In Medias Res Vol. 2, Summer 2013
In Medias Res
In Medias Res
In Medias Res The Odyssey Project
Summer 2013 Volume 2
In Medias Res In Medias Res would like to thank Amy Thomas Elder, Director of the Odyssey Project, for her time, passion and support. Without her patience and trust, this unlikely second issue would not exist. We would like to thank Michael Autry for his time, advice and unfaltering generosity. In Medias Res would also like to thank the University of Chicago’s Masters of Arts Program in the Humanities for making the Odyssey Project Summer Internship possible. Dr. Hilary Strang, Maren Robinson and Sara Smith deserve special recognition for their continued dedication to the Odyssey Project. Geoffrey Banks, EJ Hendricks, Anna Burch and all staff at the Illinois Humanities Council deserve special thanks for their advice and patience during the times when this publication was only a note in the margins. Finally, In Medias Res would like to thank Toni’s Patisserie and Café for providing our class with the right amounts of dough and sugar needed to write and think effectively. To those we failed to mention, we thank you too, especially for your humility and tact in not mentioning that we did not publicly recognize you. Copyright © 2013 by In Medias Res Front Cover: “A Peek into a Writer’s Mind” by Lori Parker
The Odyssey Project Illinois Humanities Council 17 N. State St., Suite 1400 Chicago, IL 60602 312.422.5580 prairie.org/odysseyproject Questions? Comments? Concerns? Submissions? Please send all inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. iv
In Medias Res Editorial Team Senior Editors Amy Thomas Elder Gregory Langen Associate Editors Cha Shaya Betts Juan Carlos Bueno Ramona Dancer Jacqueline C. Finley Nia Gabrielle Daniel Moreira Lori Parker Phyllis Roker Sylvia Taylor Contributing Writers Penny Brinson Kathy Fitzgerald
In Medias Res Editor’s Note Amy Thomas Elder Director of the Odyssey Project Chicago On behalf of the Illinois Humanities Council and all the supporters and sponsors of the Clemente Course I want to thank Greg Langen and his intrepid team of Odyssey Project graduates who put together this second edition of In Medias Res. Their only guidance was last year’s IMR and their own individual and collective wisdom, which, as anyone can see, is considerable. I’m deeply grateful for the growing connection between the Odyssey Project and the University of Chicago Masters of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH), which was instigated by our own Hilary Strang and is sustained by Maren Robinson. MAPH students and graduates serve as Odyssey Project tutors, bring tasty food to class, and, most importantly, over the last two years, have worked as summer interns with the IHC and the OP. The MAPH-OP internship is a beautiful thing because it permits a partnership of individuals and organizations without bureaucratic demands, without pre-determined outcomes, without being subservient to a large institution’s justification of itself. The MAPH internship works for the Odyssey Project like a human MacArthur genius grant—providing an opportunity for us to do something new, something that builds on our neglected and perhaps even unsuspected capacities and allow them to emerge into the light. In the last two summers there has grown a new institution, in the nicest sense of the word—a sustained collaboration of individuals to do something worthwhile, something at odds with the dehumanizing, commodifying, bureaucratizing tendencies of our society. This is what the Odyssey Project aspires to be, and this publication bears witness to the possibility and the power of such an institution in the work of its contributors. It is always a pleasure and a privilege to work with the students and alumni of the Odyssey Project and to hear their voices and their wisdom, and it is a special pleasure and privilege to be able to share it here.
In Medias Res Editor’s Note Greg Langen Odyssey Project Summer Intern At first, I thought about boundaries. As the new Odyssey Project Intern my task was deceptively simple: Lead a class. That was it. The freedom was nearly suffocating. However, being the diligent (anxious) person that I am I soon filled my newfound freedom with questions. What were the limits of my class? What did we want to cover? I wanted to create a magazine, but what did the class want to do? What did the class want to learn? What did we want to produce? Did anyone want to show up? Can we realistically create enough original content to publish a journal by the end of August? However, despite my nagging anxieties, we did not have trouble filling the nearly sixty pages in this issue. Instead, the biggest editorial challenge that I faced was putting a cap on the prolific creativity of my class. Despite my attempts to make this as hard on everyone as possible – devoting only one week to completely divergent genres of writing, tasking students to produce one piece per week, allotting no specific attention to the visual aspects of our publication and then telling my students that we will put out an issue in less than two months – my class remained unfazed. Perhaps they had met larger obstacles in their lives. Perhaps they simply had more to say. In this issue you will find restaurant reviews, in-depth artist profiles, poetry, fantastical short fiction and the impossibly loose genre “flash fiction.” Teapots talk. Ants take arms against the world. But most importantly (and perhaps most improbably) you will find writers, artists, intellectuals and citizens of Chicago push themselves beyond what is comfortable to arrive at places unplanned, yet remarkably powerful. Finally, as the senior editor (and the Odyssey Project Summer Class facilitator) I’ve learned that the utility of my words have their limits. Whatever I can say, my students can typically say it better. To this year’s summer class, thank you for your patience, your dedication, and your willingness to fly through topics that people devote their entire lives to studying. With your openmindedness and determination know that there are no areas of culture blocked off from you, just as culture does not come with a price tag. Our language is shared, not owned. You are free. vii
In Medias Res Table of Contents Fiction Underaware Jacqueline C. Finley
Sand Lori Parker
123, 123, 123 Dance Jacqueline C. Finley
Body of Steel Cha Shaya Betts
Weather Report Cha Shaya Betts
Pass the Ball Jacqueline C. Finley
Remote Control Nia Gabrielle
Little Kick Lori Parker
The Mice Daniel Moreira
Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Just Like My Dad Sylvia Taylor
The Greasers Ramona Dancer
In Medias Res Independants Juan Carlos Bueno
Poetry June Penny Brinson
Cascading Thoughts Kathy Fitzgerald
My Life in Six Words Lori Parker
Profiles & Reviews Inside an Outsider: Satoki Nagata Nia Gabrielle
Broad Changes: Women of Social Justice Art Quilt Exhibit Jacqueline C. Finley
Thai Wok Restaurant Review Sylvia Taylor
Ashley’s Father’s Name is Carl Muhammad Sylvia Taylor
Chef Sara Phyllis E. Roker
A Conversation with Michiko Kobayashi Jacqueline C. Finley
In Medias Res Inside an Outsider: Satoki Nagata Nia Gabrielle
Satoki Nagata -D Had it not been for the opportunity to meet with a photographer whose work I found so stunning that I overcame my nervousness to contact him for an interview, I wouldn't be here â&#x20AC;&#x201C; inside The Dec Rooftop Bar at the Ritz-Carlton. His choice. I could see why he liked the place. Elegant ambiance and an amazing panoramic view of the city. I balked at menu prices and nervously placed my order: one cup of cinnamon plum tea, six dollars. I struggle with paying public transportation costs in Chicago, let alone high-class tea drinks. The artist I came to meet: a bottle of Coke, seven dollars. But conversing with Satoki Nagata about his art â&#x20AC;&#x201C; priceless. 1
In Medias Res “When people see my movie they will question themselves as to how they see the world. Through my film and photography I want people to think about themselves.” Satoki is talking about his work-in-progress, a documentary film he is creating about an area on Chicago's West Side. I first came into contact with Satoki's work through his Lights in the City and Cabrini-Green: Frances Cabrini Rowhouses exhibit, tucked away inside the north wall exhibition case on the eighth floor of the Harold Washington Library. By the time you read this, the exhibit will have moved on, but you will have another opportunity to experience the intimate photography of Satoki Nagata at Human Thread, 1200 W. 35th Street, 5th floor, September 16 through October 7, 2013. In the meantime, you can preview Satoki's The Magnificent Miles at themagnificentmiles.com. In the preview on Satoki’s website you can see a shot of Chicago's downtown skyline from the corner of Chicago and Laramie. It is a reminder of the many dividing lines existing in Chicago—social, racial, and economic. Satoki says that people are ignored on the other side of The Magnificent Mile. These are people we need to know, listen to and understand. “I want to say there are lots of magnificent miles in the city; lots of precious life on the street.” In the preview one finds pieces of a neighborhood's heart and soul. It’s problems and plagues. And most importantly, its hopes and dreams – all within four minutes. Such is the eye and heart of photographer Satoki Nagata. “I don't want to make a normal documentary. Many documentaries are very one-dimensional. I want to show the complexities in life.” During a presentation at the Harold Washington Library, Nagata informed the audience that the film is about our ignorance, our society, our reason of existence. “US, not them,” he says. Satoki raised questions about ourselves. Some were offended by this. Is it because we do not want to take responsibility for some of the stark disparities in this world? Is it just too difficult to look at ourselves? Satoki is still trying to understand why some were offended. Satoki has no problem asking these questions of himself. In fact, he seeks them out. “I look for questions inside myself. No easy answers.” Satoki says that people have a tendency to search for easy answers relegating something to either good or bad, but the answers are not what are most important right now. It is imperative that we ask questions that lead to understanding. Perhaps it is the job of a photojournalist to makes decisions for the viewer; to answer the viewer's questions before they are even asked, but Satoki does not view himself as a photojournalist. 2
In Medias Res “I'm an artist,” he says. “The art should be open. I don't want to give the answers. I want to give the questions. I want to make a photo that the viewer can spend many hours viewing and get something out of it every time they view the photograph. I want them to wonder about the meaning [of the photograph] every time.” Satoki's willingness and curiosity led him to the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses. He was a little afraid, at first. “In the beginning, I'm an outsider, so I was afraid to go inside. But I was wrong. There's no reason for me to be afraid to go inside. I start to go inside and take photos. In the beginning, I go about four or five days a week for two or 3 hours [taking photographs and getting to know residents] – sometimes more.” Nagata entered the experience ready to receive whatever it had to give him. “I have no bias. I had some before. People told me that it's a dangerous place, but after I go there I learn many things. It's so hard to understand. It is sometimes overwhelming. They were afraid to go outside, but I couldn't understand. It took me almost three years to understand why they were afraid to go outside – nobody helped. It's not easy to solve these problems.” Satoki is referring to problems well known to plague much of Chicago's impoverished neighborhoods, such as drug use, gang violence, underage pregnancy, absentee parents, and, of course poverty. But what intrigued Satoki the most was the fear displayed by those living in the impoverished neighborhoods. He talked about his experience with a West Side activist frequently engaged in community organization, such as, food and clothing drives, protests against violence, and working to help those newly freed from prison. This activist held a protest march around March of 2013. The protest was held on the West Side near Cicero and Laramie. At the time they were marching against school closings. Satoki asked him, “Why do you march here on West Side? Why not on Michigan Avenue?” Satoki’s eyes guide us to the magnificent view outside the window of the Ritz-Carlton’s Dec Rooftop Bar. “He (the activist) says it's impossible. Either his people will get arrested or they won't get permission. He's an activist, but he's still afraid. He shouldn't be afraid.”
