Sunday, February 24, 2013



The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was an intellectual flowering that fostered a new black cultural identity in the 1920s and 1930s. Black media, jazz, art, and literature flourished. Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston are some of the best-known writers of the movement, but visual artists were also crucial in creating depictions of the “New Negro.” The white establishment became fascinated with the Harlem Renaissance, but for the artists themselves, acceptance by the white world was less important than, as Hughes put it, the “expression of our individual dark-skinned selves.” This class will explore all aspects of the Harlem Renaissance.

Section Number: 13S1
Duration: 4/6/2013 - 5/11/2013
Time: Saturday 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Tuition: $315.00
Early Registration Rate:$285.00 before 3/14/2013
Location: Downtown Gleacher
Instructor(s): Beatriz Badikian-Gartler
Ms. Badikian-Gartler holds a PhD in English/women’s studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has taught at the Newberry Library, Loyola University, and Roosevelt University, and has published widely. Her most recent book is Old Gloves: A 20th Century Saga.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


The room in the hotel Nena reminds me of a board game like Clue or some other mystery.  The main room is large and dark; then there is a kitchen and if you walk down a hallway another room and another where the closets are.  I have to take a bus to get my pants.  This morning we discover the rooftop where the pool is and a magnificent view of the town, chaise longues, drinks, relaxation.

Last night supper with Sandra and friends proved joyful and restorative.  Good tortilla soup and chiles en nogada.  Lively conversation.

In the afternoon we played Qwirkle in library's patio where everyone goes to meet each other, borrow books, listen to concerts, lectures, and learn Spanish with locals.  Then we shopped for presents, and yes, got the shoes.

Tomorrow we leave.  Next year I'll like to rent a house if I come back.  Hotel living gets old fast.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Sunday night.  Tomorrow we move from our "casita" to a hotel for the rest of our time in San Miguel.  All in all, it was a good experience: plenty of writers to talk to and learn from in lectures and talks.  A great class and a few contacts for the future.  An individual consultation with a Swedish woman who is writing an article about South Africa and wanted my advice.  Beautiful surroundings at the hotel and fun "fiestas" in the evenings.  Most importantly, some good ideas for writing.  Ideas I'm very excited about.

On the minus side - no book sales and some minor inconveniences.  Plus David spilled tequila on my laptop, so now I find myself writing this on the iPad.  Not easy.  

This morning, while in a workshop, the cell phone rings.  It's mom.  The woman in front of me shushes me, I am flustered, I say "cannot talk now" and hung up.  Later I try to call her back but I can't connect, spend a couple of hours attempting to call Greece from my cell phone with no luck.  I am frustrated.  I am anxious and angry.  Finally I connect with my cousin and relay a message for mom.  She has a knack for calling at the most inopportune times.  

This year was very different for me.  Very different: few friends at the conference, fewer classes, altitude issues.  Tomorrow I'd like to go to the library and to shop for shoes.  Anyone interested in a pair?

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Speaking loudly in a tent outdoors to over 50 people is not easy but I managed to do a pretty good job if I say so myself this morning at the workshop.  I enjoyed it tremendously.  Always get a burst of energy when I teach to a responsive group.  And when I find what I do useful to others.  After the workshop I sat in the sun and closed my eyes for a long while in the gardens of the hotel.  It was lovely. 

This year the conference hub is behind the hotel, in the gardens, with lots of tables and chairs scattered among the trees and cacti, near the pond with jumping waters, and even a whole bunch of blankets and pillows on the grass for people to relax and nap or just enjoy the warm sun.  David and I had lunch and then came back to our "casita" for a nap. 

In the afternoon David discovered a cafe nearby and we headed there for coffee and cake, invited Mike and Sharon to join us.  They were going in search of a mall to buy shorts and a slip.  Go figure...

This evening's lecture was by Luis Urrea, a good writer from Chicago who teaches at the University of Illinois.  I've known Luis since the 80s and see him ocassionally.  His lecture was packed and received a standing ovation.  He's a very good storyteller and entertaining speaker.  Told stories of his childhood and his parents, aunts, godparents, and others who appear in his books.  David found it a bit tedious after a while and I kind of agreed with him.  But I'm used to that type of writing.  Chicanos are good storytellers.

We had dinner at Hecho en Mexico, a well-known restaurant with a piano player and a patio open to the stars above.  It was crowded but we waited.  Food is good there.  And many people were celebrating Valentine's Day.  We walked back to our casita a little while ago and found a vase with white roses left by our hosts.  They are so nice. 

