Archive | March, 2015

The Mothers of Invention

30 Mar

by Andrea Kelton

“Suzy…Suzy Creamcheese.    Oh, mama, now what’s got into ya?”

With those lyrics, I was introduced to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.  In the late 1960’s, bands competed to create music that would “blow your mind.”  Although not commercial superstars, the Mothers were super progressive and innovative.

When I was 18, I flew to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Upon boarding Northwest Airline’s “Blue Goose”, the stewardess directed me to a seat between two bearded, long haired hippies.  As I settled in, these friendly freaks admired my intricate hand “slave” bracelet.  Taking my hand, the guy on my right examined the large jewel ring on my middle finger.  His fingers trailed the three jewel- studded fine-link chains which were attached to the ring.    These chains attached to a chain encircling my wrist.  We talked jewelry and travel destinations.  They were musicians headed for a college concert somewhere in Wisconsin, members of a band called The Mothers of Invention.

Wowie-zowie!  I’d heard of them from my super cool friends.  I could at least act like I was hip, knowing who they were.  But they didn’t care all that much.  They just liked to talk.  I listened.  Then, in comfortable silence, we sat for the remainder of the short flight.

Later that year, the Mothers came to Detroit’s Ford Auditorium. I dragged the guy I was dating to the concert.  The lights dimmed.  We saw no band on the stage as the music started.  Then slowly, the orchestra pit rose to stage level.  Far out!  The crowd went wild as the musicians came into view.  Psychedelic rock mixed with blues rock and fusion jazz filled the night.  Looking back, I was probably too young to fully appreciate such complex compositions.  My date, a huge Beach Boys fan, hated it.

I bought a few albums.  Listening as I ironed my dad’s shirts in the basement laundry room.  I’m not sure I could ever be called a “fan.”  But I have to admit that every time Montana’s mentioned, I hear Frank Zappa say, “I might be movin’ to Montana soon… just to raise me up a crop of Dental Floss.”

Andrea Kelton was diagnosed with uveitis in 1974.  Today she lives in Chicago and teaches Adult Basic Education at Literacy Chicago.  She attends a weekly memoir writing class, “Me, Myself and I” taught by author Beth Finke.

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Cooking Comfort

24 Mar

by Andrea Kelton

Quick fresh tomato soup.  Lemony kale with avocado/coconut dressing.  Baked zucchini, tomato and feta.  Reading recipes relaxes me.  When writing lesson plans numbs my brain, I take a break and search my favorite vegetarian websites.  Refreshed and inspired, I can’t wait to cook up a new dish.

For five months every year, farmers bring their seasonal bounty to Chicago.  Saturday mornings, rain or shine, I pull my cart to the North Ceter market.  I plan my week’s menu, based on the plentiful offerings of fruits and vegetables.  I need to consciously remind myself that I live alone and can only eat so much…otherwise I’d buy it all!  Cart bulging, I head for home and my kitchen.

Popping a peppy CD in the player, I peruse my recipe file.  A plan in mind, I boogey into the kitchen.  Green beans get blanched.  Zucchini and tomatoes sliced and diced.  Kale washed and shredded.

I grate, chop and mince onions, garlic and ginger while nibbling spicy arugula leaves. Which vinegar to choose?  Balsamic, rice wine or apple cider?  Whisk in an oil-olive, coconut or toasted sesame.  So many salad dressing flavor combinations…yummee!

When I cook, I’m in the zone.  No thought of work, lesson plans or curriculum.  Just me and the textures, tastes and smells that saturate my soul.  Hours later, a week’s worth of ready to eat meals fill my fridge.

With a fresh salad in hand, I turn on the TV for company while I eat.  Hmmm…let’s see…what’s on the Cooking Channel?

Andrea Kelton was diagnosed with uveitis in 1974.  Today she lives in Chicago and teaches Adult Basic Education at Literacy Chicago.  She attends a weekly memoir writing class, “Me, Myself and I” taught by author Beth Finke.

The Kindness of Strangers

16 Mar

by Andrea Kelton

“I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”   Blanche DuBois

Others climb mountains for adventure.  Me?  I shuffle to work after a 19 inch day-long Chicago blizzard.  I left my apartment and started the short distance to Damen and Ainslie.  The sidewalk had been cleared but the city snow plows left an enormous ice encrusted mountain at the crosswalks.  I was trapped.  If I could just cross Damen, I could catch the bus.  I sized up the iceberg to determine if I might be able to sit on the mound and slide down the other side, when a motorist left his car, offered me his outstretched hands and guided me over the mountain.  Then he helped me cross the street.  I rode the bus two blocks south to the Brown Line where generous commuters assisted me over more mountains.  I thanked these folks with heartfelt gratitude.  Today I appreciate the kindness of strangers.  But 20 years ago, I had a different attitude.

I’d spent Christmas, 1996, with Dave’s son in Florida.  My train home left Tampa on New Year’s Eve and stopped in Washington, D.C. four hours before my Chicago bound train departed.  I decided to explore the train station and find a bite to eat.

Soup sounded good.  I found a cafeteria.  Oh, no!  The menu was on the back wall like a fast food restaurant.  Emotion flooded my body and clouded my mind.  I couldn’t read the menu.  My vision loss was in another transition back then.  I didn’t use a cane, but I couldn’t see well enough to read the menu.   A therapist had told me that all I had to do was tell people that I don’t see well, and then ask for help.  I found this frightening and nearly impossible.

Finally, my rumbling tummy convinced me to ask someone in line if soup was on the menu.  I asked the counter server what kind of soup they had and endured her eye roll as she barked out the choices.

After I ate the soup, I searched out coffee.  More self-serve.  I couldn’t figure out the elaborate urn.  I was bent over the dispenser when a male voice asked, “Do you see as poorly as I do?”

I sprung up to face a guy who made my heart pitter patter.  He showed me the lever while we made small talk.  He was on his way to work.  I asked where and he grinned, “New York. I drive the 198 for Amtrak.”  Turning red, I blurted out, “You can see just fine!” Then I bolted.

I found a deserted corner in that magnificent station.  Hidden behind huge columns, I burst into tears.  Tears of anger, fear and shame.  A cute guy and all he notices is my poor eyesight; that I’m damaged!  I cried long and hard until I realized I was having a major meltdown and nobody noticed.  I stopped crying and started laughing—at myself.

I sipped my cold coffee and examined my thoughts.  Before now, I’d thought I’d been handling my vision loss well.  This emotional flash flood ambush let me know I’d been fooling myself.  I still believed that I was supposed to be independent and self-sufficient.  If I needed the kindness of strangers, then I was as pathetic and tragic as Blanche DuBois.  And I refused to be tragic.

I’d have to do some heavy thinking later.  But today was a holiday. In fact, it was New Year’s Day.  I resolved to heal this wound.  I might even ask for help.

Andrea Kelton was diagnosed with uveitis in 1974.  Today she lives in Chicago and teaches Adult Basic Education at Literacy Chicago.  She attends a weekly memoir writing class, “Me, Myself and I” taught by author Beth Finke.  We will be sharing a small collection of Andrea’s reflective stories.  Enjoy!

Thought for the Day

6 Mar

“To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable.” [John Milton (1608-1674), British poet. Second Defence (1654). Milton’s sight was impaired from 1644, his blindness becoming complete in the winter of 1651-1652.]