Perhaps you’ve heard there are only two stories: 1) someone goes on a journey, or 2) a stranger comes to town. So, there’s really only one story, because “a stranger comes to town” is the flip side of “someone goes on a journey.” As a traveler and writer, I appreciate both. When I can’t go on a journey, I love the journey to come to me.
Denver’s Lighthouse LitFest is a two-week exploration of the craft, business, and camaraderie of the writer’s life.
That’s what it is to have Denver’s Lighthouse LitFest “come to town” each year, a two-week exploration of the craft, business, and camaraderie of the writer’s life. That’s what it was to have my friend Elizabeth drive from San Diego to Denver to join me for this June’s LitFest. She’d given me a party and a place to stay during my recent book tour, and I was eager to return the favor, and to share this amazing event with another writer.
For non-professional dancers, dancing is typically an occasional social activity, but for me it is the axis on which my whole social life turns. When I’m simply listening to music, I prefer alternative and acoustic rock, but when I dance, it’s all about swing and blues. Last weekend, I danced into another era, at a Denver event called Lindy Diversion. Swing dancers took classes all day, and danced to a live band or DJ all night — until 4:00 a.m. if they could stay awake. For those of us who dance the Lindy hop, obsession “don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”
Dance By Night from Cara Lopez Lee on Vimeo.
When I dance, it’s all about swing and blues.
I grew up with my grandmother, and she and I used to enjoy watching old movies together, especially the musicals of the 30s, 40s, and 50s: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly and anybody. Whenever the music was swing, I wanted to jump up and jitterbug, though I had no idea how. I cut my teeth on big band music by the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Glen Miller. My tastes later expanded to the bad-ass swing, jump-blues, and rhythm-and-blues of artists like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Ray Charles. My grandmother used to sing the songs of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday while doing housework. So, for me, the music of that era hits the same emotional note as the smell of Grand-mom’s homemade apple pie. It’s the soundtrack of my childhood, though it was recorded before my time.
Last week, I shared with you the first half of my two-part short film: Homes Within, Communities Without, sponsored by PlatteForum and Lighthouse Writers Workshop. If you haven’t seen part one, I hope you’ll give it a look, because I believe that somewhere between these two digital stories a third, unspoken story lies. In Audrey Haynes’ story, she shared how living on the streets has changed her ideas about community. For Audrey, community goes wherever she goes. For me, community begins at home. But it wasn’t always that way, and my story doesn’t end there.
You’ll find my video below. After you watch, I hope you’ll share your thoughts. What is the connection between home and community? What separates us all, and what connects us? What is community to you?
Homes Within, Communities Without: Cara from Cara Lopez Lee on Vimeo.
In the economic meltdown, the specter of homelessness looms over many people who once felt secure. So, when PlatteForum and Lighthouse Writers Workshop gave me the opportunity to create a short film exhibit on the theme of community, I wanted to relate that topic to homelessness. We often hear that Americans have lost their sense of community. I wondered, “Have I?” We often hear that homeless people have “fallen through the cracks.” I wondered, “How do they hold onto community?” Homes Within, Communities Without is a pair of digital stories in which a young homeless woman and I each explore our experience of community. Audrey Haynes lives just two miles from me, yet worlds apart. Still, we share one important desire: to connect.
You’ll find Audrey’s brief video below. Next week, I’ll share mine. I hope you’ll watch both, and that they’ll prompt you to share your own thoughts. What connects you to community?
Homes Within, Communities Without: Audrey from Cara Lopez Lee on Vimeo.
This month, every morning when I wake to the pounding, clattering, and growling of machinery and men building the new house two doors down, I’ll stare at my spinning ceiling fan and ask myself, “What is my community?” July 1st, was the first day of my writing residency for the Biennial of the Americas, with PlatteForum and the Lighthouse Writers Workshop. My project is called “Homes Within, Communities Without.” I’m creating two digital video stories: one in which I explore how I experience community, and another in which a young, recently homeless woman explores how she experiences community.