medical records. We didn’t have any of her medical history, doctors’ contact information or records of drug allergies. Being a proud southern woman, and feeling that walking four miles a day protected her against any negative effects of aging or diseases, she declined to agree with our “need to know.”Finally, while packing for elder hosteling abroad she primly replied, “I’ll leave a note.” My sister and I looked between mattresses, under floorboards and in drawers with secret panels for days for that note at a crucial time.

We never found it.

There are remedies to potential problems like this. Vital health information can easily be recorded in our secure medical portals. In a medical emergency, details can be instantly accessed and potentially save our lives or the lives of our loved ones.

Besides a living will with our preferences for end-of-life care, we can often include blood type, relevant medical histories and even instructions for our pets’ care if we were suddenly hospitalized in the patient notes of our patient portal. As informed patients and savvy health care consumers, we should all use our patient portals in case those providing or managing our care need that information.

Case in point: I had a vena cava filter in place for 13 years. It is a titanium device that looks like a complicated fishing lure with pointy bits like hooks. It is designed to catch clots before they enter the lungs. I was tasked with informing medical professionals of its placement, but I always wondered, what would happen if I were unconscious?  Even though it could be seen on a scan, what if it was missed? Wouldn’t it be better if that information was in an electronic file that could be instantly accessed in case of a medical emergency?Even if we don’t have patient portals or electronic patient notes available to us, there are options we can use to make certain this kind of critical information is accessible to our care providers in emergency situations. For example, iPhone users can load important health information into the ‘emergency’ section of their phone, and even if the phone is locked, that information will still be available to emergency care providers.

Medical devices, implants, hardware (titanium rods, hip replacements, etc.,) history from previous surgeries, how one responds to anesthesia, drug allergies and sensitivities, underlying conditions – all of this information needs to be instantaneously accessible if a medical crisis occurs. We can’t plan or prevent these things. But we can be prepared.Examine your current comfort level and game plan for how others would access your vital records. If it is leaving a note, you may want to upgrade your plan. Medical portals can provide an invaluable service in storing critical information that is easy for your medical team to retrieve.

Talk to your doctor about patient portals and other tools you can use to ensure that your health information is available when and where it’s needed. Don’t put it off, and don’t be embarrassed if you are not computer savvy. Ask a family member or friend for help inputting the data if you need it.

Take the patient portal plunge, if you haven’t already. It is much simpler than you might imagine. It is a useful tool through which to communicate with your doctors.

And more importantly, it could save your life.

Christine Maynard, formerly of Natchitoches, La., is an author and journalist. As the survivor of a serious motor vehicle accident that placed her in a medically induced coma and required many surgeries, she is well aware of the difficulties patients face in navigating the health care system. Her unique perspective has inspired her to become a patient advocate whose most important message to doctors and patients is that the patient is the doctor’s greatest resource.

 

Comments

  • Michael Henry Thursday, 22 October 2015

    Interesting and useful information from Christine, who knows of which she speaks. Health is our most valuable asset. Christine has been a warrior in the fight for hers. Looking forward to reading more insightful blogs from this brilliant, strong woman.

  • Christine Maynard Thursday, 22 October 2015

    Thank you, Mike. I’m here to serve. I wish for all of us to move forward, in lockstep, embracing better health and better communication and understanding between health care providers and patients. I wish to help galvanize that movement as well as continue to seek solutions for my own health, always. “Never, ever quit!”

September 6, 2015

The Allure of Orchids

Filed under: Christine Wisdom — Christine @ 10:27 am


by Christine Maynard

Orchid group founder Jim Roberts fell hard for orchids, and he’s sharing the love. He and other members, including Jerry Rossing, are busily preparing for the San Miguel Orchid market, this Saturday and Sunday, the 5th and 6th of September, at 32 Ancha de San Antonio. There will also be an orchid workshop led by eminent orchid hybridizer and grower Sandro Cusi at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, followed by a panel of local orchid growers sharing their experiences.

Roberts and Rossing shed light on the beauty and allure of orchids. They informed me that orchids are the newest and most evolved plant on the planet. There are 35,000 native species and 50,000 hybrids, and they grow on every continent, except Antarctica.

Orchids evolved over millions of years with nothing but rain water. It is redundant to say aerial orchids, as they are epiphytes, which means a plant which grows on trees, but is not parasitic.

Roberts’ interest in orchids was piqued when his older brother returned from California describing colorful orchids living in trees, everywhere. “It breathed life into my dream of living in a warm climate and growing orchids, oranges and tropical flowers. I was in Denver at the time and had a landscape/construction business.”

Roberts continued, “I moved to Atotonilco to begin manifesting my dream. But I felt a bit isolated. I thought, ‘I need a hobby,’ so I went to the Candelaria and found orchids. I came back with eight of them! I returned many times over the next two weeks and ended up with about 50 orchids, but they were all the same kind! I gradually acquired a collection of species. Many people like the little Ballerina orchids, but I like the corsage orchids-the bigger, brighter showier orchids, like the Lady Slipper.

“ I’d procure orchids, kill them, then read up on how to ensure that they thrived. They don’t like salt or urea, both of which are common in commercial fertilizers. Sandro Cusi wrote, ‘if you like to groom your plants, and water them, get yourself a fern!’ They do quite well when they are left alone, with good drainage, like lava rock, and without too much sun.” Roberts finds 40% shade cloth works best.

“I began to be amazed that in San Miguel, nearly every person I spoke to expressed a genuine interest in growing orchids!” Roberts continued.

“I decided to start the Orchid group. Oh, there were plenty of naysayers, but friends like Jerry Rossing encouraged me. We were a group of 3, then quickly a group of 30! We have so much fun; it is quite the social event. We admire our orchids, share photos and remedies, and drink wine.

“Some of our members have been working with orchids for decades and some have only just begun their journey to understand the world of orchids. We often find orchids that are not labeled and may be impossible to identify until they bloom, which can take months and sometimes, years,” Rossing added.

Rossing brought up the fact that there is controversy among orchid enthusiasts in Mexico. There are those who are against the buying of orchids that have been harvested from the forests. “I am not a part of that group and have no hesitation in buying orchids at Tianguis or Candelaria. Millions of orchids are decimated every year from illegal logging. If you take a drive through Michoacan or Oaxaca you’ll see mountainsides stripped of all vegetation. That is the real tragedy, not the few orchids that are collected by locals and sold to orchid collectors “ Rossing stated.

In three years, Roberts has turned the back yard of his colorful casa, located near San Juan Chapel, into a vibrant thriving vegetable and flower garden. He has cypress, cactus, Norfolk pine, elephant ears, plumbago, gardenia, lantana and salvia, along with succulents for ground cover. There is a hanging orchid garden with tree planks onto which orchids attach. He described the blooms of his catlaya orchids as bright purple flowers with yellow throats.

Roberts points to a medium sized pot with orchid plants jammed tightly. “When they finally get crowded, they go to town,” he said.

His roof top garden showcases more orchids, collection tanks for rain water (orchids aren’t fond of chlorine) and a gutter system he designed and built.

They are most fragrant in the morning. One of Roberts’ orchids smelled like rose water; another smaller variety has a deeper musk note.

The conversation came around to Sterling Dickenson’s prized orchids, which were intended to be protected and nurtured, but thousands of his best orchids were stolen. The remaining plants propogated.

“Those common orchids just keep proliferating,” Roberts stated.

The science is fascinating. The tiny orchid seeds, some of the smallest in the plant kingdom, have a symbiotic relationship with certain fungi. Some species will not germinate until the seeds are penetrated; the fungus’ hair like structure enters the tiny seed, and the seed begins to digest the fungus.

