Importance, Photographs

“History is important. If you don’t know history it is as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.”
– Howard Zinn

A few years ago I read, The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.  Until then, I thought I knew history.  Well, as much as any other American I suppose.  What I came to realized was that I only knew what had been taught to me – what was allowed to be taught to me.  Without hesitation I believed that those “teaching” me were not to be questioned.  I’ve come to realized that as a people; as Americans in fact – we need to question, to examine, to dig and demand.  Only then can we begin to understand who we are as part of a community…..

Lincoln, Jennifer Allison

Lincoln, Jennifer Allison

DC Shed, Jennifer Allison

DC Shed, Jennifer Allison

Memorial, Jennifer Allison

Memorial, Jennifer Allison

Perchè Italia? The Feral Feline

I was born in Frankfurt Germany. One of my great grandfathers left Italy for the United States via Elis Island and the other left Ireland via Elis Island. Europe is in my blood. When I was a child my brother and sister would tease me; saying my parents had bought me from the gypsies. I’d fight them (I was a scrappy little kid) and although I have nothing in common with the modern gypsies of today there is this part of me that wonders why I’ve so obviously been such a misfit most of my life.

When I first landed in Italy four years ago I instantly felt as though I was home. Home not as in a house you grew up in, of which I never had just one. Home as in the place I could expand; the place of learning. A place which would represent love and hate. Pain and pleasure. Sadness and happiness. Peace and Chaos.

Why Italy then? Why not Germany? After all, it was my birthplace. Although I tend to live my life while wearing my rose colored glasses and I am fully aware of that fact; Italy has taken off my rose colored lenses and replaced them with a pair of expensive Versace spectacles the color blue. Sky blue to be exact. My ever complicated and artistic soul which opposite to what some believe, houses the rest of me is sated in italy. You see, my body does not house my soul; my soul houses my body. I am and have always been – a woman turned inside out. Much like the way I see Italy.

I don’t pretend to know Italy, or even understand Italy for that matter. I only claim the feelings and expression I am gifted with when there. Although most would think Italy as an extremely patriarchal country, I prefer to see it as a she. The mother. The matriarch. She is not a warm woman who gathers you unto her bosom to protect you however. Instead, she is a feral cat; bitchy, protective yet aloof, always preening herself and very aware of the claws she hides underneath the pretty furry paws she stretches in the warm sunlight.

Also as a child, I collected animals; stray dogs, injured birds, snakes my cat Sabrina would catch; you name it. I was a virtual clinic for animals. I’d hide them, force feed them, shower them with attention, love them and cry when they would die and swear I’d never recover.

When about seven years old I found a kitten in the flower garden of my house in Virginia. She hissed at me and tried to run, but I was lightening fast and caught her. She was feral and scratched me, leaving stinging little marks on my tender skin. I named her Sabrina (after the character from the show Bewitched) and begged my parents to let me keep her. They warned me she was a bit wild, but conceded anyway and she became mine. Sabrina was a bitch, but I loved that cat with all my heart. She loved me too – so long as I let her love me and didn’t force my love on her. I was her muse, so much as she was mine.

I had Sabrina for fourteen years – or should I say that she had me for fourteen years. She was the kind of cat that would scratch at the door to come inside and when you went to let her in – she’d look at you and run away. Unless you were very very still like an alabaster statue….and pretended as though you weren’t waiting by the door and didn’t care whether you she entered your house or not. After entering the door she would stop mid-stride and turn to hiss at you, letting you know she was watching…then slink behind the couch.

At night she would come to me and sleep by my side. She’d let me rub her rabbit like fur (even her belly) and lick my cheek. If I rubbed her for too long she would claw me and run away, only to return five minutes later for more love. Every morning I would wake to her purring and rubbing my head and our day would begin.

Sabrina embodied Italy. I see that now. She taught me early in my life to let things come to you, instead of always running after them – be it a country or an animal. I’ve never cared much for things that are easy per say. Even my current pet, my German Shepard Cella, is aloof in her love for me. Always watching me, yes, but never begging my attention (well, almost never.) I am her muse, as much as she mine. Likewise, Italy is my muse so much as I am hers. I prefer them; the country and animals, let me be alone – then come and love me up when I am least expecting it.