In Medias Res Nagata can't imagine someone living in the affluent downtown area with that kind of fear. “People have the right to say what they want to say, but African-Americans [on the West Side & in the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses] are hesitant. Things are very complicated.”
Prays to God, Frances Cabrini Rowhouses, Chicago, 2011- Satoki Nagata Satoki's photographs of residents at Frances Cabrini Rowhouses draws you in with their beauty and intimacy, sometimes taking you into a person's most intimate moments, such as his photograph, Prays to God. In this photograph, Satoki photographs Erika Moore during her time of prayer. How does Satoki manage to capture such intimate moments in his photography? Satoki works on building relationships with the subjects of his photography. Building those relationships required Satoki to learn more about himself as an artist and as a human being, and the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses were fertile ground for that kind of education. “I need to go, I need to find – during the 4
In Medias Res three years I try to understand what I am. I need to get the trust. A photographer has to be comfortable, and the people need to be comfortable. I need them to open their fears. I found that if I open myself, they open themselves to me. I talked about my experiences in Japan. Some people open quickly, some gradually. I go there. I'm not becoming a friend. This is very important because I'm an outsider. Even if I spend very many days, I'm still an outsider…She (Erika Moore in Prays to God) wouldn't pray if her mother or brother were there. She would not pray in front of them, but she would with a photographer. She would with an outsider.” Satoki desires that every one of his photographs tell a story, and the foundation of that story appears to be relationship. He talked a lot about the importance of building relationships. It is an essential component of his religion, Zen Buddhism. “We have to make the people our life,” says Satoki. “We don't have reasons why we exist. We need to make relationships. Most Japanese are Buddhists. Zen Buddhism teaches relationships make reason for existence. If we don't have relationships then we are lost.” Satoki said that when Christians pray to their God, that is a relationship. When someone looks at his photographs, that creates another form of relationship. These relationships are made by choice. Even the relationships formed between a father and child are not automatic. The father must decide to be a father to that child. If he decides to give up the child then he is not a father. And the same is also true for mother and child. How a relationship is made and seen is important to Satoki. When he prepares to take a photograph, he connects his emotions to elements in the photograph. Looking at a photograph called Play Ground, I remark that the young man in the photograph reminds me of a father watching his children play. Perhaps I was a tad romantic. Satoki informs that he is a man of about thirty-two years of age. He had been imprisoned twenty years for killing a nine-year old boy. He himself was twelve at the time. And although he is an adult now, his mind stopped at twelve. He did not understand what he was doing at that age. He thought he was just fighting another boy. “What is good? What is bad? What is correct?” asks Satoki. “We can't judge. This kind of tragedy is happening in the United States. We need to be closer and understand people's feelings.” Sometimes, layers are added to a story after the photograph is taken as in, Heat Wave. “[It was a] very hot day, but very peaceful. About 11 p.m., almost midnight. She's (Nadia) about seventeen, he's (Tory) twenty-one. No wind. That's what makes the smoke so…Four months later he dies. He was 5
In Medias Res killed while working as a security guard at Walgreens; killed by a former employee of [that] Walgreens.”
Heat Wave, Frances Cabrini Rowhouses, Chicago 2011 – Satoki Nagata Satoki says that there are more opportunities to practice relationship building in the United States than in his home country of Japan. Satoki came to the United States in 1992 as a neuroscientist, with concentrations in toxicology and pharmacology. But he felt a desire to become an artist. It's not that there are not any artistic elements in science, but much of the world has taken the art out of science. “Being a scientist is like a job. Doing science is a creative thing. I gradually started to hate being a scientist.” But Japan is pretty conservative, he says. It is difficult to change careers in Japan. “Japan is more [of a] mono culture – one type of relationship. People don't want to change too much. [But in] Chicago, many cultures, many opportunities allow for different relationships.” Satoki says that the 6
In Medias Res basics for forming relationships are the same in both Japan and the US, but in the US, with all its layers of culture, things are much more complex. Sometimes this is a good thing with the many different kinds of opportunities this level of complexity can create, but not always. “I feel something strange about this society. Chicago is a big city – so many cultures, so many points of view. It can be a good thing, (but it) can also create isolation.” Satoki has a photograph entitled One Year Later. In it a man returns home from prison after having been gone a year. A fence is behind him. When he left there were no fences, now there are fences. Satoki compares these fences to a prison. “[This is] something strange to my eyes. Why do they have very high fences? Like isolation.” Nagata and I walked to a small children's park near Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue. He again talked about the fear of the outside he sensed from residents in the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses. He attempted to go back to the Rowhouses to get reacquainted with those whom he had seen change and grow over the past three years, but the security guards would not allow him in. He was told that he needed a permit, or that one of the residents must invite him in. He said, “It's not impossible, but the trust is broken.” Before this incident, residents of the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses sued the Chicago Housing Authority for a breach of agreement. The residents were shot down. A lot of staff members were replaced, but no one was there to help the residents. Now, not only are the residents isolated by outside fences, isolated inside their own homes, something in their soul is isolated too. There may be fear of retaliation from the CHA should anyone invite Nagata in. They are afraid to come out. But Satoki continues to build to relationships and grow as an artist and as a human being. “Photography is always changing. I don't want to stop growing. I always want to make a new image. I want to do creative things. I want to do meaningful things. I want to leave something when I die.”
In Medias Res *** Satoki Nagata's upcoming photo exhibit Cabrini-Green: Frances Cabrini Rowhouses HumanThread 1200 W. 35th Street 5th floor Chicago, Illinois 60609 September 16, 2013 through October 7, 2013 Gallery Opening/Artist's Reception - September 20, 2013, 6:00-10:00 p.m. Links: satoki.com humanthread.net
In Medias Res Broad Changes: Women of Social Justice Art Quilt Exhibit Jacqueline C. Finley
Incendiary - Marie-Joseph Angelique As I walked toward the cobblestone-like path, I immediately fell in love with the beautiful sculptures arranged throughout the front lawn of the Bridgeport Art Center. The location may be familiar to some because it is the former Spiegel warehouse, located at 35th and Racine Avenue. The warehouse currently has been converted to five levels of fashion design studios, art studios, workshops spaces and the Skyline Loft, an event venue. But this evening, I visited one of the many galleries, the HumanThread Gallery hosting the Fiber Artist For Hope: Broad 9
In Medias Res Changes: Women of Social Justice Art Quilt Exhibit’. After making my way through the maze of hallways, I walked into a very intimate space that demands interaction as visitors view this critical work. And this one stirred conversations in every corner. I was immediately greeted by the piece I viewed on the website, “Incendiary: Marie-Joseph Angelique.” This piece is a brief biography of Angelique, a Canadian slave believed to have burned down Montreal. The 3-D effect of Marie-Joseph Angelique haloed in flames is amazingly beautiful. Fifty-eight art quilts cover the Gallery’s space, from Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani school pupil and education activist to a piece honoring Harriet Tubman. The mix of past and present histories, as well as the depth of the work displayed is not easily taken in during a single walk through. One work, “American Now: Written On the Body” was a pin-up girl on a cross, tattooed with the markings of words used to describe women. As I circled, I heard someone say one of the artists was present. After having her pointed out, I was introduced to Jeanette Thompson, who was not only a featured artist, but the Curator for Fiber Artists For Hope. Her quilt was a very beautiful piece reflecting the duality of the Liberian Mass Action For Peace movement and its leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. In Medias Res: How was this show conceived? Jeanette Thompson: Myself and some of the artists represented started with the idea of a show around women and social justice. Then we thought about playing on the word ‘BROAD.’ How broad is not only a way of defining big or big changes, but how women are called, ‘broads’. IMS: Of all the women in history who have engaged social injustices, why Leymah Gbowee?
