Bus Stop, Bus Go

This piece was written for my English 353 class, creative non-fiction.  Some of the content is repetitious to a previous post on here, but hopefully ya’ll enjoy it.

A Travel Essay by Edie-Marie Roper

The Wheatland Express is an airport shuttle, named for all the golden hills of the Palouse. Or rather, a company that bought a few fancy buses and then overcharged because students without cars to get to Spokane or money to fly out from the tiny airport in Pullman, Washington.  For now, $45 one-way is still $60+ cheaper than flying in and out of the little commuter airport. The shuttle-bus rattles and rumbles its way down Stadium Way to take a left on Grand Avenue.  These are two of the three roads that make up Pullman, a little college town of about 27,000 people, (depending on who’s doing the rounding) and approximately 18,000 of that number are college students who leave every summer, just like I’m doing now.

After boarding the bus the driver goes through the obligatory niceties:

“Where are you flying off to?”

“Liverpool”

“Wow! What are you doing there?”

“A study abroad program.”

“In Liverpool?  What do you study at school?”

“Creative writing.”

“Well…neat.  Sounds fun. Can you believe how hot it is already at 10:00 am!”

“Pretty crazy.”

“Yup.  Sure is hot.”

He’s finished talking, much to my relief.  I hate insincere, meaningless conversations.  I turn to watch the castledom of red brick campus called Washington State University disappear around the bend in the road leading to Spokane, the next biggest thing for almost 2 hours, population 462, 677. I recall the first time I rounded the corner coming the other way; it was actually quite breathtaking, especially the clock tower.  The clock will allegedly shine white instead of red at night when a virgin graduates from WSU, it ticks the time away until I graduate, and regularly declares the cranky, “Why-do-you-not-inheritantly-know-how-this-public-transit-system-works” bus drivers, as tardy.  Unfortunately, I’m the one that walks awkwardly and late into class, not the bus driver. And it’s not as if they could give you a note like they do in grade school, the Pullman Transit would have to kill a lot of trees if they did that.

I turn around to face my current bus driver, watching the spring green rolling hills of lentils and wheat flick by through the windows like an old animated film.  It’s pretty, but I’ve seen it all before, I lean my head back, closing my eyes.  I think how nice it will be to be on adventure where mundane things like riding the sweaty, sticky bus, after fumbling for your student id, even though it’s obvious you are a college student, don’t happen. Seriously, I’m standing with a group of people wearing backpacks at 11 am, in ‘Go Cougs!’ sweatpants and hair done to look messy, and the driver thinks I’m trying to sneak a free ride to work?  Even if you are flipping burgers, the place requires a uniform, and most employers require something a little more formal than sweatpants.

But I’m leaving on a jet plane and all those everyday kinds of things, like riding a bus, will cease to exist for me, if only for a little bit.

**

It was an uneventful travel once I got to Spokane.  I flew to Seattle to New Jersey where I spent the night and met up with my fellow students and companions for the next three weeks.  We all flew the 6 hours over the Atlantic together, landing in Manchester, home of the 1960’s pop band, The Hollies. “Bus stop, bus go, we stay love grows, under my umbrella…”

**

The sun is low in the sky but not yet coloring the horizon with sunset.  Today was an uncharacteristically hot and sunny day in Liverpool, accourding to the locals.  It’s too bad because I enjoy the rain, but I also do not mind the light layer of sweat mixed with humidity on my skin as I shift from foot to foot on the curb of Bold Street.  I watched down the street, in the wrong direction, looking for the bus and made a startled jump as the brakes on the bus hissed and screeched next to me from the other direction.  It’s the Merseyside 80A route I’ve been told will take me back to my dormitory, or at least I think so—the sign up top the swirling teal coloured bus says ‘80 Speke’.  There are a few locals to board the bus before me, which is lucky because I’m fumbling with my change, reading closely the print on the metal. It’s directions more than a label really, though I never thought of that before with my native country’s currency.

“Uh, one student?” I say, but it sounds like a question.  He gives me a printed out stub piece, change from my two pounds, and a strange look at my timid, obvious American self.  I wonder what he thinks of Americans?  What stereotype has he subscribed to?  “This bus goes to Roseland, right?” I ask.

“Roseland?” he repeats.  It sounds strange to him how I say it and vice versa.  “Yeah, it goes to Roseland.”

“Thank you.”

“Sure, cheers.”

