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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three Years On

Earlier today I reposted Jenny Jones' beautiful, sensible, smart, poetic observations and contemplations on the border crossers, the refugees, the so called “illegals.” The original post is from November of 2011.

Here are her observations today.
 I got to thinking about all that has happened in the last three years, surrounding this issue.

Unfortunately, not enough. I, personally, have learned a lot more about how US foreign policy and drug laws are the direct cause of much of the poverty and violence that exists in South American countries today.

 I have learned the difference between "undocumented" and "illegal". It is not illegal to be human and want safety and security for your family.

In Arizona, SB 1070, the "Papers, Please" law has been enacted and parts of it struck down.

 I have participated in rallies, and met good and brave people, fighting for "legal" status in a country they have known as home since they can remember. Local activists (documented and undocumented), like the Puente Human Rights Movement, have put their lives and their families at risk, to stand up for good people who are forced to live in the shadows, and are demonized by far right politicians as leaches and criminals.

Check out Network Nuns on the bus!
The Dream Act has given temporary refuge to undocumented youth, who know nothing other than life in the US, and want nothing more than to be allowed to live, work, and raise their families in this great country. Yet, we continue to tear families apart and deport good, hard working people. President Obama's promises of immigration reform have evaporated, as he steps up the deportation process and politicians on both sides use the issue to pander to the voters.

Individuals, like Dennis Gilman give of their time and talent, to document the injustices perpetrated by our society and tell their stories. Churches, like the University Presbyterian Church in Tempe, and other people of faith, are standing up to the moral injustice of our broken immigration system, and providing sanctuary to families who are threatened to be torn apart.

 As Donna says, this issue is as relevant today as it was three years ago. I would say that it is even more so today.
Pa a northern city
I went to work
I left my life
Between Ceuta and Gibraltar
I am a line in the sea
Ghost in the city
My life is prohibited  
 ~Manu Chao, Clandestino
Jenny Jones is a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, full time job working citizen and a fabulous friend. I'm fortunate to count her as one of my closest amici.

But then fall comes

There’s no getting around it. Today is the last day of September. The Autumnal Equinox was a week ago today. More and more of the trees are donning their flash party duds. Some have chosen to drop trou all at once, seemingly, without bothering with the fuss and jazz of colors.

How long before the snows come? NO. I must enjoy the beauty of the moment and not waste time sadly anticipating the nekkid trees and icy streets. It’ll be here soon enough.

“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.”
~Chad Sugg

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
~Albert Camus
“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Cezanne

"Coffee tastes better as an autumn storm spins orange leaves around you."
~Sherman Alexie

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
~Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
~Henry David Thoreau

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face."
~John Donne 

“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
~Stephen King, Salem’s Lot 

“Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”
~Nora Ephron

To Autumn
~William Blake
O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

“The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

Monday, September 29, 2014


There seems to be a spate of gushing, breathless “Oh just LOOK who’s had plastic surgery" posts on line of late. I find them truly annoying. Is anyone really shocked or amazed that Joan Rivers or Cher or Pamela Anderson had surgery?
Pamela Anderson has copped to having several boob jobs over the years, dramatically transforming her bust size. Recently, Pam has been accused of getting a little nip and tuck done on her face as well.
Accused? This is a crime now? Considering she went from a B cup to a triple D, how is it that anyone’s even looking at her altered visage? I don't see anyone chiding Ms. Parton for being a trailblazer for this sort of metamorphosis.

Cher says she’s become "the plastic surgery poster girl." She's not had all she’s been snipingly gossiped to have had nor is she coy and apologetic. Good for her.
"If I'd had as much plastic surgery as they [say], you know, like I've got ass implants and calf implants and cheek implants," she says. "I've had the same cheeks my entire life. No butt lifts. No ribs removed."
And even if she had, she wouldn't be ashamed.
"If I want to put my tits on my back, it's nobody's business but my own," she says.
Yes, there are some supremely sad and even horrific travesties of knife work out there. Hello Donatella Versace, Jocelyn Wildenstein  and certain members of the Jackson clan.