Jeanette Thompson – Jacqueline C. Finley 10
In Medias Res JT: I was first introduced to her when she was on Stephen Colbert. I immediately resonated with her, how she was this ordinary everyday young girl, much like you or me. Then I read her book, ‘Mighty Be Our Powers.’ It talked about how she overcame some personal and social challenges to become this leader for peace in Liberia. So when we finalized the project, I immediately knew she would be the subject of my quilt. After I read the book, I went online to search for images of the women from the Liberian Mass Action For Peace movement. I used a thermo fax screen to create the images of the women and Leymah Gbowee. The white t-shirts and headdresses represent peace. The skirts are actual pieces of African fabric. *** The HumanThread Gallery will be hosting the Broad Changes exhibit through Friday, September 6th at the Open Mic Night. Gallery viewing is by appointment only. Please visit the websites below for further information. Links: fiberartistsforhope.blogspot.com humanthread.net
American Now: Written On the Body –Kit Lang 11
In Medias Res Underaware Jacqueline C. Finley I’m running again. Running behind first thing in the AM. The alarm timed me. I snoozed it…twice. I timed my quiet time. Lost lingering in a daydream. Lost with distractions. My mind has spent the night racing through half dreams and strange nightmares. Dreams and nightmares of yesterday’s joys, regrets, challenges and failures. Yesterday’s To Dos done. Not done To Dos. Where did yesterday go? Where is my morning going? No time for breakfast, just coffee. One hour coaching session, pick-up cleaners, return those way overdue books, prep for two o’clock interview, pick-up something for dinner, finish three writing assignments. Ok, maybe just one assignment. Sleep. 9:28 AM. I am going to be late. 15 minutes late. Where is my folder, cleaner’s receipt, make-up bag, Moleskine, Daily Word, Kind Blueberry and Almond bar, water bottle…keys? What else? I am going to be 30 minutes late now! I really need to run. Uaggh!! Can’t this wait? I can hold it. I can hold. I can hold it. No, I can’t. I better go. Really? This is crazy!! How did I manage to do this? This is why I’m always running, struggling, distracted. This is why anxiety, depression, burnout, and stress become constant companions. One leg through the waistband with the crotch on my hip. How many days have I spent running around with twisted underwear? How many interviews with my slip hanging out…bra strap showing? How many times was there a ‘bat in my cave’…that gookey white stuff in the corner of my mouth? Butter in my eyes? No more alarms and snoozing. No more distractions and lingering. No more running. I am going to be 1 hour late. 12
In Medias Res June Pennie Brinson It's only June, Or is it August That I should be this way. Comparing, always comparing Recollecting on yesterday. Being cautious, and Counting my blessings, preparing, Considering my years to come. Not anymore Walking chin up â&#x20AC;&#x201C; proudly, But humbly, For fear of being mocked. Not anymore Doing it just to be doing It, But doing it for necessity's sake. Giving advice now Instead of Needing it. Shaking my head. Not too far from shaking my Finger? Oh! It's only June, I must remember Or is it August, or Maybe even September?
In Medias Res Sand Lori Parker So much sand I don’t think I’ll ever get clean again. It gets in the cracks, the crevices of your body. Grit in every pore. It crawls through your hair, lodges deep under each fingernail, between your toes, up your nose and you wake up with it in your eyes. Sand. Grit. God, it’s so damn gritty. You feel it between your teeth and your lips; you crunch on it when you eat your food or grind your teeth at night. I swear I think there’s a chance I might spill out on the ground like a sandbag if one of those nomads ever opens me up with his bayonet. Or bullet. Or IED. It clogs your throat, you know. You puke it up until you want to scream, until you pray to God Almighty, "Just let me die!" But then you get a gulp of air, a sip of clear water and you remember you’re alive and you don’t want to die anymore. No, you want to live. You want to live until you fall down again and get another mouthful of that god-awful grit. That sand – it just fills you up until there's no room for your soul anymore and you’re just one of those bags they lay down against the flood. Floods of blood and sand. You’re a sandbag again. Cannon fodder. First Infantry. The President doesn’t want to bring us home. Not yet. We still have a job to do; and so we go, we run and obey, and we can’t stop. But we can die. That will stop us. Death will stop us. And this sand, this desert. That will stop us. Maybe. But then the LT fives us a fresh canteen and says, "Here, son, drink this. It’s pure, it’s cold. That’s right, soldier, drink. Drink.” The water is cool, his voice soothing, gruff, solid. You feel the clear clean of it slide down your throat, but it mixes with the sand and you gag on mud. He thumps you on the back. “Wash it out, Son. Spit it out. Don’t swallow you’ll choke. Spit. Swish and spit. It’ll come out, I promise. It’ll come out and you’ll get out. Now do it. Do it.” He doesn’t say it, but I hear him just the same. “Do it, do it, do it.” Rapid fire, like bullets zipping into sand, like the beat of a heart, panicked. It gets faster and faster. “Do it and you will get clean. Do it and you will get out. Do it but you can’t go home. Not yet. Not yet. Not yet!” 14
In Medias Res Then, as the water washes you clean again and your pulse begins to calm, the words in your head come slower and slower. “Soon baby, soon. But drink this and you’ll have a taste of heaven. And you’ll be going home soon. But not yet. Not. Quite. Yet." And you obey, I obey and we wanna live. The water’s cold and we’re alive and I wanna li—
In Medias Res 123, 123, 123 Dance Jacqueline C. Finley As the worship ebbed in the atmosphere, the musicians and singers exited the platform. The sanctuary filled with the late arrivals. Visitors and members scrambled for vacant seats. The weekly PBS video is running overhead. Join the ministry on Saturday for our Annual Family Fun Day picnic. It starts at 11am in the Park. Across the back aisle, she is leaning into the crowd, walking pass the arrivals. She focuses on the movement just a stride ahead. A movement buried knee high in the depth of the goings and comings of the congregation. Barely visible, the thick chocolate locks bob about just inches in front of her. The locks cover the head of Baby Boy. His 3’6” tall frame dressed in a blue and white plaid shirt with khakis. Confident with each step, Baby Boy makes his way, weaving past strollers, pants legs and skirt hems. Yet less than a full stride away Mother is right there. Her hand hovering like a marionette guiding him towards the door. He swipes at the strings. “I can do this!” His toddler’s pace quickens. She gently tightens. “No, not yet.” Unyielding, her pace matches. The dance continues through the exit. Twenty minutes later, they re-enter. Hand in hand, side-by-side, they make their way through the emptying aisle. His pace in stride with hers. “I can do this!” Her steps leading the pace. “Yes, you are doing fine.” At the row, she succeeds, letting him guide his way pass the seats. “cuse me, cuse me.” He reaches their seats. He begins the climb, she reaches to re-connect but he shakes her off. “I can do this!” She loosens the strings. 16
In Medias Res It takes a moment, as he twists and turns to get positioned. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Well done, son.â&#x20AC;? She passes him a quarter. He tosses it in the offering bucket. As the message begins, his head starts the familiar bob. His hand gently rubbing her soft green skirt. Soon the chocolate locks will settle into her lap. Quietly he yields to a Sunday service nap. She places her hand on his head. She prays. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it â&#x20AC;&#x201C;Proverbs 22:6. The dance concludes.
Faith -Daniel Moreira 17
In Medias Res Cascading Thoughts Kathy Fitzgerald Visceral cries into the night; disparaging words, the guttural type. Homeless children; with heads bowed down. Grief stricken caseworkers; fall pray to the sound. Visceral cries into the night; disparaging words, the guttural type. Sages wander; blank stares, dismembering. Uncontrollable tears; Floods of remembering. Visceral cries, throughout the day; lamenting mistakes, unable to change. Ache of the inner being. Searching for a life sublime; Watermarked trails of the liquid kind. Strangers inflicting, often times whining; pejorative words intended to stymie. 18
In Medias Res Visceral cries, throughout the day; lamenting mistakes, unable to change. Ache of the inner being. Sages wonder; Cascading thoughts. Days of thunder all but lost. A single tear drops, telling the cost.
Chicago Jazz â&#x20AC;&#x201C;Lori Parker 19
In Medias Res Body of Steel Cha Shaya Betts She felt like she had been waiting for hours, the car had broken down on the side of the road. The only light was from the moon, a few stars and the headlights from an occasional car passing by. Looking out the window into the field she saw nothing but darkness. She almost felt as if the darkness was closing in around her. He had been gone for a while now. A car that was passing by was nice enough to give him a ride to the nearest gas station, which was still pretty far down the hilly stretch of road. Even with a ride, it would take quite some time to get back. She had used half her battery talking to her best friend because she was scared of being alone; she had to save the rest in case of emergency. She was down to her last two cigarettes. The few drinks she had at the bar was weighing hard on her bladder. They had gone there to celebrate her article making the front page of the college newspaper. She wanted to get out so bad and relieve herself but there was no telling what was waiting for her outside the body of steel. She swore she saw a shadow move in the darkness. The liquor must be getting to her. Nervously she looked down at her phone. He had been gone over forty-five minutes now. She raised her head back up and swore she saw the shadow again. She convinced herself she was seeing things. She did have a few drinks. She wanted so bad to turn on the radio, the music would keep her occupied and her mind off using the bathroom. Then she remembered she had her laptop in the backseat, she climbed over to get it making sure the doors were locked on her way back. Over to her left in between the tall blades of grass she thought she saw a flash of light. She was sure she seen it because as quick as it was gone she saw it again. She dialed his number to see how long it would be before he got back. Voicemail. She started to panic little as she thought about the scary movies with people getting killed on the highway. She prayed he was ok and would hurry back. The flash seemed to be getting closer as she lit her cigarette and puffed hard as she began to sweat profusely. She felt like she was closed up in a closet with leather wallpaper. She wanted to get out and run but where would she go? Besides she might run into something far worse than the light. The light was so close now she felt like she could reach out and touch it. She began to pray as the light flashed on the hood of the car. She screamed on the inside and a little pee trickled down her leg. She closed her eyes so tight it was as if they had been sewn shut. When she opened them again the light was gone. She let out a sigh of relief as she looked around and there was no sign of the light. She lit back up her cigarette then BOOM the light flashed on the windshield and all she saw was a face so horrifying it 20
In Medias Res would make the devil scared. He had glowing yellow eyes with fiery red pupils which felt like they were burning right through her. She screamed for dear life as the face opened it mouth to speak. Soon she saw nothing. She was awakened by him knocking on the window with a flashlight and a can of gas. On the windshield was the imprint of a face.