I sit down on 1990’s style multi-coloured upholstered seats, fiberglass and sturdy; with effort the bus goes.  I’m shown a new city that is somehow bright and dreary at the same time through bus windows, riding sideways, not unlike Seattle really, (THE city of my home state) though I’ve only been there a handful of weekends in my life. I watch the inner-city bustle of Liverpool evolve to posh tree-filled neighborhoods to suburbia to an open flat landscape.  Merseyside means a sort of county or state combined with a regional reference, (the River Mersey), equivalent to us referring to New England, I dare say.  Liverpool by itself has 435,500 people, but the Merseyside region populations 1, 365,900.  It’s about a half hour bus ride to get from downtown where the University of Liverpool campus lies to the residential halls in Roseland.  Incidentally, the word posh originated from this area in the 1700s, an acronym for Port Out, Starboard Home, the really nice and expensive cabins stayed in on a ship to or from India.

From the road I could now see clusters of suburbia in the distance and it felt oddly familiar.  It felt like patting your head while rubbing your stomach or turning a cartwheel leading with the opposite hand than you usually do; I was in a foreign country, I didn’t know the currency, speak or dress the same or even understand people most the time, it should be more different, shouldn’t it?

I figure out it reminds me of being outside of the Salt Lake City, or Spokane airports—the two that I’ve spent the most time at in my life thus far.  And then the terrible part, an airport does indeed come into view.  I’m either on the wrong bus or I’ve missed my stop. The brakes sigh and I read on the John Lennon Airport, “Above us only sky…”

“This is the last stop, love,” says the bus driver.

“Oh,” my face is red and I’ve got an anxiety knot in my stomach, “Didn’t we go to Roseland?”

“Roseland was about a half ago,” he says.

“Oh, I didn’t know.” My voice sound vulnerable and shaky; I walked around all day still sleep deprived from residual jet lag and already partying my nights away, I feel like I could cry, and mortified.

“I’m sorry love, I thought you knew where Roseland was cause you mentioned it,” he seems genuinely empathetic and sorry, as if it were his fault.  I shake my head,

“No, sorry, I meant to ask you to tell me when were there.  I’ve only been here just two days,” I say. He tells me this is the last run of this route for the day but that I can catch an “A-T-A” that’ll take me there and where to wait for the bus and some other helpful instructions that don’t really sink in—he’s difficult to understand—because despite its similar population to Spokane, people are as friendly as a small non-college town in the US where everyone has known you since you were yeah high, only less nosy.

I took the quick fix from the John Lennon Airport on account of being exhausted and confused.  I didn’t know then that Liverpool has close to 2,000 bus routes, so even though they come every half hour just like in Pullman, you always have at least two different routes to get you where you need to go, every 15 minutes or less; you aren’t really screwed if you miss the bus in Liverpool like you are in Pullman, but then again, you wouldn’t very believably be able to blame your tardiness on the busses in Liverpool either.

My cabby came with a killer Scouser accent.

“Waryagoon?” he says.

“ What?” I ask.

“ wAR ya goin?” he repeats.

“Ooohhh,” I respond.  I should’ve figured as much, I mean isn’t that usually what a cab driver first asks you?  I tell him where I’m going, twice, with elaboration until he says he probably knows where to take me and drives off.

“ sosya earloong?” he says.

“What?”

“owloong yastye ear?”

“Oh yeah?  Mmmhhhh.  Cool.” I respond, still no idea what he said.  He laughs and tries again.  Apparently I didn’t manage the right response for whatever he said, and Scousers, native born and bred citizens of Liverpool, sometimes Liverpoodlians, are known for their distinctive, impossible to understand accents throughout the British isles—as I would verify from a very cute, much easier to understand Irishmen later on in my trip.

“Next time yoo take a taxi jus tell em Carnatic,” he says when we finally arrive at the living hall.

“What?” I said

“Carnatic, they’ll know that over Salisbury.”

“Oh.”  I paid. What the hell he was talking about? I find out later there is a huge sign at the vehicle entrance: Carnatic Halls.

**

The first day of real classes at the University of Liverpool and the fourth day in the country, our fearless Leader, Zoe, herded us like giddy grade-schoolers about to take a field trip, from the bus stop onto the bus itself.  Later, after classes we are released on our own, responsible for getting back on the right bus. Turns out there are close to 2 million riders a year, and anyone of those 2 million on the street that you ask has a high probability of being able and willing to assist in getting you home.  This time I got back to the bus stop, on the corner of Mulberry and Myrtle, and correctly boarded the “A-T-A” or as we’d pronounce in ‘American,’ A-D-A, 80a.

