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Friday, November 11, 2016

MY FOOT/MY EGO............

MY FOOT/MY EGO




  1. I just came from MONTANOS SHOE STORE. For a month I have been hobbling unable to step down on my right foot. Finally I called and my brother Anthony said, "Come on down to the store." And within a half hour , he had diagnosed the issue, did the correct shoe treatment and I walked out of there "healed". My little bro helped me walk again. Once someone said to me in admiration, "You are Linda Montano?" when I told them my name!!!! I puffed up and was about to tell them about my 40983736 performances, so egoed and proud I felt. And then they said, "You are from MONTANO'S SHOE STORE??" I laughed so hard. I am proud to be associated with this healing center where THE ART OF LOVING SERVICE is practiced by all.

LINDA IN SWEDEN WITH IMAGE OF MARY IN THE TREE...WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




 
THE STORY THE VIRGIN MARY APPARITION: SWEDEN






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It had a been a struggle for months:
1. Translating the plane ticket language from European time/info to NY time and info.
2. Quieting thoughts of flying and then returning to NY on Sept 11, the memorial day of the Twin Towers Fall.
3. Wondering what it would be like to perform not only outside for 5 days but also from a moving train for two of those  days.
4. Hoping I had enough left-over chops to reach/communicate to a mixed audience of non English speaking children and elders in their outside plaza.
5. Wishing my costume were flashier so that I could successfully make myself performatively visible and still be a dignified 74  year old elder!
Those were just a few of my concerns.


But one of my more pre-journey pressing 3 AM worry-concerns, the one about getting from the airport to the hotel using THEIR MONEY/exchange, always an issue for me in foreign lands, must have been communicated subliminally to the gracious European Curator-host, because at the last minute he sent me a text saying, "I'll meet you at the airport." And another boon-statement, ..."and we are going to give you a private room at the hotel." This news was almost equivalent to my winning an appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show, accompanied by Bob Dylan. And of course I would be doppleganging Bob...that is,  with me, disguised as Bob since we  Do look alike!  That's how happy I felt for a few hours!


It is curious that sharing a bathroom and bedroom had never been an issue previously, but now, a new awareness of age-related impermanence with the resulting body odors absconded with my once always there courage which, when I was a mere youth, allowed me to defecate on demand, burp with a smile, pass gas with confidence and act as a deserving Natural Homo-Erectus-evolved animal at all times. But now my 7 score cells were showing/smelling of slowly decaying wear and tare; something that a Dollar Store room deodorant spray could hardly handle or hide. But not to worry, I was told that I would live alone. Natural and solo. Yayyyy.


Besides the worry, the real reason for my visit was to participate in an International Performance Art festival with 20-somethings/millennials who I "thought"  didn't speak my art-language which is:  the language of Arte Povera; the language of LESS IS MORE; the language that says that the body is the ONLY material for art and action; the language that declares that every action is sacred and healing. I'm not saying that their performances did not include my prejudices, I'm just saying, these are my game changing opinions about what performance art IS & ISNT. But despite my first judgment that we even had aesthetic differences I discovered that we were communally united by the fact that we were housed in a more than 5 star feng shui hotel which included a see-through swimming pool, cantilevering over the street, 8 floors in the air. We were the rowdy, sloppy, loud, disheveled, rebellious artists, often  dripping with post-performance detritus ...but for a week, we rested and lived in the lap of beauty and luxury. This respectful treatment softened my mental hijacking and helped me defer my pre-performance focus from what about me, me, me and my always incessant internal blah, blah, blah which  precedes my performing in public and allowed me to seal the "intention" to one of doing art, not for applause, but for healing and service to all, the intention I religiously cull most of the time.  And as a friend said, before I left the US, "Have a good pilgrimage," a kind, send-off wish that became etched in my memory bank of words to live by, affirmations to remember, things to always do. That is, enjoy the pilgrimage (divineness) of these very brief days in this beautiful country you are visiting on this rotating/ever moving  earth-ball, no matter what! Performing or doing dishes on a blustery cold morning in the Northeast are both pilgrimage worthy activities I would imagine, no? His words shifted everything, even before I left the US because I decided to go there to be  blessed, not to wow them with my 74 year old brilliance that age had afforded me . Not to impress anyone with the wisdom I had accrued from my 40 year performance career/chicken shenanigans, as if I could!!!