As I return to the United States I’m not sad at all as It’s a wonderful country. I have been loved up by the feral female of Italy that I let examine me and find me worthy. I have a permanent flat in Verona that I’ll return to often, so home to me is now all relative as it’s been most of my life. I’ve met people in Italy that I’ve found instant kinships with and we’ll remain close friends, others that have so sweetly given me butterflies of which I wondered existed anymore and still others that have shown me that when you leave yourself open, gifts appear. I’ve been asked to show my work in a small gallery in the North next year and with the showing I will remember….. to wear my sky-blue shades, watch for the claws, stand like an alabaster statue while she examines me and most importantly, let her come to me……

Honolulu, Hawaii and Men with Balls

I met a man on the beach – juggling.  I stopped my walk and watched for a moment.  After noticing me, he turned and gave me a private show and when he had finished, I complimented him on his skills and turned to leave.  Before I could take my first step the man began a conversation.  The man; the juggler, simply wanted to tell someone his story .  I was that someone and he had my utter attention.  He didn’t introduce himself, nor shake my hand.  Instead, he humbly thanked me for my compliment, explaining that Hawaii had many amazing jugglers and he was certainly not one of them (He was juggling six balls without flinching mind you.) I politely disagreed with him and told him he shouldn’t knock his skills.  He ignored my comment.

The man; the juggler, told me that he had lived in Honolulu for twelve years and had been juggling since his arrival.  He was from Chicago originally; where he had been a mailman for many many years.  His mother, on her death-bed, had told him of his inheritance and he promised her that he would retire from the postal service, take the money and move to Honolulu – her favorite place to vacation – and retire.  He did just that.  After explaining that Americans in general had no respect for the art of juggling like that of Europeans, he began juggling once again.  After a while I wished him a good day.  Likewise, he wished me a good walk and continued his juggling.

I’m not a huge Honolulu fan, however, I now have a whole new respect for jugglers…

Men with Balls, Jennifer Allison

Chicago, Illinois and Hot Sticky Cable Love Blues

Underneath Love, Jennifer Allison

Ferris Wheel Love, Jennifer Allison

Subway Music Love, Jennifer Allison

Book Man Love, Jennifer Allison

The great city of Chicago through me eyes…..

I find when I ask people what they think of Chicago they either love it or hate it.  There is no in-between when it comes to Chicago; like when I ask someone what they think of San Francisco or Miami.  They either say, “I love Chicago, what a great city” or, “It’s too hot and sticky in the summer and too damn cold in the winter.  I hate it.”  Personally, I’m of the loving kind when it comes to Chicago.  Would I live there?  Probably not.  It’s too big for me.  However is it one of my favorite cities to love up?  Yes indeed.

Anchorage, Alaska and Native Dancing Trees Spear Fishing

Old Woman Hunting

Ceremonial Tree Dance on the bluff

While in Anchorage, Alaska this past weekend a friend and I rented bicycles and rode fourteen miles on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  The natural beauty of Alaska is breathtaking and we were reminded of the wonders of nature at what seemed like every turn.  Not only did we pass eagles fishing for their lunch in the waters alongside the trail, but also happened upon a bull moose foraging in the woods.  His antlers blended in so well with the leaves surrounding him that had it not been for his enormous size and dark brown fur, we’d have biked right on past him.   After turning around and heading back into town, we were again stopped dead in our tracks after rounding a corner on the trail and coming face to face with a cow (female moose) and her young calf.   She seemed so serene and her baby almost oblivious to us, however we weren’t taking any chances and quickly back-peddled to a safe enough distance and waited for her to move off the trail and into the woods.