Exceptions not the rule. If they've the money and it makes them happy, what business is it of ours if they transform themselves into Barbie dolls, Bozo the Clown or Tralfamadorian time jumpers? For most though, on those before and after shots, it’s seriously hard to tell what the poor gossip rag's target had done.

Also too, is anyone surprised that ANYone in Hollywood’s has work done. The vast majority of actor’s/entertainer’s employment rests on how young or young-ish, how virile and sexy they look.

To NOT have any work done means, essentially that you’re retiring or you're a Meryl Streep  or a Helen Mirren.

There were two girls in my high school class who sought to make it in the entertainment field. Neither made the big leagues but both have had careers in front of audiences and camera. We’re 56 years of age now and, at last google, both women look magnificent. I figure nature had a subtle assist.

Am I giggling, snarky and being all schadenfreude-y about this? OF COURSE NOT! Looking good is in their job descriptions. I imagine there’s been a buttload of aerobics, yoga, dieting, unguents and pro level make up involved too.

We are too damn young to retire — their surgical boosts are the equivalent of me taking classes in Marketing, Photoshop and Illustrator. The game evolves and, if we want to keep playing we need to evolve, shift and flat out run like hell just to keep up.

I keep clicking on these headlines. Why, why, why?! Does it make me feel better about those 20 pounds I struggle to shed or the fact that my neck isn't all Audrey Hepburn smooth and swan-like? Does knowing that Pamela Anderson’s rack has more in common with Goodyear than humanity ease the pain of not being blessed by Aphrodite or Adonis?

More, I think I just enjoy a good train wreck. After this last round of clicking though, well, I think I'll go back to Simon's Cat videos and space shots.

By the by, Burt Reynolds, Barry Manilow, Sylvester Stallone and Kenny Rogers, amongst other dudes, have had work done too. Aging out of the entertainment biz has become an equal opportunity thing, I guess.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Three Things

Good Monsters
Funnily enough, after mentioning Mothra the other day, one of her movies came on the tube.

Confession — I’d never seen Mothra vs. Godzilla before. At least not that I can recall. I didn’t specifically remember:
  • Infant Island — the island in the South Pacific inhabited by Mothra worshippers.
  • The tiny Shobijin (AKA Mothra fairies)
The Fairies in all of the movies, from the Showa era, are called, Shobijin. They all have psychic abilities, including telepathy, & in Mothra vs Godzilla, they demonstrate teleportation while escaping from Torahata & Kumayama. Lastly, they can understand monster roars.
  • Or the unscrupulous, Gaia defiling condo developers who get whacked by Karma just halfway through the flick (why can’t real life be like that?).
Torahata clearly comes across as the most despicable villain of the picture, despite Godzilla's rampage. After all, Godzilla is, ultimately, just a dumb animal following his instincts.
Hells, I didn’t even exactly recall that Mothra was a hero, defender of Tokyo and ultimately a martyr. Mind you, her motivation maybe, probably, undoubtedly had way more to do with keeping her eggs from becoming Godzilla brekkie than saving 11 mil measly, pathetic humans. Outcome is the same. Mothra saved Tokyo AND her eggs!

What a great multi-tasker!

Oh the GUILT
Our man Rocco exploring new territory
Rocco was jonsin’ for the Beef in Gravy Friskies this morning. Normally he and Coco are totes down with the fish offerings but sometimes, well, only a bit of cow will do. That was this morning.

Yeah, I’m a vegetarian, my cats are not. I’m not gonna force them to be something that just isn’t in their natures.

So, what up with all the guilt? Is guilt one of my bad habits — a leftover from a Catholic school upbringing?

In other cat news, Rocco’s continuing to make progress. Yesterday morning he actually came into the living room and looked out a window for a little while. For the most part he sits on the steps down to the basement. If I sit down on the kitchen floor though, he races up and in to be patted and cosseted.

Slowly but surely he’s settling in.

This despite Coco’s less than Welcome Wagon reception. Our otherwise sweet, crazy, love monster kitten took a swipe at poor Rocco as he walked passed her (the nerve of him!) yesterday. How’d our fierce formal feral react? He didn’t. Just kept walking. He’s a cat of peace.