**

I am standing in the rain just outside the Bold Street bus stop shelter.  I can see a few people trying not to stare at this and I am trying not to stare back.  I’ve never seen someone wear neon heels when it wasn’t for Halloween.  I realize I’m staring and look away. Hand in my pocket, I roll the readied bus fare around, pressing the straight edges of the fifty pence underneath my fingernail.  A fifty pence piece is lighter and larger in circumference than a quarter, and unlike any currency back home, is shaped like miniature stop sign.  I don’t realize that I’ve become so accustomed to the currency here, that in a little over a week when I get US dollars out of the ATM in Newark, New Jersey airport, it looks ridiculous, like fake play money.

I breathe deep as an influx of breeze rises from its stop and go flow, carrying cigarette smoke and essence of fish my way.  I’m trying to quite smoking.  I wonder if I have time for a cigarette.  I look left down the street of boxy little cars rolling lazily down the road, the nightlife hasn’t picked up yet.  I looked the wrong way again.  Oops. No wonder people stare. So awkward, I think, not yet knowing that when I get back to the states, it’ll take me a day to remember to look the correct direction again.

I wonder if the gray sky and gray streets make it seem more yellow than it is.  The crosswalk screeches it’s safe to walk, be-be-be-be-be-be-be! God they’re so annoying.  I’ll never get used to them.

The rain picks up, switching from the misty drizzle to an outright pour and I smile because I love the rain, which anyone from Liverpool, or west side Washington for that matter, would think a little nutty.

I see a girl staring at me that just cross the street, her cigarette smoke dancing seductively in front of me, swirling my way, sneaking out from underneath her polka-dot umbrella on the breeze.  I remind myself that I’m trying to quite smoking.  She is wearing a neon orange shirt with a short, short skirt and six inch heels.  When I stare back at her she looks away.

I smile as the bus pulls up.  It’s one of those double-deckers that I haven’t had a chance to ride yet.  I hand the driver a pound and fifty pence.

“One student,” I say and grin as I take my ticket and ten pence change.  “Thanks!”

“Cheers.”

I giggle at myself for being so excited to ride the bus.  And it isn’t that different of a feel or view from the top level.

**

It’s almost ninety degrees already in Pullman, and it’s only ten am.  It isn’t humid and it hasn’t rained at all in almost 3 weeks.  I trudge up the steep hill by the DRA real estate and rental offices; “Leasing all of Pullman!” says their billboard.  No shit, the monopolizing exploiting bastards.  As one of the some 18,000 students captive in the little town guarded by miles of agriculture, I was lucky one of my friends and classmates needed a roommate in a place that had a human beating heart to pay rent too.  Capitalism combined with all the kids with well off parents has racketed the rent prices.

It’s Thursday of the second week of school and I’m just now trying out the bus stop I noticed walking or riding my bike up to campus.  I’m not sure what time it comes to the stop but as I crest the hill, my calves burning a bit, there’s a line of people by the sign-designated bus stop, promising.  Lucky too, because Pullman has a grand total of 25 bus routes, maybe 12 of those running right now, and only one specific one will go down this street.

I don’t bother to watch for the bus; instead I turn up my iPod, “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” by The White Stripes is playing. All the students in line are mutually ignoring each other.

When the bus rumbles up I flip open my purple Motorola to check the time: 10:27 am.  I note it, and will miss the bus next week because on the rare occasion that the J-route bus is running on time, it actually comes at 10:21 am to this stop.

I flash my student ID for the bus driver as I walk to the beat of my music to find no open seat, plastic white-beige scuffed chairs and scratched and padded with red upholstery.  Go Cougs.  I try to remind myself the ‘free’ bus ride is a good deal next to the month long summer fares of one pound forty pence—almost three US dollars.  I wonder what our student fees divide out to for each bus ride by the end of the school year.  I don’t know just how many people ride the buses in a year, but in 2000, the number was 1.2 million rides.

I am tired and hot and sweaty and miserable. The bus smells like a locker room’s hamper and ass.  The pole I’m hanging onto because there aren’t any seats left is sticky.  I don’t want to know why. It’s probably sweat from the dry heat that is tanning all the rolling hills of agriculture to gold, and the hands of fellow commuters balmy.

The bus stops with a jerk that stumbles me back a few steps and into some dude somewhere else within his iPod. The dude says nothing to my mumbled sorry.  Neither of us looks directly at the other, because that would be rude, or weird, or something.  Definitely against social protocol.  My eyes dart from the insignificant design on his white t-shirt to khaki shorts, white socks and brown and white skater sketchers, his shoes are definitely the most interesting thing about him.  I think about green neon high heels.  He gets off at the next stop along with a few others freeing some seats.  The bus goes, I sit thinking first thing I need to do before work is wash my hands.  The swine flu epidemic is allegedly alive and well here in Pullman, after all.  Made national news and everything. I wonder if they heard about Pullman on the BBC news, and I hope so.

