Revision Street: Kathi Marquesa (V)

October 28, 2010

Kathi and I have been talking about flamenco, and I ask if it’s easy to teach kids. She says, basically, no. It isn’t.

There’s a lot of competition for attention. Grammar schools kids, high school kids—they are scheduled to the max. Am I gonna do soccer? Ballet? Flamenco, horseback riding? They have thousands of activities and options. I remember as a kid having that time in summer when you finally go to the point where you said, I’m bored. I don’t know of very many children who have that opportunity anymore. Everything’s really scheduled and flamenco has to fit in to part of this. It’s one of the activities. It’s not like you grew up with your grandmother and she was always singing these songs.

My great-grandparents, and I still have letters from, they were in Cuba in ’58. Some of them left, some of them stayed behind. I have letters from after they stayed behind from one of the women, it kind of documents what happened to them. Eventually they had, I think, ten families in their house and they were relegated to one section. Their world got smaller and smaller and smaller. I think eventually they all ended up coming to Miami at some point but that would have been a long time ago… They ended up in Brooklyn. My grandfather owned a paint factory, Longman and Martinez.

They had it in Brooklyn and it went bust, but all the rooms in my house as a kid were painted with this paint. I’m sure it had lead in it, whatever. I think they had a paint factory in Cuba and they moved it to Brooklyn because that was a place where you could run a factory like that. There’s still some family in Florida, I think, but the rest of them were in New Jersey and Brooklyn. It’s just a part of my mother’s family. There’s another part of it too that’s not Cuban at all. They’re English or Irish and my father’s side of the family was German, so you pick. I picked the part that I was most interested in, I guess.

Sometimes in the United States, if you want to be left alone you can be, but in a different society different expectations are there.

Traveling in Spain, I was stopped for gas asking directions once, and I was with a guy. I’m asking directions in Spanish, and they’re talking to him and he doesn’t know what they’re saying. I would say, Is it a right or left? And they would look at me, but they would talk to him. My friend kept saying, I don’t speak Spanish. Finally my friend said in English, I don’t know what you’re saying. They looked at him like, What, are you nuts? This was a while ago but it’s just one of those things where the expectations were completely different.

Then I had another hilarious experience in Greece. I was traveling there with three friends, and the two guys decided, We’re gonna get motorcycles. It’s gonna be great. And the two women, we’re sitting there going, OK, are we gonna live through this? My friend is going, I’ll never see my children again [laughs]. Anyway we go to rent the bikes and they’re all fluffing their feathers and they flick their licenses on the counter, and the rental agent goes, Ah I can’t rent to you. You don’t have a motorcycle license. You don’t have a “D” on your license—they know what the American license has when you’re licensed to operate motorcycles. The guys were like, What are you talking about? So I pulled mine out and said, You mean this.

The rental agent goes, Yes. I can rent to her. You can ride behind her. Needless to say we rented a car [laughs].

I thought that was great. It was like, I gotta write that down. I’m glad this is gonna be in a blog [laughs].