Friday, March 31, 2006

Free at Last!

I saw the headlines glassed in a row of junky newspaper dispensers; Jill Carroll has been released.

I smiled and cried, and then I thought of this quotation - one more from the Yogi Bhajan calendar:

"There is nothing more beautiful and priceless than a learned woman. A learned woman can create a god, while God, once in a while through meditation for millions of years, can create a learned woman. Your learning can enter the bloodstream of the generations that will follow. It can bring grace and dignity to the place where you live. It can build a new nation and a new time."

I'm uncomfortable with the implication that this is a difficult creature to manifest, any more than it would be were she male, but it's a lovely sentiment overall.

The Anti-Sonnet

They Never Say 'Goodbye' Before They Go

He cut me loose just in time,
To lose me my sweet Valentine.
A lover's rhyme gone stray, amiss
Has lost me February's blood fruit kiss.
My Head he pounds, my Heart she's sore,
My Psyche cannot even score.
I am beside myself, awry,
Bedsheets wrung out, hung out to dry.
Stern Eliot's cruel month waxes conceited,
January has left me alone, unheeded.
He'll never write, he never phones,
I fumble in my tombs and tomes.
Mirror, mirror, against the wall,
I wonder that you shine at all.



"The more visible they make me, the more invisible I become."
- Kate Moss

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Go Visit the Dooce

I'm sure I'm violating some copyright law or something, but I figure since I'm giving credit and advertising her blog, she won't (hopefully) sue me. This is what you can find at (click the link to the right):

Past participle

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

“You’re expecting a call from him, right? Has he called yet?”

“No. He probably hasn’t even woken up yet. Wait … is that the right tense? Is that even a word? Woken? Why was my initial thought to say, ‘He hasn’t done waked up yet.’?”

“Because where you come from ‘conjugation’ is something people do with their spouses when they visit them in prison.”

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Hopeless Case

Two shameful recent-past eras from our files:

This, was taken on the train back from Krakow to Prague in 2001. On the way into Poland, shared a sleeper car with a chronically constipated and permanently unhappy blonde, and an extremely tall black woman who armed herself with a plastic fork. Here, they'd just been to Auschwitz, so why look so damned serene and contented?

This, just three years ago, when she thought she wanted to be an actress. Snore. The less said about that the better.

Note the black turtleneck sweater in both photos. Probably some sort of Socialist. Needs to be sterilized.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dear Abbie

In my relentless pursuit to be crowned #1 name-dropper, I promised a friend to tell how I slipped down the rabbit hole and found myself back in time in the land of LSD, Yippies, and Stanley Kubrick.

I was eighteen, and a freshman at a rawtha toney school in Rhode Island. My roommate decided to spend our Friday evening attending a debate between Curtis Sliwa, of Guardian Angels fame, the former Director of the DEA (whose name I forget), in one corner, and Abbie Hoffman and Timothy Leary, in the other. The topic was whether or not to legalize drugs, if that wasn't already obvious from the roster. Sliwa was righteous, Mr. Director analytical and secure in his facts, Hoffman was boisterous and clever, and Leary cool, detached, and possibly orbiting a different sphere altogether.

Afterwards, Beth and I walked out into the backside courtyard of the post office. It should be noted here, for amusement's sake, that the staircase lifting you out of the front courtyard (where we ritually held Thursday night funk dances), was comprised of sturdy slate steps, with one eensy yet precarious flaw. Three-quarters of the way up, the rise of one tread was slightly higher than the rest. Tripping over it was easy to do, and indicated two things. First, you were obviously a freshman, and two, because of its placement, you were seen by not only those behind you, but the entire college green above you. Most excellent.

Anyway, we were on the other flatter side, and saw a frizzy mop-topped pony keg of a man wandering about, lost. Realizing that this was one of the guest speakers, the most colorful one of the Chicago Seven, we approached him to see if he needed assistance. He could not, he said, find the campus guest house, where he was meant to lodge for the night. We made some calls, got the address, and escorted him a half block to the accommodations on Angell St.

Inside, Abbie was very chatty, affable. He was in no hurry for us to leave, though we politely tried to give him his space. He was, ahem, quite interested in talking to me, though I probably had a good four inches on him, and he was born a mere three years after my father, (now if he had been twenty years younger... I do have this thing for Jewish boys). Then he wanted to get high, but there were neither matches nor lighters to be found anywhere in the house. So we sent for reinforcements. Adam G. came by and saved the day, though if he'd been Abbie's kind of hero, he would have left as soon as he'd made the delivery.

We talked about so many things that night, but what I remember most clearly was him telling me this particular "highpoint" of his life: meeting Marilyn Chambers. Christ, the guy is a major cultural figure, has published, like, ten books (one of which he gave me that night, Steal This Urine Test), was a political activist and a fugitive from justice, was actually at Woodstock, and his fondest moment was the night he played pool with a porn star?

Later, Timothy Leary joined us. I don't actually recall him partaking of the herb, funny for someone who by 1976 had served more time for that infraction than anyone in US history. I don't think he said much, but then who could get a word in next to Abbie.

At some point, Abbie got this notion of phoning Amy Carter, who had flunked out of school, but was still living nearby campus. They were often seen on the news together, up at U Mass and protesting something I don't recall. So he gets on the phone and tells her we're all going to go see A Clockwork Orange at the Avon theater together.

Let's see - me and Abbie Hoffman and Timothy Leary and Amy Carter and Adam G., "The boy against whom all others must be judged," (I know I've mentioned him before), staring at a movie screen while Malcolm McDowell does unspeakable things while impersonating Gene Kelly, was it?