How does the fungus benefit? The orchid flowers draw birds and bees and the fungus thrives on their waste products.

“Some species found in the Yucatan have tiny holes in their stalks which are inviting to ants. The ants keep the aphids away. The Aztecs made flutes out of this species’ pseudo bulb, ” Roberts continues, elucidating mysteries of orchids at every turn.

“The psuedobulbs serve as storage tanks, in a similar fashion to a bulb beneath the ground. It takes three pseudobulbs for an orchid to survive. (Some species of orchids with thick leaves for holding food and water require no pseudo bulb.) The stalks which come out of the sheath leaves only bloom once. But they send up a new bulb. Many people decide to throw orchids out after they have bloomed. I am quick to tell them ‘give them to me, instead!’ “

We spoke of the many traditional uses of the orchid in Mexico. Indigenous peoples use orchids as a sweetener, and orchid plants’ fiber is used to make bags. The powdered orchid bulbs, a traditional Chichimeca material, provides the glue used in the creation of Christ of the Column, the statue brought down to San Miguel de Allende from Atotonilco each year.

Roberts remarked, “Today, I was looking out into the yard and I noticed that two purple orchids had bloomed. I ran outside, yelling. It is really thrilling. Orchids have such mystique and allure. I just love them so. I joke that a more apropos name for our group would be Orchid Growers Anonymous!

I knew orchids were my passion and purpose and I’m just so deeply gratified that our community, San Miguel de Allende, loves and appreciates orchids the way our Orchid group does,” Roberts remarked.

“Last year was our first big event and show. There was a man on a motorcycle who sped off with orchids tucked under one arm. Many Mexican families showed up and bought orchids-that was so heart-warming. It isn’t just a gringo thing.

“This year’s Orchid Show promises to be bigger and better than the last. Come out and meet orchid people and bring some orchids home with you. They are just exquisite.”

San Miguel Orchid Market

Saturday, Sunday, September 5, 6, 10am-5pm
Ancha de San Antonio 32, between La Bodega and the Saturday Market

An informative, educational opportunity to buy some of the most beautiful orchids in Mexico, and to learn how to properly care for them.

Orchid Workshop Saturday, September 5th. An informative talk by eminent orchid hybridizer and grower Sandro Cusi, begins at 1:00 pm. “How to Grow Orchids in San Miguel” tickets are available (100 pesos) at the Orchid Market on Saturday at the T-shirt / Information table. The workshop will be followed by a panel discussion of local orchid growers sharing their experiences and answering questions from the audience


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Christine Maynard has worked as a stringer for the New York Times, in new product development for numerous industries, for Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, as a yoga teacher… She now lives in San Miguel de Allende.

Filed under: Christine Wisdom — Christine @ 10:25 am

Icon of SMA: the Real Evita Avery

by Christine Maynard

 To the Queen of Folk Art! Nobody rocks a huipil like you do, Evita!!
Erica Reinecke Balint

She is the purveyor of some of the most sought after collectible pieces of Folk Art in Mexico. Her shop, La Calaca has been featured in Architectural Digest as well as in numerous travel books. Evita is an icon in San Miguel de Allende, though she doesn’t seem to notice. What life events conspired as prologue in the Evita Avery story? When asked about her early influences and mentors, she responded:

My mother. She collected Mexican folk art and it was all over our ranch house in Coahuila, Mexico.

The ranch, six hours from any town, is where Evita was reared. Her mother also grew up on the ranch, and was educated there, by a governess.

Evita was exposed at an early age to traditional folk arts through ranching traditions where cowboys made halters, whips, etc., and through the Kickapoo indigenous group, who made beaded moccasins and other items from the pelts of deer they hunted on the ranch.

Evita’s maternal grandfather, William Bernard Finan, ran away from his Chicago home at age thirteen. He made his way to Oklahoma and was taken in by Indians who bestowed upon him the moniker “White Rope.” He later became a U.S. Marshall in Oklahoma.

“He helped make Oklahoma a state and then moved to Mexico, saying Oklahoma was getting too crowded,” Evita remarked.

Evita shared a story about her grandfather, which was told to her by her mother. When the Revolutionaries approached, he quickly grabbed his hat collection and paraded back and forth in front of a picture window, changing hats every few seconds. He hoped to make it appear that there were lots of people inside, in order to dissuade them from entering!

“They didn’t fall for it; they took the chickens, cows and horses. They were hungry.” Evita added, drolly.

When Evita reached school age, her mother moved with Evita and her siblings to Eagle Pass, Texas, for each school term. “My Mexican American teacher read Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities to us in the fourth grade,” she recalls. Like the other ranch children, she attended boarding school once she reached the age of twelve.

After studying art history at Boston University, she moved to San Miguel de Allende, in her early twenties.

Evita met writers and painters attending the Instituto, where she studied photography. And macramé, circa 70’s. She hung out at La Cucaracha on the square, and after that enlightening time, having met all sorts of characters in her two year stint, she returned to the ranch.

Her love of teaching led Evita to study the Montessori Method, in London. She later taught Montessori in London and Mexico. Evita also traveled to Europe and Egypt, and opened a children’s book store in San Antonio.

Later, she worked at the San Antonio Museum Association in the education department where she was exposed to collections of Mexican folk art that had been donated to the museum. At same time she studied Art History at UNA. Her professor, Merle Wachter, became a mentor.

She was also active in the Mexican folk art business, taking pieces to the States.

By the time she was ready for her second act in San Miguel de Allende, she knew exactly what it was she wished to create- a venue for traditional indigenous folk artists.

She opened her shop, La Calaca, two months after her return. She is currently in her 27th year of business in the same location, Mesones 93. SMA.

Evita travels to markets and museums and also makes her way to villages of indigenous groups from the north to the south of Mexico. She brings back treasures; ceremonial, decorative and utilitarian folk art. Her shop features antique religious pieces, as well as masks and costumes collected during village celebrations. One will also find talavera plates, pulque pitchers, and tourist ware in La Calaca.Evita points out that quite a few pieces in her collections were made by the Grand Masters of Mexican folk art. The art in her shop is all referenced in books and in private collections, or they can be found in museums.

I was most intrigued by a story Evita shared about a visit to one of her favorite Mexican states, Michoacan. She travelled to a community which was established based on the principals set forth by Sir Thomas More, in Utopia.

I traveled by myself and visited a pottery village in the mountains for the celebrations of their patron saint, Cristo Rey. I spent the night in a troje with a wonderful artisan and his sister. Upon awakening, I heard Gregorian chants piped through the village while the villagers made gorgeous rugs of flowers and sawdust, in the street. This is termed ephemeral folk art. The entire experience was transcendental.

Evita’s shop resembles her true personality. It isn’t flashy but if one is paying attention it quickly becomes obvious that it is the real deal. I asked Evita about her love of research and of teaching because I recognize these as common themes woven throughout her life. “I like to share my knowledge with customers if someone is interested,” she responded.

Evita doesn’t pitch. Actually, she rarely makes light conversation. If you are fortunate enough to be in her presence and you pay close attention, you will be able to tap into Evita’s great wealth of knowledge. If you are truly interested, it will be revealed.

Designers Andrew Fisher and Jeffry Weisman featured her shop in their insider’s guide. Weisman stated, “It’s the best shop in town for Mexican antiques.”

One can always recognize Evita by her trademark huipiles.

“The ones I wear are from the Amusgo indigenous group. They are handwoven on a backstrap loom with brocaded geometric designs, generally on a plain cotton ground. They are woven in three webs and joined with cotton randas; it can take anywhere from three to twelve months to weave one, depending on the intricacy of the design. The Amusgo are considered the top weavers in Mexico. They grow brown, white and green cottons to use in their weavings.”

