I Want a Love Like Danny and Annie

 

Hola amigos,

Have you ever heard of StoryCorps?  It’s amazing!  About a year ago I heard the interview on NPR between Danny and Annie. It was so funny, heartwarming, and beautiful.  This is the kind of love story everyone dreams about…. two people who love each other unconditionally.  I found it today on Youtube and have it here to share with you.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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Hey Miss Landers-What’s My Name?

So….I teach Spanish in Middle School, as I’ve mentioned before.  And part of helping the students move seamlessly in the language is to have them pick a name in Spanish.  I have a deck of cards with names for the boys and a separate deck for the girls.  I have to do this because after twenty-one years of teaching I grew tired of students wanting to be: Jesús, Margarita, or Nacho Libre.  Heavy sigh.  Giggle.  Rolling the eyes.  Imagine the reactions to me having to say, “Jesus, you didn’t do your homework again?!” I taught in a Catholic school so you get the idea.   🙂

Anyhoo….I was in the midst of explaining the importance of picking a proper name to my group of seventh graders when suddenly one boy looks at me with a serious look and says, “You mean it’s like having a DOUBLE life!” 

Ha! Ha! Ha!   Uh…Yes…well….something like that. 

 I’ve said it before.  I’ll say it again. I love what I do for a living.  I can’t believe I get paid to have so many giggles in a day.

 

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Part 3 of -The Road to Taos

Many tents were ready to sell anything and everything “authentically” Native American.  I would have believed that too except that I picked up a flute that had a “Made in India” sticker on it.  The vendors themselves were friendly and sometimes even talkative.  Hanging from one of the tents was a sign that read, “Tipi for sale.  $680.00.  Good price.”  I couldn’t help but giggle.  Was this a joke? The tipi was rolled up and leaning to the right of the advertisement.  Behind the Pow-Wow there was a group of tipis set up.  Winnebagos, sort of modern-day tipi on wheels, were surrounding them.  Blankets could easily be seen in one of the tipis.  They were really being used.  In front of one of the tipis an older couple was cooking a meal on an open fire.  It called to mind a similar experience I had outside Amman, Jordan.  I was walking back to the hotel with a friend when I looked out into the horizon and saw Bedouins camped not far from a high-rise building.  It was fascinating to see the old way of life mixing easily with the new.

It was ironic that as I left the Pow-Wow the song on the radio was crying, “Reservation Blues. What do you choose? What do you choose when ain’t got choices.  Reservation Blues.” I didn’t see this side of Native American life.  For me, the Pow-Wow was a chance to see the extraordinary costumes and dancing.  However, the real experience, the human one, took place in that little shop on the right hand side of the road.

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The Road to Taos – Part 2

 

The directions were easy enough.  Take a left at Allsup instead of a right.  The grounds were on the right about a mile.  For the price of five dollars, I was granted permission to enter and park.  Various Nations from Colorado, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, and beyond were represented.  During the opening ceremony, the Native American announcer used the term “Indian.”  It was a loaded word.  I had been taught by a Navajo that it was not an acceptable term to use so it left me a little confused.  Everyone was asked to stand as an elder carrying the flag of Taos Pueblo walked in behind a dancer covered head to toe in blue and white feathers.  Singers cried out to the beat of huge drums surrounded by five to six men.  Much like the Olympics, participants danced single file past judges and spectators.  The line became a swirl.  Children as young as two paraded alongside their parents.  Everyone was moving and singing.  One little girl in the circle, about three years old, had on a bright blue costume with feathers on her back and head.  She watched as a man dressed in bright red feathers and bells danced around in a circle to the beat of the drums.  Unselfconsciously, she began to imitate him by bouncing up and down like a bunny.  She never questioned what he was doing or why she should join in.  It was, for her, natural.

Before the judging began, the announcer asked all non-Indian people to come into the circle and dance to the beat of the drum themselves.  It was a gesture of welcome, to make the visitors feel like a part of the festivities.  At first, two or three people walked out to the middle and started to dance.  They were very aware that all eyes were on them.  Watching the spectacle, it became apparent how difficult it must be to live under a microscope.  To have the world stare at you as an object and not a person.  The privacy Tony talked about on his “Indian land” was perfectly understood in that moment.  I watched as Native American families talked excitedly to each other in their various languages.  Smiles and laughter came easily.  I decided to try Indian Fry bread and laughed when I realized that it was a big, flat pizza-shaped Mexican Sopapilla.  It was so good that I ate two of them.  I tried to engage my vendor, a young girl, in conversation.  She just stared at me with a nervous expression on her face.  I wasn’t sure if she heard me so I asked about Fry Bread again.  It was not until I turned around to walk away that I heard her talking to her mother in Tewa.  It had never occurred to me that she might not feel comfortable talking to a stranger.  I also noticed that nobody was mixing together.  I walked around the entire circle and observed how people were interacting.  Native Americans sat next to non-Natives under the cover of the circle.  It was strange to watch two worlds in the same space not mingling together.  Was it shyness?  Language barrier?  Those in costume, however, were very open to questions about their costumes and dances and were happy to pose for pictures.