At this point, my world got just a touch too surreal, and I declined the invitation. Sometimes you just have to know when to say goodnight.

Abbie died about a year and a half later. Oddly enough, I do recall him indulging in some paranoid cant about how this Philadelphia utility company was out to get him. Maybe he was right - the guy was a major shit stirrer, and people with money and power have been known to dispose of people who want to upset that. Anyway, he was said to have killed himself, an overdose. The farewell note read: "It's too late. We can't win. They've gotten too powerful." I have trouble buying it - not because it smacked of conspiracy, but because I'm sure he could have written something funnier than that.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels

Buck Owens, thank you for The Bakersfield Sound, Hee-Haw, and catching that Tiger by the Tail.

I took this, admittedly poor, photo six weeks ago as I drove up the 5 to Portland. RIP.

Friday, March 24, 2006

No Bun in the Oven

Today I peed on a litmus strip. That's right, I took a pregnancy test this morning. I was 99.9% sure I had no bambina on the way, so why bother? The answer is, for those of you who have been reading for at least a month, because I decided not to get a biopsy done on that tiny calcification in my left breast.

I was all ready to let them cut me open, then decided to do my own research. Here are a few of my findings with a quick caveat - I am not a doctor, and many of these things were found online, which may make them either less or more valid. You have to be your own judge:

-Physicians are biopsy happy. They are naturally worried about malpractice. Even though my physician felt 98% certain that I do not have a malignancy, and even though breast cancer is considered to be relatively slow growing, she still felt biopsy was more prudent than waiting 6 months for another ultrasound.

-Certain states have laws which have physicians practically hogtied to biopsy, radiation and chemo. In fact they are gagged - alternative therapies, though often effective, are not to be mentioned

-Mammograms are dangerous to women, even though they are a potentially life-saving diagnostic. In fact, they may well contribute to breast cancer, and yet, there are other less threatening ways to determine cancer.

-Biopsies are dangerous - needle aspirations rupture the wall around the tumor, which the body has attempted to contain. Post biopsy, the cancer leaks, the cancer spreads, which is a reason why physicians immediately recommend aggressive treatments following the procedure.

-Calcifications are almost never cancer.

-Cultures with diets high in B17, aka Laetrile(I could not find a multivitamin or multi B supplement that contained it), are virtually cancer free. We used to get a fair amount of B17 when our bread contained millet, but we now rely primarily on wheat. It is also found in the pits of apricots, which used to be crushed into jam. I believe it is found in apple seeds, and it certainly exits in cassava.

-Finally, there are other types of tests for cancer. Here is one:

"In his brilliantly researched 1974 book "World Without Cancer," researcher and author G. Edward Griffin explains the trophoblastic theory of cancer proposed by Professor John Beard of Edinburgh University, which states that certain pre-embryonic cells in pregnancy differ in no discernible way from highly-malignant cancer cells.

All trophoblast cells produce a unique hormone called the chorionic gonadotrophic (CGH) which is easily detected in urine. Thus if a person is either pregnant or has cancer, a simple CGH pregnancy test should confirm either or both. It does, with an accuracy of better than 92% in all cases. If the urine sample shows positive it means either normal pregnancy or abnormal malignant cancer. Griffin notes: "If the patient is a woman, she either is pregnant or has cancer. If he is a man, cancer can be the only cause." So why all of the expensive, dangerous biopsies carried to 'detect' cancerous growths? One can only assume that medicare pays doctors a larger fee for biopsies than pregnancy tests."

All of which makes you wonder if this isn't some sort of set up for a George Carlin joke. Fetus = cancerous growth?

So, a couple of weeks ago, I told my soon to be full acupuncturist friend about the test. She hadn't heard of it, until two days later when they were taught it in school.

A few days after that, in a second moment of synchronicity, her husband brought one home in a bag of swag from some movie promotion.

Part of me breathed a sigh of relief this morning, it was negative. And a small part of me wished I were pregnant.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sons Of

Sons of the thief, sons of the saint
Who is the child with no complaint
Sons of the great or sons unknown
All were children like your own

The same sweet smiles, the same sad tears
The cries at night, the nightmare fears
Sons of the great or sons unknown
All were children like your own...
So long ago: long, long, ago...

But sons of tycoons or sons of the farms
All of the children ran from your arms
Through fields of gold, through fields of ruin
All of the children vanished too soon
In tow'ring waves, in walls of flesh
Among dying birds trembling with death
Sons of tycoons or sons of the farms
All of the children ran from your arms...
So long ago: long, long, ago...

But sons of your sons or sons passing by
Children we lost in lullabies
Sons of true love or sons of regret
All of the sons you cannot forget

Some built the roads, some wrote the poems
Some went to war, some never came home
Sons of your sons or sons passing by
Children we lost in lullabies...
So long ago: long, long, ago

But, sons of the thief, sons of the saint
Who is the child with no complaint
Sons of the great or sons unknown
All were children like your own
The same sweet smiles, the same sad tears
The cries at night, the nightmare fears
Sons of the great or sons unknown
All were children like your own...
Like your own, like your own

-Jacques Brel


When High Art hits the street, literally:

(I took these photos on St. Patrick's Day last weekend, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park)
The work of Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham and Spike Jonze becomes the nightly resting place for an hapless indigent. Though I agree "there are times when people need stories more than they need nourishment, because the stories feed something deeper than the needs of the body" (thank you, Charles de Lindt), I suspect this fellow would like a softer place to fall.

This imagery embraces a favorite theme of mine, the social meaning of Carnival and the Grotesque, which I mentioned a couple of days ago. In Carnival there is the "temporary suspension of all hierarchic distinctions and barriers among men,"* and "bringing life down to earth," and so High Art becomes tushy cushion under a bum's bum. But I'm too tired to bore you more with that now. Click on the title, "Topsy-Turvy," then you can read all about it.