Each huipil signifies which village one is from, just like the Guatemalans. At one time every village or region had its own identifying earring, as well.

Now you know more about where Evita comes from, and what has transpired to make her The Real Evita Avery, who is sometimes referred to as San Miguel de Allende’s white angel!

Contact La Calaca at: 93 Mesones, 415-152-3954, www.lacalaca.com
https://www.facebook.com/lacalacasma?fref=ts


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Christine Maynard has worked as a stringer for the New York Times, in new product development for numerous industries, for Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, as a yoga teacher… She now lives in San Miguel de Allende.

Los Ciclos del Sol Rock paintings in Arroyo Seco, Victoria, Guanajuato

Filed under: Christine Wisdom — Christine @ 10:22 am

by Christine Maynard

Researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have discovered and recorded rock art in forty sites in northeastern Guanajuato, Mexico. The relics, many of which date back to the 1st century, A.D., came to light through the Rupestral Art Project of the Victoria River Basin, which was developed by INAH experts and directed by archaeologist Carlos Viramontes.

The oldest images refer to rites of passage, healing, prayers for rain and mountain worship. These paintings, with yellow, red and black as the predominant colors, generally represent human figures. Paintings of deer, dogs, centipedes, spiders and birds, generally with their wings outspread, have also been discovered, and radiating circles which represent the sun,

Some of their art depicts humans with three fingers on each hand and three toes on each foot. In one painting, a non-human figure in yellow, with red pectorals accompanies a man. Some suggest they were created or inspired by aliens.

Only trained persons, shamans and healers, were allowed to paint scenes and others in the community interpreted. These artists were doing more than recording village life- they painted portals, magical points of contact between the material and spiritual world.

The people who lived here, who performed rituals and observed the movement of the celestial bodies, recording astrological phenomena as well as ephemeral events in paintings, were Chichimeca. Their language family was Otomi. They were the people of the dog, which was a sacred animal.

I went, as part of an informal gathering, with a group of twenty to see the rock paintings. We were not allowed in, as excavations were underway. We were allowed to picnic on the grounds, but not to visit the sacred mountain of Arroyo Seco.

This site is 144 kilometers east of the capital Guanajuato, in an under developed region away from federal roads. It is near the village of Victoria, formerly known as Xichú de Indios.

Arroyo Seco has a magical character. I gleaned that there is a sense of the primeval worship of stone and mountain as living beings. The stone face at the entrance to the caves is referred to as the guardians. These impressive rock formations look like elongated people in an El Greco painting. Visitors are wise to pay tribute, leaving offerings in the cavities of the earth. There are also carvings, as part of stellar alignments; they are directly related to observation of astrological phenomena

The drive from San Miguel de Allende to Arroyo Seco is breathtakingly beautiful. High steep mountains and deep cuts of canyons proffer panoramic view. There is a vertiginous descent amidst mesas and mountain face into a verdant valley. The terrain is comprised of trajectories of rock face- black, brown, and deep clay reds, creating a labyrinth which leads to chartreuse agricultural lands fed by streams.

When we arrived, archaeologists were working with trowels and brushes in three areas conducting careful excavations. Pieces of crude tools, arrow head chips, and what looked like hatchet blades and kitchen utensils were set aside.

Some of the archaeologists and “park rangers” took time out to join our picnic. They graciously shared information about the area, including the fact that one is supposed to procure a permit in order to visit.


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Christine Maynard has worked as a stringer for the New York Times, in new product development for numerous industries, for Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, as a yoga teacher… She now lives in San Miguel de Allende.

September 3, 2015

Your Health In Your Hands

 

By Christine Maynard, Patient Advocate

In 1969, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew vowed publicly that cable television would not fly in America. In his estimation, people would continue to go to the “picture show” to see movies; they would never be broadcast into living rooms across the country. Clearly, technology changed that, giving us the ability to broaden our horizons from the comfort of our own homes.

Technology has also changed how we access information, including our health information. The ability to gather health records online opens many new doors for us as patients. Now, through patient portals, we can view our medical information, from test results to doctor’s notes, from our homes or offices.

We no longer have to wait at a doctor’s office for the staff to print our records, which some patients incorrectly believe belong to the doctor or hospital. These are our records, and using a portal increases transparency and our ease of access to our records. We don’t even have to call the doctor (and wait for a call back) to ask what meds we took previously, to request a refill on a prescription or even to schedule an appointment. There is a place in most portals to ask questions of our doctors, saving us a trip and sometimes a lengthy wait in a room filled with sick people who could be spreading viruses.
It is all at our fingertips in the patient portal.

This does not require being tech savvy. It requires only Internet access, whether from a desktop computer or a smartphone, and a very small learning curve.

Our access to important health information does not begin and end with patient portals, either. We can google medical terms, a diagnosis or a differential, which refers to other possibilities to be considered when looking for a diagnosis. This free self-education provides a clearer picture of our health. There are unlimited opportunities to learn more about our health and what we – and our doctors – can do to improve it, and these learning opportunities are only a click away. Education is everything when it comes to effecting positive change.

Now that we have our medical records at our fingertips, and we can go online and research any terms we don’t understand or wish to know more about, we should feel empowered! Health IT is a tool that promotes positive doctor-patient communication.

It only makes sense that as patients like us are empowered, our relationships with our doctors shift. We understand that the ideal health care is a two-way street. Hopefully, a “side effect” of being able to access our records online will be the realization that doctors want us to provide input and to be an active part of the decision making process, asking questions such as, “What are the side effects of statins?” or, “What are the risks and benefits of blood thinners?”

In the popular TV series, “House,” Dr. House stated, “All patients lie, and learning what information the patient is withholding is the key to the cure.” This is not the attitude fostered in health care today. We are experiencing a paradigm shift, and as patients, we are a tremendous resource and a vital component of our own well-being.

We should not hesitate to use resources like patient portals. It requires only a call to our doctors’ offices to request passwords or usernames. As patients, we must get online, get the facts and get engaged in our health!

Christine Maynard, formerly of Natchitoches, La., is an author and journalist who has studied alternative medicine with healers in many parts of the world. As the survivor of a serious motor vehicle accident that placed her in a medically induced coma and required many surgeries, she is well aware of the difficulties patients face in navigating the health care system. Her unique perspective has inspired her to become a patient advocate whose most important message to doctors and patients is that the patient is the doctor’s greatest resource.

July 16, 2015

The History of the Canada de la Virgen Pyramid

Filed under: Christine Wisdom — Christine @ 10:29 pm

canada de la virgen pyramid photo                   shared by Albert Coffee. www.albertcoffeetours.com

by Christine Maynard

Surrounded by gorges and located on a plateau at 7,000 ft. elevation, the site chosen by the architects of the pyramids of Cañada de la Virgen was surrounded by an ancient forest, in a time when the climate was much wetter and cooler. There was a gallery of hardwoods as well as other plant and animal species which don’t exist today. The people who settled here, in 540 A.D., found the perfect locale; it proffered water, fertile black soil, building materials, flora and fauna. Until the drought of 1050 A.D.- a sudden climate shift caused hunters and gatherers to move in, pushing the pyramid builders out. The hunters and gatherers were known as the Chichimecs and today the region is known as the Chichimec highlands.

 

The main pyramid/patio complex at Cañada de la Virgen is referred to as the Relox Cosmico, the cosmic clock. It has also been termed the ‘House of the Thirteen Heavens.’ There is evidence of an orientation toward the movements of the moon. The possibility exists that this was a matriarchal society.

 

The pyramid was first reported to the government in 1985 by a cowboy. It had previously been thought of as “just another mound.”  In their ascent, the horses easily found footing, as if they were climbing stairs, and so they were! In 1999, the 16 hectares surrounding the pyramid were bought by a German woman- a descendant of steel producers during WWII.