Walking in San Miguel is risky.  Sprained ankles are a daily hazard.  No, I'm kidding, but I find walking on the cobblestones difficult and irritating.  It takes me forever to get places.  To top it off, the sidewalks are narrow and you must dodge people, light poles, dogs.  And cars.  Lots of cars. 

Everyone says "San Miguel is magical."  So much so, that it has almost become a joke.  It must be for the thousands of gringos who live here.  I must confess I find them somewhat annoying.  Most of them cannot speak a lick of Spanish.  And that bugs me.  After five or ten years in a place you would think they learn the language.  Or am I asking too much? 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


A ruby-throated hummingbird drinks nectar from the feeder hanging near me.  The breeze shakes leaves, makes them fly around, some fall over me.  The pink-red bougainvillea sways and the pines make circles against the blue skies.  We've arrived in San Miguel de Allende and are staying in a charming casita next door to Bruce and Mary Carruth's beautiful house.  We are sitting in the loggia listening to the water fall in the small pond next to us.  Today was the welcome lunch for faculty where we were thanked for our participation.  Sun shines warmly.

The last four days were spent in Guanajuato, an hour away from San Miguel.  Lovely historic town with winding streets and narrow alleys, colonial buildings, friendly people.  In the evenings the students come out dressed like medieval troubadors and sing songs while a group of people follows them singing.  We visited the university and the Cafe del Atrio, we had drinks at the rooftop bar of Hotel Boutique 1850, took a cab to Plaza San Fernando.  One night we climbed many steps to dine at El Gallo Pitagorico where, unfortunately, the food made me sick. The view however was magnificent. The next day was spent mostly resting and eating nothing.  Today I am fine however and glad to be well since tomorrow morning I have to teach a workshop at 9 o'clock - bright and early.

Tonight we'll hear a lecture by Cheryl Strayed and then visit our friends - Mike and Sharon - for her birthday.  Many Americans here, some are even friends of ours.  Go figure...More later.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

NOTES ON FAMILY: continuation

           On Saturday mornings Betty and Jon like to go to Kopi CafĂ© on Clark.  They started doing this a number of years ago and now it has become a tradition to go and see everyone and catch up.  Not everyone goes every week.  Sometimes there are ten of us, sometimes four, sometimes just two.  This past summer the four of us (Sonia, Myra, Betty, and me) were there on the same Saturday morning and took a photo I have titled “the four muses.” This photo turned out to be the last one we would take with Sonia.               
            In 2006, fifteen of us traveled to Greece to celebrate Sonia’s 60th birthday.  It was her idea; she organized and planned everything down to the last detail.  We all flew separately and met in Athens, then rode in two vans to Olympia.  My mother and hers came too.  We stopped at a winery along the way where she had organized a tour and luncheon.  In Olympia we checked in the Best Western – a marvelous hotel – and ran around like teenagers looking at each other’s rooms.  In the evening we sat in the garden restaurant and had drinks, ate supper.  The next day we took a tour of the ruins of the place where the Olympics were born and took another photo on the same spot.
           Sonia, Myra, and I met in the theater   We were actresses.  Sort of.  We joined a Greek director who had just arrived in Chicago in the early 1970s and wanted to perform plays for the Greek community.  It must have been 1972 or 73 when I went for an audition after hearing a radio announcement calling for anyone who was interested, no experience necessary.  
          In this way we spent every Saturday together, rehearsing, going out to dinner, drinking late into the night.  We were a big hit with the Greeks and performed our plays – modern Greek comedies mostly – at the Lane Tech auditorium, the Davis Theater, North Park College auditorium, and even went on tour to Northern Indiana in the summers.  This was the beginning. 
          Since then, others have joined our family.  A few new friends – Betty, Claire, Richard, Margie, Sandy – and a few husbands as well.  There have been college graduations, weddings, divorces, illnesses, big events and small, quotidian occasions.  Through them all we have remained close.  And for me who had no real family to speak of in Chicago, they have been my rock, my support, everything, especially Sonia.


Thursday, February 7, 2013


      The Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop On The Greek Isle Of Ithaca
                                                                  August 1 - 7, 2013

Ithaca is a writer’s haven.  It remains unspoiled by the modern world. Even in the height of summer you can find a secluded beach or a rustic corner to contemplate your thoughts. On Ithaca you'll discover the island’s rich culture and the reason why it holds such a special place in the hearts of those who have visited its shores

The new Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop invites participants to their very own private odyssey on the island of Ithaca—a retreat about riveting one's writing through an intimate Homeric journey.