In Medias Res Thai Wok Restaurant Review Sylvia Taylor The Thai Wok restaurant is owned and operated by the former owners of Super Star on Western. The former was a self-styled hole in the wall and the taste of the food was responsible for the name: super. Taste, price and presentation had outdone any other Thai dining experience that I have had. The owners, husband and wife Lux and Nix, portrayed love through the preparation and presentation of their food. Both possessed a sense of humor. Nix was unabashed with his. Lux appeared shy, but did not hesitate to ask how you enjoyed your meal. They also seemed like Chicagoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ambassadors to Thailand. It was not uncommon for Nix and Lux to introduce exotic fruits such as mangostein and jackfruit to their customers so that locals can appreciate their sweetness and textures. The vegetables and fruits were sometimes carved with intrinsic designs. Travel brochures were placed on the counter. When the owners had time they would describe their homeland and answer any questions Thai Wok â&#x20AC;&#x201C;Ken N. customers had. Thanks to these two local culinary artists, I can truthfully say I want to visit the country.
In Medias Res However, until any future endeavors to Thailand, the arrays of tasty flavors that I find at their new and more spacious restaurant Thai Wok at 1104 W. Taylor will more than suffice. Three flavored fish, Pas Sea-Iew and Pad Keeh Mao (Crazy Drunken Noodle) are personally recommended. Nix originated Thai sandwiches. I prefer the Basil. The Pad Thai dish competes with Basil Shrimp as my favorite. The shrimps are large. The bean sprouts and crushed peanuts on the side provided the right amount of crunch for the Pad Thai. Being garnished with bold contrasting colors of julienne carrots or red cabbage makes the presentation even more desirable.
Thai Wok â&#x20AC;&#x201C;Ken N. Do not forget to try the Pumpkin Custard for desert. My Pumpkin Custard was cut in slivers and garnished with cream and strawberries. I have also seen it prepared differently on another plate, with what appeared to be mint and blueberries. Food is always fresh and served with a smile. I'm looking forward to tasting everything on their menu. Lux is also an artist outside of the kitchen. The decor reflects her artful taste and is warm with beautiful orange and greens. Bottom line: Thai Wokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s food is fantastic. You will leave happy.
In Medias Res Weather Report Cha Shaya Betts Rumbled in like a thunderstorm Lingered like a misty fog Then wiped out my heart like a hurricane
Pass the Ball Jacqueline C. Finley Shattered homes. Generational poverty. Voided Consciousness. 186 homicides by July, 2013. The Solution. Basketball Leagues.
My Life in Six Words Lori Parker He who laughs lasts. Hee haw! I live, I laugh, I last. I chose Him, He saved me. Saved me, assured me, tempered me, City girl raised in the country. Raised in mountains, flourished in city. Began as actor, continued as writer. First actor, then wife, now writer. First actor, now writer, still poor. Poor, hungry, raggedy, living in ghetto. Existential Christian, suicide is no option. So I write, laugh and live.
In Medias Res Remote Control Nia Gabrielle It had a nice crunch. Of the oats and honey variety. Jesse took another bite of the granola bar and chewed. He still couldn't figure out why Opie was so happy to get a black eye. Andy said something to his son and hugged him, but Jesse was no longer paying attention. I would have pummeled that kid into the ground until he was flatter than lunch meat. He picked up the remote. Sanford and Son was about to come on. Oh this is the episode where Fred loans his best friend some money. His best friend runs off with the money, and Lamont steps in to help his dad settle up with the loan sharks. Ah, that's a funny one. Jesse nodded his head, smiled, then changed the channel. He thought he should know the weather. Jesse shifted in his seat. Granola crumbs were scattered over his pants. Some had spilled on to the couch. I should probably get out the mini-vac . . . nah. Jesse was comfortable. Besides, he still had a couple of bars, enough to finish out another TV show. Gingerly, he placed the remote on the arm of the couch before scraping all crumbs onto the floor. Miffy sniffed at the crumbs, but left. Jesse, satisfied with his clean-up job, reached for another granola bar. His elbow knocked the remote to the floor. A battery fell out and rolled underneath the couch. He sighed, then eyed the remote. It had slid toward the television, out of reach. Without getting up, he felt around for the battery underneath the couch but ended up with a handful of candy bar wrappers. A six month old copy of Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition, lay next to him, crumpled, with unattached pages. Jesse hesitated before sacrificing the magazine. He rolled it up then shifted to his stomach. He swept the magazine under the couch. The battery came rolling out with crumbs, missing pages of Sports Illustrated, dust bunnies, and stuff he couldn't identify. Something sticky had attached itself to the magazine. He rolled his eyes and grunted. The battery had rolled next to the remote. Jesse looked around. The umbrella was in the hallway. A broom stood in the kitchen. Jesse looked at the end table. He pushed it toward the remote, but couldn't quite reach it, so he used his foot to get a table leg behind the remote. He managed, but the battery rolled under the TV stand. With his foot underneath the edge of the end table, Jesse eased the remote back toward the couch, but he was unable to change the channel on the TV. He had had enough of the weather. He sat glaring at the battery.
In Medias Res Ashley’s Father’s Name is Carl Muhammad Sylvia Taylor I met Carl Muhammad when we were both students at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. I knew him as a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. He struck me as an ordinary guy. Years later, I would run into him at the Boulevard Arts Center in Chicago. He would bring his young daughter Ashley to her dance classes. Sometimes he would read the paper while he waited. Other times, he would leave and return just before her class was dismissed. He commuted by bus. Sometimes we would talk while I waited for my three boys classes to end. I would sometimes see his father-in-law also waiting for his daughter. When I found out that Carl was raising his daughter alone. I thought the Edgar Albert Guest poem, “It Couldn't Be Done”: It Couldn’t Be Done Edgar Albert Guest. Somebody said that it couldn’t be done. But he with a chuckled replied That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one Who wouldn’t say so until he tried. Since those days, I have thought of Carl as more man then most. So I decided to approach Carl and ask him about his experience as a single father. His daughter Ashley is a graduate from Northern Illinois University. In Medias Res: Could you please describe your daughter, Ashley Muhammad? Carl Muhammad: She’s an individual of her time. She responds to things the way youths do today. Definitely a person along with her peers as far as the sensibilities of children today, meaning not as sensitive to things. There is a generation gap, considering I am 61 and she’s 25. She is a nice girl and independent. She has accomplished a lot. She is doing it her way. The choices that she has made seems satisfying to her. Our communication is not what I like it to be. IMS: How could the communication between you and your daughter be improved? CM: It goes back to sensibilities and modern technology. She’s working on the Carnival Cruise line engaging kids in youth activities. It was a blessing to get a job. 26
In Medias Res IMS: Do you think that she accepted the job just to have one? CM: She had been to the Caribbean before and had worked with children on the Westside. IMS: How often do you talk to her? CM: We don’t talk that often because of complications with her international situation. She’s on Facebook. IMS: Do you go on Facebook? CM: No. My phone has an Internet feature but I don’t use it much because I don’t remember the password. IMS: Does Ashley tease you about that? CM: No, I guess she’s happy about that. She set up my E-mail, after I asked. IMS: Looking back what gave you the strength to raise Ashley by yourself? CM: I had support, but it was the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. My father was in my life and demonstrated responsibility. He died when I was15. I use the teaching of Minister Farrakhan. I would not be happy with the alternative of her living with her mother. IMS: Were you disappointed that Ashley was not a son? CM: No. IMS: What were your first thoughts when you saw her? CM: Allah‘s the Greatest. IMS: Did you consider that you would have to fight off the boys? CM: That did not enter my mind. I was concerned about her health and seeing that she was whole caused me to be content. I knew that she had all her limbs, toes and fingers. 27
In Medias Res IMS: Was it hard for you to comb Ashley’s hair? CM: That was tough. I did not know what to do. I used Ultra Sheen, Blue Magic, twisted her hair and put in barrettes. My mother would braid it. We lived with my mother until Ashley was in 2nd grade. Fortunately, after 2nd grade she learned to braid her own. IMS: After you left your mother’s house, how did you manage without a wife? CM: It would have been helpful. There were a couple of females – it just wasn’t in the cards. IMS: Did you and the couple of females have the same philosophy on child rearing? CM: Yes, but there would have been no conflict because Ashley was my child. IMS: Were there other females that you could count on when needed? CM: No, but her friends’ mothers would speak upon certain subjects. My mother and sister were involved. Ashley has never discussed any of those conversations with me. I discussed the basic things. I think her maternal grandmother did too. IMS: There’s a commercial on TV that shows a father doing a cheerleading routine with his young daughter. Have you seen it? CM: Yes. IMS: Do you remember doing anything like that with Ashley? CM: We would dance and stuff. Music was a big part of our lives. She went to Muhammad University of Islam for a year. She went to drill. I would call out the cadences. We did Face Drilling. It’s like military; you know “Right face, Left face.” Ashley was dancing for a long time before coming to Boulevard Arts Center so she was used to movement. This interview seems to be more about Ashley then about me! IMS: Did you know how to cook already? CM: Basic stuff. I would steam broccoli and vegetable chicken fish and carrots. No gourmet cuisine. I tried to make healthy meals, but she had her share of Ramen Noodles. 28