 

Pyramid de la Virgen was a religious center in which gods and ancestors were worshipped, and the movement of celestial bodies and their relationship to points on the earth, studied.  The people had a vivid pantheon of gods whom they believed incarnated as their ruling class. The Pyramid was opened to the public in 2011.

 

The dormant volcano, Volcan Palo Huerfano, is referred to by locals as Los Picachos because of the jagged edges of the rim of the crater. The peaks and other topographical features were deeply significant to the architects of the pyramids. The astronomer priests understood that the celestial bodies and land forms were the Gods interacting. This was not metaphorical to them. They viewed it as their job to keep the celestial clock progressing, through bloodletting and other sacrifices and offerings, ensuring the sun would continue to rise.

 

One of the first minerals to cool from molten lava is obsidian, which is in great abundance in the surrounding area. It was used for jewelry as well as to form sharp needles for auto sacrifice (bloodletting.)  Albert informed us that obsidian is so sharp that is was used, historically, for eye surgery.

 

Our tour was studded with many fascinating, relevant stories from Aztec and Mayan myths. Albert introduced our group to Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, who both collaborated in creation. They were the yin and yang of life. Their images were painted on pottery and bark paper books called codices. Their duality is crucial to understanding this culture.

 

Tezcatlipoca was the embodiment of change through conflict. Tezcatlipoca appears on the first page of the Codex Borgia carrying the 20 day signs of the calendar; in the Codex Cospi he is shown as a spirit of darkness.

 

Quetzalcoatl, whose name means ‘plumed serpent’ was identified with the planet Venus and probably lived at the start of the fourth age, around 3114 BC.

 

Tezcatlipoca, the trouble maker, intentionally got Quetzalcoatl intoxicated and caused him to sleep with his sister. He was very remorseful, as he was akin to the patron saint of penance, and he left his people, shamed. He floated away on a funeral pyre of serpents, but the Aztecs always knew he would one day return.  When the Spaniard Cortez appeared, bearded and in foreign costume, he was welcomed as the reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl.

 

Albert told us the Aztecs had never seen horses before Cortez’ arrival, and they thought the horses and their riders were monstrous, two headed creatures.

 

Just as Constantine tried to please his converted Catholic wife by allowing Catholic holidays to replace/ absorb traditional days of pagan celebration, many ancient customs of the North Central Meso Americans are shrouded in the parades and religious activities one witnesses in the streets and churches of modern day San Miguel de Allende. The four cardinal directions become the cross. Dias de la Locos may come from the celebration of the Lords of the Underworld.  Fireworks at dawn evolved directly from the concept that it was only through sacrifice that the celestial bodies stayed in movement, and life continued. This inclusion of traditions from the past is referred to as syncretism.

 

Before we climbed the pyramid, we ventured into the patio area. It is flat, surrounded by a quadrangle of ascending steps which could have been seats for viewing the theater of the sky. Some surmise that a pool of water in the center was still, and would have perfectly reflected the sky without one having to crane one’s neck to see. Plant materials provided shelter from the wind and made the patio acoustically sound.

 

Rosanna Quiroz, who holds a doctoral thesis as an archaeo- astronomer, explains the lunar and solar calendar of the Otomí in her book El Cerro y El Cielo.  The Otomí were elite mercenary warriors for the Aztecs who joined with the Spanish. Their speech was very tonal, a bit like Chinese Mandarin. Albert also noted the similarities between the Chinese dragon and the feathered serpent.

 

Quiroz writes that the Otomís’ art reflects a sun with seven moons, drawn as spirals coming off of the sun. There were 7 tiers, 7 bands of color, 7 hills, and a House of the Longest Night oriented toward the setting sun on December 21st (our tour guide Albert’s birthday!)

 

A landscape calendar was an integral part of the main pyramid at Cañada de la Virgen. The sun sets into the top of the pyramid on March 4th, denoting the seed going into the earth. On the day of planting on April 17th and harvesting August 25th the sun rises in alignment with the doorway of the patio.

 

The Aztec Empire’s calendar had 20 days in each of the 18 months, and each month was represented by a specific deity, with an animal or nature association.  Eagle, jaguar, wind, reed… would dictate the personality and type of work for which one was best suited. A particularly auspicious birth date allowed one to drink the holy intoxicating drink that otherwise was reserved for high priests, the elite or for those who passed the revered age of 52, representing the end of a cycle. The ritual calendar , known as the T’zolkin to the Maya was a combination of 13 numbers and 20 day symbols which worked with the solar calendar to produce a 52 year cycle.

 

Mixcoatl, the cloud serpent, was identified with the Milky Way, the stars, and the heavens in several Mesoamerican cultures. He was the patron deity of the Otomi,   and was part of the Aztec pantheon.  The 20-day Aztec month was dedicated to Mixcoatl. Round structures found in pyramids are thought to be related to the worship of Ehécatl, the god of the wind.

 

Many of the skulls discovered display facial deformities, which could have been due to dietary deficiencies or inbreeding.  Some infants’ heads were wrapped tightly, causing cranial deformation. The Mayans wished for the head shape to emulate corn as one of the Gods they worshipped was the God of the Corn. Only a tuft of hair was allowed to remain on the top of the head, further enhancing the resemblance.

 

They possessed much wisdom in the fields of botany and herbalism; they knew which plants would treat stomach ailments, kidneys and liver problems. Chile as an additive “fixes” protein, making it accessible.  Scientists now know that unprocessed maize is deficient in free niacin, and a population depending on untreated maize was much more likely to develop pellagra.  The Mesoamerican diet included Nixtamalization, which means adding lime to corn, thus providing the necessary niacin, in the early Mesoamerican diet. They embraced the symbiotic trio of corn, beans and squash.

 

The Maya were very refined and advanced, with an elaborate expression of art and architectural genius. They understood the concept of zero.  The Yucatan Maya worshipped the triangle of the three stones of the hearth, which, dimensionally, represents the Belt of Orion. They also share the myth of the turtle rising out of the sea to create the first land mass, with Hawaiians as well as with other cultures around the world.

 

And as other cultures use hallucinogens to part the veil, this culture also embraced the use of San Pedro cactus, peyote and psilocybin to help them more clearly hear their dead ancestors and receive direction from their Gods. To enhance communication even further, the dead were buried beneath the floors of the living. Ancestor veneration was second in importance only to keeping the celestial bodies in motion.

 

Intelligence, artistry and movement were revered and honored, after death, by the removal of the head, the hands and the feet, respectively, in burials of the elite. El Hierarch, whose bones were carried for one thousand years before being placed in a temple chamber at the top of the main pyramid, was missing the bones of his feet and lower legs. It is thought that they may have remained “planted” in the soil of the pyramid builders’ previous homeland. He died from an axe blow to his skull at age 52. His possibly mummified remains were laid to rest under the Red Temple, surrounded by items reserved for the highest elite’s burial- human infants, a dog ,necklaces, other jewelry, pottery, and needles of obsidian or bone.

 

A female warrior, no more than nine years of age, thought to be a descendent of El Hierarch, was also buried with great honor in the pyramid.  The little girl of the rain was found buried near the drain in the patio area of the ‘House of the Longest Night,” along with symbols for water. When her remains were unearthed, the archaeologists had to put off work for over two weeks due to sudden, torrential rains. It appears that it was a society in which the feminine was revered, and worshipped.

 

Their culture exhibited leadership, and excelled in art and astronomy. The Spaniards, who wished to bring an end to the hearth society venerated in this established culture, brought warfare, disease and poverty.