*Mikhail Bakhtin

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


The quotation of the day on my Yogi Bhajan calendar reads:

You have to understand the purpose of life. The purpose of life is to do something which will live forever.

I was afraid of that.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bulletin for The Stitch

Dear J.T. Rogue,
I have posted comments to your March 10 blog, but they are not showing. Just a big fat goose egg below Cheney's sour face. Just wanted you to know.

My schedule, me, me, me!

Lacking any creativity, I am reduced to recycling old missives. I wrote this in the Spring of 2002, when I was unemployed, aimless, and dissolute. I moped and I flailed about. Here goes:

my life:

7:30 am - awaken of own volition.

7:30-7:45 am - dog, having sensed movement, wedges rather large head beneath pillows, bedclothes, and whichever limb is covering my face, which he licks. forelegs on the bed, he wiggles his 100 lb. body, unleashing seismic activity until I am either annoyed or amused enough to get up and take him on a walk.

7:45-8:00 am - watch dog poop, gambol and drool. pick up poop.

8:00-8:05 am - carry poop to homestead garbage can. la poubelle.

8:05-8:30 - contemplate and avoid my breakfast. perhaps drink something caffeinated, which will create an almost desperate hunger later.

8:30-8:45 - pull some weeds, curse the subterranean rodent that continually uproots and aerates my already parched flowers.

8:45-9:00 - not certain what happens here.

9:00-9:30 - wonder what sort of exercise might occur today. consider the cost of belonging to a gym and what sort of health benefits are obtained by never actually setting foot in the place. is there an osmotic accrual of muscle mass in the given situation? is sloth a sin truly and rightly belonging to the seven deadlies? consider becoming a smoker.

9:30-10:00 - sulk
10:00-10:30 - brood
10:30-11:00 - fit of lachrymose hysteria

11:00-11:20 - having realized that blood sugar levels are dangerously low, eat something. probably involves peanut butter.

11:20-12:30 - pass out from food coma
12:30-1:00 - prepare for Days of Our Lives

1:00-2:00 - watch soap with dulled interest. mixed feelings of neurotic delight and mirth due to wacky voodoo subplot. regressive pleasure and fantasy fulfillment at high school love quadrangle - is Chloe really going to die before she's deflowered? vague ennui at the predictability of the villainess' refusal to learn from past mistakes.

2:00-2:05 - wonder why, in the main, men in soaps never really seem to treat their women poorly, or even with careless unconcern.

2:05-2:20 - bathe, if necessary.

2:20-3:00 - feign interest in appearance, while contemplate dialing failing love interest and having "the talk." observe ego rage and feelings of abandonment rise.

3:00-3:15 - check in with exec. prod., who may have a short term job for me.

3:15-3:20 - call best friend at all three numbers and reach him at none.

3:20-4:00 - run errands before LA traffic becomes impassable. maybe eat something.

4:00-5:00 - think of painting, writing or some other creative endeavor, yet lie impassive on couch or bed or floor like the "help, i've fallen" medic-alert lady.

5:00-5:15 - play ball with pooch.

5:15-6:00 - check email and act underwhelmed at absence of correspondence. write to friends whiney and self-pitying missives, intermixed with mildly amusing banter about pop culture. query as to the absence of Nell Carter and the subsequent cultural void. and why did I have childhood lust for James Mason and Peter O'Toole? hope for illuminating answers from wiser and more together friends.

6:00-6:30 - fret that weird correspondence is alienating to wiser and more together friends.

6:30-7:00 - wonder if I'll hear from failing love interest ever again, all the while losing argument with self over baking and eating Toll House cookies in lieu of dinner. consider the significance of a toll house, while uncertain of its function, and strive to make a connection to baked goods. worry that my life is like a box of chocolates in the comic strip, Cathy.

7:00-7:05 - mental tirade over the comic strip Cathy and its utter degradation of women. which brings to mind the equally upsetting cable station, Lifetime. cursing and pacing are evident.

7:07 - oh shit! is Friends on?

8:30 - turn off television.

8:30-9:00 - repeat of morning dog walk, productive as usual. potentially longer if i self-indulgently pass by failing love interest's apartment building. deep thoughts during entire walk and stiff resolution to be more productive tomorrow.

9:00-10:30 - probably several phone calls, generally a few with 1st best friend, Stephen. rehashing of funny college moments likely. tears probable if near full moon. otherwise, comic beratement of each other's foibles, coupled with genuine reassurements of loving support. inevitable profanity and prurience. at some point 1st best friend, Stephen, will beg for promise of future marriage, while stipulating that consummation is unnecessary. next conversation however, he will pronounce his desire for sexual activity in the most lascivious and depraved tones. at which time, i will laugh in his ear until my stomach muscles cramp up and my eyes water. he will then tell me he hates me unequivocally. then we will talk about something else until he falls asleep while muttering non sequitur. this while originally annoying, has become a favorite game: i will respond in kind, but probably about something occult until he is startled awake and yells, "God damn you, ______!" and flicks on his lights. then we promise to speak tomorrow.