Just got the word that my friend Brian’s husband, John, has succumbed to the cancer that was eating him up. Before John slipped out, Brian wrote me this:
We are probably at the end of John's journey, we are in hospital, and they said have a party, so THAT'S what we'll do. Hugs! And may Vivaldi be in your internal juke box today!
Have a party? YES! There’s plenty of time for sadness, for mourning — let’s greet journey’s end with a big goddamn celebration of all that our loved one is, was and what they meant to us and so many others.

Ya know, I don’t generally get classical on the internal Wurlitzer (I think I need lyrics to goose the brain wiring) but, right now, the Four Seasons are playing big and beautiful.

I raise my cup to John McLoughlin of Rockdale, New South Wales and his awesome husband Brian.

Cheers mon ami!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What to Wear? What to Wear?

What is acceptable funeral wear? Not mourning colors (talked about here in Paint It Black, re: what to wear when my mother died) This was on my mind yesterday morning as I considered committing hygiene and, ya know, donning the outfit I’d be wearing to Dan’s memorial service.

Had I thought to do it, I could have googled the answer up. Turns out there's a For Dummies post; What to Do, Say, and Wear at Funerals, a wikiHow page and a column at Jezebel to help us etiquette challenged folk.

Looking through my closet and dresser, all my duds are either black or nearly fluorescent tie dye. Sure, I've some different colored T-shirts but I kinda thought it wouldn't be hip to wear my red T with the image of Shakespeare — legend underneath "this shit just writes itself" or my traffic cone orange Marley Davidson and this one, at left, was DEF out (sadly. Oni just got it for me and it even glows in the dark!)

Eventually, I found a compromise. A tasteful black and white tie dye tank, worn with a black sweater and, to mitigate all that darkness, I slipped on that colorful and stunning bracelet that Julie forced me to buy.

Hollywood and old etiquette tells us that black's the thing so, naturally, I want to go in the opposite direction. I'd TOTALLY wear my brightest, most blinding tie dye if I wasn't concerned about possibly, probably offending Dan's family and friends.

When I was in high school a girlfriend was struck by a car and killed. I wore a stunning all white '40s style suit to the funeral. To my adolescent, artsy, everything's-a-deep-deep-metaphor mind this was a beautiful statement about Terri, life and death.

Also too, the Chinese wear white to funerals, right? OK maybe just the sons-in-law.

I never took my coat off. I was the only one there wearing white and figured I'd stand out like a bacon cake at a kosher wedding. I lacked the courage of my convictions — that and I was afraid of becoming even more of a target for the whack job, vile, miscreant, bully boys and girls than I already was.

Offending the family? Eh, that didn't occur to 16 year old me. Doh!

heading home
It's a hard line to walk. I can fly my freak flag, wave the old alt mysticism, honor the dearly departed in the way I feel best illustrates who they were and the connection we shared or I can respect the sensibilities of the majority of other mourners.

Turns out, I needn’t have been concerned. The crowd at Dan’s do (and boyhowdy, the joint was jammed. It was seriously SRO) were more colorful and stylistically wide ranging than I’d expected. There were a number of folks in white. I saw a woman in a bright coral jacket, one in a dark purple tie dyed sheath, another in a bright kelly green patterned wrap around and more.


By the by, the musical selections were brill. There was a dude on guitar who sang Johnny Cash's Why Me Lord, Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah and Woody Guthrie's So Long It's Been Good to Know Yuh.

More awesomeness.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Dan

Jodi Fisher's portrait of Dainty Dan
Later today I’m going to my friend Dan’s memorial service. He died last Wednesday, September 17th.

To say that we were friends seems a mite presumptuous. When we worked for the same printing company, lo these 15-20 years ago, we were aware of each other’s existence but I doubt we exchanged more than a coupla words outside of the orientation classes I ran.

No, we connected on Facebook. I saw that we had a whole mess of mutual friends so I took a chance and sent a “friend request.” Happily, thankfully, wonderfully, he accepted.

It was here that I learned he’d been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I also discovered his tremendous élan, his humor in the face of a horror show prognosis. Though neurofibromatosis type 2, my case anyway, isn’t quite as dire as multiple myeloma, it’s def up there in the pantheon of Things-That-Really-Truly-Wickedly-Suck-Giant-Mothra-Wang. (oh wait, I think Mothra's a girl. Alright, Godzilla wang then)

Dan felt like a fellow traveler. He inspired me. I didn’t feel so alone with my whack take on the family curse I’m rockin’.

