Performance and dance buddies

Alana and I were performance and dance buddies.

We shared a YBCA membership for a while, went to the Intersection for the Arts regularly for a bit, and had season tickets for the Berkeley rep. We’d see music performances too (Yo Majesty stands out as one that I never would have seen if Alana didn’t suggest it, but it was awesome!), but we were really into seeing theater and dance together. We especially shared a love and amazement of what the human body could do. Aerial acts, yes. Keith Hennessy, yes. Alvin Ailey dance company, definitely. Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company, of course. Marcus Bamuthi Joseph, we are there. Inversions, unusual gender combinations, the use of body weight, stillness amidst rhythm – perfection. We’d send breakdancing videos to each other. She’d send me an awesome Bollywood music video clip and I’d send her a clip from the Pina movie. She accompanied me to an absolutely incredible butoh performance at the Asian Art Museum. (Butoh is a type of Japanese dance/theater that is unlike any other type of dance I’ve ever seen and usually involves skinny people in white body paint doing things that many people may not recognize as dance.) We saw another incredible butoh performance later, where a child-sized person in rags crawled along the balcony in front of us. It’s very hard to explain, but it was so surreal and we loved it. And then, as happens with performances, we also saw a terrible version that called itself butoh involving a fat powdered white man with a red stripe painted down his hairy belly. I think we stared at him for about 2 minutes before deciding to not subject ourselves to that. It was a definite “do you remember when…” event.

I also had taken dance from a young age, but I’m not a serious dancer—I just enjoy it. I’d take classes at community colleges to keep in practice but not spend a fortune. However, I had been eyeing classes at Dance Mission and ODC Dance Commons. Alana, brave and fearless soul that she was, decided she’d go with me. She wasn’t a natural at learning choreography, but she kept with it. (After I moved, she even took a beginning modern dance class that I had taken a couple of semesters before and found too basic so she could better learn the terminology.) We rolled across the floor in one modern dance class, trying to be suave and not crack up, and tried to be extra-cute in a Bollywood class. We were works in progress. It was so wonderful to see her determination to learn something new and her joy when she got the steps down.

I wish I had even more dance and performance memories with Alana, but I cherish the ones I am lucky enough to have.

Posted by Nalani

Alana’s second stomach for sweets

Everyone who knows Alana knows that Alana loved ice cream and sweets. She once told me that she had a second stomach for sweets. When she lived in Noe Valley, one favorite casual spot of ours was Noeteca. At the end of the meal, you could count on us to get a coconut snowball. It was so good!!!

During the day, if it wasn’t a day we were having brunch, we’d go to Bi-rite. We’d both always taste a few flavors before deciding. When Alana liked a flavor, you’d see and hear one or more of the following: the happy little shoulder dance, “mmmmm,” with that look of appreciation in her eyes and a little smile. When she didn’t like a flavor: a quick shake of the head, an expressive frown, and some phrase like “I’m not sold” or “meh.” Then we’d go to Dolores Park and watch the pups. Alana always noticed that ones that were so busy! (Since I have always had dogs and it is part of my contract with them, I would proclaim that a completely fine-looking dog was ugly. Alana would look too and then negate my comment with a kind “no.”)

I moved away several years ago, but I tried to come back at least every six months or so, especially after Alana’s diagnosis. When she couldn’t swallow solid food a couple of years ago, during one of my visits I made her a soup to help nourish her—but of course I also made her a chocolate mousse and lemon pudding for her second stomach. She was so upset and scared, but she was also so strong, so brave, and so full of the desire to live and love. During that visit (and every visit), Mac was so careful to make sure she had everything she needed—a mask and hand sanitizer to protect herself from germs, the loving kiss from Mac to keep Alana safe until our return.

I last saw Alana in the middle of August this year. Her mobility had declined, but she was still so resilient. We drove to the mall in Emeryville, since she needed new sunglasses and makeup. As we came out of the parking garage, I spotted a Dippin’ Dots machine, and exclaimed about it. (My boyfriend loves his Dippin’ Dots!) It turned out Alana had never had Dippin’ Dots. We tried the cookies and cream flavor, which tasted strangely very similar to me as the only other flavor I’ve tried (banana split). She wasn’t a huge fan and we threw it out before finishing it. Yet, there was something that appealed to her. We were texting a month or so later and she said she needed to go back to the mall because she didn’t like the sunglasses she got, and she was thinking she needed to try it again—perhaps another flavor to see if the flavors really did all taste pretty much the same.

Alana’s text: Operation: Dipping Dots
My reply: I’m now picturing you ninja-style approaching the machine, most likely from the sky.
Alana’s response: Hell yes.

Posted by Nalani

Muffy Invents the Selfie!

Long before there were cell phone selfies, there was a need for a shot for yourself alone or you and a loved one. You couldn’t always find a cooperative passer-by or one who looked like they would not steal your camera.

Muffy to the rescue. Here she applies two ancient technologies — the camera and the mirror — to produce the world’s first selfie. It’s her and her mom.

Posted by Bob Devich

Uncle Johnny

Johnny came to live with us as a young adult, soon after Alana was born. There was a strong attachment from the very start. “Uncles” was her name for him. Although he never actually punished her, Alana would always beg us “Don’t tell Uncles” when she did something wrong.

Soon after she was walking, Johnny would take her everywhere with him, and we realized she acted as a “chick magnet” for him. “She’s so cute!”, “Where is her mother?”, etc., they would say, and Uncles had a new girlfriend.

It must have been her third Christmas, Johnny gave her a big rocking horse, the kind with springs on all four legs attaching it to a frame. She went wild on this horse, bouncing up and down, until we saw that her mouth was bleeding where it was crashing into the back of the horse’s head.

Over the years, they became less connected as Johnny married and left San Jose to raise his own family, eventually falling victim to cancer. But in this 2005 picture, you can see how the affection between Uncle and Niece persisted.

Posted by Bob Devich

A Princess … and a Prince

My first memory of Brett is of a 7- or 8-year old boy with a round face and a ready smile. At that time, the smile said everything you needed to know about him. A warm, happy person who shared his happiness.

50 years later, he has matured, but has he changed?

He is always there when help is needed. A mentor to many, a friend to all. Whenever I needed help on a project at home, Brett was there. When New Orleans needed help after Katrina, Brett was there. No, he has not changed.

From the moment they met, Brett and Alana were a great team. Alana and Uncle.

Is there one word to describe Brett? He is a Prince of a man.

Here they are — great friends, a Princess and a Prince.

Posted by Bob Devich

A few favorite photos

That smile! Also, I love this one of Elijah doing one of his many not-acting-right signature moves of just plopping himself down on your feet whenever you stopped moving for 2 seconds. Best Cat Ever.

Posted by J Aguilar

Alana, Martha and Zoe – the Austen Years

I met Alana (and Martha) through Zoe. Alana and I built our friendship first via email (the Daily Poll ya know) and later through Instant Messenger programs. Zoe gave me this photo so I would know what Alana and Martha looked like…also because they would have these AWESOME New Years Eve gatherings that I loved hearing about, and I think this photo was taken during one of them.

Posted by Tantris Hernandez

A haiku to Lisa Jervis

Always there Lisa Jervis, a haiku by bobdevich

Who was there, from the beginning to the end? Lisa Jervis.

Who was there to bring stuff? Lisa Jervis.

Who was there to move furniture? Lisa Jervis.

Who was there to brighten Muffy’s day? Lisa Jervis.

Who was always there to do a million things, big and small? Lisa Jervis.

Thanks for being Lisa Jervis!

[Muffy said there are rules about haiku, but bobdevich is all about breaking rules.]

Posted by Bob Devich