“Armenian Picnic,” More and Further Observations and Thinkings, Guest Activist Maria Morales, Difficult People, Luv

Welcome to this week’s “zine.”

by Mark M

Revised boilerplate: As part of my community project as Racine Writer in Residence, I hereby invite Racine-area people to send me prose or poems of 250 words or less for me to consider for inclusion in my posts as a “guest appearance.” So far, there have been no responses(!). So, former Racine Writers in Residence, I want to explicitly include you in this invitation. If you want, also send a photo and a very short “bio.” You will retain the copyright for the material you submit. Send to m.mk at att.net with “Racine WiR” in the subject line. Thank you.

Don’t hide your light under a bushel-sized basket; it is recommended that you let it shine.


“Armenian Picnic”

I went to the Armenian Picnic


The women looked exotic.

The men just looked


(I, an Irish-Lithuanian-German “mongrel,” wrote the above in the JulyerAugust 1994 issue of THTICT.

(A number of years later, at one of the Armenian picnics at Johnson Park, with D (see also below), she remarked, “Wow, a lot of the men here are really good looking!” And I replied that that was how I felt about the women.)


Excerpts from More and Further Observations and Thinkings (2004):

First of obviously all…

The backyard barbecue was well done.

The president of the supper club kicked him out.

Imperfect stranger

I picked out a 50th wedding anniversary card for my parents and plunked it down on the checkout counter.

The cashier said, “Is that all?

I said, “What do you mean, ‘Is that all?’ 50 years is a long time!”

TWIT – that’s what I think

Goddess is love.

Male and female are (also) distracting dualities.

The heavy-set guy was dating the light-set gal.

He was hung like a pony.

He just stood there, watching his watch.

He had too much rope and got tangled in his woven web inside his house of cards.

He put on his T-shirt in order to be dressed for T. He drank a lot of it and then had to P.

It was only a nightmere.

Nostalgia is selective memory.

You won’t know it’s a golden age until it’s over.

The form was in the form of a form.

Michael rode the boat ashore – alleluia.

He wouldn’t hesitate to ask for the shirt off your back.

When it comes to learned helplessness, some people have an advanced degree.

Time flies when having fun — or when advancing in years…

The man who knew way too much.

Like a snake in the grasp.

You’re not supposed to have visions, you’re supposed to watch television.

If it is unreasonable to assume that good will ultimately triumph over evil, try to have faith things will at least come out a draw.

Bible contradictions:

verses versus verses

Men: On seeing an attractive woman, think merely, “Well, she’s got the prettiness thing down.” Beyond that, you just don’t know.

Hints are communication with a misunderstanding waiting to happen. For, after all, even when people are trying to communicate forthrightly, misunderstandings occur.

A two-party state is only one whole party better than a one-party state.

G W Bush is the “little monster” that Geo Sr. and Barbara raised.

I pay people to lie to me; they’re called elected officials. So I don’t need you lying to me too.

It was strange.

He was (a) stranger.

She was (a) strangest.

Half-cocked for sure.

He felt the felt which felt good.

(Well,) That’s (a) good (one).

Factory farming — talk about wanting something only for its body.

The feds were fed up.

Well, I don’t have anything to say either.

atheist — in God we trustn’t

Order in the courtyard!

The times, they still are a-changing…

If I thinkn’t, I therefore amn’t?

It’s the economy, stupid!

No, it’s the stupid economy.

All that’s left is to turn left.

About the Author

The author is a terrestrial biological entity with a notably short attention span.


Guest Maria Morales, Racine Activist (and then some)

There was some brief discussion when my predecessor, Jeanne Arnold, was Racine Writer in Residence and “singing” unsung women of Racine of her also “singing” activist Maria Morales but, through no fault of Jeanne’s, that “slipped through the cracks” and did not happen.

So, perhaps in a more modest way than Jeanne’s “singing,” I will “sing” Maria as follows:

Maria Luisa (Avila) Morales was born on 07/04/1944, in Cotulla, Texas. She says, “We were migrants, arrived in Wisconsin 1949. We lived in Kenosha that summer. Settled in Racine that fall.”

Get ready for this! If reading aloud, take a deep breath now:

Maria was involved for many years with migrant workers (farm labor), women’s welfare rights, the Democratic Party, St. Patrick’s/Cristo Rey Spanish Centers, RYM Breakfast Program, bilingual Ed., LULAC, MAPEC, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, Head Start, RCAP, Grape/Lettuce Boycott (Cesar Chavez), Racine Labor Fest, Racine County Labor Council (president), immigrant issues, neighborhood issues, and many other community organizations. In the photo above, Maria is wearing a t-shirt the Racine Coalition for Peace and Justice had printed up with the words on it “Peace Begins with US.”