 

In an unearthed area of the pyramids, complex C, there is assumed to be a ball court. A ball made from rubber trees was bounced off of one’s thigh or knee. The objective was to pass it through a hoop. Many theories abound about whether the victor or the captain of the losing team was sacrificed. There is one eye witness account, according to our guide, Albert. In this particular game, a player who successfully negotiated the ball through a hoop won the jewelry of all those in attendance. Sometimes when the ball was finally successfully passed through the hoop, all of the spectators ran away!

 

To book a tour or find out more, contact Albert Coffee ArchaeoTours • San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, México    info@albertcoffeetours.com

 

 

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February 18, 2015

Mardi Gras Royalty- a deeper insight, and historical perspective

Filed under: Christine Wisdom — Christine @ 3:46 pm

 

Heather Miranne, Queen of Caesar, 2011

Heather Miranne, Queen of Caesar, 2011

http://http://cowbird.com/story/109261/Mardi_Gras_Queens_The_History_And_Pageantry/

  • Debutantes and Queens in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Balls
    By Christine Maynard

    The best way to explain New Orleans’ Mardi Gras balls, royalty and Krewes might be to utilize Louis Pasteur’s deathbed concession. “It’s the terrain.” Isolated aspects of the rituals, observed out of context, don’t explain the whole story.
    To convey any understanding of this slice of society, their rituals and traditions, requires a grasp of that terrain, which is primal, with a thick veneer of protocol. There are the throbbing street parades, which the world knows as Mardi Gras, and there is the St. James’ bow amidst secret societies. Within the environs, which encompasses both, there is evidence of evolution. 21st century New Orleans debs are modernizing tradition, and moving forward.
    In 1743, the Carnival balls were established. The state of Louisiana declared Mardi Gras a legal holiday in 1857, and the Mistick Krewe of Comus held its first parade. 1874 was a pivotal year; the King of Rex took his first queen and a new species appeared. The New Orleans Mardi Gras debutante.
    From its inception, the balls were the venue to sponsor daughters “coming out.” A century ago, if these debutantes failed to sufficiently impress a man and his family, the alternative (to not snaring a husband at a Cajun cotillion) might have been a bleak future as a nun, a spinster, or a school marm.)
    This decathlon of morals, manners and majesty has its own Fantasy Debutante League, of late. Maid status rakes in 60 points, and the Queen, 200. Extra points are awarded for extravagant parties, and girls get tally marks for side pony tails and toe rings.
    Trisha Lockhart Wells and her husband Mike began this Carnival tracking, which now includes spreadsheets of information about New Orleans’ debutantes, including recent information gleaned from Facebook.
    Evidently, the deb party of the decade catapulted one young woman, Jane aka “Snow” White, to Fantasy Debs’ number one slot. In 2011, she was Queen of Carnival. It was whispered to me that it is rare that the parvenues participate, much less win, this coveted title.
    Thea Pagel, the event planner for Jane White’s million dollar soiree, in anticipation of her Queendom, informed me that guests were greeted by “little people” dressed as fairy tale dwarfs, and artificial snow fell from trees.
    Thea’s planning resulted in an 8,000-square-foot White Magic tent and a gazebo covered in white feathers. Lavishly set tables proffered shrimp, stone crab claws, Hudson Valley seared foie gras, oysters on the half shell, and caviar as well as Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve Champagne. Guests passed through a dark forest to the Queen’s Boudoir tent, a “seductive den of sensual pleasures.” A blood-red libation was served after dinner, along with red chocolate-candy hearts.
    “Yes, there is something primal about the sensuality which imbues New Orleans,” Thea Pagel shared. “The goal was for everyone to have a good time; it wasn’t just about excess. As Donald Trump quips, you have to think anyway so why not think big? These debutante parties are about a lot more than keeping the jambalaya hot and the beer cold.”
    I met twin debutantes, Karli and Ann Mentz, while attending college at LSU, in the 70’s. We had Latin class together. Their father was a highly respected federal judge. The annual price tag for their individual debuts into New Orleans society was around a quarter of a million dollars. Priests performed Sunday mass in box cars with pipe organs at their splendid, country estate.
    They could only report that their car was silver when they misplaced it in Tiger Stadium parking lot. Their clothes were picked out for them, and packed by their mother’s maid. The most risqué thing involving Ann was her beige bra strap being exposed when she diagrammed Latin sentences at the blackboard. The twins powdered their faces, adding only a touch of lip gloss from their collection of school toiletries.
    They were polite society girls untouched by Women’s Lib or anything else going on in the rest of the world in the 70’s. Their brightly lit, more flamboyant world was New Orleans society, and its storybook alchemy, transforming bourgeois elite into royalty.
    35 years later, I find myself ensconced in the Quarter. It is Mardi Gras. I see young debutantes in the news, being presented in the various Krewes. It is a parody, I think. Fairytales obscure reality.
    I wonder if these girls will travel, if they will experience other cultures and be open.

    But the New Orleans debutante is not just charged with recalling a lost culture (those good old days when women were safely on pedestals and lineage mattered most of all); she is also part of a still-thriving one: the secretive, byzantine, often fantastic culture of Mardi Gras. (Julia Reed NYTimes magazine March 23 2001)
    Is the trajectory for young women from the “right” families shifting from amassing silver crystal and china to winning at soccer, independent thinking, and embracing careers and creativity?
    I needed to talk to the girls, but I also needed to find Ann.
    She met me at Arnaud’s Exchange, on Royal Street. An ice cream parlor/coffee shop which was the only place in the French Quarter without a bar during Mardi Gras weekend.
    Ann was dressed like a New Yorker. In black. With black stockings. She had her hair down, although it is most often worn off of her neck, in a ballet bun. Sans beads, known as “throws” a tasteful, understated gold lapel pin with purple, gold and green was the only thing about her appearance which intimated “Mardi Gras.”
    Ann divorced two decades ago. She has never remarried. She did go back to school and obtained her juris doctorate. And, she was quick to tell me that in her opinion, “a degree is worth a dozen wedding rings.”
    She is very much a part of upholding the traditions of court and upper crust society. She aspires, actually, to be the court trainer for young ladies, preserving etiquette and propriety. It’s her perfect job description.
    She wrote to me:
    I remember how much you admired and were intrigued by the royal pageantry of Mardi Gras when I made my debut years ago. It is true that some debs have remained in traditional roles, like my twin, Carli, a stay at home Mom, while others, like myself, have moved forward and advanced our careers. After divorcing, with a ten year old son, I went back to school and got my law degree. However, as a former debutante, I still love the pomp and circumstance of Mardi Gras and the beauty and pageantry of the Meeting of the Courts! Only a few are privileged to carry on the traditions of Kings and Queens. The Ball of the future and the debutantes performances will always be beautifully breath-taking because our job (past debutantes and Krewe members) is to never let our traditions be forgotten!”
    Ann and I walked awkwardly under her tiny pale green umbrella (perhaps it really was a parasol) and discussed the inclement weather. She informed me that she studied ballet at an Academy uptown. I can envision her helping young women seamlessly glide across the floor and fluidly deliver the St. James Bow, confirming the young girls’ allegiance to the ritual and the attendant values.
    She reminds me, by her carriage and carefulness, that etiquette is a behavioral touchstone, like a wink or secret handshake which can usher one into the inner sanctum of society. That, and how many generations French one is. We don’t get happy feet when we walk past the buskers and pre-pubescent tappers on Royal Street, with smashed beer cans attached to the bottoms of their sneakers.
    Heather Miranne, the 2011 Queen of Caesar, and the daughter of a local neurosurgeon, clearly demonstrates that the species is evolving. She does not buy into traditional Southern Belle behavior; she is not ready to settle down and marry. She was eager to share her love of Russian Sci-Fi, particularly the “hochoi dozor,” the Night Watch series.