After a luxurious bath in the healing, non lead-laced waters in this eco-friendly, non-Monsantoed, unfracked fairytale safe zone, I devoted my mind and time to hearing and reading spiritual teachings thanks to a gratis WIFI connection on my new repurposed/gifted from my brother's IPhone. For hours I studied at the school of Google:
1. How to be really still.
2. Why be silent?
3. What is suffering and why do we suffer?
4. What is my method to cessate my own suffering?
5. What do I need to do before I die, now that I have stopped making videos?
6. What is my soul's work?


Because of these jet-lagged hours of retreat and study, I birthed a new courage and surprised even myself when I "performed" saying a Catholic Rosary publically while fingering the beads/moving  my lips in prayer on the train, during our public  "train performance", which afforded us a chance to improvise, interrupt, radically alter our own minds and the minds of the sleepy/sedate/non-confrontive early AM passengers who were nudged out of morning sleepiness to include our wonderfulness, our creative antics/actions, our strangeness, our trespassing into their "What is this nonsense?" minds. And I thank the wee young one's for inspiring me to break my pattern of , "I only do  948 hour performances, inside,  on stage, for audiences of 390  thousand. Not on moving trains!!!!"


Obviously eating well at the 40 itemed breakfast smorgasboard, taking approximately 45 baths a day, learning from 10 other committed and passionate performance artists, listening to profound internet teachings and being included in this lively art-tribe lovingly cared for by curators from the best possible scenario of respect, mystically massaged into me an atmosphere of focused retreat, readying me for miracles the most dramatic being an almost blinding tree apparition of the Virgin Mary outside of the Catholic church, one mile from the festival. I saw her, really I did, because the day before I left, I was pulled by I don't know what? Was it the smell of the Canadian artist's expressed Mother's Milk which I dreamt I drank or really did drink after her public 4 month old infant inspired performance which actually included said liquid? Did that make me find Mother Mary in the tree? A mother-to-mother happening? I wasn't going back to the church expecting anything like this, but to visit the wooden statue of Mary with the gargantuan hands, the Mary with the big blond hair (a Nordic meme?), the Mary statue inside the church, the Mary holding an oversized light haired, big footed Infant Jesus in her muscular, carved wood arms.


But at the entrance to the church I was stopped by Her. Outside, in the freedom of air and trees, she was ecologically/ naturally present and her light stopped me cold because there, right there next to the front door to the church, she called and said, " You don't have to go inside, I'm right here, beaming light, wearing
a blue cloak, white dress and I'm flashing you with a Transfiguredesque light show! Stop, look, listen. AND I'm NOT A PERFORMANCE, I'm REALLY me! "


Luckily I had been using my brother's gifted IPhone for a month and as a result was able to take a photo, preserve the miracle and like all folks who snap, snap, snap and refuse to see, I fell into the trap of documenting and refusing to experience. As a result, I captured the prayer instead of praying but because I did have  proof of the miracle, that did allow me to get a holy imprimatur and ok from Orthodox-minded, pious Catholics and non Catholics back home who had had similar Visitations. And they all said, "Yes, that looks like Mary!" By then, everything seemed non-ordinary and liminally supported by Delta Brain waves  stirred by my new artist-friends' luminous performances and our mutual excursions into creative hive-mind.


A day later I flew out of fairy land, knowing the dream had just begun.