Until 1991, she used her married name, Maria Avila, and her American name MARY Morales, MARY Avila.

She started working with Al Levie in 2003 when she got involved with Voces de la Frontera.

People that she worked with are Victor Moreno, Eddie Malacara, Oscar Moreno, Wally Rendon, Deacon Roberto Fuentes, Diana Valencia, Ron Thomas, Chuck Tyler, Mario Martinez.

Elaine Kinch, who was one of the women Jeanne Arnold “sung” (nominated by me) when Jeanne was Racine Writer in Residence, said of Maria: “Maria was an inspiration to the Central America Solidarity Coalition. We remember the time we were with her when she gave a Racine labor tour to the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, a Guatemalan eloquent spokeswoman for indigenous rights. And whenever I went to Maria’s house, it seemed there always was someone or other there that she was helping!”


Difficult People (big change of subject!)

A silver lining concerning difficult people is they make for great stories! As in can you believe it?

I knew a woman, D, who, being her friend was like being her counselor, very draining. Her life was a perpetual crisis. It was always one D problem after another without end.

She came to Racine from some place north of here, Sheboygan?, at about age 19, I think with a guy, rather running away from home.

She told me she hated when people asked her what brought her to Racine.

I said to her, “Just say you’d rather not talk about it.”

And she, in classic D fashion, said, “But what if later I do want to talk about it?”

I wish I had thought to reply what a friend said upon hearing this story, “Well, then you’re really screwed!”

I have sought to discuss art with an artist friend any number of times, and he will say a few sentences in answer to a question and then return to his far more usual discussion of completely mundane matters such as lawn mowing, that he bought some bananas and milk yesterday, and the like.

When a friend of his who was also an artist died, my artist friend actually said, “Now I don’t have anyone to talk art with.”

I also knew that voluble late friend and knowingly replied, “Well, I’m sure that guy did all the talking.”

This same artist friend answers the question he feels you should have asked:

For example, once my brother, Dave, asked him if he knew the old song about the Chicago fire (Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, etc.).

And the artist friend proceeds to answer, not by saying yes or no, but by bringing up Donna Summer.

He is a very poor listener. Not long ago, when Dave was in town and phoned the friend around 10-11 am, Dave asked when he would be ready to meet us, rather sarcastically asking “4 pm?” As usual, Dave didn’t get a clear answer. Later, when I get on the phone, the friend tells me, a little annoyed, “Dave doesn’t want to meet until 4 pm!”

More than once he has phoned me at, like, 4 a.m.:

Mark [sleepily answering his bedside phone after a ring]: Hello?

Him: Oh, you’re up!

I can’t recall the reasons for these several wee-hours calls because what he had to tell me was so trivial!

This other person I know, who is not actually a particularly difficult person, never said thank you to me either time for two admittedly minor favors I did for him.

But he mentioned once, when a passer-by asked him if he was okay when he was lying on the ground taking a photo of something down low, and he was indeed okay, he said he probably should have thanked the passer-by for asking.

A friend hosted a small discussion group and had some pretty classy things to nibble on, and one of the guests, in gift-horse-in-the-mouth-looker fashion, actually made a critical remark about what was on offer that all there heard.

OK, maybe the joke’s on me. Maybe others could, in this vein, write far more about me. Maybe starting with these blogs!



Writing about the part-time feminist girlfriend in a previous post (in what I entitled “Litter Inventory“*), the one who ended up couldn’t even be bothered by my offer to take her recyclables that were on hand when I visited her to the then central location for recycling, this being before curb-side pick-up (“It’s my trash!” she protested — now there was a difficult person!), brought to mind what seemed at the time of knowing her to be an insoluble question:

Which is worse, no relationship or a bad one?

Due to the rockiness of that one-year relationship, with its many near break-ups, the question too-frequently haunted me.

I was then the voice of inexperience and here’s why.

In high school, I never dated. Not because I didn’t want to, it was a combination of shyness/introversion and social inexperience.

I hung out with guys who were fellow nerds and in the exact same boat. No “notes” to compare.

And I noticed that we pretty much all were the eldest child in our respective families, no older brother or sister, for that matter, to offer tips.

None of the female nerds were very fetching (I suppose the same could have been said about me, even to this day!). It was “easier” to pine after someone unattainable, like a cheerleader one happened to have a nice dream of (and that was all), than to live in the “real world.”

I then went to college without a single date under my belt. There was not even one signature from a female in my senior yearbook — or any prior yearbook of mine for that matter. The inexperience of it all was terrifying.