In Medias Res IMS: Who could you rely on the most to help out? CM: Her Grandfather. You name it he was available. He would take her to the beauty shop and go back and forth to dance classes. He went up to Northern Illinois University to see her- that kind of stuff. IMS: Were you usually the only father at school meetings or at extra curricular activities? CM: Mostly, but I would see other fathers. I was not really paying that much attention. There were the same dads most of the time. I had a flexible schedule. I was trying to make up for the lack of one parent. I worked two jobs. I was in jeopardy of losing the second because I was going to soccer games. This company had a grace period of nine minutes. They changed to five minutes. I got in trouble because I would be a minute late. They rescinded it and I was able to have them wipe out the tardiness. With the two jobs it was a problem. I managed to get through it. I looked like O.J. Simpson in his commercials running through the airport. I did not want to miss out on her school years. It worked out ok. How many times did you feel that you werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t going to be able to make it? Everyday, but with the grace of Allah I managed. IMS: Did you trust your buddies around her? CM: Yeah, but I was visual. Thanks to the teaching of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and The Most Honorable Louis Farrakhan, I was caution about improprieties that could happen by family members or family friends. I did not take anything for granted. Unfortunately, these things have happen in our communities. Sometimes these things surface 30 years later. IMS: What values were most important? CM: Honesty and truth. I tried to have a God Centered belief and ideas in the household. You should see what Ashley wrote about Truth and Honesty while she was at Northern in Dekalb. It was published on campus. IMS: How similar are your personalities? CM: I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know. She has been away at College and now with her current job on the Cruise Ship. IMS: Name your three most important celebrations with Ashley. 29
In Medias Res CM: They were birthdays, college and high school graduations and her grandfatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s birthday. IMS: Would you admit to ever shedding a tear after bursting with pride at any of those ceremonies? CM: I had emotional reactions seeing her in her glory. They were good moments and I was elated. IMS: Were there times when Ashley danced that you wanted to say, maybe you should tone it down a bit? CM: No, I always tried to get her to express and enjoy herself. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not an erotic dancer. She does wholesome creative dances. IMS: Did you enjoy the same music? CM: Kind of. She likes jazz and rock. She likes Nina Simone, Jimmy Hendricks and Michael Jackson. I would say that she is someone that has an eclectic taste. Her exposure to music has been influence by her dancing. She deals with contemporary music 75% and maybe 25% of jazz and rock. IMS: Would you do it again? CM: If necessary, yes.
In Medias Res A Little Kick Lori Parker She lifted me out of my coffin with care, whispering to herself as she usually does. Someone was coming to visit – an unusual event given the fact that the last time I was resurrected the radio was playing Christmas carols and gingered spices permeated the bright little kitchen. This time I awoke to silence, except for her excited chattering, and there was a faint smell of antiseptic and vinegar – good for cleaning, I suppose, but certainly not an inviting scent. She talked to me, to the air, to no one in particular unless perhaps it was to herself for her own sake. There was no one else in the kitchen with us, yet she was as animated as a little girl preparing her first tea party. An apt comparison, if I do say so myself, since what she was going on about was a kind of tea party – for grown-ups. She expected them to arrive by four – that’s tea time in cultured communities everywhere, as everyone knows. Her words were muffled as she lowered me into my luxuriant bubble bath, but I believe she decided against the Earl Gray in favor of what she referred to as her own special blend. By the time I bobbed above the suds, she was humming as she sponged absent dust mites from my porcelain glaze. Ah, resurrection. Ah bliss. Had I muscles and skin, I would have shivered beneath her touch. Moments later, the suds whooshing down the drain conspired with the water rushing from the faucet to drown out all but the last of what she said as she rinsed me off. “ . . . time to explain first.” Explain what, I wondered. Why? To whom? Who would have the effrontery to demand that explanation? Such questions melted away as I succumbed to the chamois treatment. Soon I was placed on the familiar silver salver. Set like a king among my royal subjects, the teacups, who waited in attendance above a terrace of lace edged linen napkins (a most enchanting pearled gray). I watched as she filled my Archbishop with cream and dropped white cubes into the armory. The silver tongs were dull and water stained. She snatched them up, breathed her cleansing breath upon them and buffed them to a high gloss. The teaspoons received the same ministrations before being placed just so next to the linen terrace. 31
In Medias Res The scullery whistle announced the end of shift as she carried me and my retinue into the cool, blue shade of the front parlor. After setting us down onto the rosewood coffee table, she returned to the kitchen to oversee preparations. With voice raised, as if conversing with us, she continued her soliloquy. From what I could gather, it had been quite a long time, decades according to her, since something had taken place – something that involved someone named Little Johnnie, though perhaps that was just her pet name for him since her voice audibly softened as in loving memory. Anyway, some commotion or other had taken place and Little Johnnie was coming to visit. No, that’s not right. Someone was coming to talk to her about Little Johnnie. At least, that’s what I thought at the time. I heard cupboards open and whisper close as if she didn’t want to disturb the others in their tin coffins. Her voice tightened with strain and I knew she must be having difficulty with chamomile again. That somnolent herb has always been a hard case; something about his character just sucks out the atmosphere, leaving behind a vacuum. Good for freshness but lousy for access. It seems to me the subject changed at that point to her feelings about something, either something that had happened or was about to happen . . . I’m still not sure but just as I heard chamomile’s coffin open, she said the most surprising thing. I’ll quote her exactly so you’ll see just how troubling it was for me. “I g-guess . . . I always n-knew . . . (See how she struggled?) it would come to this but I’m not (here’s where she finally twisted off the lid) – guh – (I heard a rusty crunch too!) not as afraid as I once was.” Her soft grunt announced victory but I was stuck on that word, “afraid.” What would come to what, I wondered. And what in heaven could frighten her? I began to feel anxious. Had I ears, I would have cocked them to catch every syllable of what she said next but it didn’t matter. So intent was she on her recipe that she only addressed the ingredients for her “special blend.” “Chamomile – to calm the nerves. I dare say I’ll need your help today.” Ha! And hasn’t he been such a help so far – holding tight to his lid like that. “Ah,” she sighed, “and a half measure of aromatic lavender to enhance the senses. But not too much or you’ll add bitterness when forgiveness is desired, now won’t you my pretty?”
In Medias Res Forgiveness? Why would she want lavender – albeit a gentle herb unless abused in wasteful quantity, to inspire forgiveness? And in whom? Had I fingers, I would have checked the delicate flowers and ivies hand painted on my sides for evidence of the wolfish fear I felt scratching at my door. “And last,” she continued, “my secret ingredient, my exotic dancer to provide a little kick to my herbal waltz. Fresh mint, plucked from the window pot and bruised between pinched fingertips to release your oily essence. Thank you, my dear, for your sacrifice. I know it won’t be in vain.” Bruises? Pinches? Sacrifice? These aren’t words to inspire a friendly afternoon tea. Such violence must be met with violence. I checked to make certain the armory was full. Who knows how much sugar it might take to sweeten the sour soul of an enemy? A brutal pounding assaulted the front door. Her exclamation from the other room voiced my own surprise, though I would have increased the octave measure to a full-on scream when the pounding repeated – even harder this time. Instead, she groaned. Hurrying back to me, she called out as she lifted my crown, “I’ll be right there.” When the brute behind the door answered with another window rattling pound she poured near boiling water inside me – scalding me in her haste! “I’ll be right there. Just give me a moment, please.” The plaintive note in her voice troubled me. She retraced her skittered steps to the kitchen, hurried back with shocking speed, and dumped an untidy heap of biscuits on a plain butter plate next to my astonished Archbishop. Her mutter of, “They’re early. Oh, I’m not sure I’m ready yet,” increased my unease. I breathed in lavender’s gentle perfume in hopes that the infusion would calm my nerves. But mint, that sacrificed lamb, only kicked my anxiety up a notch. “Hello and welcome, gentlemen,” I heard her say as a rush of sunlight and spring air invaded our darkened chamber. A masculine murmur responded before she said, “Yes, yes, of course. Please do come in won’t you?”
