On the way from here to there, my husband and I see a fancy motorcycle at a stoplight. It is metallic teal with red spokes and wheel rims.
“Did I ever tell you about my summer with motorcycles?” I say to him, knowing that even if I had, he would no longer remember. We have a twenty-minute drive ahead of us. Why not tell him again–from the beginning–?
“So I met this French-American guy through a friend of a friend who was living in Paris. I’ll call him Jean-Claude. He grew up in Connecticut, but his parents were French and lived in Paris. Jean-Claude was tall and lean. He had a space between his front teeth, longish brown hair and hound dog brown eyes.
“I was in school at the University of Bordeaux, and when the semester was over, I moved into a Paris sublet with Jean-Claude. He had a job as assistant producer for a documentary film about the Continental Circus. That’s what the motorcycle racing season in Europe was called. It may still be going. I don’t know.
“Anyway, we shared this tiny studio apartment. I got a silly job as the gatekeeper at the American Center in Paris. I sat around on a bench by the front gate, reading a book, and occasionally letting approved people in or out. Of course, I slammed my finger in the gate, but that’s not part of the motorcycle story.
“The producer of the documentary was a young Frenchman named Jerome Laperrousaz. He had made a contract with Jack Findlay, a private motorcycle racer. Jack agreed to let Jerome film him for the whole season, everywhere he went. Jack was Australian. Private riders like Jack had to support themselves during the season. Jack’s girlfriend and manager was Nanou, a French woman. They lived in a trailer while they followed the Circus.
“The star of the Continental Circus in those days was an Italian playboy named Giacomo Agostini. He was dashing and handsome. Agostini was a factory rider, sponsored by Moto Agusta, the manufacturer of the winning MV model motorcycle.
“Jean-Claude brought me along to one of the races, somewhere near Lyons. We got press passes that allowed us to be on the track. Jean-Claude went off with Jerome. I wandered around and found a good vantage point on the median near the track’s edge. I must have watched a number of races, but I remember only two things. First, Jean-Claude was impressed that I was able to identify the sound of the Norton bike before it rounded the bend.
“The second memory still makes my legs weak. I watched the side-car racers come around the curve. These side cars were not the little capsules attached to motorcycles that we know from World War I films. Oh, no.
These “side cars” consisted only of a platform on which the driver’s partner knelt. It was the side car rider’s job to lean out over the track to counterbalance the bike as it dipped around the curves. The rider would be barely inches above the asphalt. How fast were they going? Seventy? Eighty? Ninety miles an hour?
“I was amazed to learn that many of the side car riders were women, the partners of the racers.
“What happened to Jack Findlay? He lost races that season. Then he crashed and was injured. The last scene of the film was Jack limping along the track with a cane.
“As for life in Paris, I had thought to stay there with Jean-Claude. But my father rather firmly pointed out that I had only one more quarter to graduate from U.C. Irvine, and that I should come home and do it.
“So I did. Jean-Claude stayed in France while Jerome finished up the film. Then he came to live with me in Claremont for a short while. It wasn’t so exciting, the two of us in California. I had a job making hand-forged jewelry. He eventually got a delivery job driving a van. A few days later, Jerome called from Paris with a new project. Jean-Claude left for Europe while I courted deafness pounding silver on an anvil.
“I heard later that he had an affair with the actor Terrence Stamp.”
Having Jorge in my kindergarten ESL class was simply exhausting. Just walking from his regular classroom to mine was a challenge. If he wasn’t walking backward, Jorge was pushing the kid in front of him, or stopping and running to catch up. Staying in line was out of the question. All the while he would be calling out to me in his high, piping voice, “Ms. Ellis! I hungry!” “Ms. Ellis! Look! Spiderman!”
Jorge seemed to come from a household where no limits were put on his behavior. In school, he was “all over the place” as his harried teacher, Mrs. R., put it. He appeared deaf to directions, and if I made the mistake of trying to take his hand to guide him back into line, he became a rigid, unmovable statue. Given consequences, Jorge showed no remorse.
When the group was finally seated on the rug in my room, Jorge rolled around or talked to his cousin. Mrs. R and I were exasperated, seeing little progress in English acquisition or any other basic kindergarten knowledge. We asked our Spanish-speaking teacher to call Jorge’s mother and discuss his behavior. Our principal rode the bus and reported that Jorge’s behavior to and from school was just as lawless.
To keep Jorge’s hands occupied, I tried one of my cleverest teacher tricks: I gave him something to carry when we walked in the hall. It worked for a short time until Jorge began using the book or papers as weapons.
And then one day in January I was teaching a lesson on rhyming word pairs using picture cards. Jorge was not only paying attention, he was practically in my lap, eyes fixed on the pocket chart. His voice was the first and loudest, naming each pair as we sang the rhyming song. I was astounded.
We walked back to the classroom with Jorge doing his usual antics, but at Mrs. R’s door, I took Jorge aside. “You did such a good job in class today, I want you to have this special sticker,” I told him. I gave him a shiny dinosaur sticker. Jorge put it in the center of his navy blue and dark green striped shirt, right over his heart.