And four years later, degree in hand, I had had only one date, where we saw All the President’s Men and she had no interest afterwards in getting a bite to eat which boiled down to, please bring me back home now.

Actually, in college, during the last year and a half, I did have one woman friend, entirely platonic, a rather chunky female nerd who as the days passed in the German literature class took a seat closer and closer in the lecture hall to where I customarily sat until one day she was in the seat next to me.

Oh, God.

I had no attraction for her.

But I was polite and answered her questions and we chatted and even saw some movies and rock shows together (she wanted to see Kiss — ick! I wasn’t much more enthusiastic about Aerosmith; Clapton, my idea, was very disappointing, pretty much only playing obscure blues stuff and didn’t even play lead on “Layla”; at least we got to see Be Bop Deluxe with then-unknown Cheap Trick opening and getting booed; and the Stones, their Some Girls tour) until one evening there was the awkward conversation she broached when I was dropping her off outside her dorm of why I wasn’t making any moves on her.

“Er … Uh … Um … because I’m not attracted to you.”

We continued as friends, I took a job in Racine moving from Minneapolis once I graduated, and for the next too many years got the brush off, or the “let’s be just friends” treatment from women. That sort of thing.

Finally, I hit pay-dirt with “A,” the part-time feminist, who was actually hot to trot compared to all the prior would-be others, but who turned out to be way difficult to get along with, frequent outbursts of anger on her part, with me then walking on eggshells, many near break-ups in that mere year with me always urging for us to try harder, etc.

And that seemingly insoluble, haunting, which-is-worse, question.

(Oh, and throw into the mix her ~8-year-old son who was every bit the cliche’ description of “a little monster.” Entirely out of control. At least he was with his father every other weekend.)

It was such a long, long slog of trying to connect with a woman until her, she was my break-through, so just chucking her didn’t seem like a good idea. In fact, at about the 6-month mark, we had had a disagreement where she wouldn’t take my subsequent calls. It looked very much to me that it was all over, I blamed myself and felt I’d squandered my breakthrough. It was seeming very like no relationship was way way worse than a bad one. One night, a dark night of the soul, I was even acutely suicidal, pacing the floor at about 2 am, wondering if I should do the supreme, not-loving-myself act, when, suddenly, it was like I had been administered a very strong sedative, and so I flopped into bed, exhausted, and slept until morn. Whew!

I think she finally called, perhaps a week later, telling me, “I’m done being mad now.”

As I mentioned, I was always in the role during the many near-break-ups, of urging us to try harder until one fine day I think I surprised her when she phoned and told me, “It’s not working,” and I immediately simply agreed with her, “You’re right!”

Then, almost immediately, like in about two weeks, there was “B” which lasted less than a year, her going back to the boyfriend she complained so about, and then, a couple years after that, “C” with two pleasant-enough young sons, who, after two pretty stable years together, began to make herself less and less and less available until I finally took the hint.

And, in the many years since, with very little to report (I’ve discovered at times when rebuffed by a woman that, when I got to know her better just through incidental contact at social events, for instance, that I actually did not much like her after all, that it was just as well I was rebuffed; and I have held some women — at arm’s length), I’d like to say that, for me, admittedly an introvert, the answer to the question of which is worse is: a bad relationship is worse. In a lesser-evil style, I’d rather be alone than in a bad relationship. And one can’t argue with the autonomy of the single life. And never kill yourself over a failed romance. You’re worth way more than that.


This book puts into words what I always felt concerning the topic of relationships:

Will Our Love Last?: A Couple’s Road Map by Sam R. Hamburg Ph.D.

From the publisher:

The first step-by-step guide to choosing a life partner based on sexual, practical [day-to-day living], and emotional [or “wavelength”] compatibility [are you on the same wavelength when it comes to spiritual beliefs and life values?].

In every romantic relationship, men and women alike wonder whether their love will stand the test of time. In this unconventional guide, Sam R. Hamburg, Ph.D., explains how to eliminate the guesswork and pick the right romantic partner. Basing his findings on hundreds of cases in his twenty-five years as a marital therapist and thirty years in his own marriage, Dr. Hamburg shows that in the best unions partners are deeply compatible in all areas — from sex to daily decision making to beliefs about life. [Any two people can stay together and be miserable if one or more of these compatibilities is missing, though it does seem that having all three compatibilities is rare. Certainly I haven’t experienced it. –Mark]

*In my litter inventory, I didn’t mention cigarette filters, maybe since I seldom pick them up. But what looks cottony is plastic!

The End.

Next week (subject to change): Further and More Observations and Thinkings, Guests Julie Ragland and Kate Schneck, Atwood Quote Examined, Dangerous Jobs, Malidoma Patrice Some’

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