The Pullman Transit clatters on; I hear some international students talking back and forth in their language foreign and then someone in perfect English asks where they’re from and I remember how the bus ride, the regular everyday drone necessity was an adventure every time in Liverpool.

“I’m from America,” My friend Mikey would say.

“I can tell from your accent,” says the local Scouser going work.

“I don’t have an accent,” Mikey says in a good-natured retort, “You have an accent.”

She laughs.  He seems to have brightened her day, maybe made the bus an experience anew just this one time for her.

The international students on the bus say they are from different parts of China.  Turns out the native taught English for a semester in China close to where one of the international students grew up.  They exchange numbers.  What are the chances?  One in 1.2 million?  I think about how the woman in Liverpool had a one in maybe 2 million chance of running into Mikey and our group that day.

I wonder if the US is as different as the International students were expecting.  I think how not like the outside perception of the US Pullman is, how the bus is more mundane than an adventure even in Liverpool, even though I didn’t see it that way.  When I lived in Salt Lake City, though it was functional, it still was interesting because public transportation seems to attract the crazies.  Pullman’s crazy is a dumb fraternity boy at best.  It’s been disheartening and difficult to be back in Pullman, at the dog days of summer with a fulltime course load and 20 hours a week of work; after Liverpool my real life seems so insignificant.

Yet, when I first moved to this quirky and simultaneously regular place, it heightened all my senses just like Liverpool.  I realize that wherever I go after the Clock tower of Bryan hall chimes a declaration of my graduation, glowing crimson for sure, that it will be me who makes my place in this world interesting, that remains a world traveler even if and while traveling no where in particular or unique.

Someone yanks on cord strung along the bus windows and the red and white ‘Stop requested’ sign pings and lights up, pulling me from one many revelries in a Liverpool reverie.  This is my stop too. One in 1.2 million chance tomorrow that I’ll have an adventure riding from home to work during that space between bus stop, bus go, bus gone.

Paul and The Pub

Liverpool is just across the way, after all
Liverpool is just across the way, after all

So we wander after formal class with a little direction to begin with, still herded as a group. We saw our first British police officers, who looked way too young to be cops, and Chip was immediately drawn to them.  He bombarded them with questions in his classic style that we would all become very familiar with throughout and by the end of the trip, primarily charming in an awkward sort of way.  And of course we had to take pictures of and with the Bobbies before going on our way.  I took one of Chip trying to look like he was being cuffed and taken in, but they weren’t playing it up much for us and Chip looks like the happiest guy ever arrested in the photo!

Shortly after that we were set loose, the herd dispersed and I finally get off on my own.  Ped seemed surprised and alarmed at this, but I have no time for compromise at this era in my life; a past, my person, were shattered by too much compromise.  And living alone for the six months preceding the trip made it hard to give up to what I wanted, when and how I wanted it, perhaps especially given the amazing opportunity to live and travel like I found myself in.  “Anyone who wants to come with me is more than welcome,” I explained, “But this is what I’m going to do today.”  Which was, a quest for bookstores and the guitar shop we past on our walking tour the first day in Liverpool, the latter I didn’t find.  In the process I went down to the waterfront and took pictures for my mom that would hopefully turn out well for her enjoyment, as well as be something my mom wanted to paint.  And then, I got lost.

The first time I got lost consisted of riding the bus too long on that first Sunday before the African Goya, which was a pretty fixable mistake.  I took the quick way on account of being exhausted and took a taxi with an awesome cabbi with a killer Scouser accent

He’d say: waryagoon?

I’d say: What?

He’d say: wAR ya goin?

I’d say: Ooohhh,

He’d say: sosya earloong?

I’d say: What?

He’d say: owloong yastye ear?

I’d say: oh yeah?  Mmmhhhh.  Cool  (still no idea what he said)

The fun part with Scousers is that sometimes when you do, in fact, correctly understand and know what words they used, you still don’t know what they said.  They take the magic of idiom in the English language to a whole new level.  He was a beacon of patience and continued to chat the whole time despite my obvious deficiency in communicated at that juncture.  We arrived at the living hall,

“Next time yoo take a taxi jus tell em Carnatic,” he said.

“What?” I said

“Carnatic, they’ll know that over Salisbury.”

“Oh.”  I paid.  I figured out the next day on the way to the bus what the hell he was talking about.  There is a huge sign at the vehicle entrance: Carnatic Halls.  It then lists the specific buildings, ours being Salisbury Hall.  It was then I realized that I did not speak the language, but seemed too, an illusion that generally made me look like an idiot.  Despite the frequent embarrassment, it made for a lot of fun.