In Medias Res
Her voice may have given away a slight tremor as she led them into the room but I can’t be certain because I was overwhelmed at seeing a giant and his skinny squire approach. This ogre still wore his turkey platter sized hat and only removed it when his companion motioned with his own. “Won’t you sit down, gentlemen? I’ve prepared a nice –“ “This ain’t no visit, Miss Drowning,” interrupted the oaf. Visibly startled – at least visible to me, she said, “I realize that, Sheriff, but we can still be cordial can’t we?” What inspiring courage! With a thump of his hat against the side of his meaty thigh, the huge man shook his head. (The sway of his jowly dewlap would have inspired envy in turkeys everywhere!) “Just tell us everything and we’ll be on our way.” The boorish upstart! How dare he speak to this lovely spirit that way? Everything? Everything about what, exactly? Wouldn’t it take a long time to tell someone everything . . . about almost anything? Prim, back straight, chin lifted, she gathered her skirts beneath her as she sat down on the French Victorian canapé. A graceful sweep of her hand was her silent entreaty for them to sit. When neither moved, she shrugged, reached out to me and poured a proper cup of tea. The young squire seemed to tense as she set me down, as if to make a move toward the matching end chair but then, under his superior’s glare, relaxed into his previous position. With a little cough to clear her throat, she began to speak in a measured, clear voice. “You said you were interested in knowing about Little Johnnie. Well – ” “If you’re referring to the man John Dillinger, America’s most wanted criminal, yeah, I wanna know everything you got on him.” He hitched up his belt as if for emphasis.
In Medias Res Lifting the bone china tea cup, settled in its matching saucer, to a point midway between her lap and her lips, she began. “You see, Sheriff, when he was just seven, I saw Shelly Dement strike John.” She paused for a delicate sip, set it down and sighed. “Only sev –“ “Ma’am, have you seen Dillinger recently?” She rewarded this effrontery with a sharp look – as well she should, but then, for just a brief moment, her brave façade threatened to crack. She cast her eyes around the room as if looking for a way out. Until, that is, her gaze settled on me and I am proud to say she seemed to gather new resolve. She reached out to lightly run her fingers over the raised relief of my fired enamel relief. Had I the feline capabilities of a warm blooded creature, I would have preened beneath her touch. Her calm restored, she looked up at the younger man who, in turned seemed to try to reassure her with his smile. “Young man,” she said, pointedly ignoring the beast in the middle of the parlor, perhaps you would like a cup of tea? Lavender and chamomile – my own special blend with just a hint of mint to give it a little kick.” She lifted me over an empty cup and raised her eyebrows at him. He responded, “Um, no Ma’am. Not right now, but thank you for offerin’ jes’ the same.” A kindred spirit! Neither of us wanted her to be uncomfortable. When he bobbed his head in a quick bow, I marveled that such a well-mannered young man would suffer the indignity of being subordinate to the crass monstrosity standing next to him. When said monstrosity grunted his displeasure, I do believe I saw a glimmer of embarrassment in the poor lad’s eyes. For her part, she just sniffed at the fat man’s vulgar display, set me down – unemptied, and looked him right in the eye. What she saw there must have been quite ugly for her gaze faltered and dropped to his untidy midsection before she raised it again to the much friendlier face of the younger man. A shy smile graced her lips – returned in kind as their eyes met. She sat up a little straighter and, looking directly – and only – at him, proceeded to speak once more. “When he was seven years old, I saw Shelly strike Johnnie.” She didn’t stop talking when the Sheriff emitted another of his vile grunts. “I told her momma right away, of course, but she didn’t believe me – no one ever did back then. Not Shelly. Not their pretty, sweet, funny, bright-as-a-shiny-new35
In Medias Res penny Shelly. But she did; lots of times too – I know because I watched and she struck him almost every night. That’s why –” “Com’on, let’s go.” The booming voice shattered the moment. “The old bat’s too far gone. She ain’t got nothin’.” But it seemed the young gallant could not tear himself away from her intense gaze. Instead he leaned in to catch her words over what the Sheriff was braying. She leaned forward too, to leak her secret in sotto voce, “That’s why I had to kill her, you see. I had no choice.” He jerked upright. His eyes darted to the Sheriff. The Sheriff was leaving. He gaped back down at her. His assessment dawned across his suddenly pale features. I watched his expression change from shock, to horror, to sudden comprehension. Of what, I cannot begin to imagine. “You do understand,” she continued. “I took care of the children. They were my responsibility until the parents got home. Those tent revivals went on late into the night – almost every night that summer. She was a bully. He would turn into a milk-toast. I couldn’t allow it.” She lifted me in her firm grasp and poured a second cup as she spoke. It felt so nice to be unburdened of the cooling liquid. It appeared she too was unburdening herself of a cold truth and I heard the relief in her voice as she said, almost conversationally, “The bath water was warm and it didn’t take very long at all, you know.” She lifted the cup and its attendant saucer, and waited patiently for him to accept it. Compelled, he leaned forward to accept the offering. Seeming unable to look away, he remained in that awkward position, tilted his jaw, and said, “Uh, Sheriff . . .” Everything that happened after that happened very quickly. The enormous Sheriff and his Sancho squire exchanged hurried words, the Sheriff demanded she, “Come with us,” and they unceremoniously bustled her right out the front door. She went, meek as a kitten but as dignified as the queen of the realm. 36
In Medias Res Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s full dark now and chilly here in the front parlor. No oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s here to light the lamps or the potbellied stove in the corner. Dreary hours have passed. My tea is cold and lavender and chamomile are as bitter as a middle-aged couple whose marriage is stagnant and limp. Neither of them have any patience for their lazy minty son who, himself, does not have the energy to dance anymore, much less kick. I hope she comes back soon to give us a proper burial and return me to my coffin.
In Medias Res The Mice Daniel Moreira Late at night, a tiny shadow crosses a light that comes from outside the window. This shadow turns stealthily in the middle of the dark living room, sniffing in here and over there. The shadow proceeds its way up to the bedroom, completely safe in the dark night. Once up there, the shadow stops and takes a break to listen and see every detail. On the bed the man sleeps deeply as time passes until it is almost time for the most luminous star to wake up. Another day. The shadow makes its way down to the basement — to headquarters — and tells everything to its master and commander. The luminous star brings a new day and the maid starts work in the house, beginning in the master bedroom and working her way down to the basement. She cleans from the top of the shelves to under the dressing table. She is keenly aware of the one small black mouse that follows her throughout the house. The mailman shows up at the door as usual at 3:30 in the afternoon and, like always, he’s in a hurry, looking through many letters to find the right ones for this address. Still, even the flustered mailman notices the dark shadow under the bush near the sidewalk. Later that night, a strong light comes from the direction of the driveway, the garage door opens and a man gets out of the automobile. Faster than the light, the shadow comes down from the ceiling, slides across the bicycle to the hose, and stops right behind the tool box, which is kept near the kitchen door connecting the garage door to the rest of the house. Exhausted, the man makes his way up to the master bedroom and, after a long shower, is ready for a good night’s sleep. As usual, he didn’t even take the time to close the bedroom door. The shadow, tiny and silent, comes around the bed and starts to read the man’s mind until the next morning when the luminous star appears once again in the heavens. After the luminous star appeared in the heavens, and the man has left his automobile, an old man knocks on the front door. The maid greets him and leads him into the living room. Looking around, the old man comments on the fact that the living room still looks the same, even after so many years. 38
In Medias Res The man arrives home earlier than usual to find his father (the old man) and the maid happily chatting away. Upon seeing his son, the old man jumps up to greet him with a warm embrace. The maid leaves to go to the kitchen to prepare dinner while the men settle down to exchange memories about the house. The maid soon returns to the living room, distressed, and interrupts them. “Sir,” she said, wringing her hands. “Is everything ok?” the man asks. Stammering, the maid replies, “Yes, sir, except for one thing.” “Well, what is it?” “The cheese in the fridge keeps disappearing. I went to the market just this morning and bought more for tonight’s dinner. You said you wanted a cheese soufflé tonight in honor of your father.” “Yes, yes, I know. I thought about it last night while I was in bed and told you first thing this morning before I went to work that we should serve that tonight because it is my father’s favorite.” The old man interrupted to ask his son if he knew about the mice. The maid laughed nervously thinking the old man was making a joke but he added, “No, it’s the mice in this house. I’m telling you. That’s why cheese soufflé is my favorite dish because I so rarely got to eat it when I lived here. They always seemed to know when I had it in the house or even when I was going to buy it. I think they can read our minds.” His son laughed at this but he insisted. “Really, they follow you, like tiny shadows, everywhere, and when you’re asleep, they read your mind.” The man tried to reason with his father. “But mice aren’t magic. They can’t read a person’s mind. Besides, I’d know if they were following me everywhere.” “Would you?” asked his father. “They’re so silent you don’t even know they’re here right now, do you?” 39
In Medias Res But it was no use; the father could not convince his son that that he was sharing the house with stealthy clairvoyant mice and the son could not convince the old man that mice arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t magical creatures. Meanwhile, the maid went to the store to buy more cheese.
In Medias Res Chef Sara Phyllis E. Roker Sara Phillips is a chef with a plan. Her plan entails creating a comfortable space and good healthy food to eat. Chef Sara’s Café located in Chicago’s South Shore community is where she has begun to follow her passion. For the past 32 years, Sara Phillips worked for TWA airlines as a flight attendant. Familiar with first class quality, her goal was to bring that idea to her current customers. After her retirement from the airlines, Ms. Phillips reflected on some of her favorite times during her youth. That was watching her mother cook and enjoying whatever the meal was that she created. Her decision to attend the Art Institute Culinary School felt like a natural progression. Although she enjoyed all of the aspects of the culinary world, she narrowed them down to chef. She has been tweaking her skills in this field ever since graduating and, in the past two years, Chef Sara is making a name for herself at her café.
