Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Man in the Mask

Mr. Armand Bender came into the waiting room at Providence Hospital with a cough so rattling and deep, I thought he was going to produce a lung. I'm not someone who is particularly averse to the presence of illness, dirt, or even death, but I had to forcibly restrain myself from running out the room and away from Armand. Fortunately, he wore one of those face masks you see on sensible construction workers and subway passengers in Japan. Still, it gave me the creeps. What did the poor bastard have? Pneumonia or Bronchitis? Tuberculosis? Egad.

Mr. Bender was a large and rather thick-bodied sort of fellow. Not fat, really, but the kind of stout that probably got him on a high school football team - a lineman, maybe. Anyway, he had the kind of denseness that prevents arms from hanging straight down alongside the body. Such a frame often looks like some kind of cartoon toy that came with your Happy Meal, the arms perpetually in half-flight, an eternal comic gesture.

He anchored himself across the from my mother and me. Though I smiled at him when he looked over, it was only partly out of natural friendliness. Another part was pity, some part was nervousness. Clearly he suffered, not only from his mystery ailment and alienating cough, but also the mask. A common object in a different context estranges. The mask said that Armand was, in fact, dangerous.

Not only was he a hazard, but Armand also was loud. Given the right situation, bellicose even. In sporadic fits, Armand gave us rants. Mostly it concerned how much he was made to wait. Later, it was, didn't we all, we band of brothers hunkered down together, ever wonder, much less notice, that there were no clocks in the room? It was a conspiracy, an outrage, this willful omission of clocks. They were duping us yet again. Some of these words are my embellishments, of course, but one got these feelings quite distinctly from the pugnacious Armand.

He was a rabble rouser. A shit stirrer. A perennial malcontent. Now I think of Ignatius Reilly, to whom Armand bore much similarity in costume and physiognomy. He lacked the hunting cap, but was fitted with the plaids, jeans, and workingman's boots of a hunter, a construction worker, or simply half the blokes who live in the Northwest. Like Ignatius, he was possessed of no less literary a name. I think the name alone, which, happily, was called out across the room by an ill-fated and summoning nurse, inspired me to write of him.

Following the outbursts, no one could look at him. I missed this, but my mother swears he grew salacious at the sight of a particularly delectable and tightly clad youngish female who crossed his path. By her re-enactment, his gaze followed her like one of those owl clocks with the hyperthyroid eyes that swing hither and thither. He gasped, "She's slicked right in there," then wretched some more. Poor lonely Armand.

As Walker Percy wrote of the misadventures of the comedic and "Falstaffian" Ignatius Reilly, "It is also sad. One never quite knows where the sadness comes from -- from the tragedy at the heart of Ignatius's great gaseous rages and lunatic adventures or the tragedy attending the book itself."

This is my final impression of Armand Bender, one which rendered me weeping and convulsing with laughter in front of everybody. I swear couldn't help it. I did my best. I hid my face, but I was sunk. It is a memory of his final public eruption, occasioned by the newspaper he squeezed in his meaty hand:

"I'm so sick and tired of people yelling about child abuse! Yeah, sometimes people go too far, but you've still got to PUNISH them! It's just more job security for the COPS!"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Geography 101

How do you fail to know the company you're hiring to manage six US ports is owned by Arabs, when the name is Dubai Ports World?

The Black Lantern

You might be under the impression that this is no longer timely, but George Bush still doesn't care about Black People.
Click on the title for a video with music by the Legendary KO.

Or the climate changes that aided in the devastation of New Orleans:
[New York Times Link] The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming [...] Dr. [James] Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

Apparently, the Administration isn't worried much about university level education, either:

"American Historical Association expresses concern about denial of visa to Georgetown University PhD from Bolivia" (2/19)
This being Dr. Waskar Ari, an "indigenous person," who was supposed to take a post in Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is considered to be a potential security concern. This is a guy who is criticized in certain circles as being too pro-American,

Same thing happened to this appointed Harvard Professor, Sandinista, and former Nicaraguan Minister of Health, Dora Maria Tellez: "US Denies Visa To "Terrorist" Nicaraguan Professor"

Next they'll be trying to exile MIT Prof. (and my future husband), Noam Chomsky. I forced him over to the left side, where he belongs.

The truth is out there, you just can't study it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

More of my favorite poetry. Deal with it.

Your breast is enough for my heart,
and my wings for your freedom.
What was sleeping above your soul will rise
out of my mouth to heaven.

In you is the illusion of each day.
You arrive like the dew to the cupped flowers.
You undermine the horizon with your absence.
Eternally in flight like the wave.

I have said that you sang in the wind
like the pines and like the masts.
Like them you are tall and taciturn,
and you are sad, all at once, like a voyage.

You gather things to you like an old road.
You are peopled with echoes and nostalgic voices.
I awoke and at times birds fled and migrated
that had been sleeping in your soul.

