Lucia Berlin called many different places home during her lifetime. The following is a list she made in the late eighties detailing the pitfalls of some of them.
Excerpted from Welcome Home: A Memoir with Selected Photographs and Letters, by Lucia Berlin, 2018.
Juneau, Alaska—Avalanche the day I was born, wiped out a third of town.
Deer Lodge, Montana—No heat, just the oven. Earthquake.
Helena, Montana—Splinters in the cellar door. Blizzards.
Mullan, Idaho—River right outside, too dangerous to play. Mill right by. Stay inside. Flood.
Sunshine Mine, Idaho—Paper-thin walls. Mama crying crying. Woodstove smoked. Avalanches.
El Paso, Texas—Cockroaches, dark hall, three mean drunks. Drought. Flood.
Patagonia, Arizona—Bats got inside, got scared, batted you in the face. Grasshopper plague.
Santiago, Chile—Maids, day and night. Earthquakes. Two floods.
Rose Street, Albuquerque, New Mexico—Dust storms. Old man died in the apple orchard.
Lead Street, Albuquerque, New Mexico—House Edward Abbey had lived in. Only one burner worked. Filthy.
Mesa Street by the airport, Albuquerque, New Mexico—Airplanes.
Corrales Road, Alameda, New Mexico—No running water, no electricity, no bathroom. Two kids in diapers.
Santa Fe, New Mexico—Acequia Madre ditch. Two kids.
Thirteenth Street, New York City—Five flights up. Two kids, none walking. Blizzard, all streets closed, miracle. Rothko.
Greenwich Street, New York City—No heat after five on weekends. Kids in earmuffs and mittens to go to sleep. I wore gloves to type. Over a ham factory—my W. H. Hudson still smells like ham twenty-five years later.
Acapulco, Mexico—Honeymoon. Three weeks of rain. Flood, dysentery, Mark electrocuted, more flood.
Edith Street, Albuquerque, New Mexico—Hard water, floor caved in, well went dry. All the neighboring ducks came to our swimming pool.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico—Too many maids, dealers. Fear.
Oaxaca, Mexico—Herd of goats next door. Mildew. Struck by lightning on Monte Albán.
Yelapa, Mexico—Sharks, scorpions, coconut grove—THUD THUD—three kids. Hurricane.
Corrales, New Mexico—Mansion. Three bathrooms. Garbage disposal broke, washer broke, dishwasher broke. Zinnias wouldn’t grow. Roses wouldn’t grow.
White House, Corrales, New Mexico—Pump broke, well went dry, wiring blew, chickens died, rabbits died, termites, goat broke leg. Shot her. Rains, cellar flooded, bannister caved in, roof fell in. New chickens died.
Princeton Street, Albuquerque, New Mexico—Roof fell in. Evicted.
Griegos Road, Albuquerque, New Mexico—I burned it down.
Chiharu Shiota: ’Trace Of Memory’
Russell Street, Berkeley, California—Eight people, two bedrooms. Toilet overflowed. Sewer line broke. Evicted.
Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, California—Broken windows. Police all night.
Richmond Street, Oakland, California—Mosquitoes. Police. Fire next door. Evicted.
Alcatraz Avenue, Oakland, California—Crazy landlady. Sirens. Evicted.
Bateman Street, Berkeley, California—Perfect house, garden. Rains, roof fell in.
Sixty-Fifth Street, Oakland, California—Jack in the Box until two A.M.
Woodland, California—Heat wave, candles melted, air conditioner broke. R. too paranoid to open windows until he threw phone thru window when I looked at a man on a horse.
Regent Street, Oakland, California—Dark. No light until night, when the neighbor’s floodlight lights my room, like Soledad. I know it’s morning when it’s dark again.
Alcatraz Avenue, Oakland, California—No catastrophe. So far.
Lucia Berlin (1936–2004) worked brilliantly but sporadically throughout the sixties, seventies, and eighties. Her stories are inspired by her early childhood in various Western mining towns; her glamorous teenage years in Santiago, Chile; three failed marriages; a lifelong problem with alcoholism; her years spent in Berkeley, New Mexico, and Mexico City; and the various jobs she held to support her writing and her four sons. Sober and writing steadily by the nineties, she took a visiting-writer post at the University of Colorado Boulder in 1994 and was soon promoted to associate professor. Her books include Welcome Home, Evening in Paradise, and A Manual for Cleaning Women, which was named one of theNew York Times Book Review’s ten best books of 2015. In 2001, in failing health, she moved to Southern California to be near her sons. She died in 2004 in Marina del Rey.
Art by Chiharu Shiota — born in Osaka, Japan (1972), lives and works in Berlin.
Confronting fundamental human concerns such as life, death and relationships, Shiota explores human existence throughout various dimensions by creating an existence in the absence either in her large-scale thread installations that include a variety of common objects and external memorabilia or through her drawings, sculptures, photography and videos.
9 Comments Add yours
That photograph is incredible. What is the story behind it?
Wow. Her brevity just serves to make those entries all the more dramatic. Makes me see my own recent move in a different (softer) light. Hope yours went smoothly, too, Sigrun.
I really like her way of saying so much almost without words!
Regarding moving … I have decided: NEVER AGAIN — .
I hear that. I sincerely wish I could say the same, but such is not the case.
Sigrun, thank you for introducing me to Berlin, and to Shiota. I’m struck by the haiku-like way she contains so much meaning in so few words, and the orderly format, which I assume is, or might be linear, from the beginning. It brought back memories of my own fifth floor walk-ups in NYC, and of stepping over a passed-out man to get in the front door when I lived in a loft on the Bowery. It makes me want to try my hand at a list like this, though I wouldn’t confine it to negative events. Inspiring! Shiota’s work goes so well with the excerpt. I’ll check out Berlin’s books, especially this one. I hope your own move is going OK and I trust you’ll have a pleasant holiday…and plenty of creativity in 2019!
Thank you, Lynn!
I wrote a review of an exhibition by Shiota a year ago (https://morgenbladet.no/kultur/2017/11/nettverk-av-mening) She is the kind of artist who stays with you after first encountering her world.
I really enjoyed your visual & linguistic explorations in «meandering the edges». As I see it, your post has a structure similar to Berlin’s – you give us small fragments containing whole worlds. The result is not just very beautiful – it opens up vast spaces for new thoughts and feelings; liminal places for getting lost in new sensations.
Looking very much forward to follow your meanderings into the new year …
This is priceless, Sigrun, thank YOU. “Small fragments containing whole worlds” is a phrase i will think about. A quality that interests me very much is scale – the minute and the vast. I am drawn to opposing concepts like that, and if I am folding them together, even if it’s not quite conscious, that’s great. I have always liked art that plays with scale. And of course, opening up spaces for people to lose themselves in sensation is something I (and I suppose most any artist) am thrilled to do. So thank you for that! Clicking on the review link, of course I can’t read the review but the boat piece is really interesting. The thread color is a major part of the work – imagine how different it would look with blue thread, white thread, black, etc.
I’m looking forward to future offerings of yours too!