Linda Mary Montano, 2016

THE PERFORMANCE OF MONTANO'S SHOE STORE WITH GPA PHOTO



THE PERFORMANCE OF MONTANO'S SHOE STORE




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THE PERFORMANCE OF MONTANO'S SHOE STORE: LINDA MARY MONTANO 2000/2016


Years and years ago my Compobosso-Guardielfiera Italy-born grandfather immigrated to NY State via Ellis Island to repair and eventually sell shoes. I remember him well: a large, silent, gently commanding and charismatic presence who visited our home a block away from his in Saugerties NY. Every Sunday he came and I performed the ritual of getting his approval as he sat in the side room with me while I stumbled through that week's piano lesson. It ritualistically ended when I would turn around, face him and try to gauge how much he liked my "concert." Getting Grandpa Montano's blessing was a good thing and his response was never over effusive, patronizing or boundary breaking....just kind attention with the promise of a continuation of his weekly listening and caring presence. The 50 cents he always gave me and his mantra that he always said, " Could do better," something he said a lot about a lot, were incidental to his being there and his support but admittedly important components to the whole experience which was a fine introduction to my learning  the art of performing, a genre and vocation that I continue even now, 50 years later. Everything was there: good attention/focus/audience/continuity/challenge/support/culture/feelings and the irony of the same response repeated every time.  And MONEY! put them all together and you've got excellent training for a performance art career. Thanks Grandpa.


But back to the shoe store. Grandpa was nine when his mother died and he and his father lived with his aunt. He was the only surviving child of five siblings, had three years schooling and started shoemaking when he was 9, a practice that he continued for 10  years in Guardielfiera-Compobosso. School was in the morning and work in the afternoon. The pay was food.


When he came to America at 19 ( the Italians came after the Irish, just something sociological to think about) he lived with distant relatives in Hudson NY and worked there to repay his fare which they had shipped to him so that he could come here. He stayed in Hudson three years repairing and selling shoes, paid off his debt, then tried to find a place in Coxsackie  and couldn't so he moved to Saugerties NY ( it says Friendly/Historic Saugerties on the sign as you enter the village) which is on the west side of the Hudson River. There he opened Montano's Shoe Store, made enough money for Maria Chioco's fare and sent for his wife to be who also came via Ellis Island and was as spiritual, silently dignified, stalwart and devoted as her husband to be. Grandma and Grandpa raised their family here, not in Glasco, the village 15 minutes south where all of the other Italians lived, but here, in Saugerties, where the "business" is/was. Another sociological fine point.


Montano's Shoe Store continues, some 94 years later, changing only locations( moving one store north)  but never the "look" or intention to serve or the outstanding quality of their products.  Oh, yes, there is one change: absent from the store is the wood-paneled five foot high machine which we visited daily as kids when we went to see my Dad. We would stick our feet inside the two slots so that we could see our foot bones, never realizing the foolishness of frequent x-rays (nobody did in the 50's). It disappeared from the store in the 60's. Question: what are we inadvertently doing today that will be verboten tomorrow?


My dad and uncle ran Montano's with their father along with my other uncle who worked in the bank and would come and help out at emergency full-force times. These days had designated code names , for example: back to school; Christmas; rush; no tax week; new spring line. We all knew this secret language and were alert to what it meant: Montanos rushed through lunch or didn't eat at all; Montanos focused fiercely and their eyes went from feet to shoe box exclusively; and everyone was on call, children included, especially my mother who actually seemed happy to be summoned from housewifery to another kind of interaction, one more adultly public. Even though Mom was an accomplished painter and volunteered for several committees in town, she was absolutely loyal to Montano's Shoe Store. Her dyed shoes for weddings were legendary and demanded accuracy and an artists sensibility, one she had in overabundance.


My fascination has never waivered for the actions which the Shoe Store people perform. It's the place where everyone who enters is bowed to, in a way.  Customers sit and their feet are touched, felt...toes are gauged as to their position in the shoe about to be sold (the very famous Montano trademark)  and the art of shoe fitting is a reliable and professional rite of passage performed on everyone who comes through the door.  Since visiting India and witnessing the foot touching rituals of respect performed there, I am again left with comparisons that I would like to peruse, but this is not the place for this anthropological dialogue.