10:30 - sleepytime - wonder if masturbation is really worth it. read something spiritual, motivating, and/or self-helpy. otherwise something ridiculously arcane. recently, Bakhtin's Rabelais and His World, which is really quite interesting for its examination of the cultural function of Carnivale and the Grotesque tradition, yet potentially hypocritical of me, as I've never read a word of his literature, though I can name his most famous tome, and authoritatively. which leads me to wonder how you can be what that word implies having only read and researched without having actually written. should we instead say literatively? which, in this case, I cannot even claim. so I worry about that awhile, then excuse myself because I know I would readily admit it, even offer up this flaw. this reminds me of the time I took the MMPI (complicated psych test/evaluation) which showed, among other things, that I was more honest than the average person, which demonstrated that I lacked normal and healthy defenses. it never pointed out that when drowsy i tend to run-on.

pre-sleep - resolve to purchase and read Gargantua & Pentagruel.

Here she goes again...

I'm sure most of you are growing tired of my puerile offerings, but:

The paper toilet seat cover dispenser brand at the Yoga studio is called, "Rest Assured."

I'm just saying.

Monday, March 20, 2006


I'm back in Los Angeles, as of Saturday evening. Drove to San Francisco on Thursday to pick up a friend who has recently abandoned LA for a kick-ass job teaching filmmaking, which makes him a traitor, actually. We headed south on Saturday, but he refused to go with me to the Winchester Mystery House, which makes him a double traitor.

If you don't know what that eighth wonder of the world is, Google it. In brief: Crazed with grief widow/heir to the Winchester rifle fortune seeks counsel with a necromancer following the death of her husband and child. The clairvoyant tells her she is cursed (that's what they told me, clearly. My favorite was the Westwood gypsy who said, "Your aura is dark, and growing darker rapidly. Soon, not even God will be able to help you."), and must commence round the clock construction, to house all the lost souls who fell before the Winchester guns. If she ever stops building, she will die.

Anyway, the return to LA has been a little jarring after time in two of the world's most beautiful cities. My neighborhood is excellent, but LA leaves so much to be desired, especially aesthetically. Maybe that's why there is such a fixation on physical beauty here; we are starved for it in architecture and geography.

Today I had a true LA moment: as I drove to resume work at the Yoga studio, I saw, again, my first ever celebrity crush. He was driving his white Jeep, with his Australian Shepherd, Dodger, sitting in the back seat. I met him almost as soon as I moved here, up at the neighborhood dog park. He's a very nice fellow, this Randolph Mantooth. That's right, Johnny Gage from Emergency! I wasn't even in grade school, but I felt that dull burning in my heart, the longing. In front of the tv, my sister and I sat like pilgrims at a shrine. Cross-legged in our full-length nighties, we stirred bowls of chocolate ice cream until it was something like a milkshake (for you East coasters, I'm tempted to write "cabinet" or "frappe." Rhode Islanders should know what I mean, for that's where I learned those silly terms). Double delight: Johnny Gage was hot!

It's good to be home. Rampart!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hot August Nights

I am more than a little distressed that I have to wait until 8/4/06 to see Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen ('spect!), and Gary Cole (TPS Reports!), in a satire of NASCAR, "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." Until then, check out the trailer by clicking on the title of the post.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Good Night and Good Luck

Maybe it's more fitting that we should leave this world as we entered it. Certainly there is something honest about meeting your maker stripped bare. I say this in full memory of what I wrote yesterday. It all depends on what you believe, I suppose.

My friend's father passed away on Sunday, and while I never knew the man, I have been privy to the minutiae of his decline. Obviously there is a great deal of emotion surrounding this situation, but friend and the father had a great deal of humor about it as well. It's necessary, especially when someone takes his time, say fourteen years.

He tells me that while he was purchasing the modest pine box, as his father requested, the Mortuary Man informed him of various options for the casket. Some might call it festoonery, others simply flare. "Christ Head" was a possibility. This gave way to some nervous eruptions of laughter, and some renewed interest in the practice of genuflection. I'll leave the reasons to your imagination. And hey, don't blame me this time, I wasn't there.

Mr. Mortuary was concerned about the choice of vessel. Said it would be necessary to bend the legs a bit to fit him in; he was a bit too tall. Assume fetal position. Makes sense, really. I've seen those PBS shows of archaeological digs, and been to the monks' bones in the catacombs below Mexico City. Humans were often buried this way.

Later, on the phone:

"So, what did you choose to clothe him?"

"He'll be wearing nothing."

"You're having a nudist funeral?"

(laughter) "No, it's closed casket."

I used to think I'd prefer cremation. Now they have these green funerals, where you are interred in a biodegradable box. You can go old school, while truly honoring the injunction, "ashes to ashes" - fancy coffins don't allow for that. Cremation takes you there, too, but they have to superheat the fire to 8000 degrees or something, a gross overuse of fossil fuels. I plan on a low-impact death, another reason why I won't be padding my body with silicon.

Not that I intend to depart any time soon.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Why I Don't Trust Nudists

I think they're hiding something.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A History of Heathen Living: The Early Years

Heathen, "savage." From the O.E. "heath," untilled land. Before that, from the Indo-Eur. root "kaito," forest, uncultivated land.

Let's start with the Christians:

Never baptised, I was. Mother was a quasi-Presbyterian, and I was fathered by a Jack Mormon. That's a term for one who strays. In his case, it was worse - he was excommunicated for some jiggery-pokery. My father was a bit of a rake, really. But he was charming.

Her parents weren't religious. She went to church with Grandmother Bessie, high school friends, then for a few years to an Indiana Christian college. That fell away when she left Wichita and met my father. God did not reside in our house. There was bourbon and Coke and prescriptions and probably some coke. There were other women. There was an underage babysitter. There were other men. All for Dad.

My sixth year brought with it a new step-father; this is when God entered the picture. What karmic or psychological patterning led my mother to wed and divorce two ex-communicated Mormon attorneys from The Great Salt Lake is beyond me. Joe was a direct descendant of The Prophet, Joseph Newt Licker Smith. No foolin'. They were the only family in Mormondom with an inherited role in the church hierarchy, "the actual (performing) Lineal Patriarch." Primogeniture dictated that Joe would assume the throne, as he was the first born son.