Sara Phillips with Customer –Phyllis Roker
Upon entering through the doors of Chef Sara’s Café, you are drawn into a relaxing atmosphere that initiates a tour of your five senses. It’s a bright and sunny spot which seats about twenty-five, with enough space to fit a comfortable leather couch. Wi-Fi is even included. New customers don’t know what’s cooking when they walk in, but undoubtedly they are captured by its aroma. Once customers see a dish served, it is normal to hear patrons tell the wait staff, “I want that.” 41
In Medias Res Chef Sara’s Café turns out not to be the average café where coffee and desserts are the only items sold. Along with her coffee menu, Chef Sara prepares a variety of different dishes. You will not find packaged sandwiches or pre-made salads at her café; she cooks most of the food in house. Chef Sara defines her cooking as a healthy mid-west southern style. “A lot of my cooking came from growing up with my mom and my father’s mom,” said Chef Sara. “My savory cooking comes from my grandmother. My dad’s mother could cook her butt off. I used to love going over to her house,” Sara said. “We were not wealthy but there was always fruit, salad, an array of vegetables, tuna and chicken (seven days a week) in our meals.” “That’s what I want to bring to my customers, and to date they seem to be enjoying it,” she said. Some of her most popular creations are the Panini Sandwiches, Black Eyed Pea Dip, and Shrimp and Grits. She has even gone as far as naming some of her most popular dishes after favorite customers who have supported her from the beginning. The Granger Arranger is a crowd pleaser at Chef Sara’s Café. It is named after a local businessman Ananias Granger, President of A & D Property Services, a pillar in the South Shore community. This dish consists of sautéed fresh mixed greens, brown rice pilaf topped with a grilled salmon burger and corn bread on the side. The Billy Boy Special named after Billy Powers, a young educator at a local neighborhood daycare, focuses on the vegetarian palette. It includes the same as the above but without the salmon burger. “I love my customers because they act like they have known me for years. They ask for hugs and their specialty. They patiently wait for their food Sara’s Café –Phyllis Roker 42
In Medias Res and are always satisfied. It’s unbelievable,” said Chef Sara. Chef Sara’s Café has been a positive addition to the South Shore community. Her establishment is located at 7201 South Exchange. Now local business owners as well as residents have a place to meet, greet and relax, while they enjoy the ambiance and good food right here in South Shore seven days a week.
In Medias Res He’s Just Like My Dad By Sylvia Taylor My father gave his bad temper to Buck. In Limerick County my father was always radical about injustice. Why should Buck be any different? Since, he was little tyke, Buck was always a fighter. He reminds me of the stories I heard of my father being hot tempered and quick to fight. Back in Ireland he was known to give the landlords hell. He never allowed the English to talk down to him. He fought with William Lamport in the San Patricios army. He received the War Cross Award. My mother said he was wild, especially after a pint. 'Cept Buck makes moonshine and don’t drink. After the Great War, Buck came back very uppity. I’m not like that but Easter is. Even being with that Niggra woman reminds me of my daddy. She’s spunky, that woman. I tell her each chance I get to stop Buck from drinking out that fountain. I know it’s no use. He will not drink out of the one for coloreds. Easter got him thinking he’s a white man. He looks at me with such hatred. If it weren’t for me, he’d be lynched along time ago. Everybody knows he’s my son and not that big boy Easter married. My wife knows not to say nutin about it and so does that boy. Whilst, I have been sheriff, they wonder how come this crazy nigga boy is not dead. Truth is Buck gotta know his place. I want Easter to get him away from here. I can’t let them lynch Buck. I’ll have to kill him first. He’s just so much like my dad.
In Medias Res A Conversation with Michiko Kobayashi Jacqueline C. Finley During a Board Leadership training program, I met leaders from various Southside community organizations. During one of our sessions, we were introduced to the director and founder of an organization whose mission is to engage Youth in poor urban neighborhoods through education, discussion and creativity in the arts. Like many others, she began with a short introduction. She shared how she had been inspired by the history of African-American leaders like Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. Du Bois and particularly Michiko Kobayashi –Jacqueline C. Finley Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She talked about how she left her home nation to start a new life as an exchange student at the University of California Berkeley before transferring to Western Illinois University. After meeting and marrying during college, she followed her husband to Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Between jaw drops, audible ‘what’s?’ and simple dumbfounded curiosity, we in the audience asked for more time. The woman was half-Japanese and half-Korean. She had started her AfricanAmerican history education in Japan in the mid-70s. Because of the connection between The Odyssey Project and The Civic Knowledge Project Humanities Division of University of Chicago, and it partnership with her organization, I could think of no one better to profile for our second edition. The intersection of dialogue and critical thinking through art, literature and history, shared by the organizations has served to empower individuals to both thrive and courageously pursue opportunities in education, careers and personal goals. 45
In Medias Res So it is with great pleasure, that I now share with you some of the many ‘nuggets’ from my conversation with Michiko Kobayashi, Founder and Director of HumanThread Center/Gallery for Non-Violence, Arts and Education. The HumanThread Center and Gallery houses six programs all designed to help students recognize that our lives are endowed with limitless potential. The center hosts monthly art exhibits, Open Mic, afterschool programs, public discussion forums and workshops. Michiko Kobayashi has a MA in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago. Her corporate career experience includes 8 years in foreign exchange trading. She was chief administrator for a research institution. Michiko Kobayashi has also been a client services/business development representative at an international law firm, and event planning business partner, before founding HumanThread. She is a mother of two grown sons, both of whom work and reside in Dubai UAE. In Medias Res: To start, let’s talk about the place where all this began, your introduction to African- American history. Michiko Kobayashi: When I was around 14 and 15 years old my older siblings two brothers and one sister) especially my sister would share with me books about the civil rights movement and Dr. King, Jr. During this time most of my Japanese peers were into the British lifestyle, music, etc., but my brothers and sister were “unusually” into the African-American culture. Because of my ethnic background being half Japanese and half Korean in the closed, discriminatory society of Japan I found myself relating to the struggles of the civil rights movement. (For more information please refer to history of Japan and neighboring Asian countries such as Korea and China to understand the societal context that existed in Japan) I was particularly inspired by the resiliency and humanity of the people, and the messages spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in writings such as “The Strength to Love” and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” My abstract ideal, then, turned into this idea of studying in the U.S. and live amongst “the people.” That was my “American Dream.” So when I was ready for college, I decided to attend a school with a low Asian population. I wanted to integrate outside of my native culture. Berkeley had a pretty large Asian population, so I transferred to Western Illinois University. That is where I met my first husband, whom I followed to Chicago, Englewood, and to finally Harvey, Illinois. It was during this time that I started collecting newspaper article and seriously cataloging how public education was failing our children and the nation as a whole. 46
In Medias Res IMS: So HumanThread was founded to address the ’missing pieces of the puzzle’ in public education. MK: Yes, to me education is the key to upward mobility. It defines American democracy, liberty, and happiness for all. When the understanding of this is lost on a nation, then it will not provide opportunities for a quality education to all its children. I believe this is the single most injustice any nation could commit against its citizen, namely the children. As we say,’ children are our future’, and if we do not provide a meaningful education to all children then we fail as a nation. Let me also say that percentage in a population does not matter, for instance African-Americans represent about 13% of the population and are still classified as a minority. If we dismiss this great asset of human capital, we will most likely find ourselves in an economic disadvantage in the world economy soon or later. IMS: It is like a puzzle with a missing piece. The picture is not complete, and you cannot reap the full benefits of the beauty of the image. MK: Exactly, we have to see human resources as human capital that when it is missing, it effects the future potential of a nation as a whole. If someone is averse to the conversation about racism and classism, then let us address it from an economical perspective. By dismissing an entire group from the population, the nation creates a disadvantage for itself. IMS: A self-created disadvantage, I like that… MK: Yes, a disadvantage for the nation as a whole, not just the individual. The education system of a nation says everything about the health of a nation and its future. I feel in this country, it is very difficult to address these particular concerns about education. At this point, we are talking about public education, not college. With the public educational system, one has to conform to the curriculum (or the materials) you are institutionally allowed to teach. HumanThread through the afterschool setting can introduce tools for critical thinking to the student participants. We believe a higher level of thinking is how they must learn to view themselves. We want to introduce an idea that “self-knowledge” is the most important knowledge of all, for, from my perspective, it is the fundamental asset. For instance, take a concept of “self-identity” or “culture.” The knowledge we have about them is often nothing more than “categories” we all could belong to. It is a complex conversation but we believe it is a conversation we want the students to explore and come to their 47
