THIS MONTH IN COFFEE TALK

MAY 2019

This is the third issue of Coffee Talk online, published monthly on the first of the month, now featuring some of the articles in Spanish as well as English. Articles from months past can be found in the Archives. Thanks for stopping by. I would love to hear from you with a like, a comment, a question or a suggestion. Happy Month of May!

BEYOND BORDERS

WHEN IS CINCO DE MAYO ANYHOW?

A PROPÓSITO, ¿CUÁNDO ES EL CINCO DE MAYO?

The evolution of Cinco de Mayo from a minor Mexican patriotic recognition of the Battle of Puebla into an out-of-control United States-Chicano-Latino drink-fest is puzzling to people who live in Mexico, where the battle took place.

JOANNA C. COOKE OPENS EYES AND HEARTS IN PUERTO MORELOS

JOANNA C. COOKE ABRE OJOS Y CORAZONES EN PUERTO MORELOS

GALLERY OF PAINTINGS BY JOANNA C. COOKE

Joanna C. Cooke believes in re-purposing discarded things to create new and beautiful objects. Originally from British Columbia, Canada, this gifted artist/ healer now makes her home and shares her skills and wisdom in Puerto Morelos, Mexico.

MY WINDOW ON THE WORLD

ACCIDENTAL MINIMALIST: NANA HAD A TINY HOUSE WHEN TINY HOUSES WERE NOT A THING

It was a tiny house in spirit and square-footage if not in style or name. The twenty-first century terms minimalism and tiny house were far in the future, but my grandmother was already living the lifestyle.

HOME COOKING

THE MAGIC OF BREAD

Baking bread is a perfect way to revive an ancient tradition on a leisurely afternoon. Here are a few recipes for small quantities of yeasty delights made from scratch and by hand–one loaf or enough rolls for a small family.

PATHS TO BETTER LIVING

FENDING OFF MOCTUZEMA AND OTHER BIOTIC AVENGERS

If it happens in the country where you live, you have an upset stomach. If you are in Mexico, it is Moctezuma’s Revenge, also known as turista.

POETRY CORNER

maggie and milly and molly and may by e. e. cummings


BUSINESSES * SERVICES * EVENTS

ELITE PERFORMANCE CHIROPRACTIC, McKINNEY, TEXAS

ZINGARA ARTE EXPERIENCES IN PUERTO MORELOS, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO

ZINGARA ARTE ON FACEBOOK

If you want to link your business, service or event under BUSINESSES * SERVICES * EVENTS, send a message by way of CONTACT. Approved listings will be FREE THROUGH DECEMBER 2019 with no obligation.

ACCIDENTAL MINIMALIST

NANA HAD A TINY HOUSE WHEN TINY HOUSES WERE NOT A THING

It was a tiny house in spirit and square-footage if not in style or name, an old-fashioned shotgun house with a few additions. Nana’s house didn’t have a loft, but it had a sunny built-on bedroom with windows on three sides, a beautiful hand-made quilt on the bed, and the foot-pedal sewing machine where she stitched patches together to make more quilts

I remember a flushing toilet and claw-foot bathtub with hot and cold running water in what had once been an alcove, but Mama had memories of Nana’s original “composting” toilet, an old-fashioned outhouse, and of water heated in a kettle on the kitchen stove to pour into a big round galvanized tub moved temporarily into the warm kitchen for a bath. There was no room for a lavatory in the updated bathroom. We brushed our teeth and washed our hands and faces at the kitchen sink made of concrete and with the plainest of faucets, like a sink you might find in a workshop.

The sink had a crude shelf underneath. Nana had fashioned a red checked curtain to hide the supplies on that shelf. A Formica table, four mismatched chairs, a narrow four-burner stove and oven, a very shallow cupboard, and an icebox completed the kitchen furnishings. The icebox was a porcelain-lined wooden box with handles on the top and bottom sections, and a large draining pan underneath. A big block of ice, delivered regularly from the Ice Man’s truck, prompted by a sign in the window showing how many pounds the householder wanted, was loaded into the top compartment. It cooled a few perishable things that could then be placed into the bottom section. As the ice melted, the water drained into the pan, which had to be emptied regularly. I was a teenager when Nana got a small electric refrigerator, a castoff from her daughter, Aunt Dorothy.

Three or four print dresses with matching belts hung in the tiny closet between the living room and the kitchen, and her pretty nightgown and robe were handy on a nail just inside the closet door. The dresses were always clean and pressed, and she complemented her outfits with small gold hoops in her pierced ears and a strand of faux pearls for a really special occasion. Her sturdy grandma dress-up shoes were clean and polished, and the slippers and old gardening shoes she wore around the house were comfortable and serviceable.



A summer gathering on Nana’s porch. Nana is in the background at left.


The whole house was as cheerful and welcoming as Nana herself. A gas heater in the living room kept it warm and cozy in cold weather. Open doors and windows and a couple of electric fans made the Texas heat tolerable. Outside, there was a tree to climb, Nana’s carefully-tended flowers to enjoy, plenty of dirt and battered discarded kitchen utensils to make mud pies, and a porch with metal chairs where neighbors were invited to share watermelon and cantaloupe or to just sit and visit.

