Aurelia Lorca began writing as a violinist/lyricist in a punk rock cover band called Unfortunate Mustaches with the legendary Roxi Christmas,...read more but was promptly kicked out upon having laser electrolysis. She then worked part time as a secretary for the Evil Dark Overlord of The Zen Baby Federation, but was eventually let go because she just couldn't wield a staple gun that quickly. She now free lances for free for anyone who offers clown magic.
At the edge of Fantasyland there is a ride with a crazy castle and a happy clock face that I once believed was there just for me.
I was four years old. I was a little doll. Jimmy Carter was president. The hostage crisis had yet to begin. California was in the throes of water rationing and gas rationing. My parents had not yet divorced, the first time. My father had not sunk into the depths of depression my father was an affirmative action officer. My mother was one of the first teachers to pilot multi-cultural curriculum in the elementary school classroom. The Reagan years had yet to decimate the programs that they had built.
Standing between my parents and holding their hands I asked, “This isn’t a scary ride, is it?”
I refused to go on scary rides. The thunder and lightning in the Tiki Room made me cry. Disneyland was there just for me, except for the scary rides.
I was reassured as soon as I noticed the little girl hues of turquoise, silver and gold glitter in the towers of the world as they tilted, and cut grass hippos, elephants and giraffes that loomed over us. Like a drunken calliope, the music cranked out a wordless tune, then revved into a heavy candied melody punctuated with oompas of bagpipes and tubas and tickling tinkles of xylophones.
A pretty lady, blonde and pert in navy and white nautical stripes, shorts, and a straw hat with a cherry ribbon guided us into our boat. I felt the water, pale and turquoise, loose and floaty under us. The grass hippo stood above me, I noticed that though he menaced in his enormity, he had a grass butterfly carved above his ear.
I squeezed my parents hands excitedly, and decided that I was a princess on a cruise, as we disappeared into the cavernous mouth of the ride, the blues of water disappearing into black empty space. The music played a seven beat happy melody, a comfort, but I was still nervous.
“Are you sure this isn’t a scary ride” I asked my mother, clasping my hanky tightly to my mouth and squeezing my right hand into hers .
Before she could answer, we floated into a giant room ablaze in rosy light and dolls in pink and gold costumes singing, “ It’s a world of hope, a world of fears, it’s a world of laughter and a world of tears,” with can-can kicks, castanets and finger cymbals.
I could not taking my eyes off the smiling dolls. My mother nodded, captivated too.
The boat bobbed us to smiling white seals, polar bears, and happy brown Eskimo children in fluffy sparkling white hoods, singing, “There’s so much that we share, and it’s time we’re aware, it’s a small world after all.”
The Eskimos waved us goodbye with a parting “and a smile means friendship to everyone,” sending us off to fjords and Scandinavia with little blond dolls in rickrack blue and white costumes dancing in a circle. We floated along to London Bridge, ferris wheels, and little girls in Madeline hats hanging from balloons.
Little French girls danced the cancan, oui oui, “c’est une petite monde...” their gartered knees lifted in pretty little swings. Irish children sang with cows, Dutch children danced with tulips and wooden shoes, Venetian gondoliers rowed while dancing, black haired Spanish ladies danced flamenco with roses in their mouths, the shadow of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza behind them.
I started to sing along with the music, “though mountains divide,” as we sailed beneath little Russian Cossack boys dancing knee kicks singing Gopak! Gopak!.The music slowed and shimmered like raining coins, happy children on magic carpets flew above our heads, singing “there is just one moon, and one golden sun.” A snake charmer tuned an exotic Arabic “it’s a small world” for veiled dancers, their heads and hips mechanically undulating. Thai golden helmeted dancers, moved their bodies but not their heads as they danced. We sailed slowly through the Middle East to the Far East, a little boy in a straw hat rode an ox.Child geishas and little boys in kimonos bowed to us as we passed sequined pandas.
Then Cleopatra herself, on a sequined chaise lounge, greeted us with a languid smile and a fluttering of her snapping eyelashes into a room of rapid drums tapping da da DA da DA dadaaaaa, where dolls in African turbans and wrapped dresses twisted and turned on platforms, and more dolls drummed in straw masks, the beat happy and singsong. The rhythm grew faster as the rooms melted one into the next. Mexican dolls farming corn and salsa-danced to “it’s a small world after all” with a giant bronze Mayan sun burning in the background. Crimson and harvest melted into South Pacific turquoise and green and the sound of rain. Glittery alligators and purple birds cuckooed “it’s a small world after all.” King Kamehaha, his coat a rippling of carnation flowers, yellow and orange like the sun, rowed to “though the oceans are wide,” while hula dancers with long hair and flowers, winked and shook grass skirts and tasseled “a smile means friendship to ev’ryone.”
We eddied to the left, into a colossal ballroom, with all the dolls of the world in white and gold, uniting, every doll that we saw, reminding us “It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears, It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears; There’s so much that we share, that it’s time we’re aware.”