    She has had her eye on being a Queen since she was a little girl. But it hasn’t narrowed her parameters or reined in her spontaneity.
    Her priorities, since graduating from Loyola and getting a job which keeps her in the public eye? “My work, and saving money to buy a house,” she says, emphatically. When asked if she were engaged, she said “Oh God no!”
    Her independence is due to her strong family support and the fact that she was raised to believe that she didn’t need a man to complete her. “Education obviously empowers women everywhere” Heather said.
    “A lot of people I meet through my work say ‘ I know you; you were the Queen of Caesar.’ It is helpful.”
    Ellen Logan was a Queen in 2008. She saw her role, in part, as modernizing tradition. “I think that it is so important that these girls recognize traditions, and where they come from, but we all know it is no longer about being introduced to the “men.” None of that exists anymore.”
    Ellen recently returned to New Orleans from L.A. where she launched her own jewelry business with “big stones which make a statement, nothing dainty.” She and her fellow debutantes from Sacred Heart Academy won the State Soccer Championship in High School. Her jewelry description is a personification of her own attributes as an evolved New Orleans debutante.

    Secrecy is an important aspect of the Carnival celebration. A queen was originally notified that she had been chosen by finding a golden bean, either inside a cake or in a drawer. In the Krewe of the 12th Night Revelers, maids receive a silver bean to inform them of their status.
    The heavy hitters comprising the list of Kings of Mardi Gras include Sam Rayburn, Hale Boggs ,Hubert Humphrey, Barry Goldwater, Frank Chuck and Estes KeFauver. And one King named King. Voris King, who later became the Imperial Potentate of North America. A 33rd degree Scottish Rite Mason. He was photographed in the oval office with Reagan in 1988, and he is listed as being a Colonel in the Armenian Air Force of the USA in that same year.
    In ‘53, Walter Cronkite narrated the Mardi Gras Ball held in D.C. and Richard Nixon, vice President, presented the Queen. In ’57, Russell Long created the Mistick Krewe with its Lord of Misrule.

    It may appear that these people are play acting in tableaus, but the acts may simply be slight hyperbole for forces in effect in this environs which keep it sustainable. To save a species one must first ensure preservation of its habitat.
    There exists a strict code of behavior within the ranks. The world may see it as narrow and stultifying, but for the people living in it there is no other eco system in which they could flourish; the individuals (and their business interests) comprising Krewes, balls and monarchy are symbiotic. Many feel validated knowing that within this terrain there is only one way in which to conduct one’s self which is acceptable. But there is always adaptation, and New Orleans 21st century debutantes are showing great signs of progress.

March 26, 2012

Book People in Austin- our first book signing

Filed under: Christine Wisdom — Christine @ 8:07 pm

“The book, Panic Attack Survival Guide, evolved organically, from a series of conversations during an extended retreat down Cane River, near Natchitoches, LA. The seminal event sparking this creation was the co-authors revelatory discussions about their greatest life challenges; a car wreck with crushing injuries and “coding,” for Christine when she had been a nationally ranked triathelete, working and raising teen aged sons. And, for Julia, the death of a young man she had been certain she was destined to marry. The roux thickened when the two women overlaid reflections about individual experiences with the same spiritual teacher in Italy, looking for answers, separated by a twenty year span of time. This book is the birth of their commingling of knowledge, wisdom and experience. Author, Christine Maynard, has worked in new product development for numerous industries, internationally, promoting primarily the sustainable use aspect of products, from alligators and their habitats, to borate treated wood for building. She has been a journalist, a sales trainer for fashion conglomerates in Europe and Asia, an inspirational speaker, and a boxing journalist. She has raised three amazing sons, on her own. Cahir and Ian Doherty, currently reside in Austin. The youngest, Patrick, recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. He and his wife, Bekah, are expecting, so Christine will soon be a grandmother! Christine has always been involved in yoga, spirituality and alternative health practices. She began the Center for the Healing Arts in Louisiana in the early 90’s, and has taught yoga for thirty years. As Miss Merry Christmas 1998, Julia has vestiges of her Southern Belle Louisiana upbringing that, unlike her hips, are hard to shake! She is a wonderfully interactive teacher of Dynamic Yoga, and belly dancing. Her movements, like her voice are fluid and facile; she is a singer songwriter, inspired by Neko Case, Tori Amos, and Tool, just to name a few! (she likes Zeppelin, too.) Julia can’t wait to grab the mike on the Austin music scene and belt out some original lyrics, now that she’s back from a Dynamic Yoga/meditation retreat in Italy . Julia thrives on travel – she moved to New York after graduating from college and studied five element massage therapy on nights and weekends, while working days at a television editing house.  Listening carefully to her words, in song or in chapters, one will find clues to what she taps into in silence.”

May 5, 2011

RAISING MY THREE SONS ON MY OWN

Filed under: Christine Wisdom — Christine @ 11:33 am

thanksgivingRAISING MY THREE SONS ON MY OWN

Ruth’s Chris was my stomping ground for effecting change in building codes to save historic structures and to put monies in the pockets of my employers, a triumvirate of a chemical company, a wood treater and the big miners. Naturally the home builders association, good old boys with dark side Mafioso connections would stop at nothing to thwart our desired mandates. But they didn’t cause the car wreck. My husband fell asleep at the wheel on the three hour trek north at midnight, after the meal.

So two years post wreck, post political dinner, having lost the initiative to mandate treated wood but making progress with a Belle Chase military Base and one Hope VI project in New Orleans framed entirely with borate treated wood, I planned to have lunch with my son, Cahir Doherty. He had a scholarship to LSU and his own apartment.

I called and called, but no answer. When I arrived, I saw a painting like a volcano on the grey door of Cahir’s F150 truck. Maybe a dream sicle had melted, creating the art. Maybe it was practise for a science project, with Cahir… who knows.

I licked my finger and smeared it through the art, on one level I must have already suspected it was blood. Walking around the truck I discovered the entire bed covered in the same rust color. I found him inside, passed out. His nicked artery scotch taped closed. He lived.

And he lived and lived and lived through harrowing, life halting events. Fracturing 30 places through both plates of his skull, egg shell cracks of the fragile basal skull from an avalanche in New Mexico he caused by leaving the trail in a race and pulling up on 14 foot pine trees on the lip of the mountain, which dislodged, along with boulders. His brothers witnessed him falling upside down through space. Niall, the boys father, knew before he turned on the trail. He recalled the high pitched mournful, cry of irrevocability from Ian. A death cry. He landed on rock face thirty five feet below, or on a small patch of grass covered with leaves, the only padding on rock face. They saw him try to stand and his head wobbling unable to be lifted above shoulders and then, a crumpling. He was supposed to have a craniotomy or later experience seizures or have his brains grow through his nose, causing retardation or death. He survived without intervention, except for IV’s in intensive care, and stitches on his shin.

We found a top neurosurgeon who had written chapters on basal skull fractures and believed that in Cahir’s case, the fractures would align and grow back together, perfectly. After six weeks of recuperation and terror everytime he sneezed ( the fear of the fractures re-opening and of a cerebrospinal fluid leak) he was given clearance to go back to school. No bumps, no running. No PE. He blew on a duck call before getting in the car with the other children and clear fluid poured out of his nose. We were going to have to airlift him for an immediate craniotomy. Cerebrospinal fluid leaves a perfect circular pattern on paper towels, and has an unforgettable sweet taste. He laid on his back for an hour, and when he arose, the leakage had stopped.