In Medias Res own understanding of who they truly are inside. As well as understand the identity of culture from the individual perspective to the greater community perspective. IMS: On your website you write, “Creativity is central to what makes us human” and “Art creates connections.” How have you seen creativity through art play out through the afterschool program? MK: For me, it is very straightforward. To create a non-violent world we need to take a holistic approach by addressing the individual as well as the systemic structures. Art, art exhibits, open mics and discussion forums at the Gallery is the opportunity to connect communities. One aspect of the mission of HumanThread is about humanity. We want to invite everyone from all walks of life, and from every socioeconomic class to view these powerful images in art that speaks to the human condition and cultural identities. The other aspect is through the afterschool program. Here we reach out to the youth who are most effected by the violence and structural or dia-chronological neglect over generations. Through these engagements, we promote, encourage, and inspire creativity as well as honest and healthy self-expression versus destructive means of expression. We also try to deepen their understanding of their self as the place where the real power resides, or at least that is our goal. IMS: Many leaders have pointed to factors such as neglect, joblessness, education, etc. to explain the escalation of violence in our communities. As you interact with the youth at HumanThread, what factors have you seen as possible contributors? MK: I remember when I lived in Englewood, I always immensely enjoyed watching the young girls jumping rope. You know like this (she swings her hands one over the other). IMS: Double-Dutch. MK: Yes, double-dutch. Do you see that today? No! And it troubles me tremendously. I don’t know what they are doing? What has happen to our neighborhood relationships? We are social beings; we have to be learners who engage. We learn from social living. That is one of the things Dr. King, Jr. and W.E.B. DuBois said when they talked about education. Dr. King said, “With education we have to serve and promote utility and culture.” W.E.B. DuBois said, “Education must not simply teach work, it has to teach life.” These things can only be taught through social and human interactions; in other words, social living. When we are not engaged in these interactions, we 48
In Medias Res fail to connect to the tremendous internal resources we have. Nothing in our culture tells us or teaches us that true assets of courage, wisdom, love and compassion are the things make us who we are. Instead we are constantly bombarded with the importance of external resources and how to tap into them. We then become defined by what we can gain and get. This is most apparent when we examine life in an impoverished community. How does one find true worth or value from within, when one is constantly taught you are worthless, by default, you then become defined by where you live. This is what our afterschool program speaks to: teaching young people how to examine, analyze, investigate and explore their internal resources. HumanThread are facilitators who interact with students. Our hope is to help them understand how to draw on this true asset in their lives as they move into their futures. IMS: Great! Now I would like to talk about the place where everything takes place…The Center. Why the name HumanThread? MK: My partner and Board of Director member Tim Wais created the name in his song. It speaks to one seeing themselves in the eyes of others. We are a reflection of one another. Art is a universal language that connects us, and HumanThread serves as a bridge. I am hoping! That is why HumanThread is one word, no space. IMS: And why host, “Broad Changes: Women of Social Justice Art Quilt Exhibition?” MK: I met Jeanette Thompson, Curator for Fiber Artists for Hope, when HumanThread reached out for artists through the Chicago Artists Resource in early 2011. That was the beginning of our wonderful partnership for peace, art and education! Since then we’ve worked on the annual citywide student exhibits and the American Spring project, which was created around the issues of race resulting from the Trayvon Martin case. I was simply blown away by the quality of the quilt work. We also collaborated with the Metro Board of the Chicago Urban League. This current exhibit, “Broad Changes” addresses the critical issue of social injustices and the inspiring work done by women to redress them. You had a question about what does the HumanThread want to convey to young women (and men) through this exhibit? I would say to be women who lead a conscious life. IMS: Could you please define conscious life? 49
In Medias Res MK: When I read the artist statements from slavery to Oprah to Liberiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s women movement represented in the exhibit, I think being a conscious woman means being aware of the connections we have and anything that can break those connections. It is about being aware as a conscious being of the past, present, future, and the forces that shape them. I see within the exhibit how culture is created by people. How it evolves, culture is not static. We can shape and change cultures. So we must ask ourselves, Where do we stand in the culture? IMS: Michiko, again thank you for this interview. It has truly been a rich conversation. MK: The pleasure is mine. Thank you for the opportunity. I ask Michiko to share some of her impressions of the exhibit, and how the themes we discussed were reflected through various pieces. We agreed the topics of education, self-knowledge and conscious awareness are center to the issues surrounding social justice in our time. And most importantly where do we stand on these issues as individuals, families, communities and organizations as we partner with the present generation and move forward. As I mentioned at the beginning, I pulled out the riches â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;nuggetsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. Selecting which to highlight did not come easily, but I believe the ones chosen can serve as topics for your own social media forums or one-on-one conversations. I highly recommend you visit the attached links. *** Links: humanthread.net fiberartistsforhope.blogspot.com
In Medias Res The Greasers Ramona Dancer In the world that I live in there are two Greasers. They are two mischief makers. The mystery surrounding them is unexplainable, like Thing One and Thing Two from Dr. Suess. They appear normal like any other two year olds, in constant motion. Communication between the two greasers can nonverbal. Yet all is understood. The Greasers are not twins but first cousins of the opposite sex, born ten days apart. Great Joy! The Greasers act as if the world is their own personal puzzle to be solved. They touch and examine any and everything that crosses their path. They have even been known to climb things to get a new object or even a familiar one. If it is of interest, and everything is of interest. These objects become their current toy or toys with which to use their imagination. Our greasers make up songs that only they understand. Sometimes they make their own musical instruments too. They sing loud and clear like they are in a noisy bar drinking, smiling at one another. I can only assume that at two years of age there are still words that they cannot pronounce well. They are called the Greasers because of their ability to find lotion, Vaseline and even cooking oil, no matter where they are stored. They think these items are for them to use. They grease each other from their heads to their toes, with or without clothes on. They seem to usually start with the uncovered areas of face, hair and arms. One Greaser has even been known to attack other sleeping people in her path. Her uncle awoke to a Vaseline hair do and greased face. Her two cousins also fell victim to one of her grease attacks. Warning! Beware of the Greasers: Duavon and Kendall.
In Medias Res The Independants Juan Carlos Bueno
Obsession -Daniel Moreira Red labels, polar bears and plastic bottles reaching inside of the deepest regions of the lacandona jungle, was the warning sign for the ants, who were willing to defend their sacred homeland against the Coca-Cola Company. The land, the magnificent waterfalls of blue water, had been under the reign of the ants for thousand of years. Such ties do not break easily. Traveling hundreds of miles through underground roads, communicating using wave vibrations, the ants from blue waters relayed the message that giants polar bears driving red trucks and wearing high tech military shades were enacting a vicious assault on their self-governing lands. 52
In Medias Res Immediately an Intergalactic Press Release was published and spread by one of the ants’ most effective and most highly guarded weapon, the golden wasp. This wasp was in charge of sounding the battle call all over the region and seeking help from other bug tribunals. The golden wasp knew very well about the tremendous danger of their enemy. It had been known throughout history of the heroic defense that the golden wasp’s greatest warriors had won in previous battles against the Cola Corporation. When the ants from the other side of the waterfalls received the message they immediately began drafting a plan to help their buddies. The ants mounted the wasps and flew to the other side of the waterfalls in order to prepare for battle. The organization between all these little friends was so precise and accurate that they were able to build, as fast as the bullet train, a colossal barricade made out of big pieces of wood, branches, leaves and fine granite to stop the Coca-Cola-Corporate Army attack. At least at the beginning… It was a tough battle, the Cola soldiers had orders to occupy the region no matter what, but the ants hit first, the more intrepid ones decided to go to the front line, crawling up the bodies of the soldiers and getting inside their ears and nasal canals. The ants along with all their allies were so determined to take down the Cola soldiers by any means necessary, that the ones that were able to fly went straight for the kill! They went directly for the faces of the drivers who were maneuvering the Caterpillar tractors. But the confrontation started to get more intense, when the Coca-Cola Corporate technical team, started releasing out their toxic black bubbling liquid all over the place. Everyone knew how it could have turned out because it was similar to how the U.S government spread coke and crack all over Brooklyn. Most of the ants could not resist the sugar shock, for once they were exposed to the toxic liquid, their eyes started blowing out and they turned wacky and dizzy. Still others croaked right away. The Cola army was close to accomplishing their mission. They could feel it was almost over. However, the Queen ant was not going to give up so easily. She went straight to the middle of the battlefield and began organizing the few ants that were still alive. Clearing her throat she proclaimed to the remaining survivors, “If the trees keeps standing up and the caves keep open, we will have hope.” 53
In Medias Res The Queenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s words were so powerful that Mother Earth herself woke up all the snakes out from their cradles. Suddenly the snakes began to swallow whole as many ants as possible including the Queen in an effort to keep the ants safe from the elements outside. When Mother Earth felt that all the ants and their allies were secured within the snakes bellies she gathered all her strength from her inner core and caused an earthquake measuring 10.6 on the Richter scale. The magnitude was so immense that it sent the Cola Machines to Hell. The waterfalls of blue waters overflowed causing waves as high as 50 feet to wipe the Coca-Cola Companies out completely. The cleansing had begun. *** The Golden Wasp saw from above that earth was completely covered by the blue waters. She continued to fly for seven days and seven nights, until on the eight day she saw the tip of a mountain where she rested. After what seemed like years of undisturbed sleep she was suddenly awakened by the warmth of father sun embracing her. The golden wasp gently rubbed her tired eyes and noticed at a distance a glistening speck moving towards her. At first she was unable to recognize the speck. She rubbed her eyes again, harder this time. Eventually she noticed two nearly microscopic antennas approaching her. A golden aurora began to crystalize itself around both the ant and wasp, transforming trillions of dust particles into the animalia era. Long live the kingdom of the velvet ant!
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N.O.L.A. â&#x20AC;&#x201C;Juan Carlos Bueno
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