This time I found myself and got back to the bus station, on the corner of Mulberry and Myrtle, where walking down the street was two of my instructors.  They asked me if nobody liked me. I said no, I just wasn’t afraid of being alone. And then they asked me for a drink in the Caledonia, a little local hole in the wall pub, (old guy bar they said) which I would later come to intimately love.  We talked about education differences, a little about Toxteth that I would be seeing tomorrow with one of them, that I was meeting for the first time that very moment, as guide and teacher.  I noted they vacillated back and forth between Scous and something else, English I assume because I could mostly understand it.  Given my love of all parts of language I couldn’t help but bring it up, but they were all over it.  They most definitely did talk differently to outsiders and/or friends that didn’t grow up in Liverpool.  How conscious a process was that I wondered?  So then we talked about the phenomenon we humans have of auto-edit, e.g. I’ll (for the most part) edit out my swearing around my parents and kids. As one these fine gentlemen paid for me second Guinness, I worried.

Me: You really don’t have to pay for it.

Him: Psht!  Don’t be ridiculous

Me: Well, it’s not that I’m thinking this is what your after, but back where I’m friend a guy buying you a drink generally means… ulterior motive.

Him: huh, well it doesn’t here.

It seems maybe the elder takes care of the younger, but I couldn’t be sure and never researched it, formal or informally.

Tipsy off me Guinness’s, I expressed concern for riding the bus drunk.  After which one of the instructors said, nonsense!  You’ve got to do that once in a while, one of those life experiences.   Giggling I thought, Could I have cooler, more down to earth professors?  Probably not.

The eldest of the two, who had bought the other’s drinks as well, headed off.  I was still nursing my Guinness—not like me really, but half way through it I was feeling the buzz and it occurred to me that responsible, adult-like behavior might be in order.  I envied their lack of such occurrences.

The night was cool and magically engulfing as I was escorted back across the street to the bus station.  I was seeing the world shiny.  I engaged my salutations as I saw the bus rattle up the street on the wrong side of the road—crazy Brits.  Much to my astonishment my handshake turned into a kiss on the cheek.

Me: Oh! Uh-

Him: It’s the European way!

Me: Right

Awkwardly I repeated the process for the other cheek.

See you tomorrows, then only after I paid my pound and forty pence bus ride did I remember reading literature on how the UK didn’t participate in that ritual.  What did it mean, if anything?  I would later on in my stay figure it out.

Day 3-Liverpool School

The Philharmonic Dining HallOur fearless Leader, who rightly earned the alias, ZazaZing, herded us like giddy grade-schoolers about to take a field trip, onto the bus for our first day of school. Oh so casual and everyday for the locals, the Victorian building is really quite impressive, burnt red brick and religious tower spirals in its architecture. In this living history building, we filled out forms for enrollment in the University of Liverpool and receive our weekly stipend. We discuss course materials and get coffee. Paul Adams gives us a tour of the campus and then it’s lunchtime.

Queen, Sassibility, InLove and I end up wandering together on a quest for food. We didn’t have much in the way of time, so we found in the immediate area the Philharmonic Dining Hall (restaurant) and with a shrug (we hadn’t been able to find something more appealing) went in. Again, it is a beautiful building, sculpture stone and brass décor on the outside, inside everything is a deep dark stained wood and intricately carved, as result, good lighting is impossible. A shock of black curls and a hesitant dimpled smile awaits us at the bar. He’d look good in any sort of lighting.

We order fish and chips or soup (additionally for myself, of course, a Guinness) then found a room with an impressive fireplace and stain glass window. Turns out the place used to be a gentlemen’s club of sorts and is known for its ornate urinals in the men’s room. Yes. That’s correct, ornate urinals, so men may relieve themselves surrounded by beauty…or something. Sassibility read us the entire story from the back of the menu and then here was nothing to be done but to ask to see them—I mean, we were waiting for our food anyway, right? Otherwise I’m sure we’d be too mature to go have a look-see at standing pissers—or maybe not. The day began feeling like a kid, sometimes that can linger. So-
“Psst! Edie, go ask him if we can see them”

“Oh my gosh—the cute one that took our order?”

“Yeah, go for it! You’re the single one right? Work it!” Inlove

“Wait—Queen is single too—“

“Oh, it’s okay you can go!” Queen.

“Riiight….”

Do it, do it!

Sigh. I did it.

“Excuse me,” I say walking towards the bars, “Can we see your men’s bathroom?” I use my direct and flirty gaze, in case it’s going to take some bartering, and possibly impress my new friends and myself at picking up a gorgeous guy. Plus I’m a serial flirt, it all works out.