While I found the moose to be majestic, nothing compared to a few old trees I happened to spot along the way.  One reminded me of an old woman with a spear – fishing for her dinner, and another seemed to have the shape of a Native Eskimo – dancing along the bluff.   The trees were so strange, so odd, so old, and I was immediately enchanted at how much character they had.  Surrounding them were lush trees overflowing with green leaves and young fresh bark, while these old gals wore the years of harsh weather like some great ceremonial coat.   Charles Baudelaire once said, “Strangeness is a necessary ingredient in beauty.” I completely agree with Mr. Baudelaire as I most certainly always see beauty in strangeness….and trees

Kona, Hawaii and Hard Shelled Ninja Sleepers

A few months back I visited Kona, Hawaii for a week-long vacation with friends.  I had been to Kona before, as well as all of the islands, however this trip wasn’t work related so I had an opportunity to really settle in, sleep in, eat in and generally love the island up.    As I’ve said before in other posts I’m not really much of a shopper.  When I do shop I’m searching for something specific and will spend all day looking if need be.  However typically I don’t just shop to shop….especially at obnoxious tourist stores.  I’d rather take a swift blow to the head then pick through cheesy trinkets made by machines and plastic and such.  How many shot-glasses does one really need anyway?  I have one that I bought at the grocery store after my other one broke – it’s plain glass and well used.  When I make drinks for people no one ever asks me where I bought my shot-glass…

So when my friends announced they’d be filling the car and heading out one morning for a day of shopping and lunch I politely declined the invitation; letting my feet take me to the local beach – towel in bag and book in hand.  I had been going through one of my introverted phases and was in need of alone time anyway, especially after sharing a house with so many women.  Fortunately for me, they’ve know me for years and years and don’t even bat their eyes when I go off on my own.

Enjoying the sights and sunshine I walked quite a way down the dark sand beach, away from all the vacationers and locals as well, until I found the perfect quiet spot to sit and read my book.  It wasn’t until I settled in and was on my fifth or so page that I noticed I had unsolicited company just a few feet away.  I’m not sure if he was there when I arrived or had with Ninja-like skills, come out of the water to relax without me hearing.  I was enjoying my book, but for me not to notice an enormous sea turtle sunning himself beside me was highly unlikely.  However and whenever he got there I don’t know; though he was so beautiful and peaceful I was grateful for the company.  As I introduced myself he didn’t stir.  Instead he slowly opened one eye before returning to his deep, sun-drenched slumber.

After about twenty minutes of reading and listening to the sounds of the ocean I happen to look up to the water and noticed yet another Ninja was making his way to sun himself alongside of me.  I sat and watched his slow, methodical process.  As the small waves came to shore he would use them to his advantage; pushing himself by his flippers through the sand and rocks each time.  He would then wait patiently for the next wave to help him along.  The ocean was like a mother scooting her child along, feet dragging, off to bed to rest.  The sea turtle, half asleep, was her child.

As I left the beach hours later I thanked each of my guest Ninjas (there were a total of three – the last making his way just before I left) and wished them all well.  The largest of the three offered me another slowly opened eye and I was off again on my way down the dark sand beach utterly at peace; not even offended that they didn’t get up to see me off or offer me a shot glass with a map of Hawaii on it……

Ninja

Ninja II

Temporarily

While strolling downtown San Diego today on my way to meet a friend for lunch, I happened to find myself behind a couple about my own age.  They didn’t hold hands or talk much – Instead they held their phones in their hands and ignored one another – their butterflies long gone. Although I wrote the poem with them in mind, it has many meanings….

Temporarily
by Jennifer Allison 

They escaped slowly -
somewhat methodically.
So slowly, I felt
each last weak flutter
disappear.

Stomach in knots.
Feelings escaping with them.
Stillness in their place.
While they flew
free.

To house themselves
inside of someone else -
temporarily.

Before flying home to
enter once more 
through my breath 
as it’s being taken
away.

Again they’ll flutter.
Feelings arriving with them.
While I smile
at the mere thought of their
return.

Until they leave again
to house in another -
temporarily. 

San Diego Train – Empty

Sicily, Italy, and Tarzan Stealing Oranges

Sicily is, and will forever be, one of my favorite places.  For some reason, in my mind, Sicily is synonymous to complete relaxation.  Maybe because I felt so relaxed while spending a warm Spring week there, or maybe it’s because the Sicilians are themselves, so utterly relaxed. One can’t help themselves but breath a little deeper, walk a little heavier, and eat a little slower – of which I did all three.  Staying near the town of Taormina, my travel partner and I were graced not only with the charming town itself, but medieval walls, castles, warm water to swim in and miles of roads to drive and explore.