That is, until certain proclivities of his daddy's (whose name was precisely that of the prophet's), came to light. That's a sad story, really. His father, undoubtedly a gay man, was born to be an actor and, well, gay. He attended King's College in London. He studied and befriended the likes of Lawrence Olivier, who remained his friend for the duration of his lifetime. There is suggestion they were more than mates. A building is named for him in a college up in the Canadian Rockies, where he taught dramatic arts in the summers for more than a decade. Joe, Jr. flew us there in his little bush plane and onto a feral landing strip, so he could participate in some sort of ceremony honoring the old man.

This was a man who "knew" people. Humphrey Bogart visited their home in SLC, a fact which disgusted my erstwhile step-grandmother. A lot of things bothered her that way, but then, if you've ever heard any stories about Bogie, you could see how he would discomfit a pious woman. There were rules and more rules. What a disappointment this man, her husband, must have been to her. She was righteous, steely, commanding, powerful. Mother to seven, and buttressed with few resources, like most Mormon women I've known.

Ruth was the sort of woman who would tell you, in all your seven-ness, a-fidget there in the droning tick-tockness of her doilied sitting room, that if you were bored, you were boring. Their home was dry, staticky. The tap water tasted of dust; it tasted like Utah. Morning cereal was hot porridge. "Mush" they called it, a term which always made me shudder. Then there was the powdered milk.

There was not so much television for entertainment as there was an organ, piano, and books. I have a sensation about that place something akin to a bland uneventful death. I remember her telling me this: as a little girl, when she lay her down to sleep, her hands were crossed, palms flat to the chest. Like an effigy on a saints tomb she rested, in case she was taken in the night to heaven.

When it wasn't being so painfully quiet, there were swarms of children, cousins. Everywhere. Back in Portland we even had one passel of them. Hiram's kids. The Bishop's kids. Six, were there? They had a swimming pool, the site of my first remembered initiation into the world of religious bodily shame. I wore a bikini, whereas Mormon girls wear a one-piece to conceal their diabolical belly buttons. My cousins happily informed me that my "body was a temple," and to bare my navel was an act of dishonor. I don't know what about my skinny grammar school physique would have inspired lust, but one rightly can place the umbilical portal into the category of "orifice." Maybe it was too graphic and confusing a reminder of the naughty bits, the place where ontogeny and the scatological live side by side. A physiological Scylla and Charybdis. The holy is holey. The profane is sacred, the sacred profane. That's too much for a good Mormon to abide.

Oddly enough, I recall becoming perfectly terrified of the water in that pool if I was the last one out of it. Sharks, I was sure, would appear from nowhere to eat me, and me alone. My sin, my soul, Lolita.

Hiram's progeny taught me about the Golden Plates, the Lost Tribes, Moroni (it's true, that is the name of the trumpeting angel atop the Tabernacle. A celestial halfwit Seraphim in the school marching band), and The Holy Ghost. They were really worried about me. I think I was too wrapped up in my classical studies to take their personal mythology as gospel. The Greek gods and their antics were just so much colorful. The cousins taught me about the The Holy Ghost, and I taught them how to wad up Kleenex, fashioning it into one. A toy spectre with which one could run around the house in abominable swimming attire shrieking, "Holy Ghost." My wretched celebration. My rebellion.

An aside: This reminds me of a story about my elder sister who, for her thirteenth birthday, desperately wanted a Skipper doll. Instead, she got Skipper's older, more buxom sister, Barbie. Renate's response was to take a hammer from Dad's shop and flatten Barbie's tits. A most sensible girl she was, my sister - the kid who was wise enough to reject what she wasn't ready for.

Anyway, Joe and Mom got really interested in "exploring" all sorts of religions. All sorts of Christian ones, anyway. We sat in Lutheran, Presbyterian, Mormon and Episcopalian pews. My favorite was the black Baptist Church, woefully underrepresented, and by far the most enlivening. I think mostly we went there to further Joe's political career. It seems he pursued politics to compensate for his lost place in the anointed church hierarchy.

For awhile, they got into this somewhat cultish group called Creative Initiative Foundation (later on it was Beyond War). They were concerned with the environment, nuclear disarmament, and spreading the love. It was post-Hippy Christian meets Carl Jung and Dr. Helen Caldecott. Mandalas were drawn, dreamwork analyzed and illustrated, relationships counseled, groups picnicked, sung-a-long, and hugged. (In retrospect, I finally have some understanding about my aversion to the on-campus presence of the Leo Buscaglia Society. I literally ran across the College Green and away from some well-meaning Sophomore.) Someone selling Shaklee products, rainbow stickers on back windshields, and one little girl, still trying to get over her forced weekend away with Life Spring (like est, like the Forum), and wondering what she ever did to get dragged into all of this.

I wasn't overly fond of this man, Joe Smith. Not only had he taken his client as his lover, he was a skinflint. He kept the house mercilessly cold, and when we went out to dinner, which was rarely more than a cheap pizza parlour, you couldn't order a lousy soda pop. You could have the two cent novelty soda water, but no 7Up, no Coke. It wasn't about the sugar, it was about the expense.