When my cousins and I slept over, the youngest was privileged to share Nana’s double bed in her cozy bedroom. The rest of us were comfortably tucked into a roll-away bed pulled magically out of her TV cabinet, or the fold-down living-room couch, or improvised pallets on the floor, padded with extra blankets. In warm weather, the older cousins were allowed to take our pallets out to the porch.

We thought of Nana as kind of poor, living as she did with the help of her daughters, a little spare change from baby-sitting or ironing, and a monthly Social Security check for eighty-five dollars, but she always had what she needed plus something to share—a patchwork quilt, a hand-embroidered dishtowel, a jar of homemade plum preserves. She never complained, and she never talked about things she wanted to buy.

My other grandmother lived in a big house with an air conditioner and beautiful furniture, rugs, and curtains. There were fireplaces in the living room, dining room, and all the bedrooms. The big front porch had a porch swing, and her grand kitchen contained a deep-freeze and all the latest appliances, but Nana’s house was where I wanted to be. My other grandmother was deeply unhappy, a hypochondriac who spent most of her days in bed. Her house, though elegant and spacious, was dark and uninviting. I don’t remember ever seeing a fire in any of the fireplaces, even at Christmas or on the coldest days of the year.

Minimalism was not a word used to describe anyone’s lifestyle. We saw the world in terms of prosperity or poverty. Advertisements on billboards and TV assured us that happiness was just over the horizon after our next purchase, but I couldn’t help wondering why my Nana, who had so little, was the happiest person in my family.

Insidious Invisibility

I love newspapers. One of the most joyful sounds of my late childhood was the thump of The Wichita Falls Times, artfully folded into a kind of double boomerang that eased its flight from the hand of the boy on the bicycle to our front porch. I would retrieve the folded newspaper, unfold it, and plop myself down on the living room floor to peruse the headlines, read Dear Abby, Dr. Crane, letters to the editor, a few comic strips and cartoons, and, on Thursdays, the high school news roundup, “Teen Times.”

My family was too busy for the morning newspaper, The Wichita Falls Record News, but on Sundays, the two newspapers were combined into an extravaganza for all subscribers to either or both papers: The Sunday Times-Record News. It was rolled, not folded, because it was so thick, and it hit the porch with a thud rather than a thump. On rainy Sundays, it came encased in plastic.

After church on Sunday mornings, my family members would divide the paper into sections and then exchange them as we finished. I always wanted first shot at the full-color comics or the society pages. I was enthralled by the photographs of beautiful brides in full wedding dress and the artfully retouched portraits of brides-to-be with their engagement announcements. I would watch for news and photographs of the Junior Forum Debutante Ball in May and the more elite Cotillion Debutante White Tie Ball in December.

Before 1964, black people were required by law to live in designated sections of town. In Wichita Falls, that area was east of the railroad tracks, Flood Street and beyond. Mexicans lived there too, by custom rather than law, clustered on the side closer to the tracks. A few of them lived in the “white” part of town, like Dr. Martinez from Mexico City and his pale and elegant wife and daughters, whom the town people called “Spanish” to distinguish them from darker and less prestigious “Mexicans.”

There were two high schools in Wichita Falls then, but if you ask any white citizen over 65 how many there were, he or she will invariably answer, “One.” Wichita Falls High School was not the white high school. It was the high school. Booker T. Washington High School had excellent facilities, although even now I can’t say where they are located–somewhere, I assume, way beyond Flood Street. I have never seen them. Booker T had a championship football team, an outstanding marching band, and a choir that was recognized statewide and occasionally came to sing in the elegant churches of the white people.

This is where my love of The Wichita Falls Times connects with the myth of one high school in Wichita Falls. You see, the newspaper was, for me, a mirror of my world. I knew that there was Flood Street and beyond. I knew that kids who lived there went to Booker T. Washington High School. I even ventured a few times to their home football games to watch the jazzy marching band. There were black people in town working in the few jobs open to them. I went on mission expeditions to teach Vacation Bible School in the Projects. Some white people even trekked across muddy Flood Street to benefit from the excellent work and lower prices of the “colored” dentist at his elegant home with a built-on clinic.

I didn’t hate black people. I thought racism was evil and spoke against it on occasion. I didn’t hate or dislike black people, but I didn’t see black people. The mirror of my world, The Wichita Falls Times, didn’t report Booker T.’s sports news. Their many band and choir awards got no recognition or photographs in “Teen Times.” There were no photographs of black students doing anything at all. Black brides and debutantes were never featured on the society pages. Black churches were not included in Saturday’s “guide to worship services.” Even black crimes were usually reported only in the police notes at the back of the news. Black people were not allowed to patronize the same local restaurants where I ate or the stores where I shopped. When I traveled by bus, they had their sections in the station and on the bus, and they used the toilets and drinking fountains marked “colored.”

No, Wichita Falls, Texas, had no problem with black people. We simply ignored them to the point of near non-existence. There were no black faces reflected in our mirror on the world.

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