To learn more about the writing retreat, please visit

Retreat Attendees will receive:
Expert instruction on all topics of publishing
A comprehensive critique and market recommendations for your work.
Accommodation at Nostos Hotel with buffet breakfast, two dinners and excursions
Gift hampers on arrival, filled with traditional Greek goods

Our instructors this year are, Katharine Sands, a literary agent with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, and Beatriz Badikian-Gartler, a popular performer in the Chicago area who often lectures on women's issues, art, and literature. In 2000 Badikian was selected as one of the One-Hundred Women Who Make a Difference in Chicago by Today's Woman magazine.

Fee: 1,550 Euro per person, all-inclusive. Enjoy special Excursions, including a guided walk to Homer's School, dinners, cocktails by the sea, village sightseeing, traditional dance and festivals. The clear blue seas and lush green valleys and mountains are home to one of the friendliest communities in Greece and the new Homeric Writing Retreat!

Retreat Director: Jessica Bell

Monday, February 4, 2013

NOTES ON FAMILY: a beginning

            “Families come in many shapes and forms”
has become a cliché these days.
 But for me it has been true for over 40 years. 

            I order a Fuji apple chicken salad and a glass of water.  The cashier says “your suggested donation is…”  I look at her.  “What does that mean?”  She explains that this is a Panera Cares establishment – one of four in the entire country – where you pay what you can afford.  If you don’t have money, you eat for free.  If you can pay more, you help someone else eat.  There is a glass box in front of the cash register where customers drop the money.  My salad is $7.67. I drop a ten dollar bill.  She thanks me and moves on to the next customer.  I sit by the wall and look around at the clientele, admiring the spirit of this place.  One of the managers walks around asking customers how they’re doing, is everything ok?  She seems to know many of them by name and they know her.  Some even hug her.  I am waiting for my friend Claire.  We’re going to see a movie later. 
            The next day, Saturday January 5th, Claire and our group go to Sonia’s parents’ house to celebrate Sonia’s name day.  We take roasted chicken, eggplant parmigiana, desserts, folding chairs, a card table. There are 20 of us including her brother and his family.  We sit around the tables and talk, we eat and drink wine, we toast to Sonia.  A name day is similar to a birthday party but more important in the Greek culture.  This would not merit much attention except for the fact that she is no longer with us.  She left us on September 13.  Yet we come to her parents’ house to celebrate her life.  Why do we do this? Who do we do it for?  Mostly her mother but is it for us too?  For her?  We are an unusual bunch.  Some of us have been close friends for over 40 years; others came later, but we are a family, by choice, and I, for one, depend on them.  
            Sonia and I often met at the Panera on Clybourn Avenue for lunch.  She introduced me to the Fuji apple chicken salad and the black bean soup.  We’d sit for a few hours and talk about everything.  It was one of her favorite places.  Once, in February 2011, we were there with another friend – Maria - when the famous blizzard came.  We met for lunch on a Tuesday and watched the weather change dramatically over a few hours.  The wind took off to astronomical speeds.  Snow started to fall and then to blow everywhere.   We watched pedestrians struggle to walk through the parking lot, to cross the street, their bags flapping wildly.  We laughed, oohed and aahed.  Eventually it was time for us to leave.  It was close to 4 o’clock and the weather forecast predicted the worse to come after four.  Sonia’s car was parked right outside but it took an Herculean effort to walk those few steps and get into the car. 
             In her parents’ living-room there is a picture from 1982.  Sonia, Myra, Betty, and I are sitting on a stone, one of the ruins at Ancient Olympia, Greece.  We wear sundresses and squint to the camera.  Is it June? July?  I found that photo several years ago in my photo box and made copies for the four of us. Now, we all have that photo in our homes.  Mine is in the dining-room, next to the telephone, in a corner.  I see it every day, all the time.  It has become a tradition to take similar photos in other places, at other times. 
            After lunch it is time to cut the basilopita, the St. Basil cake traditionally served on New Year’s Day in Greece.  Tradition has it that a coin is hidden inside and whoever gets the piece with the coin will have good fortune that year.  The cake is not very big but Myra manages to cut 21 pieces out of it – one for the house and 20 for the rest of us.  Amy gets the coin.