In his quest for economy, he surely put us to work, my mother and me. She became his legal secretary, and so began a long dichotomous period of labor and isolation for me. They worked quite late routinely, so I learned to cook for myself. My mother kept an immaculate house, so Saturdays were for cleaning. Every summer, as was normal in Mormon households (though were weren't), was devoted to storing food. We picked strawberries, cherries, blueberries, plums, peaches, blackberries, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, and in the Fall, apples. We pickled, stewed, canned, dried and froze the fruits and vegetables. I don't know if any of you have any idea how much work all that is, but I can tell you it's an up in the morning and work till eleven kind of thing. It doesn't happen in just one day. Let it never be said they didn't teach me to work.

For all this, starting at the age of six, I received a paltry allowance of twenty-five cents a week. Each year, on my birthday, it was raised another two bits. I saved quarters until I had enough money to walk eleven blocks to the record store and buy my next Beatles' album. That went on for years. It was not the same world it is now. Though I was rather alone, the beauty of it was, I had freedom. I could roam as far and wide as my legs or bicycle would carry me. In second grade, it was permissible for me to go it alone for twenty miles in the March of Dimes Walkathon. The next year, I did it again, but no one remembered to pick me up. So I walked thirty blocks back to our empty house. It was Joe's fault.

This was the man I was forced to call father; he wouldn't acknowledge me at the dinner table until I did.

As to his political career, I must admit, he did do some good. As District Attorney of Umatilla County (this bit predated us), he kept chemical weapons out of production in his sovereignty. He failed in his bid for state Attorney General (by the way, I spent a lifetime's worth of child slave labor working on various political campaigns in the six years they were together), but did become Chairman of the Oregon Democratic Party. Sen. Alan Cranston slept in our home, Walter Mondale visited. I met Jerry Brown back when he was still fooling around with Linda Ronstadt and she was fooling around with the Eagles. We had a joke that Joe could not bear to let the phone go unanswered because, as my mother put it, "Jesus might be calling." One day he did, it was Jimmy Carter - they were working on anti-MX missile legislation.

From this man, I learned about a Spartan existence, I learned to reduce, reuse, recycle. Quite a difference from the extravagances of my reprobate yet repentant, Republican father. But for all my father's shortcomings, my dad had a genuine warmth that Joe lacked. Joe was trying be iconic in some way. Both men had big egos, but I think my father, trainwreck that he was, had a real emotional connection with people and things. Joe was a do-gooder, but he always seemed to float a little above it all. Detached.

We did go to the Mormon church quite a lot over the years. As much as we were accepted into a community of really lovely people, I never took to their spiritual protestations. Maybe my sensibilities were already too formed, but I couldn't see the emotional logic of a holy system that left women so far out to the equation. Especially when they seemed to be doing all the work. I don't quite understand how I could have been so insulated from all the dogma, but it never seeped in. As emotionally vulnerable child as I was, and I surely was, to this religion I was impenetrable. It must have been largely due to my mother's private conversations with me. She repeatedly let me know we were here for a sense of community, not for the salvation of our souls.

In the end, Joe probably cheated on my mother as much as my father did. Ultimately what broke them up was the twelve grand he stole out of my savings account to pay his taxes. My money for private school. I got bumped out for a year of high school. Would have been two, but for the charity of my institution. He was very thrifty.

But those Mormons, they came to our rescue, my mother, my aunt, and me. As the saying goes, by the time I was in eighth grade and away from Joe, we didn't have two pennies to rub together. My mom worked as a secretary at a lumber yard, making a whopping few hundred a month. We were eligible for welfare, but she wouldn't take it. Still, the Mormon ladies got us set up in a house on a street with the second highest rate of prostitution in the city. We paid no rent, and in exchange, managed the apartment building next door. Therein lived the requisite crazy old woman, Berniece, and her four cats; a welfare mother of three, with her felon husband in jail (her eldest became my best friend. Corny girls, we tied a yellow ribbon round the eighty-year-old tree out front when Lenora's Daddy finally came home); a legally blind and bearded mute; a rather trashy twenty year old, undoubtedly on drugs, but with enviably feathered hair; a former tenant, who briefly lived in his station wagon in the parking lot; I forget who else. Oh! and all the hamsters that got loose from Lenora and David's Habitrail.

Our house, which in its day must have been quite lovely, was a decrepit old three-story Craftsman. When we moved in, windows were missing, pigeons were roosting in the sleeping porch, there were old crates of fruit rotting in the basement. When it rained, it poured into the kitchen sink from the ceiling above. It took months, but we got it better than habitable. There was never any heat, except for a kerosene space heater we kept in the entry hall - just to keep the pipes liquid on the infrequent freezing days. When you got up in the morning, you could see your breath. There was no shower in the bathroom, just a tub, and the lath was exposed where the plaster had finally despaired. Sometimes you just can't hang on any longer. Finally, the city condemned the building. After they got us out and actually saw the insides, someone else moved in.

That was the poorest I have ever been. No movies, no heat, and for part of that year, not always money for meat. But the Mormons brought us supper, and the Mormons brought us warm socks. The Mormons taught me my body was a Temple,
I just allow for more parishioners than they would like, but that's my right. God bless the Mormons.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Blue Danube

Sometimes you take a shot in the dark. It's 1 am pst. You Google the name of your long lost older brother (from another mother), you email to a dusty address (thankfully he posts opinions on message boards), and get a reply within the hour. He sends a photo of himself and your two absent older sisters. He's in Vienna until the Fall. He lives in Oakland. He's a PhD in Cognitive Science. He has taken in his mother's Lab, named Blue, who "she claimed to have named after that hit song from the 70s, Me and You and a Dog Named Blue. Of course, the real title was Me and You and a Dog Named Boo, but she
never let facts stand in her way." He is well and corresponding, and suddenly the world just got a little wider and rosier.

Maybe he knows Noam Chomsky.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Has the World Gone Mad?