He spoke, on Facebook, of a spinal tap he had which reminded me of my own tap. It was a Pedro Almodóvar by way of Guillermo del Toro experience. Hilarious, surreal and, yes, scary as hell for my 23 year old self. This was before MRIs were invented (yes, I AM that old, thenkyew). Diagnosing Nf2 was a much more complicated endeavor involving test upon test, procedure after procedure. My future's trajectory was riding on the results of this poke and pull.

Solemnity would be the thing — right? Eh, that’s just not how me and my vida loca rolls. This Is Spinal Tap — go read if you haven’t already.

Comedy leavens the horrors of this world.

To paraphrase Emma Goldman, If I can't laugh, I don't want to be part of my own nasty-ass disease. (sorry Emma)

Dan West was a comrade warrior in the con brio, con risate struggle against our respective afflictions. And now he’s gone.

Life’s short — dance while you can. Dammit!

Here’s the beautiful obit Dan’s employers, Harvard Business Publishing, sent out to his co-workers:

To the HBP Family
From: David Wan & Adi Ignatius
We lost a great friend and colleague yesterday: Dan West, a senior production specialist in the HBR Group.
Dan was an amazing man. He was brilliant, talented, funny, charismatic, and always did things his own way. He was a founding member of one of our nicest traditions: the lunch crew that regularly takes up a big table in the 1st-floor cafeteria. The group routinely plays cribbage during their break, and Dan created a special board for the games, replete with a variation of the Harvard shield. He was the founder, after all, of what he called the "Harvard Gun & Cribbage Club."

Dan had a zest for life. He was a regular, for example, at Hell Night at the East Coast Grill, where the restaurant would serve unconscionably spicy dishes to fearless eaters like Dan. (If you tried to order the pasta made with "ghost chili," the waiter would actually try to dissuade you from doing so, which was only a greater temptation to diners like Dan.) He was a serious music fan with eclectic tastes, and his favorite band was Mission of Burma, a brainy and loud post-punk indie band from Boston.
Dan was only 50 when he died, having been battered at an unfairly young age by a string of health problems. He endured a rough couple of years, but fought tenaciously throughout. Dan was refreshingly and disarmingly frank about his illness and the possibility of his dying. But he handled it all with a clarity and dignity that has inspired us all. In everything he did, he acted like it mattered.

His motto was to do things right, or not at all.

Dan is survived by a loving and caring wife, Kelly Myers West, who was with him at the hospice when he died last night. And he is remembered fondly by a long list of devoted friends and family members, including so many colleagues here at HBP.

We don't have any information yet on funeral plans, but we'll pass them on as soon as we do. Until then, crank up some Mission of Burma and think about Dan West.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Things That Happen When I’m Dancing the Tension Tango

 In no particular order.

1) I lose my keys/glasses/subway pass/an earring/gas and grocery discount card/eyedrops, etc.

I’ve done this so many times that I finally learned the art of designating a specific place in the house or in my purse where I’m to place these items. That way I won’t lose them when I’m hopped up and wigged out about this or that.

Invariably, the designated, proper location is the LAST place I look.

Where did I find my subway pass yesterday? In my new wallet in its very special new, this-is-where-I’ll always-keep-it-so-I’ll-stop-misplacing pocket.

My work keys? They’re on a six inch long glitter and paste emerald cord. Hard to miss, eh? You’d think.

After searching every bag I’ve used over the past week, after combing through the stack ‘o’ crap around my computer, printer and scanner, I finally found them. Where? Hanging on the back of the chair in front of the computer. You know, in a place where I couldn’t possibly miss them.

Except I did.

Where were my eyedrops? In the pocket of the last sweater I wore. Of course.  Meantime I’d gone out and bought another wee bottle so now I’ll have one for by the bed AND my pocket or purse. Très smart of me, no? Doh!

I think I get the most cleaning and sorting done when I’m on the hunt for an item I’ve “lost.”