-Pablo Neruda
from, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Back in Puddletown

I've been back in my hometown for almost four days now. It's so beautiful here, I hardly know why I live in Los Angeles.

It's also freezing cold. The Koi pond in the back is frozen over, and there is a persistent east wind that is bracing, to say the least. More like face-slappin'. The sky is a color only seen in LA after a day long torrent. Clean, bright, beautiful.

Things are a little bit foggy on the homefront. Mom's spirits are good, but she is heavily sedated with pain medication. I am her chauffeur and personal assistant. We've been to the hospital twice, so far. The first day (her second operation), was five hours while they put a balloon in her breast where the tumor was. Therein the radioactive pebbles go, twice a day, each day next week. I told her she should get two, then we could blow them up to whatever size, depending on the occasion. Thank God she has a sense of humor about all this.

I have to keep reminding myself that the medication is reinforcing her usual forgetfulness, and maybe even her already impaired hearing. She doesn't really mean to ask me the same question over and over. Then there is the constant directing while I drive, as though I didn't spend most of my life here. Really, I remember how to get across town. Portland's just not that big.

Remind me to remind myself that these are incredibly small aggravations, and we all got off really easy. I'm not going to be taking care of a REALLY sick person for six weeks after all. Count your blessings. Probably what bothers me most is the dynamic between mom and my step-father. He's a really nice guy, but emotionally shut down. Depressive. My mother, on the other hand, is a supertyphoon of energy, opinion, and will. It's an interesting combination, and one that puts me square in the center (that's an odd phrase, innit?). I have no desire to play marriage counselor anymore.

My problem mostly is that I'm lonely. Lonely, and I was a bit over-tired after that 900+ drive up the west coast. Went mostly straight through. Slept for a few hours in the back seat of my car with my big black dog. Awoke to little chickadees hopping around outside in the parking lot of the rest area. Chickadees and a Steller's Jay. We were just north of Grants Pass. Grass Pants to my mother, who thinks that's HILARIOUS.

Back on the highway I saw an old drive-in theater, which was swarming with dairy cattle. Would have made a great photo. Knew I was back in Oregon then. And you have to love the little hippy establishments in the center of these mostly Bush country towns. Oregon's a blue state, but largely because of the cities.

Mostly I love how friendly everyone is. The guy pumping my gas in Roseburg (I forgot I couldn't do it myself until he walked out and asked me why I was suffering the cold), telling me about the reunion with his long lost childhood best friend. Seems the other man's son had pulled into the same service station and handed our attendant his credit card. Unusual last name, and the boy looked like his Pa. You can imagine the rest. This guy was beaming with excitement; it was lovely. He fishes with his old buddy now. They played ball together. Of course, they did.

Back to the lonely part - I encourage any comments, dear reader, that you want to leave me. Even if they are negative. It would be a help to keep me from that gnawing feeling I'm somehow slipping away. That means you too, Anonymous, even though I have a pretty good idea of who you are.

Friday, February 17, 2006


If anyone knows anything about the whereabouts of the girl in the photo, as in "where is she going," contact us asap. No bit of information, observation or interpretation is too small or preposterous. Please help. Time is running out.

Description: Tall, thin, with rather overly generous feet. They used to say she was all legs (and feet), but the picture is overwhelmingly arms. Never had a good hair day, often seen smiling, but can seem somber and withdrawn. Won't bite. Will follow when offered candy.

The Great White Hopeless

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Jed's Bed, Baby.

Don't know what was funnier:

A wasted Mr. L subtly trying to feel up the lady in the beige jacket while he schooled us in his breast fondling techniques, then insisted I was next (refused). Maybe it was Christiane, at the sight of the insulin tube in his hairy belly, shrieking, "What the FUCK is that?!" and then directly falling over, right on top of him. Perhaps it was the argument I had while thwarting the idea of an ecstasy party anywhere near the vicinity of my house. Possibly it was being chased around the apartment by Christiane as she professed her love, simply because I had worn, as she put it, "the Alice band." Most likely it was RPP screaming about bringing back "titty-fucking," then trying to use the drunken barrister as a prop in her clothed demonstration. I might have said something about that being "so '97."

And our young associate was worried that becoming an attorney would make his life boring.

Congratulations on passing the Bar, Sir!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Everybody's Got a Hungry Heart

Open up.
Live well.
Be healthy.
Hold the world to your chest.
Give thanks.
Love, Love, Love.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Holy Spigot

I always thought it would be great to see a compilation of funny church signs in a book. Of course someone's already done it on the internet.

This last one is my favorite.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

It Comes to No Good

This is what happens to people who lie about swearing at children (see Fibruary 7 post). I thought it was kind of obvious I wouldn't actually utter such a thing, but all the rest was true.

Happy Birthday, Levi!

Two yoga hotties, a long hike, and animal friends - you're a lucky dog.

Levi, Duff & Angus

Friday, February 10, 2006

Crazy, Delicious!