“Yeah, people ask all the time. Go on, have a look,” Dimples and Curls replies. Ha! I think, all us crazy tourists are SO not special like we think.

His name is Jams, he’s Welsh, and very patient. We made him take pictures with us. Again, crazy tourists…or silly school girls? I couldn’t be sure.

Inside The Gentlemen's ClubFancy Urinals

Liverpool: Leadership Training Program

More than my beloved BeatlesLiverpool for most Americans, I think, makes them think of one thing; the Beatles. And that’s it. My trip and study to Liverpool involved nothing of the Beatles. I love the Beatles, but I can listen to them anywhere. The following is the written portion of a group presentation I participated in. I was exceptionally lucky to be able to work with two phenomenal individuals, both younger than me, but full of a different and educated perspective than myself, and, incidentally both majoring in International Studies. Guy grew up in Detroit and is working on his degree in Chicago. Martha grew up in Wisconsin and is working on her degree in Duluth, Minnesota. We all expressed amazement in how it all fell together so well for us. The only thing that took some coaxing was our topic, but once we found it, all went without a hiccup for the research and experience. (Martha got the nasty cold that was going around right before we had to present, on top of her migraine. No fun, but she is tough.)

Adams
July 8, 2009
Leadership Training Program
Patterson, Leisch, Roper

Art: Address, Reflect, Influence, Change

Guy Patterson aka He’s not a pimp, but he be mac-in’**

You can bring about change in a community in a variety of ways. Upon our studies here at the University of Liverpool in the past 2 weeks, we found it most interesting to research how visual and fine arts affect local communities across the world politically. Upon deciding on what we would research, we took a look at a prime example, the Heidelberg Project, in Detroit, Michigan.

A local artist of Detroit, Tyree Guyton, started the Heidelberg Project in 1986. He transformed his old neighborhood in which he grew up into a mass art project consisting of the vacant houses and rubbish left in the neighborhood. Guyton thought that Detroit has never been right since the Riots in the 1960’s.

Today the project is still growing and takes up about a two city block radius of houses, trees, cars, and discarded objects Guyton found that have been transformed into huge monuments and sculptures. This was Guyton’s way of cleaning up the neighborhood he felt connected to, to rebuild the structure of under-resourced communities and welcome people from all over.

We found similarities in the interviews of all of our artist participants in the point that art is created to help people better understand the world around them. Like one of our interviewees, local Liverpool playwright/poet, Patrick said, “Art should be used to help people understand things that cannot be verbally articulated”.

Our research consists of interviews from local artists in Liverpool such as Amish, Patrick, and Bea, whose family names are not released. They represent the fine and visual branches of art and they have given their synopsis of how their work has brought on change as well as their own personal opinions of why and how art can produce political change and awareness.

MethodologyBy order and decree of...

Based on our own personal interests, as well as related studies at our Universities in the states, we decided on the topic of Arts addressing, reflecting and influencing change. We already had connections and contact information for Bea and Patrick so we were able to email both of them and set up interviews. Edie-Marie was allocated the responsibility of contacting and interviewing Patrick and Bea, having been the person to get their contact information while touring through Toxteth as well as having closely matched areas of study. Martha sought out local museums and artists, the perfect candidate because she is working on a minor in art and is familiar with the terminology and such. She used the staff at the Fact to contact other local artists, looking for more on the visual arts verses the performing arts perspective of Bea and Patrick; following through with the artist and curator, Amish, at The Royal Standard Studio Gallery. Guy assisted both Martha and Edie-Marie with the interviews, was the initial source of the Heidelberg project, as well as responsible for researching it further.

We approached these artist interviews with the following questions:

1) What medium do you use most for your art and why did you choose it?

2) How does art influence change, or does it merely reflect what is happening?

3) What political/social issues have you addressed in your art?

a) Why?

b) How?

4) What local changes have you seen in your lifetime and in what ways was art connected?

5) What do you think would happen with movements and change if the arts were not a part of it?

6) What do you know of the Heidelberg project?

7) How does it compare with local politically charged art you’ve seen?

a) Similarities

b) Differences

Martha

The thought of finding local artists and artwork seemed impossible at the onset of the project, but by simply stumbling upon artists at the FACT they fell into my hands. I met Joshua who was working at the FACT bookstore, who turned out to be a gallery coordinator for Red Wire (a local studio/gallery). He in turn connected me with Hamish at The Royal Standard, who Guy and myself went on to interview.

After speaking with Hamish at The Royal Standard studio gallery I decided to pursue two conceptual works that were based out of the gallery. He had provided me with a base of information and I researched online from that point. I was incredibly intrigued and happily surprised with the projects titled “Mr. Democracy,” by Oliver Walker and “Mobile Sports Foundation,” by Townley and Bradby. Both projects were interactive, politically driven and based here in Liverpool.