The following year he was shot point blank in the face. The bullet missed everything vital and he doesn’t even have a scar, as the barrel parted muscles in the corner of his eye, tearing only the lachrymal duct, which recannalized. His hair fell out in tufts, leaving geometric patterns, rectangles of allopecia which I think was from the radioactive isotopes in the dyes from the angiography when surgeons went in through the femoral artery to cauterize the bleeder.They thought it was the carotid, but it was a lesser vessel.

Cahir in trauma unit at LSU, 12 doctors and nurses, sliding on bloody floors, my job to hold up a hand towel to catch the paint ball like trajectories, the clots that emanated from his nose and mouth as he coughed and sneezed, drowning from his own blood draining from inside his head. “Be a soldier,” he said to Ian his bother, as they wheeled him away, giving us not much hope that they’d make it in time to save him. But they did.

And he came out thinking he was Tupac instead of getting it. He got it for a week, or rather said the things his more mature friends, his real friends insisted on him saying if he wanted the continuance of their friendship.

They said they were tired of being pall bearers at friends funerals over drugs and stupidity. One was a banker, one in construction. Childhood friends of Cahir’s who were at our house almost every week-end, told him the only chrome he saw growing up was on old people’s wheel chairs. That he was from an educated affluent loving family, not poverty and abuse. That his sagging, silver heavy chain wearing, gansta rap persona was passé, a phase they admitted to having been in, but grew out of, and theat he, too must move forward. Embrace growth, get over it. Get over himself.

Yet he insisted that I give him “dap.” Had a fight with me when I refused. Hit closed knuckles to everyone else’s saying dap. He used double negatives and eubonics when he spoke to doctors. It was truly miraculous that Cahir lived, and doctors came in on Easter Sunday, marveling at his sterling condition, no permanent damage. No follow up needed besides tracking the tear duct. Cahir was practically unscathed from being shot point blank in the eye. The roof of his mouth revealed broken vessels, tracking the path of the bullet. It missed esophagus trachea, brain, nerves (that is what suprized them most, touching his face with his eyes covered and finding no neurological deficit.) everything except sinus cavities, which would calcify. He already had trouble flying and couldn’t scuba dive because of the cracks from the 35 foot fall on rock face.

My son Cahir sat in a hospital bed with the following scene repeating as fresh doctors did rounds with patients they had never seen before.

Doc appears outside of hospital room door. He or she picks up chart, reads the intake and enters the room of the victim of a gunshot wound to the face. Doctor looks at patient, and jerks agrily toward the nurse, flaring anger at the obvious error…his boy has not been shot in the face. This boy has a black eye. No stitches, no trauma and he is sitting up in bed, coherent, with his fist extended, lifting his chin, encouraging the doctor to give him dap, back.

Chele, his Hispanic girlfriend comes to the hospital every day. She is a senior and has never learned to drive. Most boys think she is extraordinarily attractive, especially as Cahir has her dressed like Little Kim. She is lean, exotic looking with a narrow face, doe eyes and a slender, aristocratic but not aquiline nose. She looks as if she should have kohl around here eyes and a tiny ruby nose ring. But she has an extra set of eye teeth, visable when she smiles.

When I arrived at the hospital, and saw Cahir, having confirmed on my race to the hospital that my firstborn baby had been shot in the face with a .25, he was talking trash. He was drunk, messed up. He didn’t really want anything to do with me, pushed me away, as he embraced Chele, her little sis, and her very young, mother, saying loudly, This is my family right here.

I was crushed but amazement and concern kept me drinking in the scene. The attendant RN’s and LPNs bit their lips and crossed their arms tightly around their bodies, shaking their heads. Most of them, in this small town, already had a fair idea of the difficulties and traumas I had endured with Cahir. Their attitudes were a direct reflection of his apparent ungratefulness coupled with the fact that he acted as if he had done something marvelous and admirable instead of risking his life stupidly buying drugs

. He obviously didn’t think he was at risk of dying. With bullets to the head, it can take a while for the bleeding to show, to drain into the lungs, to asphyxiate.

Regardless of Cahir’s wishes, I was the only one allowed to ride in the ambulance as he was transferred to a trauma unit at a large University hospital. By the time we arrived, he was going downhill fast.

I was numb, for the first time in my life. It didn’t happen during childbirth, or during the shooting by Mickey’s ex. Not when Cahir’s shirt and the skin of his belly were sucked into the escalator intake belt, and he was nearly disemboweled, at a third world airport in St. Martin, on the way to Paris, not when he was busted, any of the times, not even when I sat and slept on the cold floor outside of the schizophrenic unit waiting for my 20 minutes, to catch a glimpse of the boy not on earth. I never felt completely numb, emotionless in all of my life except for this experience. I felt nothing. It was too, too horrible. My worst fear was realized. I couldn’t save him from himself.The reality was as bad as the fear I lived with of him committing vehicular homicide or being in prison for life. My son was dying from being shot in his precious face, his Cahir-face, in a drug deal. Two men, who had begun the day with $5.00, they bragged, and ended it by having done $1,000 worth of cocaine, planned to steal my son and his companions’s money, kill them, take the truck and go to Houston.

As A A Milne might say, “Now he is twenty five”

A woman friend saw him in Austin and commented “He’s so handsome he doesn’t even look human.” By the absolute grace of God Cahir is fine, well, adjusted, happy, healed.

January 30, 2011

You Could be a Corner Man!

Filed under: Christine Wisdom — Christine @ 12:01 pm

Idolo- A Road Trip with  Mexican boxing champ Marco Antonio Rubio

by Christine Maynard

In Mexico, a boxer, while he is winning, is a demi-God. Machismo manifests in its purest form in the boxing gyms, rings, and coliseums where peleadors  perform. Marco Antonio Rubio, best known as “Veneno,” (venom,) 31-2 with 29 KO’s, embodies this machismo, and more. He is incredibly gifted and confident, with laser-like focus and an energy level that makes him larger than life.

I joined him on a road trip from Austin, Texas, where he trains with other high ranked Mexican Nationals, (including Jesus Chavez,) to his home town of Torreon, Mexico, where he fought… and won.

Traveling with a high-profile hero, from the luxury of elitist country clubs nestled amid mountains, to  street corners in Coahuila, with crowds of children clamoring for Veneno’s attention, was quite impressive. His image, along with his opponent, Leon “Ice Cold” Pearson, appeared on huge light emitting diode billboards, reminiscent of Times Square. Marco is fueled by the feedback from his fans,  whom he attends graciously.

Yet the seminal event was witnessing Marco Antonio Rubio fight. I learned that fighting is noble. That fighting is real. The appeal is visceral, obviously, but on a more subtle level it touches the spirit.

The heart of a true fighter is his strength. This strength is funded by belief, which through osmosis or alchemy becomes every man’s ability to believe. This hope is primed, behind the eyes and in the hearts of the masses, when they watch their fighter. It is magic, unlike any other sport.

A fighter becomes the transformative agent for the people, capable, if he wins, of transmuting despair into hope. This redemptive power of belief in a fighter is enthralling; he is like the Host raised high, bells signaling the change. His presence in the ring creates an incendiary pandemic, spreading startlingly, in which every cell becomes more alive, animated.  That’s what boxing is. That’s what boxing is about.

I first met Rubio in Richard Lord’s gym. He had twinkling eyes, with a perpetual smile one couldn’t resist returning. “A world class boxer” those who knew said, as Marco sparred on Saturdays. But there are lots of world class boxers, title holders and champions in the gym. I had no concept of his “idolo” status.

On a Tuesday in August, mid-morning, after training, we left Austin, heading west on 90 through the valley. The gorgeous, blue canopy that stretched above the straight west Texas highway was a cross between Wyoming, and an Italian Renaissance painting, in which cherubs are sucked into azure Duomo ceilings, amidst tufts of clouds. I felt as if we were bulging into a bubble of sky.