Sometimes a "news" story comes along that is just plain bizarre. This one reads like an April Fool's joke, or a mediocre comedic screenplay. Ultimately, the cookies aren't the more obscene and funny, it's the bad Brooklyn slogans:
X-Rated Fortune Cookies Top Off Fundraiser

Feb 10, 3:57 PM (ET)

NEW YORK (AP) - There is great embarrassment in your future. A box of X-rated fortune cookies was mistakenly delivered to a fundraiser hosted by a Brooklyn politician.
The 350 cookies stuffed with "the most graphically lurid" fortunes got mixed up with a batch of 1,750 cookies ordered for the Chinese New Year event, Borough President Marty Markowitz said Friday. Some guests "were stunned, to say the least."
The annual event - to raise money to send poor children to summer camp - was attended by some 700 guests Tuesday evening, but only about 80 were still there when the dirty cookies were opened, Markowitz said.
The borough president was on the second floor of the two-level restaurant when a guest "yelled to me from the first floor: 'Marty, did you order these cookies? Did you see what's inside them? I think you better get your butt down here!'" Markowitz said.

Markowitz, who was not wearing his glasses, had the "fortunes" read to him by some of the guests.
"I'm sure they were meant for a raunchy bachelor party," he said. "They were not cutesy. Triple X to say the least."
He said his office had given the restaurant 10 slogans about Brooklyn to insert into the fortune cookies, and 1,400 were delivered correctly.

They contained such G-rated boosterisms as: "Brooklyn - The 10th Planet," "Brooklyn - it's more than a freak'in tree," and "Brooklyn - it's like an everything bagel."

I do know this, I am getting a t-shirt made with that last one.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

My Daily Bread

"I was a spirit-child rebelling against the spirts, wanting to live the earth's life and contradictions... I wanted the liberty of limitations, to have to find or create new roads from this one which is so hungry, this road of our refusal to be."

--Ben Okri (Nigerian novelist, winner of the Booker Prize)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Adventures in Babysitting

I can't rightly recall what my infraction was Sunday night - I think I wasn't coloring exactly the way the eight-year-old gentleman wanted. Anyhow, he looks up at me and says, "You're an idiot!"

Instead of sending him to his room or making him wear a hair shirt to bed, I replied, "Don't you mean, fucking idiot?"

Afterwards, he took me by the hand and led me to his room, insisting that we wrestle on his bed.

Can't wait to see what he's like when he starts dating.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Honor Your Mother

Still watching submissions for the Native American Film Festival. Tonight I saw:

This is an excellent documentary about environmentalism and environmental racism. It is playing festivals and is being shown on PBS stations nationwide. Find one near you at

Learn more at
how about
or whatever you discover on your own.

What happens to them, happens to you, America.
(Just as I typed that a band of coyotes started yelping and crying in our little glen here in the canyon. I live in LA.)

I sincerely believe that environmental issues are the most significant ones of our time. What we do to where we live is so basic, and it informs and represents the way we treat each other and ourselves.

I dislike stepping up on a soapbox - I like to play, but why are we all sitting on our hands? Why do we persist in what is so destructive to us?

God Bless.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Harpo's Blues

A friend of mine wrote this and posted it on Oprah's website:

Hey Oprah,

Having watched your show on 1/26 with James Frey, I am disturbed at how much of a victim you've made yourself out to be. The simple fact of the matter is his book has greatly affected many people's lives. The goodness of the book came long before you read it. It seems your only concern is that you may have contributed to James success of selling his book.

Maybe deep down, James knew the way the book was written was a more effective way to allow many more people to benefit from his experience and develop a hero within themselves for their own lives. To sit there as you do and judge him would be equivalent to someone calling you a phony for wanting to catch child abusers. As if you were only doing it to better your own image as a commercial icon. I'd like to think you have a greater interest to help others in mind. As I still do with James Frey.

The only thing his book did at all, is help those that read it and allowed them to question their own existence. You didn't write the book, and all of the positive influence the book had had absolutely nothing to do with you. Your arrogant view of how you promoted his book and how you take the untruths in it so personally is jaw-dropping.
If you are so concerned with the truth, as you state on your show with regard to James and his book which is ultimately something that did NOT hurt ANYONE. I really wish you would open your eyes and start to pay more interest to the truths that are negatively affecting people in the world everyday. Such as what exists within our government. Specifically with our healthcare industry, pharmaceuticals and the political relations involved with the FDA and the FTC. But I guess those truths are things that you would never have the guts to challenge as most of your advertising and support is funded by the same corruptions. It just reminds me that your show is nothing more than a jaded view of reality as our media so eloquently presents to people. And how sad is it that people accept that as truth.

The truth is what drives me in life, but I've become aware of more important un-truths than a man's encounter of his drug addiction. And to anyone whose life was positively affected by A Million Little Pieces, I would be willing to assume they aren't overly concerned with James Frey's personal truths, but with how the words in his book affects their own personal truth.

Warmest, DR