Birdhouses in Toxteth Infamous Ken's in Toxteth

Edie-Marie

Our second day of our leadership-training program proved fated for this presentation. When we visited the Caribbean Community Centre in Toxteth, I met Patrick, playwright and poet. Being an aspiring writer myself I ended up talking with him for most of the time there and exchanging contact information. Later that day we went to the Kuumbia house also in Toxteth so we could listen in on council meetings. Here Martha and I met Bea who works in film, and engaged in conversation with her primarily to get some perspective on women’s issues that always exist with all the social problems we were being shown, though they aren’t mentioned. It bothered me that in the course content, women were a non-entity, so I was looking for outside sources supplemental to the content already provided when I was introduced to Bea, which is how our group was able to have her contact information as well.

Patrick sees and believes art is more in the realm addressing political and social situations, bringing to light issues and making people aware. From this change can and does occur, but the arts role is communication and reflection. His focus is presenting information in an accessible way through his plays and poetry.

Bea immediately expressed that art absolutely completes all three, addressing, reflecting and influencing change. She saw a significant positive change from the Capitol of Culture for local artists in that it built and boosted the art markets, set up a foundation for the art community that remained with the bigger, gimmicky projects were gone. She had not heard of the Heidelberg project but had participated in many similar art forms in the use of space, for example the building behind the Kuumbia house is used to show films and during the US 2008 president election a picture of Obama was projected on the building for a while. She also facilitates the Night Art Trail in Liverpool that occurs in the fall/winter time. It creates an art based self-guided tour of Liverpool with the street lamps projecting slides of art on the streets.

Art is an amazing way to experience a new place and we really enjoyed all the people we were able to meet with in the process of preparing and researching this presentation. We went in a bit naïve in our idealism of art as a force for movements, political and social change. However, after looking at different artists in Liverpool and the case study of the Heidelberg Project in Detroit, while we were able to retain the positives we had of arts capabilities but add to it the realities involved. As art pushes society, society pushes back, and reflects itself in art.

**(please note, Guy is a serious student, he was just using Martha’s Macbook at the time of composition. I was reprimanded for sending a copy to our Professor with his rough-draft title on it. We sent a corrected one. Tee hee, oops. And sorry again, Guy–but I still love it!)

Dancing Queens

Queen and I were roaming together come day two in Liverpool. I did not know yet that she was a dancing queen, but she is. The entire study abroad group had done a little more touring of the city that morning and bought calling cards and similar day to day maintenance things needed while living here. I had to be reprimanded because though I told someone I was going to the toilet, they neglected to tell the others and momentarily thought they’d lost me. Due to my wandering spirit it would not be the last time, but it would be doing more adventurous and fun things then visiting the toilet. (If you ask for the restroom they look at you like you’re crazy.) Now the afternoon was ours.

The dormitory we are staying at is close to a colossal and Eden-like park called Sefton Park. It is the host of the fourth annual African Goya festival. The day was bright and simultaneously overcast, a skill that this British Isle has perfected. This particular afternoon it only taunted rain, having drizzled a bit in the morning, and didn’t actually come down on us. Queen and I drifted in and out of the circle of tents and booths. All kinds of food, Jamaican/Caribbean, Arabic, Somalian and more, were available. Breathtaking colours of linens composed the clothing being sold alongside a vast array of jewellery and crafts and different medians of art. I couldn’t resist and added to my collection of hats and bought a top of royal blue shaded to a wine red and intricately embroidered.

The art of West African dance was being tutored at one of the booths. With a very little coaxing I got Queen to agree to take the next class with me. In the meantime we gravitated to the stage where Daby Toure, a phenomenal guitarist and singer was performing with his band. After about twenty minutes we were sold, and wandered to the music booth where they were selling CD’s. We weren’t the only fans, because they were sold out. I wrote down their information to track them down later and we made to doubly enjoy the rest of their performance. We ran into Chip, and Chip being Chip, he took it upon himself as a personal quest to get their CD for us. When they finished performing he went backstage and got to speak with all of them, got an autograph and pictures but—they didn’t have any extra CD’s unfortunately.