More evidence that incest aversion/taboo is alive, well and deeply rooted in my psyche:

The other night, during the aforementioned old ladies' Oscar party, I heard this word come flying out of my mother's mouth, though I cannot recall a single word that bookended it - "Fingerbanging."

I was completely aghast. I squealed in shock at my middle class, Midwestern mother and her prurient utterance.

The ladies were humored. Some crowed, others tittered, but all unified in their surprise at my reaction. "Do you think she DOESN'T know what that is?" "You've never heard her say those things?" "These kids think they invented slang."

I made it clear that I was quite certain she did know, as it was she who taught me to swear. However, I didn't think that my mom used phrases that made her sound like a glue-huffing dipshit sixteen-year-old from Omaha, who finally broke through the jammed phones to go on-air at "Loveline."

Furthermore, I would like to know what genius is responsible for naming the bottles of mouthwash in both the master and basement bathrooms, "Oral Amber." Google that and tell me if you can find any hygienic products on page one. You can't. I can tell you what you will find...

Monday, March 06, 2006

I Demand Special Protection

It would seem that those of my ilk are soon to be found on the Endangered Species List:

"A study by the World Health Organisation (sic) found that natural blonds are likely to be extinct within 200 years because there are too few people carrying the blond gene. According to the WHO study, the last natural blond is likely to be born in Finland during 2202."

I don't know if this is some sort of thinly veiled anti-miscegenation propaganda, or what. But if our inherent genetic recessiveness doesn't do us in, the lack of ozone will. Anyway, I recently concealed my blondeness; I am now superficially a brunette (gasp!). Nonetheless, I would like to be given special status as a fragile member of the ecosystem. Seriously though, worrying about a future without blondeness (though any lessened diversity seems sad to me), is far less disturbing to me than the loss of an actual species, say, the silver spotted butterfly, or humpback whales.

Here's a theory on the introduction of blondeness into the pool of Homo Sapiens. I have to say, it seems a bit like forcing on a shoe, but it amuses.,,2087-2058688,00.html

Anyway, even if the gene goes the way of the Dodo, there's always peroxide. Ask Paris, she knows.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I Always Forgive Funny

Why it is impossible for me to stay angry for too long:
Because I am overly susceptible to Funny. For instance if you insult me cleverly, I am unlikely to be angry. I give it up for Funny, even when it's inadvertent.

Tonight while watching the Oscars with my mother's friends, Terrence Howard (btw, remind me to tell you the funny things I know about him sometime), came on screen in his fancy duds. Pat looked at his sparkling diamond brooch and said, "That's serious jewelry."

My white mother added confidently, knowingly,"Blink."


"God loves you just as you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way."
-Amy Adams in Junebug

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Two Percent

No good deed goes unpunished. That's what my friend's mother always likes to say. Of course, it's a terrible mantra, but I my baser self relates to the sentiment precisely. This trip North has not been at all what I expected. Silly silly me.

Let's talk about the horrible things that happen in the name of Love. People do perfectly rotten things to one another when they are trying to be protective or helpful. Optimistically I'll say they don't even know they are doing it.

A quick caveat (that assonates with Dick Cavett): the following will be quite tedious, I'm sure. Unless you want to feel aggravated (probably mostly at me), then I suggest you turn the page. Or close the book.

I came to Oregon to aid my family through a rough patch. Somehow, I got caught in the eye of the cancer hysteria storm. My mother and step-father, in an effort to safeguard my health, asked me to undergo some screening, as we now have a well established matrilineal history of breast cancer. Warily, I conceded. Next thing I know, I am being subjected to not only my mother's emotional projections and outbursts, but her old violations as well.

Let me be clear: I can weather most anything she needs to go through as regards her body. However, I will not put up with it in regards to mine. I don't need the weight of her tears in the exam room with my doctor, and I clearly don't need her to answer for me, especially as she has nor discernible critical faculties when dealing with people who know more than she does. Doctors are human, mom. They aren't infallible. Just because they suggest something, it's not always to be met with an unequivocal, "Yes!"

Directly I told her that she needed to respect my boundaries about all of this (she was trying to make decisions for me, and answering for me the first and LAST time we were in the room with the doctor together). I am not a person who likes to be cornered or manipulated into anything. I don't really fight, spit or claw, though it would probably be healthier if I did. Instead, I become as immovable and silent as a stone. That, of course, drives my mother insane, as she as about as reactive as a stray hydrogen atom. She's a free radical.

Anyway, I made my point with as much calm and kindness as I could muster. Inside, I was so angry that my head was close to exploding off my body. It was literally dizzying. I didn't hold it against her. I released it fast as I could, and resumed my role as a dutiful and loving daughter.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the exam was vaguely worrisome. I have a tiny calcification in my left breast (when I say tiny, we must remember that everything is relative to its context), which, as Dr. Fox put it, "may well have been there since you were a little girl. But we have no way of knowing that for sure." She felt 98% sure that this was not malignant, but recommended three options to secure the grey and currently unknowable 2%.

2%. The milk I drink.
2%. "Britney Spears Among Least Intelligent 2% of Americans"
2%. less than half of that number is the area of difference between us and the chimps.
2%. Your life hinges on such tiny things. Tiny things are all it takes.

I can only recall two of the options, those being a follow up ultrasound in six months to monitor any potential changes in my little calcium deposit, and biopsy. Dr. Fox (rather aptly named), was "quite sure" that was the option I'd want to sure.

I wasn't.

Sure, you're thinking I'm in denial. Maybe. You're thinking I'm foolish. Oftentimes. Or maybe I'm just being obstinate. Entirely possible. But what I think is that I don't have cancer. What I think is that a follow up in six months or even fewer, seems perfectly cautious to me, especially when the esteemed physician feels 98% sure.