….to be continued….

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The Road to Taos

Heading north on 84/285, while listening to singers belt out lamentations of love in Spanish on 89.1 “New Mexico Radio,” the flat roads out of Santa Fe broke into a carnival ride through the mountains that, for a “flat lander,” presented a navigational challenge nonexistent in the sunny state of Florida. The terrain was rough but the traveler was willing.  Rocks of every shape, size, and shade of brown, threatened those curious enough to venture down this two lane stretch of highway.  Cars with the Texas state flag waving proudly in the breeze were hell- bent on passing the driver in the green Buick Skylark who could only think to say, “Wow!,” as each bend in the road presented a new glimpse of a southwestern world that previously existed only in Ansel’s black and whites.  The sidewinding snake curved along the base of the mountain and demanded that the driver pay attention for fear of missing the turn and careening off into oblivion.  The test was worth it because the end of the journey led to the beginning of another.  It was the road to Taos.

 There were no signs or banners announcing the 14th Annual Taos PowWow.  The signs to the right of the main road pointed straight ahead to the reservation.  As this was the only indication of any kind of celebration, I proceeded due north.  Within two minutes, I became aware of the fact that I had actually driven onto the reservation itself, with no PowWow in sight.  The only house around was on the right and , as it had a sign hanging from a tree that read “Indian Shop-since 1950,” I felt certain that my asking for directions would not be a first time occurrence.  I opened the screen door and my ears were immediately bathed with soft music coming from a CD player to my left.  Looking around the shop I saw that there were stone carvings and pottery to the left and cases of jewelry to the front and right.  Every space, including the walls, was used to display instruments, dream catchers, belts, weapons, paintings, photographs, and newspaper clippings,  Like Dorothy in reverse, I realized that I had entered a world I had known before. 

“Hello.  Excuse me.  Is anybody here?,” I asked to no one in particular.  I heard nothing and turned to leave.”Can I help you, young lady?”  An elderly gentleman had come from a back room to greet me.  I told him that I was looking for the PowWow.  “You’re lost,” he said with a grin.  Not wanting  to appear rude, I asked about the store itself and decided to stay awhile and chat.  Five minutes into the conversation I introduced myself.  His name was Tony Reyna.  “That is my white man’s name.  My Indian name is Cheto, “Hunter’s Talk.”  He looked to be about 70 years old.  A friendly man, he was open to answering questions I had about the objects on display in the house-store.  I began to ask questions about specific words, “I’ve never driven around this part of the country, I noticed signs that said “pueblo” or “reservation.”  “Is there a difference?,” I asked.  “I don’t use that word.  I call them Indian lands,” he responded.  His back stiffened and the look on his face grew more serious.  Having never met a Native American, it was difficult to know which were the appropriate words to use.  As it happens, Tony Reyna was a former Taos Pueblo Governor.  I began to ask more questions about his life and he could see that I was genuinely interested so he began to give me a tour of the store.  He explained with obvious pride that there are 19 different groups of Pueblo people.  He belonged to Taos.  Pointing to a spot on a yellowing photograph, Tony showed were he was born and where he now lives.  He said I couldn’t go there.  From the back room he brought out a photograph of a younger Tony standing behind his parents.  The faces seemed quiet and did not reveal the spirit behind their eyes.  They were neither happy nor sad.  “My father.  He was a good man.  This music.  My mother used to sing this song to me in the kitchen when I as a little boy.  My nephew is playing that song on the flute on that CD right now.  Here is a book of pictures and poetry that he wrote called A Song for Mother Earth.” 

The shop was filled with Tony’s family history.  It was alive and real.  I couldn’t get enough.  I asked more questions and Tony looked at me and said, “You’re a happy little thing, aren’t you?” We both giggled and he took a postcard with his picture on it and signed it for me.  “You should go to the PowWow now.  You will learn many things.  You’ll have fun.” After purchasing some earrings for my nieces, I said good-bye with a wave of my hand.

……to be continued…..

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