Whilst he worked at that task, Queen and I headed over to the dance booth for our class. Now, not to be disparaging to my roots, but quite frankly, we do NOT emphasize or learn dance. Queen and I come from a similar background, albeit from different sides of the lower forty-eight. The dance is spectacular and its core is being able to do body isolations; rolling the shoulders, now shifting the feet, now both at the same time then circling the ribs, the walking/knee lifting, then both followed by some hip circles. Suffice to say, Queen and I were in WAY over our heads. Lots of giggling ensued. Our instructor made it look easy and was so connected to her own body. That combined with a fantastic smile made her mesmerizing. It was fantastic to witness, how couldn’t it be? She obviously is passionate and loves what she does. I don’t know how they do it really; I can’t concentrate on that many things at once. I got the hip circling down pat, but then I had to roll my shoulders and do a 360 all at the same time. I’d forget to roll my shoulders, or somehow only roll one and end up sort of jerking one hip to get turned around. Luckily I only ran into a couple of the others learning with us. I couldn’t say how Queen did because I couldn’t spare any attention for anything else, but in comparing notes afterwards, it sounds like we have the same awkward groove. We celebrated exerting ourselves for the entire hour and our mad skills in… something other than dance. The hair jutting out of my new hat clung and dripped on my neck and my body tingled in its layer of glisten. I was a bit sore the next day too. And the best horrifying part about it is somewhere in the middle I looked over to see Chip with his camera out recording. I haven’t been able to convince him to destroy the evidence yet.

The lesson having mercifully finished, the three of us got some water and Arabic food. Chip and I engaged in our first (of many, MANY, more to come) debate on gender roles. He ordered for me, which I thought was weird, which he thought was weird. “Why don’t you just pay for me while you’re at it?” I asked. “I was going to!” he replied. “Why?” I asked, “Wow, you are so old fashioned.” I didn’t yet realize how serious he was, as I don’t believe he realized how serious I was, but we had a good time teasing and bantering for and with the man that waited on us, he thought we were hilarious. I’m sure we were.

The day couldn’t have been complete without me getting us lost on the way home. Luckily, Chip isn’t ashamed to ask for directions. And now I know the area quite well for going on runs and such.

The Travel Quote Post of the Slightly Less Renowned

“We are social animals. The only reason we aren’t extinct is because of this. Individual isn’t the most important, the group, the broad collectively…is how we find our true stature.” ~Paul Adams, University of Liverpool, Educational Opportunities Manager

“White people, Black people, Indian people–all here together in one place. This is the future.” Daby Toure, African Goya concert Sefton Park, Liverpool, June 21, 2009

“I write for fun, but it’s no joke
because what I write
is to make the thought provoke.” -Patrick Graham, Black Out Productions

“What is your favorite passion?” -Candid

“What’s your happy ending?” -InLove

“We are superficial and profound” -Vixen

“I’m this unique human individual now” -Vixen

“There are two kinds of Americans; those who can cry for their country and those who can’t” -Vixen

“She seems the most studious of our group” -Me
“No, she just does it a different way” -Pensive

“History is NOT to develop the memory at the expense of intelligence,”
“The best kind of history is pulled into the present,”
“Education is also about citizenship,”
“Lecturing is a lecturer passing their notes to the students’ notepads without it passing through the brains of either,”
“We live life in details, but think in generalities,”
“Words are elastic, always question, pin down the meaning,”
“Isn’t education about getting confidence?”-All from Professor Ron Noon’s lecture, July 8, 2009

“The trouble with words is you don’t know who else’s mouth they’ve been in.” -Dennis Potter, playwright

Number 7

Saturday morning, the 20th, we landed in Manchester to awkwardly pile into vans hired to drive us to Liverpool.  All the cars driving on the opposite side and our driver on the opposite side of the car is a head trip.  It feels like my brain has been flipped inside out  or like when I do a left-handed cartwheel (being right-handed).

The lot of us, as they say here, are a very dynamic and gregarious group.  The few quiet ones of the bunch talk plenty when badgered, then there are the perpetual vociferous few—I fear I may be one of them, though those of you who know me well would be quite shocked at how reserved (all things relative) I’ve been here.   Sheik and Curly are more on quiet side out of the women and were in the same van with me.  Curly also plays the guitar so it was fun chatting and strumming The Lovechild on the forty minute drive.  I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember who else was in the car with us because Chip, sitting next to me, is one of the vociferous bunch and usurped most of my attention haven declared me interesting the previous day at orientation.  God only knows why specifically, I am many things good and bad, though I suppose boring isn’t one of them.

I strummed and sang back up to Chip’s brilliant improvised lyrics.  The reoccurring theme: number 7. This refers to the concept of group imposed rules concocted during orientation, and a proposed method of efficient communication if someone was breaking a rule, a numbering system.  Instead of 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. I’ve declared number 7 to stand for all of them because I think it is so funny.  Someone complaining?  Number 7!  someone use your stuff without asking?  Number 7!  And so on and so forth.

Respect the Bubble