And how am I to handle and convey this news to my mother on her first day of radiation treatment. She was stone asleep when I returned to the waiting room (wherein the Armand Bender comedrama unfolded forty minutes earlier). I told her this: they found a spot that may have been in me since elementary school. She's 98% sure it's benign. I'll get an ultrasound in six months and monitor it.

She received this news with no visible unrest. I was grateful. We finished up the week of daily double treatments without much ado.

Then Saturday night arrives. I come home after dinner with an old friend. There is mail for me on the kitchen counter from Providence hospital and Dr. Harvey's office (this man is the "family doctor," which means that he attends my parents. I have been in his office twice, once for strep throat and another time for something I cannot recall. I never saw him at any age resembling that of a child). One of them is missing an envelope. Of course Portland is a very trusting sort of a place, but not so much that they deliver your correspondence to you naked. Mom's opened it. I take a deep breath and tell myself to remain calm. Don't make assumptions. Maybe she thought it was a bill. This is not of course what I think, but what I hope.

Sunday morning. Not a peep out of the parental front. Mother and Step-father are quite normal. I think, okay, she hasn't read it, or if she has, she's leaving it up to me.

Sunday 3 pm. I am summoned by my step-father into the family room, as they would like to have a word with me. Here we go.

It seems that not only has she opened my mail and read it, but Dr. Harvey had phoned her Friday evening and had a long discussion with her about my situation.

He did WHAT?

It is my understanding that day one of medical school includes discussion of doctor-patient confidentiality. In fact, I signed a HIPAA form, which = patient health info PRIVACY. My mother stares amazedly at me and asks some asinine question tantamount to "what are you talking about?" "Mom, you know those permanent signs in the St. Vincent's ELEVATORS that say "Remember Confidentiality"? That means that my doctors don't talk to you or anyone else about me and my body." In fact, I have to give expressed permission for that info to be transferred to another specialist's office for review. "And why would the doctor call YOU with MY results. Why didn't he ask for me?"

I am not a minor. I am not an invalid. I am probably a little neurotic, but not insane. I am a person who is really pretty open about herself, but I get to have control over who knows what.

The best part was my stepfather criticizing my mother one moment for opening the mail, then defending the conversation with Doctor "Should Be Medically Disbarred" Harvey in the next breath. He was aggressive with me about it. "I'm REALLY clear on THAT issue," he said in that puffed up and stuffed way he gets when somewhere deep inside he knows he's not only being illogical, but also just plain wrong. "If we were the insurance company, Dr. Harvey would discuss this with us, and since we're paying, we're like the insurance company."

Oh... it's because you are PAYING. I see. So your generosity means that I get to have zero boundaries with you about my life. Because you are helping me.

Even if what he said were legally valid (and I have it on good Counsel that it is, as I suspected, not), it is completely in contradiction to the spirit of what he said before. This breach of privacy is a violation, whether the information was taken off printed paper or the talking wires. You don't get to know unless I want you to know.

And the worst part is, not only would I tell you, but I DID TELL YOU. So what was the need to take this into your own hands? If you wanted more, or you wanted to question my choices, you could have confronted me without ferreting. This is not intervention time. I am and always have been a careful person. I don't take unreasonable chances. I am not wild, unruly, irresponsible, daft, dicey, etc. If anything, I am guilty of holding myself back with the safety of my choices. And why? Because the people who raised me, the ludicrous, often untrustworthy, abusive fuckers who left me almost entirely alone most of the time from the age of seven onward, spent the other part of the time undermining nearly every decision I have ever made.

I fear I am being overreactive about all of this, but it shoots straight to the core of everything that is so wrong with my relationship with my mother and consequently with me.

- It's a reminder of the old symbiosis: my mother's narcissism, and her constitutional inability to recognize that we are not, in fact, the same person. Whatever happens to her, happens to me. If she has cancer, I have cancer. It's almost some variation on Munchausen by Proxy.

- It pulls into focus one of my greatest fears - that I am NOT actually an adult. That I am not a success in my life. That I will never be either.

- It causes me to feel, yet again, entirely alone in the world. I really have felt in the last week that if I did have cancer, this would be that last place I could turn for help. Help that is healthful, that is. I feel that the emotional toll of dealing with them would exact such a great price that it would impair my body's ability to heal.

- It makes me feel like a complete ingrate. The are trying to help me, and I am such a complete shit that all I feel is anger towards them.

But it is how I feel. I know that in their minds they are trying to love me, that they desperately want to protect me, but what of all of this is really a way to displace the lack of control they feel over my mother's situation? Because that's what I see. It's like Christian Missionaries coming in to save the heathens. We care so much for your immortal soul that we will strip you of your identity, your individuality, your dignity. Of course I am overdramatizing, but this is precisely what I feel. It's devastating. The gulf has opened and mother and I are as far apart as ever we were. We had made so much progress. She doesn't even know what she has done.

Maybe I should be grateful. The old wounds are still there, and they need dressing. I haven't done enough yet. Go back to work. That's the message. I should have known it was coming.

Because I am not there yet.

A Formal Request

Friday, March 03, 2006

Remember Who You Are

Charlize Theron commented on cosmetic surgery in pursuit of youth, saying when women try to eliminate the wrinkles on their face, "it's like burning your photo albums."

"We all go through a lot of turmoil and a lot of difficult things that maybe we'd want to forget," Charlize explains. "But you grow from those things and when you see those moments and those lines, it's not looking back at devastation. It's going, 'I've grown from this.' And so in a way … you've earned it."