2) I forget to check the snail mail. Most of what I get via the postal service are bills. I should KNOW to look in our post basket at certain times of the month for those nasty little envelopes. Do I? Well...yezzzz but in my stressing state I forget that the vast majority of my current bills are due at mid month not the first.

Sigh. Late fees. I really don’t need those.

3) Trike accidents. We’ve covered that.

4) Oopsies with the car. While parallel parking (NOT one of my superpowers) I bumped into the car behind me. Conveniently, the driver was sitting at the wheel so we could sort things out there and then.

 I’m driving a Smart Car which is built from spit, cellophane and fairy dust. There shouldn’t have been any damage to the other car, right? Any injuries would’ve been to Bix, right? Wrong. Surprisingly, she’s got a scratch in the front right bumper and her license plate’s crinkled.

I really, wicked hope this doesn’t turn into some colossal debacle. There’s no reason that it should and worrying is truly a waste of energy.

That not worrying thing? Easier said than done. Way!

What’s the solution? How can I deflate the anxiety zepplin, lower the heat on the nervousness albatross and chill out my jitter bugs?

All my loved ones being happy, healthy and safe would be a grand start. While we’re at it, how’s ‘bout we throw in a mega solid dose of salubriousity for me too?

In the meantime, I'm gonna do some stretching, deep breathing exercises, maybe a trike ride before the rain begins and it really couldn't hurt to go sit on the seawall steps and stare at the water. Maybe I'll do my deep breathing down there where I can take in the heavenly salt perfume of the bay.

How do you de-stressify yourself?

Under Presssure — Queen

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Trails and Slips

I’ve come to a big fat conclusion.  
“What would that be, Donna?” I sorta, kinda, no, not really, heard you asking.

It’s OK that hiking mountain trails isn’t my cuppa joe anymore. I’ve kvetched about my mammoth doofus-osity before. What’s different now?

I’m now, after my rib cracking trike spill, extra special aware. I need to keep my eyes down — watch where I put each foot. I gotta remember that my balance is 99 kinds of illin’ yak crap. A walking stick is all fine and good but it’s not a free pass to leave off the close attention to the path under my dancing feetsies. A pikestaff isn’t a Get Out Of Jail card so’s I can mindlessly, goggle and gaze at all the beauty around me.

Mindfulness — get some!

Attentiveness on a rough trail ramble ends up being a LOT of work without the big payoff. Yes, I get solid exercise but is that the whole point of a scramble through the woods? Not for me, no.

I want the damn beauty, the scents of the forest, the play of the sunlight as it trickles through the leaves. When hiking with Jenny in Arizona, I want to stare at and study all the wild cacti I pass. I want to SEE everything.

My friends Lydia and Steve have a home near New Paltz, New York. On one of my visits they took me to a wooded, park area for a pulchritude filled, fresh air excursion. There were rock climbing folk all about.  A ton of them. The place was lousy with cliff clingers. I worried bigly that the trail would be too hard for me.

Nope, no worries. It was actually a paved path that led to a castle-like mansion of sorts. Dunno what that joint was all about but there were tons of families picnicking around the grounds. So then, easy peasy but now I was a little insulted. “I’m not some 90 year old invalid, I could do a regular, real hike!” I raged to myself.

Yes, I could BUT it’d be all work and little joy. Instead, I had a lovely time, enjoying the scenery, staring at all the folks practicing their grips on the wee crags along the route.

Where does this leave me?

In late October Jen and I will jet out to Arizona for a few days with Jenny. Undoubtedly, we’ll want to take a stroll through the wild, alien, western beauty. We’ll be in the Sedona area. I guess I’ll want to research the hell out of any potential trek to make sure that I can have fun versus an arduous struggle.

Does the path need to be as easy as the one Lydia and Steve took me on? No but I need to prepare and accept that, if it’s a rough trail, I won’t see much until the end point when we’re sitting and chilling.

I need to find a way to wallow in the gorgeousness of nature without tumbling ass over tit on every third step.

Maybe I could get my trike kitted out with extra fat tires? Mountain triking! How ‘bout an Imperial Walker? A palanquin, perhaps?

OH yes, I believe we’ve found a winnah!