Mrs. R was absent that Monday, so I couldn’t tell her about the change in Jorge’s behavior. On Tuesday she was absent as well. I noticed that Jorge was wearing the same shirt with the dinosaur sticker. On Wednesday, Mrs. R was back in school, and Jorge was back with the same shirt. By now the dinosaur sticker was a little ragged and curling at the edges.
Before we left for the ESL classroom, I brought Jorge over to Mrs. R and told her about Jorge’s great day.
“OK, Jorge, Mrs. R knows what a good job you did,” I said. “Now you can let your mom wash your shirt.”
Save the Dates! 2021 HV Flamenco Festival August 14th & 15th.
I am so pleased to announce the venues for the 2021 HV Flamenco Festival. This year we are co-producing with the Vanaver Caravan. Through this collaboration we are able to bring you THREE performances this year. Each one is specially curated to support the mission of the HV Flamenco Festival; to explore how flamenco can act as a healing and unifying force in our communities.
Andreas Arnold, guitarist extraordinaire will be joining us from Cadiz, Spain.Here is a video of Andreas playing a piece from his latest album. On Saturday, August 14th at 6pm, Andreas will be performing for us at the outdoor stage at Unison Arts. Mario Rincon will be singing with him. Bring your masks, blankets and chairs and a picnic and spend the evening being immersed in the magic of live music.
Saturday morning, August 14th at 11:30am will find us in Newburgh at the Green at Safe Harbors. The Awesome Foundation gave us a grant to offer a free performance in Newburgh. This will be a shorter, vibrant opening for the HV Flamenco Festival with dance and music.
On Sunday evening at 6pm at the gorgeous Whitecliff Vineyards in Gardiner, NY our full company will make the Ridge echo with the strains of flamenco song and the driving rhythms of dance. Bring chairs or blankets and a picnic meal. You can sip local wines and allow us to transport you to a sun-baked, jasmine scented plaza in Andalusia.
Tickets will be sold on the Hudson Valley Flamenco Festival website starting June 20th.As always, your support is what keeps the HVFF going and I want to express my gratitude for remembering the HV Flamenco Festival.
This month, Mario Rincon, our cantaor (singer) of many talents is building a portable stage. Because we are bringing you a Covid-safe outdoor festival, a portable stage is a necessary addition to our company. Please consider donating a small amount to offset the costs of building our stage. DONATE
Please read the latest blog post that talks about how flamenco works as a system and can be a metaphor for how we exist in our communities. ANNA LIBRADA
My faerie mother didn’t want me. She gave me my name, Bimi Lightfoot, and then she gave me away. Who was she? I was wondering about her again, hiding from my stepfather under an overturned rowboat. The boat’s drying wood smelled warm and fishy. I dug up some sand crabs and made a little house for them out of shells and driftwood. The crunch of footsteps in the sand made me look up.
Right next to the boat.
No one in Karakesh wore fancy yellow boots.
Yellow boots pounded on the boat.
“Bimi Lightfoot! I know you’re under there! Come out and greet your cousin, Liri Flare!”
Cousin? Liri Flare?
This would be the faerie cousin who gave me to Demara, my so-called sister, when I was a baby. Demara was only thirteen years old back then, so she handed me off to her mother, Lunila, like I was a sour pear or a rotten potato.
“Come out, I say!”
I stuck my head out. He was all yellow. His clothes were yellow, and so was his hair. Even his skin was pale yellow.
“All the way, you scamp!” said the Yellow Boots.
I crawled out.
He swept off his pointed yellow hat.
“Liri Flare, faerie extraordinaire,” he said. He had a big smile, like my sister’s father, Simead Nair. Simead Nair was a selkie, a seal person. Selkies are a kind of faerie. Maybe all faeries had big smiles with big white teeth.
I knew Liri Flare was the faerie that had given me to Demara. But I didn’t know much about anything else. I’d never gone beyond Karakesh Village. The family wouldn’t let me.
“You can’t go anywhere until you learn to behave,” said Lunila.
Lunila was my so-called mother in this family. Earlier this morning, when I was down on the beach, I’d heard her calling me.
“Bimi Lightfoot! You bad boy! You get back here!”
She was standing on the cottage porch. I pretended I didn’t hear her. She’s not my real mother, so I didn’t have to do what she said. I kept walking down the beach toward the sea caves.
Anyone could see that I didn’t belong in this family. They all had skin the color of dark honey. I was so pale that you could see my veins. Sometimes my skin looked light green, like the inside of a grass stem. My real family–my faerie family–lived at Hawk Hill, in the woods and in the mounds. Faeries.
“Stand up and let me look at you!” Liri Flare commanded.
He sounded like my stepfather, Gerran. Always telling me what to do, and how to behave. Behaving was boring.
But now here was a yellow cousin in yellow boots. Suddenly things weren’t boring anymore.
Liri Flare sweeps Bimi up into the sky on a mission to steal a horse. Once away from his adoptive family, Bimi sets out to find his mother and learn the truth about his father. He gets help from some of the magical folk of Karakesh, but other encounters are downright life-threatening. Does Bimi find what he seeks on his quest?
Growing Magic will be available soon from Handersen Publishing and Amazon books. In the meantime, catch up with the adventures of Agatha, Malcolm, Sada, Rami, and Demara in the first four books of the Karakesh Chronicles.