My heart tingled, yes it was a small world, of shining costumes and singing and dancing!
“I love this, they’re all in white! Just like I said, every culture has a chicken soup,” my mother said, as she always has said, whenever we go on that ride.
Our cruise exited, giant multicolored placards bid us goodbye in languages from around the world, the placard in the middle with cartoons of children acknowledged “sponsored by Bank ofAmerica.” A woman’s voice instructed us in English, then in different languages to keep our hands and fingers inside the boat as we drifted outside to the grass animal sculptures.
I wanted a doll like the dolls I saw on the ride, but when we went to the store next to It’s a Small World, I could not find anything other than stuffed Dumbos and a record with cartoon children on the pink cover. It did not make sense. Every other ride had a toy or a doll for sale, but not It’s A Small World.
Nonetheless, I became obsessed with dolls from around the world. My first doll was dressed in costume from Normandy, white pouf cap on her head, red and yellow lace trimmed dress. I collected more dolls from Ireland, Sweden, Hawaii, the Philippines, Korea, Mexico. Each of the dolls had stories, stories from around the world, stories that I heard, retold and became part of through the poets and writers I have studied and loved.
A friend of my mother’s gave me my Spanish doll right around the time my parents divorced. She is the only doll I named, and she is my favorite. She wears a flouncy red carnation behind her ear, a costume of red velvet top, fringed shawl, and black lace tiered dancing skirt.
As I grew older, my dolls stayed on my pink bedroom shelf, dusty but never forgotten. My Spanish doll is the only doll of my childhood that I took with me when I moved to San Francisco to become a writer – impulse of last minute packing, what else could I bring with me? I wanted to leave Monterey, I wanted to write, yet what, I did not know, I just know that I wanted escape, to live as a writer. It is this it is this doll that helped me remember myself, what I brought with me, and what I had left behind.
Andalusia. Carnation. Hybrid. Flower. See that Onyx along the curve of her petals? Shares a Coast With. Is a Cross-Mix of. Castillian. Jew. Gypsy. Moor.
I began to wonder – Was Lorca killed because he was a homosexual? Because he opposed fascism? Or because while other Spanish modernists distinguished Spanish literature as separate from European ideas and structures, he distinguished Andalusia as separate from Madrid, holding up poems from the deep song next to those from the Persian poet Hafiz and revealing the same poem.
Scratch a Spaniard find a Jew; scratch a Spaniard find a Gypsy; there are Moors along the coast.
I began to wonder, why my grandfather when he visited Spain during the Franco era was held at customs and interrogated under the suspicion of being Moroccan, of being Moor? My grandfather laughed; he had an American passport. Franco could go to hell. I began to wonder if this is why I, in the post-modern interrogation of identity, am often confused for Persian, Afghani, Indian, Gypsy, Jew?
I remembered, Clare, in Nell Larsen’s novel about passing passed as a Spaniard.
Yet, even now, in the twenty-first century my family is still tight-lipped.
“Leave it alone,” they say.
I ask my father what was the family name of your grandmother, the one who was six feet tall with the red-brown eyes and black kinky hair like mine who wore rings on each finger like weapons, and claimed just a little too much she was Castillianos – the Andalusian idiom for ‘not a gypsy?’ My father says she never could remember. A Spaniard who couldn't remember her mother's family name. Yes, even in America, these are the Wounds That Heal But Never Close.
Langston Hughes is one of the poets who translated Lorca’s In Search of Duende into English.
Hughes breaks with the Talented Tenth in writing poems of Blues.
Lorca breaks with the 27 Generation in writing of the Deep Song.
The Deep Song and The Blues share no coincidental echo but the persistence of memory.
Back to earlier in the Twentieth Century, before the Republic. The influx of immigrants to California, particularly from Andalusia, who were tricked into working in Hawaii on the sugar plantations, who in their reasons for leaving Spain, then the dead empire, reveal the subaltern of Spanish identity, our true identity, an identity engrained in caste and "passing". Not every spaniard in America was a Conquistador or a Padre. These were a people who were oppressed on multi-layers; socially, educationally, ethnically – not able to "pass" as well as others. yet, many believed even the Great-Depression in America was easier than living in Spain, before, during, and especially after the Guerra Civil, as Spain has culturally been in a continuous civil war.
Both of my grandparent’s families emigrated via the sugarcanes of Hawaii. The anarchists, ironically, legally through indentured servitude, then quasi-legally thru the Canadian border. The gamblers, not so legally. All with small children. This is my heritage.
Cannery Row, in Monterey, California, became for my family a Never Never Land where forgetting was a way to remember. Where identity was sacrificed for the American Dream of the Silver Harvest, replacing it with hyper-consumerism, complacency, angst, depression, ambition. Yet, our duende is always with us. No matter how hard we aspire to achieve bigger, faster, more, no matter how hard we try to forget how small a world it is after all.