The shoe store is the place where a whole lot of kneeling and a whole lot of healing happens. For isn't the foot one of the most important places in the body?  If the foot isn't comfortable and well-soled, the body cant maneuver through life smoothly. We need support to defy the pull of gravity and walk well in this mysterious and ever-moving-turning planet earth with its daily challenges and calls for discriminating sure-footed compassion.


Montanos Shoe Store is in a village which is gentrifying as we speak and filling to the brim with antique stores, a biscotti bakery, a many "starred" NY Times best restaurant and a few Soho-like gourmet coffee/lunch spots.  It's here in Saugerties, a somewhat best kept secret village, where Grandpa Montanos Shoe Store sells womens, childrens and mens: boots, sneakers, clogs, slippers, shoes, shoelaces, shoepolish and laces. Just like it did in 1906. Orthodics is new and a 90's addition as Grandpa's initial vision continues.


For 94 years, all of the Montanos who have worked there and do work there( too many to list) and an incredibly supportive staff have been kneeling down at their customer's feet and fitting/healing:


the lame
the pronated
the drop footed
the metatarsalgiaed
the foot splayed/slew footed/out toed
the dystoniaed
the bunioned
the arthritically reconfigured
the hammertoed
the ingrown toenailed
the mallet toed
the warted
the post stroked
the tibial torsioned
the new hip/new kneed
the blistered
the flatfooted
the gouted
the swollen footed
the high arched
the heel spured
the claw toed
the fat pad dimished
the corned
the calloused
the plantar fasiatused
the parkinsoniaed
the ligament bruised
the one leg length compromised
the polioed
the club footed
the metatarsal-compromised
the toeless
the diabetic foot infected
the Raynauds-cold footed
the one foot bigger discrepancied
the broken toed




....as well as the tri-athletes, the dancers, the walkers, the first graders, the carpenters needing steel toe shoes, and as  Joan Reinmuth reminded me...... "the sandals, shoes and boots for the children....and the nurses shoes, hunters shoes, firemens shoes, electricians shoes and party goers shoes." And I most happily add: the cowgirl/cowboy boots!  Now you see why people walk out of the store after a shoe treatment from a Montano, dancing and crying with gratitude and no-pain joy!


In conclusion:
For 94 years Montano's Shoe Store has seasonally and tastefully decorated their front windows to reflect the seasons and the new styles in stock.
For 94 years three generations of Montanos, their families and staff have been supported financially; food, clothing, schooling, cars,  from Montanos Shoe Store.
For 94 years sons and daughters and sons of sons have worked there. Now third and fourth generation sons are owners.
For 94 years the reputation for providing a good fit, good service, and the respect of a family atmosphere continues the tradition.


Recently three of the staff were not at the store and with only three others  there during "back to school" rush, they needed someone to answer the ever ringing phone. I "performed " that duty, watched from the back room and observed an incredible , living performance:


Their performance of focusing on the task at hand with daily, supreme patience-9-5
Their performance of service to all people all day long, 9-5
Their performance of ordering/shelving/stocking/sending/adjusting/building up/putting supports in shoes, 9-5
Their performance of accommodating squirming children, tremoring elders, undecided/picky boomers, returnees, 9-5
Their performance of seeing every kind of unmentionable foot, sock, foot condition imaginable, 9-5
Their performance of maintaining a traditional look so long that its back in style again and has become retro, 9-5
Their performance of family business being well done with dignity and caring service, 9-5
Their performance of healing disguised as  business, 9-5


The performance artist in me is in awe! The ENDURANCE ARTIST in me applauds!


Thanks Grandpa and Grandma Montano. Grandpa, I know you would say, "Could do better,"  but I am looking at the picture of you in the front window and hearing you say, "I BLESS YOU ALL."


Linda Mary Montano, 2000