Trennice Brown, a bad-boy, black boxer from New Orleans by way of  Cincinnati, slept in the back seat of Marco’s Chevrolet, as we drove past hunting ranches, with metal cut outs of wild hogs, or ducks in formation above the gates, as advertisements.  In Uvalde, we pass the soon–to-open Oasis Outback. Two story palm trees at the entrance are alluring, yet the cultural dissonance of a west Texan Sultan theme fills me with  prescience- expect the unexpected on this trip.

Trennice and I had no idea where we were headed, only that I was to act as his corner and that Marco had been instructed to not let us out of his sight.    Trennice KO’d Jhonny Torres, in 37 second in Houston. He has a fierce left hook and incredible musculature-genetics, not discipline. He is the opponent for “Chloro” Ruben Padilla, on the undercard of Marco’s fight.

A dream catcher hung from the rear view mirror.  Conversation was conducted through a translating device, out of necessity. But gestures and expressions worked best for conveying meaning.

Marco showed me photographs on his cell phone of his girlfriend, golfing, a dashing dark-suit-clad Marco speaking at a dinner, and a few pics of gyms at which we would stop, in order to train. What looked like aboriginal drumming was actually boxers with heavy hammers lifted high, then thrust down rhythmically to strengthen the arms.

When we arrived in the city of Acuna, across the border from Del Rio, I couldn’t ignore Marco’s name painted in red- large block letters- above the entrance of the gym, a white metal barn-like building. The bathrooms were stalls facing the ring, with colorful graffiti, and a pre-Jack Lalayne treadmill was missing its conveyor belt- only the wooden cylinders turned. It was easier to envision it as a reflexology device hyped in an in-flight magazine than it was to realize champions have trained on this.

Mosquitoes made speed bag work torturous; they breed in abandoned tires which punctuated the grounds outside the gym. Young boys and men trained with an intensity and seriousness that spoke- “this is the only way out.”

According to Marco’s promoter in Mexico, Hector Sanchez, his move to  Austin,Texas, in order to work with Fernando “Flaco” Castrejon, has made him a different fighter. Even better. Jesus Chavez, who also trains under  Flaco stated that “Marco is in the place where he needs to be-where his career can progress.”

Hector is a used car salesman who owns a compound of concrete shotgun houses and an SUV. He also promotes Baby Face, Julio Garcia. Julio is a rising star with a 30-2 record and 24 knock outs, He is only eighteen. And he is under the tutelage of Marco. They are friends, gliding through the same swath of illustriousness and paparazzi, Spartan discipline, hard training, and the single-mindedness to place boxing above everything else in the world. Always.

Marco eats organic almonds and baby carrots, snacks I brought. Trennice buys chips, twinkies, a soda and a pack of cigarettes. We stay at a Best Western where Marco is feted, favored, and later we go out for dinner. There are mariachi bands and a synthesizer. The food is good, and Trennice and I order two for one Negro Modellos- it is happy hour.

I awaken at 7:00 a.m. with eyelids swollen from mucho cerveza .The boys call, having finished a morning run, and are ready to roll. I shower, grab coffee and my backpack and we head to Hector’s to pick up his SUV so Baby Face and his father can join us on the road to Torreon.

Hector’s spare is shredded from a blow out. We have no choice except to rouse a tire man. This is tricky, and our departure is delayed. Marco appears edgy, but polite.  I only later realize that a media event is scheduled for our arrival, including photo shoots of sparring. We are unable to release the rim from the underbelly of the vehicle. After many attempts, along with unloading and re packing luggage, satin fight robes, bottled waters, and respective CD cases, mandatory boxing equipment, we are cruising.

Conversation becomes more facile. We drive through areas of protected flora and fauna, in the mountains. Trennice has flashbacks from Vision Quest. The counselors told him that if he chose to run away, just over the top of the mountain he’d see Tucson. Trennice and two others left in “boxers,” with no other clothing, not even shoes. They took horse blankets and cut them up for moccasins. They side stepped snakes, jumped ravines,  and were exhausted upon reaching the top where they saw mountains as far as the eye revealed, not Tucson.

Marco delights in violin overtures moving his right hand in the air, drawing the bow, when he hears strings. He plays air accordion as well, while we drive. He is an admixture of passion and childlike enthusiasm. He looks like a young Sean Penn.

At the media event, Marco warms up in a hooded windbreaker and work out pants. He shadow boxes, wearing layers in 100 degrees and no AC, alternating high forward kicks while touching his toes, with punches, hooks, jabs. The boxers pose with fists prominently displayed for photographers. Interviews followed.

We leave two hours later and check into the Torreon Best Western, which is very nice, with plenty of amenities and attentive staff. Marco has a tight Achilles tendon on his right leg from a misstep, landing on the outside of his right foot. He asks for a massage and I oblige.  He skips dinner as weigh in is two days away. We drive around Torreon, making unannounced visits to gyms, and to his home.

His nephew, Jorge, was on the sidewalk, waiting for Marco. He didn’t recognize the car. When Marco rolled down the window, the ten year old was jubilant. His uncle, his father-figure, and his “idolo,” as well as the “idolo” of all his peers, was home.

Marco’s father died when he was only fifteen. His mother, Lupe, died last year. She had been on dialysis, due to diabetes. He keeps a photo of her- sleeping while in the hospital- on his phone, as a screen saver.

He had just signed with Golden Boy Promotions, and was in Hidalgo preparing for a fight, which was to be aired on HBO Latino. His mother died on Sunday. He returned to Torreon for her funeral. On Thursday, he was victorious against Jeffrey Hill.

At the hotel before the fight, Marco appeared relaxed. The electricity and water had gone out an hour before our departure time. Fighters and opponents spoke amiably in the lobby. Once we arrived at the coliseum, the only sign of Marco in the boxer’s dressing room was his red satin robe, hung on a wall, covered in dry cleaning film.

Hours later, after Julio “Baby Face” Garcia’s fight, I found Veneno, dressed, juiced, pumped. Super charged, neck snapping, flashes popping, high voltage electricity surging-it’s source, Marco Antonio Rubio. His potency was palpable. He was on his power. Yet, he continued to quip with reporters and pose with kids.

Nowhere was Marco more amazing than in the ring. He tore his opponent apart with meticulous attention to detail. His method was perfectly orchestrated and executed, like a war theatre. A war theatre with the  Marx brothers as alter ego, that is. When Leon cowered on the ropes, forearms locked in front of his face, his only vestige of defense before the battering ram “Veneno,”  Marco interjected humor which made the crowd go wild. At the height of dramatic tension, Marco’s gloved hand hovering, arm cocked, he exaggerated a wind-up, cartoon-like, before sending it home. He played with Leon, a cat dissecting a mouse at its leisure.

He thrills his audience. And he knows exactly what he is doing every step of the way. When Leon’s mouthpiece hit the floor, Marco pantomimed surprise, shot down to retrieve it, and popped it in Leon’s mouth like a pacifier. The fans roared.

He KO’d Leon in the fourth round. The crowd pushed into the ring. Leon and his manager, Don Hale, disappeared into a hotel van. Don had mentioned earlier that it could be rough here, recalling another fight in the Expo Gomez Palacio where bottles were thrown, and leaving the stadium was almost impossible.

Marco Antonio Rubio is spectacularly confident, and loves his life. Others love his life- and life force- right along with him. He is a champion, and he is unforgettable. There is a purity about him which makes his essence shine.

He has four boxing championship belts,  but he only brought them out after showing me his Our Lady of Guadeloupe string Santos, and  pictures of his family.

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