We, my travel partner and I that is, did this all without arguing – which was quite a feat for the two of us.  You see, my travel partner was also my quasi-long-distance-boyfriend.  I say this, because we had never lived in the same country, yet met every few months to see each other.  This went on for a few years.  It was an utterly dysfunctional relationship from the beginning, that on it’s last breath, ended in utter dysfunction; him coming to the US to work temporarily, quickly filling his bed with someone else, while I… well, continued to fill my bed with myself….and my dog.   But I digress……

During one of our day trips near Mt. Etna, we decided to find a trail we read about that led to a river.  Parking in what appeared to be a visitors parking lot in the center of a small village, we proceeded to take a foot path situated discreetly by an old and crumbling house.  Chain-link fencing rose up on each side of the path, and just a short walk in, I discovered why.  There was an archeological dig right there in the middle of the neighborhood, behind an apartment building.  The “dig” itself looked quite old, like perhaps they had been working on it, decided it was enough for the time being, added more fencing so nobody would disrupt what they did happen to find, and went about their way to another “dig.” It was a sight I had seen many times while traveling through Italy; archeological digs forgotten about.  I wondered if any photographers had ever considered a series of photos of forgotten “digs.”  It’d be a fascinating subject really.

The path went on for quite some time, and before we knew it, we were in an open field, surrounded by gentle rolling hills, a few Norman ruins still standing erect on one of them, and an orange grove, fenced and locked, with a “for sale” sign hanging on the gate.  The orange trees were heavy with fruit – like an old woman heavy with grocery bags, waiting for someone to help with her burden.  Happy to oblige, and much to the dismay of my travel companion, I scaled the small stone wall leading to the orchard and began climbing a tree.  When I was a kid, I practically lived in the trees.  I was no Jane – I was Tarzan himself, only the girl version.  I still, at the age of 40, have a few scars on my knees to prove it.  Filling my skirt with oranges I gingerly made my way down the tree and over the stone wall, and began enjoying my loot.

While peeling an orange, the juice filled my hands, running down my forearms, and onto the dirt beneath me.  I tried to capture all of it in my mouth, savoring the sweet taste of my hard-earned work (well, not really….It was an easy climb.)  It was by far the sweetest and tastiest orange I had ever had in my life.  I can’t decide if it was so delicious because it was really that tasty, or that it gave me more than taste….it gave me a feeling of being a child again, climbing trees, eating things off trees and bushes, and feeling free…..

Chicago, Illinois and Dangling Eyeballs

The “L” passengers…

I just wanted to find Filene’s Basement.  I had been there a few times before, but always by happenstance.  Michigan Avenue is THE Street to go shop in Chicago, and Filene’s, also on Michigan Avenue, has the best deals in town on just about everything retail you can think of.  It takes me months to really find my way around a town.  In many ways, I’m lucky to be alive considering some of the places I’ve been lost in.  Realizing I’m map challenged, I did what any self-respecting woman would have done – I asked for directions.

Was it the Green line, or the Red line?  I knew I was close, as Chicago Avenue isn’t that far from Michigan, but my sense of direction was off, as usual.  Crossing the street and heading up the crowded stairs to the Red line, I was stuck standing behind a huge man wearing a short fur coat and climbing the stairs at a snail’s pace.  I decided to ask if I was headed in the right direction, yet again.  I tapped him on the back and said, “excuse me sir.”  Turning towards me, the first thing I noticed was his left eye.  It was hardly attached to the socket.  It bulged out so much, I thought it might fall to the stairs and roll down, lost for good, like the meatball from the kid’s song, On Top of Old Smokey…..”and then my poor meatball, it rolled out the door”…..   Bruises marred his swollen face and his once white tee-shirt was covered with dried blood and dirt.  He answered, “yea?”  “Is this the way to Michigan Avenue?  I’m trying to get to Filene’s Basement.” I asked, trying not to stare at the eyeball dangling in front of me.  “Yea, you wanna go up here, take a left and hop the Red line ‘n get off two stops.” he answered politely.  “Thanks,” I said, and went about my way to Filene’s……